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Old 08-30-2009, 06:17 PM   #1
Benjamin Goodale
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gymnastics course

I have wanted to do gymnastics for a long time, but by the time I became seriously interested in my early twenties, I couldn't find anyone who would train adults. I trained gong fu/wushu and capoeira angola fairly seriously in my college years and was able to do some very basic acrobatic movements, but never progressed to where I wanted.

after falling into poor physical condition in my late twenties, having, kids, grad school...i had pretty much given up on the idea of gymnastics

now i am 32, have been crossfitting for about a year, and i hva ebgotten back into pretty good shape. i dropped about 35 lbs, have gotten my fran time down to 3:58, and I'm starting to get some move back that i haven't done in 10 years, like kip-ups and no-feet rope climbs, and some stuff that i had never done before, like muscle-ups.

the gymnastics element of crossfit is part of what really hooked me from day one. seeing all the crossfitter doing muscle-ups and levers really inspired me. Then finding Roger Harell's drills-and-skills really helped me to gain the confidence that a guy like me could actually develop some gymnastics capabilities.

I did the CF gymnastics cert with Jeff Tucker earlier this year, which was great for strength development but it is really focused more on CF gymnastic and in that setting is not able to really address how to develop more skill based work and tumbling, etc.

A guy at the cert turned me on to Coach Sommer Building the Gymnastics Body, which i bought right away, including the DVD set. Between what i learned at the cert, and Sommer's material, I have more than enough strenght stuff to work on for years. I am still pretty much a beginner and it will take me a long time to be able to do all the movements in Sommers book.

So my point is that I really want to develop more skills oriented movements, particularly tumbling, but also rings, bars, pommel horse... I want to focus on the tumbling as this has more carry over into my wushu and capoeira. i mess around with parkour and would love to be able to get some tricking...

i found out that the local gymnastics center now offers adult classes, so i signed up. I did my first class this weekend. it was, for the most part, what i have been looking for. it is a reall deal gym with all the equipment: tumble track, foam pit, sprung floor, bars, pommel, you name it.

the only drawback is that the class has basically zero planned curriculum. it is just a college kid who shows up and says "OK, what do you want to do?" the class is small, ther were four college age girls, all of whom had some gymnastics training, two of whom were quite good, me with little to no gymnastics training but reasonably fit, and another guy in his fifties with zero ability or exposure.

the instructor pretty much left it up to us as to how the clas went. we warmed up with some jumps,etc on the tumble track, did some flips into the foam pit, which is just what i wanted as I really need to get over the basic fear of flying and spinning throught the air. we then moved to work on the bar, and I worked on some swings, pull-overs, and I think hip-circles? we then went to the floor and did basic forward and backward rolls, cartweels (i can do one-handed and I really want to be able to do aerials), round-offs, handstands,rolling out of hand-stands. then the girls did some back hand springs and I practiced some progressions to back handsprings over a round block and then some progressions to front handsprings, blocking off ther hands,etc. then we went nack to the tumble track and I did some hand spring off the track into the pit.

so i guess the point of this very long and rambling post, if anyone has read this far, is do you have any recommendations about what direction I should go over the next 8 weeks for this class? I really need to prompt the instructor, and ask about how to progress towards movements.

a little more info about me: 32 yrs old, 5'11, 200lbs, can do skin-the-cats, getting close to full back lever, but still mostly working fron and back levers in tuck, i can do kipping muscle-ups, and sometimes legit muscle-ups with no kip. I have decent handbalancing skills, can walk on my hands fairly well, but my handstand form is not exactly perfect because of inflexible shoulder. I can do a backbridge, but it needs lots of work. my straddle flexibility isn't great but I can almost get a full front split. i can do kip-ups, sometimes no-hands-kip-ups, i can do headsprings and handspins (1990's). my max pull-ups Pr is 40 (kipping)

here is my ambitious list of skills that i would like to achieve:

front and backhandsprings
front and back tuck (flip)
front and back lever
handstands on the rings
aerial cartwheel
butterfly kick with twist
flairs
front and back walkovers
planche

any suggestions about how I should go about training for these, or how to better engage the instructor in my course, or just some friendly words of encouragement are much appreciated. thanks.

please excuse this very long post...
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Old 08-30-2009, 07:37 PM   #2
Dan Andrews
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Re: gymnastics course

I'm not much of a floor man, so i can't help you a ton there. But for rings id ask the instructor to show you some basic stuff, like a back uprise, holding an L on rings, inlocates, disslocates, and maybe a back off if you get good at flipping. Those will all put you into a good direction getting into more advanced stuff, also shoulder stands on rings are good. Also work on getting a solid swing on the rings. All of that will probably take quite a while.

Not sure how interested you are in the parallel bars but if you'd like to have a go on those id ask the instructor to help you with just your basic swing, a kip, shoulder stands, shoulder rolls, straddle cuts, L's, back up rise, front uprise, if your feeling ballsy or have a good swing can look into some swing to handstands or press to handstands, and after that you unlock a bunch of advanced stuff.

Sorry for it just being a massive list, those are a bunch of the foundations of the 2 events more or less.

Edit: If your looking to have any fun with maybe putting together some sort of routine just for kicks, or what have you, the typical freshmen routine (or 1st year) at my school is

Rings: in-locate, in-locate, backup rise, L, shoulder stand, back uprise, L, shoulderstand, dis-locate, dis-locate, dismount
P-bars: Kip, L, shoulder roll, backup rise, L, shoulder roll, back-uprise, L, shoulderstand, dismount

Those are both extremely generic and fairly boring routines for the kids starting out, once you get some more skills you can start adding in things like straddle cuts and handstands and levers and all that fun stuff.

Last edited by Dan Andrews : 08-30-2009 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 08-30-2009, 07:43 PM   #3
Steven Low
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Re: gymnastics course

Quote:
front and backhandsprings
front and back tuck (flip)
front and back walkovers
That's gonna be up to how good your instructor is and how quick you can pick up stuff.

Front/back walkovers are all about developing flexibility though.

Quote:
front and back lever
handstands on the rings
planche
Lots of strength work. Do all your strength work on rings.

Are you asking for progressions? There's a lot of stuff in Coach Sommers book on this.

Quote:
aerial cartwheel
butterfly kick with twist
Ask trickers if there's any in the area and/or that come to open gyms.

Quote:
flairs
There's two ways to do this. The breakdance way or the regular gymnastics route.

If you want technical ability do it the gymnastics way (you'll pick up things much easier as well once you master the basics)... but if you want to get them fast then do them the breaker way.

With gymnastics start on mushroom and learn circles.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:36 PM   #4
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: gymnastics course

Pommel Horse: Master the front support straddle swing, stride swing(swing with one leg in front and behind), and rear support straddle swing. Make a bucket and start figuring out circles. Basically you want to keep your shoulder over your hand. Actually you want to lean on one arm as much as possible. For all swings and circles, you want to stay on 2 hands as much as possible and that means fast hands.

Parallel Bars: Focus on learning the basic support swing and the upper arm support swing/position (it might be a good idea at first to swing with either wristbands around your biceps or to pad the bars or swing on tall blocks at first ).

Support swing on PB:Get into support and pull your heels back with open hips. This is what your swing should look like through the middle. I know where is an article in the CFJ about men's apparatus swing including PB as well as articles on round-offs, hurdle, front handspring, and rings swing I think too. There will be some leaning of the shoulders in a opposite direction to which the toes are swinging. (i.e. in the front swing, you need to lean back a bit and in the back swing, you need to lean forwards a bit ). Building the swing to HS is merely getting comfortable with extending the swing in the front and swinging backwards and back down progressively higher and higher.

The swing for upper arm and underbar on parallel bars is virtually the same as the first basic high bar swing so I'll go into that then.

Basket swing. There is a good article on the CFJ by Roger Harrell regarding this. I have horrible basket swing but it's really necessary to have good pike compression to go anywhere with this type of swing. Compress at the bottom position and open on either side by first learning to swing with shoulders and then opening up the pike position.

Start learning how to do a handstand on parallettes and learn a HS pirouette on floor. You will need to learn how to do a forward and reverse pirouette for PB with a 3 step hand placement vs the 2 step hand placement that is used on High Bar/Unevens and after you have learned the 3 step on floor.

It's a good idea to learn how to do a forward roll on parallel bars from support in case you swing past handstand as a recovery skill. Ask about this. From support you will bend your arms as your shoulders get close to the bar and your butt goes over your shoulders while your legs straddle and you catch the bars. You can also extend your arms out to the sides while you do this to roll through. It's a good idea to learn how to do a shoulderstand on parallel bars/parallettes before doing one on rings.

Still Rings: Focus on keeping the head in while swinging at first. Some people will say to start learning the ring action at first but for beginning swings this will just foul people up because I would prefer they have relaxed shoulders at the bottom of the swing. I want them to think about swinging the body through the chest like we do in CF but most beginners will start by flexing and arching at the hips.

Again look for the CFJ article and there is a good example on DrillsandSkills. After you can swing your torso and keep your head in and shoulders relaxed, you will need to pull the rings back as you swing your toes forward and push the rings forward as you swing backwards and looking towards the ground (head down). Then you will learn to turn the rings. Do not learn the ring action until you learn how to push and pull the rings while maintaining the head neutral. This is identical in this sense to the High Bar swing and underbar and upper arm swing on Parallel bars. Well, somewhat except the rings move.

Typically we don't teach uprises or inlocates/dislocates until the swing is built up the point that the toes and chest or as high as the bottom of the ring.

Work the basic support technique, muscle-ups, skin the cats towards levers, forward and backward roll from support to hang or forward roll back to muscle-up. Set the rings low for shoulderstands and handstands.

High Bar: Work the basic CF kip swing though I like to call this a baby tap or wiggle. It's merely a transition of arch>hollow and back. One's hips should be flat, not piked as the toes swing forward and open/tight arch as they swing backwards. Relax in the shoulders, none of that active shoulder nonsense for swinging in hang. Shoulders into ears.

A good flexibility drill is to work half turns and full turns from a hang on one arm on the bar. Turning to mixed grip ( over and under grip ) besides undergrip and L/eagle grip ( like an undergrip but with the hand turned the other way ). An eagle grip takes a lot of flexibility work like hanging in the bar that way and rope/band/stick dislocates/inlocates.

Again on the back swing, look down at your toes and think about pushing your butt back in a pike. Eventually we want a hollow but that's ok at this point. In the front swing, kick the toes and change from arch at the bottom of the swing to hollow. Look for a spot on the ceiling to focus on kicking your toes toward. Keep your head in. KEEP YOUR HEAD IN!

Learn a basic pullover. For men, make sure you pull higher than your waist towards your navel because you don't want to roll over anything valuable. It's basically a pullup and a leg lift over the bar to support.

Learn the basic "cast." This is a bit like the support swing on PB except you will lean over the bar and pike your hips with your toes in front of the bar at the bottom, arching your heels back as you keep your arms straight. Support and planche strength help this.

Now eventually in the bar cast and support swing on parallel bars you will want to switch position from an arch to hollow at the top of the swing as this lets you control your body by killing some of the momentum. Very important for pirouettes and circle work.

On High Bar there is also the basket swing like on parallel bars and the inverted straddle swing. Again, it's all about compression in the pike or straddle.

For giants, merely get into some straps and figure it out. It's not reccomended until you can swing horizontally in the front and back swing. Arching in the back swing is a good way to peel off.

Vault: Basically with vault we are combining a fast coordinated run towards the vault with a jump off one foot to both feet hitting the springboard similar to a long jump. The feet are thrown in front of the body and you "punch" the board with the forefoot. It's similar on floor when punching the floor and doing dive rolls and front flips.

As you run down the vault, target the place you will jump off one leg and where you will jump onto the board. After you jump off one leg, pick up your sight to horizontal or the horse/table and swing your arms to horizontal. The rest of the body sort of plays catch up from there and it depends on whether you are doing handspring vaulting or round-off/backhandspring vaulting.

You need to learn a flyspring before doing a handspring off the vault. A handstand flat back is a cute drill that goes nowhere as it teaches you to not rotate your handspring vault besides allowing you to dive on to the hands ( which also happens with the flyspring ). It's ok at this point.

Floor: Learn a HS. Read a lot of the articles and floor drills on the boards I mentioned.

Learn how to kick to a split HS. Split as in front split. This is to teach generating momentum forward for the round-off and front handspring. It is very handy to at least have the feel for front and back walkover even if you lack the shoulder flexibility for it ( bridges and bridge wall walks and kickovers-in fact I have a video on youtube about it-learn to kickover both ways by kicking from an elevated surface to add an assist).

Learn the side cartwheel first. Many people skip this but it's the first cartwheel for a reason and the reason why many front to back cartwheels are poorly performed.

Learn the basic forward and backward roll in straddle, tuck, pike and to prone (except forward). This is used to teach the body how to rotate for flips.

Honestly, aerials are cool but can be very confusing when doing them while developing the round-off. Learn a near and far arm cartwheel, ask them what a dive cartwheel is and build some mats and do into a pit at first. Again, you need to drive the first leg like a split handstand to develop momentum into the aerial for the side or front aerial (which is basically a front walkover without the hands).

Ask them if they have a trampoline to show you seatdrop to table/doggie drop to stomach drop and the back drop. Learn to bounce in the backdrop position up and down on your back. Then back drop to backward roll which turns into backdrop pullover which is the first way to learn the back flip and flyaway. Learn to flip from the hands and knees to butt and eventually the feet. Learn to bounce from the knees to handstand.

Learn how to kick to a handstand and land on your stomach or back. Use a thick mat so you don't knock the wind out of your chest. For adults, two stiff 8" thick mats are adviseable but if there is a softer older 8" one you can put that on top or by itself. 4" mats are not thick enough.

Learn a flyspring (forward handspring off two feet) before the backhandspring as this teaches you how to transition from hollow>arch. You can at least work the principles of walkovers on an octagon if you lack the shoulder flexibility.

While doing most handstand work, align your eyes so you look to your wrists but KEEP THAT HEAD IN. That is one of the most important things to learn on all the apparatus in the beginning stages. This is what must be done for cartwheel/front handspring/round off work.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:36 PM   #5
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: gymnastics course

btw, you should probably work on rolling out of the handstand and pressing to the handstand. Walk to a handstand from a pushup position near a wall, walking your feet up the wall and either lowering down to headstand and rolling out or straddling your HS. Kick to a HS against the wall and slowly lower the legs down in a straddle (easier in a HeS).

You need to master the many types of swing on the men's apparatus first before really worrying about skills. Yes, this takes patience but by mastering the swing technique and basics, you can progress much further. I can't find an old article on USAG about mastering the kinds of men's swing per apparatus but it should be in their archives.

Planche progression is in GymnasticBodies.

Backhandsprings and back flips should be done in a supervised area as there are very dangerous on one's own. I taught myself both but only because I had the equipment and the teaching progressions through having taught them and learned while gymnastics coach training.

A butterfly on the floor is basically a cartwheel on a horizontal plane. Pass through a lunge weight transferring from one leg to another, dropping your chest down while keeping your back arched and kick. For the twist, pull your legs vs keeping them straddled.

Flair circle work can be done though the breaker style or gymnastics style. In the latter you learn the basic circle first and then straddle as you circle kicking the legs around, takes longer but looks cleaner.
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Old 08-31-2009, 05:50 PM   #6
Benjamin Goodale
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Re: gymnastics course

dan, steven, and blair...thank you for all the great info. i will try to absorb this and work it all into my plan. i'll post in a few weeks and let you know if I have achieved any of these skills. thanks again.
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Old 08-31-2009, 10:40 PM   #7
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: gymnastics course

How much time do you have in the adult class? 90m or 2h? If you tell me, I could give you an approximate schedule to work this out.

About the only real reason I'm doing this is because I'm doing the same thing for me.
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Old 09-01-2009, 07:13 AM   #8
Nick Cummings
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Re: gymnastics course

I am about to start an adult gymnastics course. It meets twice a week for about 45 minutes. I would love to hear your suggestions on how to try to structure learning skills.
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Old 09-01-2009, 11:14 AM   #9
John Harris
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Re: gymnastics course

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blair Robert Lowe View Post
How much time do you have in the adult class? 90m or 2h? If you tell me, I could give you an approximate schedule to work this out.

About the only real reason I'm doing this is because I'm doing the same thing for me.
I'd also like to hear your thoughts on a schedule. Mine is flexible because I have open access to some equipment. P-bars, rings, pommel and about a 30'X6' spring floor; no vault or high bar and limited space on the floor.
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Old 09-01-2009, 11:48 AM   #10
Steven Low
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Re: gymnastics course

Generally, it's best to work on 2-3 events per day. But even then that's if you have a 3-4 hour practice.

With a really short practice it may be best to focus solely on 1-2 events per day working all of the basics.

I dunno Blair will hash out something for you guys I guess. I would just blob a lot of the basic skills above into a session, heh.
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