Gymnastics Training Items – Split Leap on Floor and Balance Beam

As basic as the split jump is, there are still a large number of gymnasts who cannot perform this skill properly. Many gymnasts achieve a 180-degree leg split, but they don’t keep their hips straight and in line with their shoulders. Once a gymnast becomes accustomed to rotating her hips to achieve a greater leg split, it can be very difficult to correct.

Training a gymnast to keep her hips straight during a split jump must be a goal from the day she enters her first gymnastics class. If she’s trained to stay square from the start, there’s a greater chance her split jumps will be executed correctly throughout her gymnastics career. It’s helpful to encourage gymnasts to keep their hips straight while performing split stretches, splits, jumps, walkovers, and handsprings.

Another common problem with the splits is that many gymnasts have enough flexibility in their hamstrings but not enough flexibility in their hip flexors and quadriceps muscles to properly spread their legs for their splits, among other things. Hip flexors are the muscle group that lifts the leg forward and up. When these muscle groups lack flexibility, the opposite movement of lifting the leg back and up (for the splits) becomes difficult.

Here’s an easy way to assess your gymnast’s hip position and flexibility in relation to a split and ultimately her split jump. Have your gymnast perform a split the way she normally performs this skill. Even if she cannot reach the bottom in a split, this evaluation can still be done. Once your gymnast is in a split, ask her to bend her back leg so that her back foot is lifted off the floor and she achieves a 90 degree angle with that leg. Your gymnast’s back foot should be off the floor and her back knee should remain on the floor. If your gymnast’s back foot naturally points toward the wall rather than the ceiling, she may benefit from additional work on hip placement. Your gymnast may also benefit from increased flexibility training for the hip flexors and quadriceps areas. If her back foot immediately points toward the ceiling and not the wall, she may already have the correct hip position.

Your gymnast may need to raise her body slightly from the splits to perform this gymnastics evaluation or to make hip placement adjustments. If you noticed that your gymnast’s hips didn’t stay straight during this simple gymnastics assessment, you may be able to easily help her correct her hip position by instructing her to pull the hip forward on the same side of the back leg. Once asked to pull that hip forward, your gymnast’s back foot can point toward the ceiling. At this point, many gymnasts can feel the difference between correct and incorrect hip position during the split. Sometimes awareness is all that is needed to correct the hip placement issue, but many gymnasts will also need a change in their flexibility training.

You may have found that your gymnast will benefit from a more thorough stretching of the hip flexor and quadriceps areas. The following stretch is simple but very effective for gymnasts of all levels.

Hip flexor stretch on block.

Have your gymnast lie on their back on a mat stack or observation block.

Make sure your buttocks are at the edge of the mat stack or block.

Instruct your gymnast to bring one thigh up to her chest with one knee bent.

Next, instruct your gymnast to place her hands on her upper shin to keep that leg close to her chest throughout this stretch.

Next, instruct your gymnast to lift her other leg over her body so her toes are pointing toward the ceiling. This leg can be slightly bent\relaxed. The knee and heel on that leg must be in line with the hip bone and shoulder on the same side throughout the stretch.

Once in the starting position, instruct your gymnast to slowly lower the lifted leg so that her thigh is level with the block and then lower than the block height.

Once lowered as far as the gymnast’s hip flexor muscles will allow, that leg hangs below the top level of the block or mat stack.

Again, make sure the leg hanging below the level of the block is aligned with your gymnast’s hip and doesn’t stray to the side.

Have your gymnast stay in this position to stretch her hip flexor muscles. Gravity does the job of slowly and steadily stretching your gymnast. If your gymnast has performed this stretch before and you feel that this stretch is no longer effective, allow her to carry a light ankle weight.

For safety, your gymnast must hold the opposite leg to keep her lower back on the block.

This second stretch is fairly common, but many coaches don’t ask their gymnasts to bend their back leg, depriving them of a full stretch in this position.

Hip flexor/hamstring stretch

Instruct your gymnast to kneel on the floor with one leg in front of her.

Next, instruct your gymnast to shift her weight to her front leg and push her hips down and forward.

Once your gymnast’s hips are pushed down and forward, instruct her to lift her back foot off the floor and bend the knee. Make sure she keeps her knee on the floor.

Make sure your gymnast’s front foot doesn’t go past her knee for the safest, most efficient stretch.

Watch your gymnast’s back foot to see if it’s pointing toward the wall or toward the ceiling. If your back toe isn’t pointing toward the ceiling, your hips probably aren’t straight. Instruct your gymnast to pull the hips forward on the same side as her back leg and push the hips forward on the same side as her front leg.

For the hamstrings: Keeping her feet in place, have your gymnast shift her hips back, and then flex her front foot to stretch the front leg hamstring muscles.

Make sure your gymnast is not sitting on her back foot. As she sits on her back foot, instruct your gymnast to move her front foot forward.

To help your gymnast understand how to stay straight during this stretch, you can ask her to make sure the tops of her inner thighs are touching. Stretching in a square helps keep your gymnast’s split and jump moves square.

For all stretches of this type, focus on your gymnast’s hip position in relation to her shoulders, because once you allow a gymnast to rotate at the hips instead of staying upright, you’re allowing the muscles to move and flexibility in to gain a different direction than intended.

It takes time, focus, and a commitment to excellence to insist that a gymnast perform their warm-ups, vaults, flips, and handsprings with square hips, but the safety benefits and time savings when training advanced skills or routines are invaluable.

The book “Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Exercises” has a section on dance exercises that includes exercises for the split jump and straddle jump.

Thanks to Karen Goeller | #Gymnastics #Training #Items #Split #Leap #Floor #Balance #Beam

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