The press to handstand is one of the most difficult skills to achieve as well as
one of the most important in the higher levels of gymnastics. The ‘press’, as
it is affectionately known, has a number of different components which can
take years to perfect and ultimately result in it’s mastery. The process of
learning a press to handstand also develops and teaches valuable skills for
life surrounding perseverance, determination and how to trust the process.
So, without further ado, lets look at some tips to help you achieve your press
Like it’s name sake suggests the handstand is all about balancing...upside
down! It takes a lot of practice to balance using our hands as though they
are our feet. In order to best prepare our bodies to balance upside down we
must undertake a lot of wrist conditioning. In our classes at FCGC we utilize
the array of equipment on offer to help our gymnast’s develop strength in
their wrists. Most of the time these activities are lots of fun for the gymnasts,
but really there is purpose to our play. Compressing foam blocks from the
foam pit or scrunching scarves with our hands all help to develop our wrist
and hand strength. The second vital shape for the handstand which we
practice from Geckos and Grown Ups through to Level 10 is our rocket or tall
shape. This shape is the most important for a lot of skills, but none more so
than the handstand. The gymnast practices standing in a straight line;
extending upwards through their shoulders, pressing their ribs ‘inwards’ and
pulling their hips ‘under’ to create a perfectly aligned and straight body.
When inverted, this shape becomes a perfectly straight handstand which is
easy to control and balance in.
The next component for a perfect press is core strength. In order to perform
a press to handstand it is essential for a gymnast to develop their core
stability through a range of exercises. As well as the general gymnastics core
conditioning activities including the likes of ‘dish hold’ and leg lifts, there are
many exercises which develop core strength in parallel with the press to
Stalder leg lifts are one such strengthening activity; the
gymnast starts hanging on the bar and lifts their legs into an inverted
straddle position. When rotated upside down the gymnast looks as though
they are starting in a handstand and lowering down to a straddle support
position; one of the many ways to start a press to handstand!
Another similar drill is a lying press to handstand on a trapezoid shape.
This drill not only works the gymnast’s core strength, but also their muscle memory for the skill. In this drill the gymnast begins lying on their back in a stretched position, their hands touching the wall as though in a handstand. Lifting through their hips, the gymnast rolls backwards into a straddle position with their hands still touching the wall. The gymnast then slowly lowers back to
their lying stretched handstand position – talk about that for an abdominal
As a coach the part I most often see gymnasts struggling with is the all
important ‘planche action’ with their shoulders. In order to perform a
consistent and technically correct press to handstand a gymnast must lean
forwards over their hands through a planche position. The easiest way to
think about a planche is like a seesaw; we are trying to counterbalance our
bodies through our shoulders. This leaning action is common place
throughout gymnastics skills including a ‘cast’ on the Uneven and High Bars,
swing to handstand on Parallel Bars and front support on floor.
At FCGC we encourage this important progression as early as possible with our gymnasts in order to make these harder skills much easier long-term for our athletes.
One shape which can be practiced at home as well as in class is a front
support position. In a front support the gymnast should have an ‘angry cat’
rounded chest and lean forward over their hands with their shoulders – this
will translate to a comfort of leaning forwards, assist the gymnast with the
skills mentioned previously, and their press to handstand!
Other exercises which work both the planche action required for the press and core strengthening include;
Pike Drag Ups:
The gymnast begins in a support shape on a bar or edge of a box and,
lifting through their hips whilst leaning forwards, drag their toes up the
bar/box to a standing position
The gymnast begins in a frog position on the floor (squatting with
hands in between feet) and rests the inside of their leg on their straight
arms. The gymnast then leans forward with a rounded chest and
balances for as long as possible
Straddle Press Walks:
The gymnast begins sitting in a straddle position and lifts their hips up
whilst leaning forward over their hands. From the inverted position the
gymnast lowers back down through an L-sit and into a straddle and
places their hands in front of them ready to go again!
Now that we have looked at the different components of the press, its time to
put it all together! The gymnast should start in a straddle stand with their
back facing a wall, wedge or beat board (leaning against something of
course!) placing hands just in front of the vertical surface. From the straddle
stand the shoulders should lean forward through the planche phase whilst
lifting the toes into the air. Just before vertical the gymnast should
dynamically ‘open’ their shoulders to finish in a perfect handstand!
Remember that a press to handstand can take many years to achieve, so
don’t be pressed with time and start practicing today!
See you in the gym – Coach Toby
By definition conditioning is "the process of training or accustoming a person/animal to behave in a certain way or accept certain circumstances."
In this instance we won't be talking about animal training, shame I know. Instead we will be talking about training muscles to get stronger and the mind to get accustomed to the feeling of training ones muscles.
There are a lot of reasons why conditioning is crucial for gymnastics. I think the most important reason of all, would be for safety. Any gymnast is at risk of injury and often times if a gymnast has stronger ligaments and connective tissue, an injury may be prevented or the severity of an injury can be minimized. Other reasons why conditioning is important include stability, strength, mental toughness, team work, responsibility for personal progression and resilience.
Now we know WHY we do conditioning, let's talk about HOW.
Depending on the level a gymnast is, it will reflect the type and duration of the conditioning they will part take in. However, the younger gymnasts will still be introduced to some of the movements and the idea of strength based challenges through games, group activities, and fun circuit stations. For the older gymnasts in Gymstar and ALP they will be working on a larger array of conditioning tasks.
As our gymnasts enter the gym for their class, they will make their way over to a designated area with their coach where they will part take in a group warm-up followed by stretching and fundamental shapes in gymnastics eg. dish, arch, front support etc. From here the coach may take them through some conditioning to help prepare the muscles for high action and full range of motion.
At FCGC we are very lucky in the regards of coaching resources. We have access to class planners on tablets that can aid or provide inspiration for all of our coaches through lesson plans and apparatus stations. Through out an apparatus training session, the coaches will assign conditioning stations among the skill development stations. We do this for several reasons. It helps to give the gymnasts a rest, and it breaks up the back to back skill development that can quickly wear out even the strongest of gymnasts.
Here are a couple of examples for conditioning at an apparatus:
- Chin ups (rings, p-bars, bars)
- Dish/Arch Holds
- Squats or Lunges
- Resistance band exercises
- Exercise ball activities (eg. sit ups, tuck snaps, stability.)
- Bar Toe Touches
- Dorsal Rocks/Inverts
- Leg lifts (Beam, Floor, Pommel)
Among a training session, the gymnasts will be given multiple opportunities to be working on their conditioning. Either worked into a circuit as previously discussed or in its own designated time/space. Each coach will have their own modifications to a strength based task or new ideas that will keep gymnasts engaged through out the session. This gives gymnasts the perfect opportunity to try varying challenges through out the entirety of their gymnastics experience.
Here are some methods you might see used in the gym:
- Timed Intervals
- Partner based exercises
- Whole class strength holds
- Challenges of strength based on repetitions
There are endless possibilities for a good conditioning class structure! So much so, that I can hardly scratch the surface through this blog post alone. If you are interested in some more ideas, the internet will be your best friend! Just remember when trying a new exercise you should always take it easy to avoid injury or strain.
Here are some examples of conditioning at varying levels of difficulty:
Finding a cohesive and functional conditioning plan is essential to the smooth running of any gymnastics class. As you can see there are many ways to go about this! Take your time when trying new activities. If you are frazzled the gymnasts will be as well.
Does your gymnast do extra conditioning at home? Has this given you a few ideas? Let me know in the comments below.
Signing off for now,
"The fear of facing fears is harder to overcome than the fear itself." - Anonymous
Previously we have discussed the power of "Yet" and how language can effect our actions. This time, I would like to discuss how our thoughts can effect our actions in the Gym.
Recently I found myself being encouraged to discuss this topic to a wider audience, and I couldn't agree more with how beneficial it could be. Yet it is such a vast topic, where would I possibly start? In that question I had found my answer. Uncertainty.
The words "I can't" are heard all too often in the gym, but they do not mean what you think. The words "I can't" are being spoken from a place of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. The words represent the self doubt we face when we are confronted with something new.
To dive into the unknown when there is a risk is a daunting task, no matter the age of the individual. The added threat of injury at any given attempt only makes it all the more challenging.
So how can we approach something that we cannot touch or see?
I believe understanding and acceptance are where a gymnast will make their largest strides to success. Fear is natural, and has been evident in nature for hundreds of thousands of years. There is no getting rid of fear. It is here to stay!
However, Fear is not bad. In fact it is incredibly useful. It will keep a gymnast concentrating on their technique. It will aid a coach in making sure a gymnast is ready for a skill before they attempt it. It will encourage precaution and sensibility in the most outgoing of gymnasts.
Forcing a gymnast through a skill might seem like the appropriate thing to do, either as a parent or as a coach. We might see it as a simple task, and we can see they are capable. Which in turn might get some of us a little frustrated, which means we can rush things. This can lead to "mental blocks" or "skill blocks". There is a big difference between encouragement and pressuring.
If you force a gymnast to attempt a skill there is a very strong chance they are going to bail. They are not going to commit to the skill, they are going to get half way through and then they are going to panic, and do anything they can to get out of the skill. The problem is, we aren't quite as effective as cats... so when a gymnast is high in the air and decides they don't like it, they aren't able to twist their bodies and land back casually on their feet. They are almost certainly going to land on the heaviest and most vital part of their bodies. Yep, you guessed it. Their heads.
This will only prove to the gymnast that their fears where in fact correct, the worst could possibly happen and they will get hurt.
It is important to remember that a child or teenager is not as skilled at identifying emotional challenges like adults are. They need guidance until they can find themselves at a resolution.
Here are some ways we can handle fear:
1. Identifying the source of the fear. For this you will need to communicate, unless you are in fact a mind-reader and in which case may i strongly suggest a career change! Is your gymnast afraid of the fall? The height? Have they previously attempted this skill and it didn't go to plan? Are they not strong enough yet? Are they worried about looking silly?
2. Game, set and match! You need to approach it in small portions. If they are afraid of being on a high bar, change the bar or raise the crash mats so it doesn't seem as high. If they are afraid of looking silly in front of their class mates, offer private lessons until they feel more confident.
3.Mental Strength & Focus. They are always numerous aspects to a skill, and you are expected to execute all of them... at the same time.. but don't over think it... and don't forget to set up the skill properly... oh and definitely don't forget to present at the end. That's a lot to take in right? Helping your gymnast focus on one thing at a time will allow them to truly be present, and focused. This also goes for life outside of the gym. They might have maths' homework, an art project due, a family dinner and an exam coming up they need to study for!
Help them to breathe, pick one to focus on for now, and feel confident in their capabilities.
4. Remind them how brave they are for even trying! Even basic gymnastics skills are not simple, and attempting them in the first place requires bravery & gumption.
There is a lot that go wrong due to fear, but also a lot that can go right!
Do not give up! It may take you longer than you expected but you can and you will get there if you keep fighting for it.
Who do you think should read this blog post? Tag them and let's start the conversation about "I can't".
Signing off for now,
What a fantastic weekend full of competitions we had here at FCGC. It was so good to see all our gymnasts “big” and “smaller” show off their skills, and be acknowledged for their hard work. If you couldn’t make it down, it was a great turn out! We had many other clubs compete at our venue over Saturday and Sunday. It really helps to build the sense of community within this sport.
We had our Adults Gymstar Open Comp on Saturday, and our 1-4 competition/meet on Sunday.
It was jam packed with hard working gymnasts and fun, exciting routines. Next competition season, try to head down to support our gymnasts, and enjoy the opportunity to watch a great social sport for yourselves!
If you’ve ever thought about entering yourself or a gymnast into a Gymstar Comp, you are already on the right path.
It can be a daunting thing to think about!
The most frequent things we hear from our gymnasts are things such as “who’s going to be there?”, “I’ll be embarrassed”, “I’m scared of the judges”, “I’ve never been to that gym before, It’s too scary” and many more.
As valid as these concerns may be, it’s also best to think about why we might be concerned with them in the first place. There just might be a solution to help ease and comfort the gymnast, and get them excited to perform their routines.
Let’s address some of these concerns together!
Remember if you’re feeling nervous and unsure, talk to a coach about it. They will be more than happy to talk to you, and think of ways to help you feel at ease. Our coaches may even be able to introduce you to other gymnasts and coaches who will be there on the day.
Not to mention you can receive awards, medals and lollies on the day!
Have you attended a competition, meet or challenge this season as a gymnast or a participant? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments.
Signing off for now,
Coach Jes here 👋🏻 - Finding confidence and growing character is what we aim to do here at FCGC and over the weekend our Victorian championship gymnasts proved this to everyone! Each of them had many memorable moments but here are my stand outs
Karina - overcame some fears and mental blocks to confidently perform her round off on beam for the first time in competition 🙌🏻 Karina placed 5th on bars.
Tammy - trusted in her ability as a athlete to listen to her body and make appropriate decisions for her longevity in this sport, even if it meant not performing her hardest skills 👍🏻 Tammy placed 3rd on bars and 6th on vault.
Thomas - after falling twice on the same skill Thomas got back up on the bars and attempted the harder version of the skill (because why not?) and he nailed it!! The perfect example of confidence and character 💪🏻
As a coach I am beyond proud of these three and the amazing role models they are for everyone at our club 💜
Have any questions about these athletes or the competition? Comment them below and I’ll get back to you soon