Friday, December 31, 2010

January Questions and Comments

Please post here :) I would love topic requests if you have them, and if you want any posts written about specific skills that seem to be common among readers then I'll be happy to get something up for ya, but I need your input first. Thanks!

Happy New Year, everybody!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

USAG World Championship Highlights

Great video! Here are some of the highlights of the 2010 Worlds for the US men's and women's teams.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Home Gym Equipment for Gymnasts

It's a common debate in the "gymnastics world" whether or not parents should establish a home gym and allow their kids to practice their sport at home. One the one hand, having a floor beam and a single bar in the basement or rec room allows gymnasts extra practice time and serves as a fun activity to do at home. On the other hand, there are some safety issues involved when practicing without a coach and without proper landing mats. These are a few factors to take into consideration when deciding whether a home gym is a good idea for you or your kids. Another thing to think about is how often the gym equipment will actually be used, and whether the use will be worth the cost. This stuff can get pretty pricey, so for most people, the decision to buy home gym equipment is not one they make on a whim.

Other considerations:

  • Amount of available floor space, and type of flooring. Mats and roll-up beams can slide on wooden floors. If you don't have a lot of space but still want a beam at home, you can consider buying a 4", 6", or 8" beam rather than a 10" or 12" beam, but your gymnast might not be able to perform a full routine on a shorter balance beam.
  • Ceiling height. Often a gymnast on a floor beam will hit the ceiling just doing a simple jump. If you have an open area with higher ceilings that is carpeted, that will be the best place for your home gym. Medium height and high beams are available online, though I don't generally recommend those anyway because of safety, but floor beams will fit best in the average house.
  • Size of equipment and available storage. Most floor mats will fold up nicely to be stored in a closet, and you can do the same with roll-up beams. Solid beams, bars, or pommel trainers will be more difficult to find storage space for. You can do like I used to and hide the beam behind the couch when company comes, but sometimes there is no real great solution to this dilemma.
  • Can you make do without? A mat is a mat, but a line of tape on the floor can serve as a floor beam and do what it's meant to do with absolutely no cost. No harm in getting a little creative!
  • Is it too much of a good thing? Some parents think the gymnastics should stay in the gym; time at home is family time and it reminds the gymnast that their sport is not their whole life. I tend to agree with this to an extent. One piece of gym equipment is fun to play on at home, but gym life, school life, and home life sometimes need to be separated. I don't advise parents to try to coach their kids at home - although they love gymnastics, they are under a lot of pressure and stress at the gym, and home needs to be a sanctuary.
  • Supervision. Any gymnastics at home should be supervised at all times, and the gymnast shouldn't be doing anything they aren't absolutely confident in doing without a spot.

If you do decide to purchase some equipment for home, I would recommend both a mat and a floor beam. I am hesitant to recommend anything further for safety reasons. A lot of parents want to get their kids a single kip bar, but with a lack of safety equipment and with the bar not being bolted to the ground, anything above level 4 skills becomes pretty dangerous. The bar is not sturdy enough to hold very much weight, nor much swinging movement.

Here are some of the most reputable sites to get quality gym equipment for home.

American Gymnast

This site has your basic 1.5"-2" floor mats, kip bars, floor and low beams, pommel trainers, etc. They also have "hand, hand, foot, foot" cartwheel mats for the littles. This is a very reputable company. I haven't used any of their home products personally but I would assume this is as close as you could get to a beam that has the same width, texture, and squishiness as a regulation beam.

The Beam Store

The Beam Store has bars, floor beams, raised beams with metal legs, and mats. For the boys they do have some mini parallel bars or parallets. The thing I really love about this site is that it is SO safety-conscious. It has a lot of beam/mat combos, which is great. Their beams also have a wide and long foundation under them, making them a whole lot safer (granted, more expensive) than a stand-alone kip bar. I have an 8-inch beam from this site. It feels a little wider than a regulation beam just because the foam and the suede they cover it with is a little thicker, but it serves its purpose. Most of the beams come in assorted colors, as well, which can be cute.

Gym Supply

This site has more than just home gym equipment. They've got some institutional equipment, grips, gifts, apparel, etc., but they also have the basic beams, mats, and bars. They have some strength training equipment that could be used for anybody wanting to work out at home, not just gymnasts. They also carry all of the Nastia Liukin products! In her line, there is a pirouette bar which is great for home use as well as a 9" beginner beam (and it's pink!).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hollie Vise Biography

The gymnast of the month for December is Hollie Vise! Today, the 6th, is Hollie's birthday, so I thought it appropriate to choose her for the monthly bio. (And also I'd like to give a special December birthday shout-out to gymnasticsluver!)

DOB: December 6, 1987
Country Represented: USA
Coach: Evgeny Marchenko, a Russian acrobat
Best Event: Based on her gold medal at the 2003 World Championships, she was best on uneven bars, but she was also considered to be a great beam worker.
Best Known For: She competed in the 2003 World Championships, bringing home a gold on bars as well as the gold for the team competition. She competed at the 2004 Olympic Trials but was not chosen to be a part of the final Olympic team, as they needed vault specialists and she was best on beam/bars. She is also well-known for her signature mount pose on beam (pictured).
Currently: Hollie studies at the University of Oklahoma and competes with their gymnastics team.
Interesting Fact: Her grandfather is Burton Gilliam, a fairly well-known actor who has appeared in 17 films and many different television programs.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Level 5 Floor Requirements

The World of Gymnastics is a great site that helped me compile some of this information. I encourage you to check out the site! Its author provides requirements for routines of various levels.

The USAG competitive program scores gymnasts out of a possible 10.0 in each event. Gymnasts are responsible for performing all the required skills within their routines for any given level. Each skill, then, has requirements of its own (i.e. - handstands must be held for a certain amount of time, split leaps must meet a degree requirement, bent legs and flexed feet will be deducted in a back handspring, etc.) Needless to say, keeping track of all the requirements and deductions is nearly impossible for gymnasts, parents, and sometimes even coaches, so I thought it would be helpful to compile all the main information into one place, beginning with the most important requirements for a level 5 floor routine.

The first thing to know is that the gymnast will be deducted for performing out of time with the music, stepping out of bounds, falling on a skill, or lacking fluidity. They will also be deducted slightly if their undergarments show from underneath their leotard. They will NOT be deducted for failing to smile, failing to make eye contact with the judges, etc., but many years of competitive gymnastics experience tells me that those things do make a big difference in overall appeal.

Straddle jump. Split must be at least 120 degrees. A .2 maximum deduction will be taken if the gymnast fails to straddle wide enough. Another .1 can be taken if the gymnast does not bring her feet back together upon landing. Judges will look for straight legs and pointed toes.

Dive roll. Gymnast must maintain a hollow body position (not arched, not piked). Up to .2 points will be taken for body position mistakes, and .2 will be taken if the gymnast does not show flight before her hands hit the floor. Judges will look to see that the gymnast springs off her toes and controls her landing. Hands cannot hit the floor more than once on this move. If the gymnast fails to control the landing and falls back onto her hands, .3 can be taken from her score.

Front handspring. Gymnast must block with her shoulders (for the parents out there, that means they have to "spring" off their hands with straight arms using a shoulder push, rather than bending their arms and pushing up that way). This is worth .2 points. If the gymnast fails to block at all and limbers over, .6 will be taken. A front limber is NOT the same thing as a front handspring, and the skill will be considered incomplete if a limber is performed in its place. Hands must land at the same time side-by-side, and the same goes for the feet. The gymnast must rebound immediately out of the handspring with arms tight by ears. Judges will look for nice tight body position with straight legs and pointed toes. The gymnast also must begin the skill with a hurdle.

Split leap. Leap must reach a minimum of a 120 degree leg separation. This is worth .2. Front leg bent on the take-off will be .1 deduction. Again, judges will look for tight, straight legs and pointed toes.

Split (on ground). Must be a full, 180 degree split. .2 deduction if the gymnast fails to sit all the way down in her split.

Back extension roll. Gymnast should not place hands on the floor before rolling backwards. This can be up to a .3 deduction. A backward roll to stand should not be substituted for the back extension roll. Much like with the handspring/limber situation, a backward roll in this case is considered an element change and will be a .6 deduction. Gymnast must pass through vertical (i.e. hit the handstand position) - a .3 deduction can be taken for failing to do this. Hands must be placed on the floor in unison. Gymnast should not bend arms and push up - this skill requires straight arms, opening the shoulder angle and pushing into the ground with the hands for the upwards momentum. Judges will look at body position in the vertical just like they would for a normal handstand (so arching, leg separation, head out, bent legs, and other similar mistakes will be worth a deduction).

Full turn. Gymnast must be in releve (high toe) with the other foot in coupe position at the ankle. Must turn a full 360 degrees. If the gymnast fails to do these things the deduction can be up to .4 points. Judges will look for a controlled landing.

Back walkover. Leg separation in the walkover must be at least 150 degrees. Failure to split to 150 will cause a deduction up to .2 depending on how far from the required angle the gymnast is. Hands must land in unison. Legs must continually kick over, so the gymnast should not let their front leg drop after lifting it as they go into the walkover.

Round off, two back handsprings. Judges will look for a big hurdle with this skill. The round off must pass through vertical (.3 deduction for failing to do so). Feet must land at the same time. Judges will look to see that the gymnast snaps the feet down and together, preparing for the back handspring. The gymnast should then continue into the back handspring with no hesitation. The gymnast should be in constant acceleration during this tumbling pass, which is worth .2. Gymnast must not squat too low or undercut the handsprings. Must rebound directly out of the 2nd handspring (worth .1). Judges will look for nice, stretched body position, straight legs with no separation, and a controlled landing.

These are the main skills and deductions to focus on. There are little things here and there that I didn't list - mostly dance elements like the hitch kick, the waltz step, and that type of thing. Hope this helps.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships

A couple weeks belated, here is a quick recap of the 2010 World Championships.

Russia brought in the gold for women's Team Championships, with the US coming in close second. Following the US for third, fourth, and fifth place were the women's teams from China, Romania, and Japan. China brought home the gold in the men's Team Championships, followed by Japan, Germany, USA in fourth, and France.

Some of the highlights for the US women's team were performances by Rebecca Bross and Bridget Sloan, who came in 3rd and 4th place, respectively, in Event Finals on UB. Bross also placed 2nd on beam. Alicia Sacramone took first in VT. There were a lot of other great performances and high placements that I haven't listed, so I encourage you to watch some of the footage if you missed it in October!

Rebecca Bross placed 3rd in AA Finals, despite a fall on her last event, and in 13th was Alexandra Raisman, who, in my opinion, has received too little attention. This is Ally's first year as a senior, and we've been able to see some great improvements from her in consistency so far. She's one to watch in the future.

Outside of the US team, one of the biggest highlights of this meet was Lauren Mitchell's first place floor final, making her the first Australian woman to ever win a gold medal at Worlds! She showcased some interesting choreography and solid tumbling in that routine.

Beth Tweddle of Great Britain also had a phenomenal performance on UB, earning her the first place position. Besides a few missed verticals on the cast-handstands, it was an amazing routine with some incredibly difficult connections.

Lots of interviews can be accessed through the USAG website, as well as some routine videos, if you're interested in learning more about the meet! Check them out!

Opinion Section:
The Good - He Kexin had an excellent UB routine in team finals. Tons of difficult connections. She scored a 16.133. Unfortunately, she took a fall on that routine in event finals, but her awesome performance in team finals makes up for it.
The Bad - The men's high bar scoring controversy between Zhang and Zonderland. Zonderland gave an INCREDIBLE performance with tons of big connections. Zhang gave a cleaner routine with better pirouettes, hitting most all of his handstands, but with a step on the landing. Obviously, the audience was generally in favor of the "big routine" by Zonderland (not to mention the fact that he is from the Netherlands), so there was a lot of booing when Zhang scored higher. Honestly, I would've loved to have seen Zonderland win, but I trust the judges in this case.
The Ugly - Beth Tweddle's floor choreography. She is an awesome gymnast and a powerful tumbler on FX, but the awful choreo just brings her down every time. There were a few OK choroe moments, and a few others where she just looked like an ape. It was kind of ridiculous.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nadia Comaneci Biography

The gymnast of the month for November is...

Nadia Comaneci!

DOB: November 12, 1961
Country Represented: Romania
Coaches: Bela and Marta Karolyi
Best Event: She was great at every event, but the very first Perfect 10 went to Nadia's incredible bar routine at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
Best Known For: Nadia was the first gymnast to receive a Perfect 10 at the Olympics, but she didn't receive just ONE perfect 10. She went on to earn six more perfect scores in her career. She received three gold medals at the 1976 Olympics - Bars, Beam, and All-Around - and she won two more gold medals in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Currently: Nadia is currently living in the US and is married to Olympic gymnast Bart Conner. They have a young son named Dylan. :)
Interesting Fact: When Nadia received her first 10.0, scoreboards only had space for three digits, thus the scoreboard flashed "1.00" after her performance. Bela Karolyi, Nadia's coach, was apparently outraged and yelled toward the judges, "Where is Nadia's score?" That's when an announcement was made over the loudspeaker that, for the first time in gymnastics history, the score was a 10.0.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Questions and Comments

Questions, comments, gym news, personal achievements, etc. etc. please post here for November! (Thanks for the reminder, Miss Callie. It completely slipped my mind. How is it already November?!?) :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back Handspring Tips

This seems to be a hot topic, so here are some tips for how to do a great back handspring!

1. Practice the squat!! The squat is so essential to the backward motion of the skill. You've probably heard it many times, but it should be as if you're sitting in a chair. You need to get a good bend in the legs and sit back. The backwards motion starts here!!

2. Get a strong arm swing. You should practice without the arm swing, too, so you can figure out how to push hard with your legs to make the handspring. But once you know you have that down, the arm swing will get you some good momentum. You should, of course, combine this with the push from your legs as you extend your legs and spring off those toes.

3. As you begin the first phase of the handspring, really open your shoulder angle (note: that does not mean that you should throw your head back!) and open your hips so that you find that nice tight arch position over the top.

4. Over the top of the skill, your arms need to be tight at your ears with your head staying in place, chin tucked in slightly. Of course, straight legs, tight core, and pointed toes. At this point, you can start spotting for the hand placement with your eyes.

5. Immediately after your hands hit the floor, you need to block as hard as you can off of your shoulders. Do not bend your arms and push off - the block should happen all with shoulder power, and of course with straight arms (not locked, but straight) and your fingers slightly turned in to prevent injury to the elbows.

6. Now you're ready for the turnover. What you're going to do now is to snap your legs down towards the ground for the rebound. You can do snap-down drills by kicking up into a handstand on a panel mat and snapping your feet down, first controlling the landing by bending the knees and landing with a hollow chest, then trying the same thing with a high rebound once your feet hit the floor.

7. During the rebound, your knees should not bend. Similar to your hands hitting the ground in the handspring, you do not want to lock the knees but they should be straight. The rebound really comes from pushing off the toes as hard as you can. After you get a great rebound, you can start working on sets for a back tuck!

8. Coming down from the rebound, bend the knees slightly to control the landing and extend your hands our in front of you for balance. Keeping a tight body throughout the skill and the rebound is going to help you to stick the landing.

Following these basic tips you should have a pretty nice back handspring :) Remember to stretch out your back with bridges and back walkovers before jumping right into the handspring! Happy flipping!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gymnastics Movies and Books

Just thought I'd point you guys towards some books and movies about gymnastics that you might be interested in! Unfortunately you don't see gymnastics in the media too much, but I have found a few things I enjoyed.

My FAVORITE gymnastics book is called "Gymnastics: The Trials, The Triumphs, The Truth" by a guy named Dan Gutman. I have loved this book since I was a little girl. There are a few bios in there of famous gymnasts, both men and women, of the past. It provides general descriptions of all the events and has a "gym talk" vocabulary section, which is pretty funny :) It also talks about some of the down-sides of the sport, like some occurrences of eating disorders in elite gymnasts. My favorite part about the book is the stories/biographies of Nadia Comaneci and Olga Korbut and their journeys in gymnastics!

There is a movie called "Nadia" that also gives an overview of Nadia Comaneci's life, being trained by Bela Karolyi in Romania and reaching success at a young age. It's a little corny but VERY interesting and definitely worth a view, in my opinion. It gives you some insight into her life, and you learn that she had to overcome many obstacles. You may be able to find this at a library, but you might need to do some searching. I also know that is available on VHS from Amazon.

Another is a Lifetime movie called "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" about a gymnast who moves from her more fun, relaxed gym to a very serious gym to follow her elite dreams. The movie deviates a little bit from the real world of gymnastics (ex: at the meets, the gymnasts compete with spotlights moving all around them. It's just little things like that), but if you're willing to look past that I think it's a worthwhile film.

This next one I would direct both to you as gymnasts as well as to your parents. It's called "Gymnastics" from the Sport Psychology Library. I have not read it myself but have heard it's immensely helpful in giving insight on how to overcome the mental obstacles that gymnastics presents.

Then, of course, we've got "Stick It" and "Make it or Break it" :)

Who knows, maybe I'll write a gymnastics novel someday. But only if all my blog readers promise to read it and pretend like they like it :D

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nastia Liukin Biography

Nastia Liukin!

DOB: October 30, 1989
Country Represented: United States
Coach: Her father, Valeri Liukin. She trains at WOGA, which is owned by her family.
Best Event: Based on scores and overall presentation, I'm gonna have to name UB as her best event.
Best Known For: Her 2008 Olympic AA win! :)
Currently: Still training. Nastia has also made a few TV/movie appearances and has her own GK leo line.
Interesting Fact: There are so many! Excuse me for listing more than one, but... Nastia was born in Moscow and is fluent in Russian. Both of her parents were champions in the Soviet Union, her father a gold medalist in gymnastics and her mother a World Champion rhythmic gymnast. She is also a spokesmodel for Covergirl!

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to Help Prevent and Take Care of Rips in Gymnastics

My coach used to try to make us think rips were cool. He would say, "Getting rips means you're a hard worker and a great gymnast." Maybe that's true, but nobody likes to get rips, so here are a couple of tips to help prevent them and to take care of them when they happen. There's not a whole lot that you can do about rips, unfortunately, but I'll tell you everything I know.

1) Use tape. If you feel like you're getting a blister or if you already have a rip, use a little bit of pre-wrap and then wrap your hand in athletic tape. It doesn't necessarily take away the pain, but it does help to prevent the blister from ripping further. (Ew, I hate the word blister. I bet you do, too. I don't blame you. Bear with me.)

2) If you are getting to the level where you're starting to learn things like clear hip handstands and giants, now is the time to get grips. They do NOT prevent rips like some people say they do, but when you are performing skills that require so much hand-to-bar time, they do reduce the friction a little bit. Of course you'll also need them to help you grip the bar, which is clearly their intended purpose.

3) If you get a callus on your hand, you can use a pumice stone or some other sort of file on it to reduce it a little bit. You don't want to go overboard with this, obviously, because if your hands are completely callus-free, they'll get sore pretty quickly on bars.

4) This one is a little controversial, but some girls like the "sock method." Put some lotion on your hand and then put a sock over it while you sleep. Take it off in the morning. Supposedly it has healing powers, though I've never tried it myself.

5) Try some Neosporin and a band-aid if all else fails.

6) If you're really in a lot of pain, ask your coach if you can work on low-friction skills for a while. Examples of that would be casts, cast handstands, squat ons, jump to high bar, pirouette drills, release moves, transitions, etc. depending on your skill level.

Happy bars. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Poll: Name One Skill You're Working on Now

Name ONE skill you're working on right now in the gym, and I will in turn provide you with ONE tip for successfully learning that skill. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dominique Moceanu Biography

I thought it would be fun to do a Gymnast of the Month, based on birth month :) Born in September is the lovely and talented...

Dominique Moceanu!

Bio -

DOB: September 30, 1981
Country Represented: America, but is of Romanian descent
Coaches: Marta and Bela Karolyi
Best Event: This is debatable, but I always loved to watch her on beam. She had a pretty cool mount and her routines were chalk-full of difficult skills (Get it? CHALK-full? Eh? Changed the spelling for a little gymnastic humor there :P Lol)
Best Known For: Her position on the 1996 Women's Olympic team - the Magnificent Seven, who brought home the American team gold.
Currently: Retired from gymnastics, she is married and a mother of two kids, Carmen and Vincent.
Interesting Fact: With the money she earned from her career as a gymnast, she helped build a gym called Moceanu Gymnastics, Incorporated. It opened in 1997.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September Questions and Comments: Please Post Here :)

Any questions, comments, updates, personal gym news, etc. for the month should be posted here and I will respond to them, either in a comment or a separate blog post, as soon as I can! Thanks. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meet Tips for Gymnasts and Gym Parents

With the competitive season coming up, I thought it might be helpful to give first-time competitors and first-time gym parents a general overview of your basic gymnastics meet, along with some tips and tricks to make everything run as smoothly as possible. This might be a little lengthy, so bear with me! I'll try to make it as precise as I can, though there's quite a bit to say. (Girls, tell your parents to read, too, if they're interested!)

Basic Meet Schedule:
Your average USAG meet will last about four hours and will follow a standard schedule. There might be a few exceptions to this rule (ex: Capital Cup or Chicago-style meet), but most meets will follow the exact same format, and you will soon know it by heart. It usually goes like this...

Check in (get your designated number)
Warm up/stretch
Timed warm ups
March in
Awards ceremony

You'll want to arrive about twenty minutes before the scheduled warm up time so the gymnasts can get situated with their teammates and consult with their coach.

Random Things You Should Know (gymnasts):

1) When you have downtime at a meet, it might help you to visualize your routines. See yourself acing the move that you're getting a little nervous about. Watch yourself sticking the landing. Thinking positively is enormously beneficial. If you think you can, you can. The Olympians will tell you that.

2) Prepare your gym bag the night before. It's nice to know that you're all ready to go and you have nothing to worry about except your routines. Throw some things in your gym bag ahead of time. Your bag should be labeled with your name on it. Items you might want to bring include your leos (warm-up and competitive) and warm ups, a hairbrush, hairspray, extra hair ties, a water bottle, your grips, icy hot for sore muscles, ibuprofen, healthy snacks to eat between events (such as a few granola bars, trail mix, etc.), wrist/ankle/knee braces if you need them, athletic tape, and, if you're like me, a good luck charm. I brought my green teddy bear to every meet, even when I was a teenager :P

3) You are not allowed to wear nail polish to a meet. You should remove it the night before. Take off all your jewelry before the meet as well.

4) Get enough to eat! Stomach aches at meets are no good. The night before a meet, carbs are always a good dinner option for a boost of energy. In the morning, have a bowl of cereal, a waffle (whole wheat would be best), toast, a banana, a bagel, or something similar. Make sure you're staying hydrated.

5) Go out to eat or do something fun with your teammates after the meet!! After all that, you deserve it. At travel meets, especially, you'll want to have some fun with your friends.

Random Things You Should Know (parents):

1) Get ready early. Obviously you'll want your daughter to get all the sleep she can get, but sleeping in and then rushing to get to a meet adds unnecessary nerves and pressure. Plan ahead for the time it will take to fix up your daughter's hair on the morning of a meet. Sometimes it takes longer than you think it will, especially if you're planning on an intricate braid. Allow extra time in case you get a little lost on the way, and of course take note of the weather (I can't even count the number of times my parents and I got lost, or got stuck behind a snow plow the whole way there, etc. etc.) Unforeseen problems do tend to arise, and it's best to just be prepared no matter what.

2) If you are at a travel meet, you may find it helpful to make a test drive from the hotel to the site of the meet the night before. That way you can watch out for unexpected road closings and detours, and it will just takes a lot of stress off your shoulders.

3) Focus on your daughter making her best effort and having a good time, rather than on winning. My father used to grill me in the car on the way to meets about pointing my toes in my beam routine and getting a higher cast on bars, and, though I know now that it was coming from a place of concern and wanting me to be happy with my own performance, it made me very nervous then. I felt pressured, and I also felt a little annoyed, because I knew he had no idea about the mechanics behind the moves I would be performing. I felt like, "Hey, I already have a coach. I don't need another one." Trust me, the coaches put enough pressure on as it is. Your job is simply to be supportive. :)

4) Bring cash with you to meets. There are entrance fees, and there will typically be concessions as well as other merchandise related to the meet (like cool t-shirts, grip bags, leotards, stuff like that). Some meets also provide a professional photographer, and you will have the option of purchasing photos of your daughter after the meet. Also, bring a book or an ipod or something else to entertain yourself or your other kids. Your daughter will actually only compete for a total of about four minutes, so there will be a lot of idle time in between.

5) I said this in the section for gymnasts, but staying hydrated and eating enough is obviously important for your daughter. Carbs are recommended for the night before, and non-acidic foods (cereal or bagels are always good) in the morning.

6) As you probably know, flash photography will not be allowed for safety reasons, so if you're planning on taking photos, turn your flash off right away.

Good luck to everybody and enjoy your season! Again, if you have questions pertaining to this particular post, please feel free to comment and I'll get your question answered as soon as possible. If you have a question that does NOT relate to this post, please ask it in the post below this one, until I can get a "Questions and Comments" post up for the month. Thanks!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Poll: When is your first meet this season?

I know the competitive season is coming up fairly soon. For some reason I was thinking it began in October, but I'm not quite sure. Again, please forgive my fuzzy memory. It's been way too many years since I've competed. So what is the date of your first meet this year? I want to make sure that I can be thinking of you all and wishing you luck on that day! Though I'm sure you don't need the luck, because you're all so fantastic. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tip #5: Being a great gymnast.

Tip #5: Watch your routines on tape. Ask your coach if he/she would be willing to videotape your routines during practice, or have a parent videotape you at a meet. If you're like me, you'll realize that you're making errors you never knew you were making, but you'll also realize that certain skills or elements of your routines look so much nicer than you thought they did. This is not only a confidence booster, but it is also a good way to critique yourself and figure out where improvements need to be made. It's the easiest way to learn exactly what you need to keep doing and what you need to change in your routines. Playing the video back in slow motion can also be helpful... Slow motion is a particularly helpful tool when it comes to vault, where even the best coaches can miss errors every now and then, since it is so fast-moving.

Anyway, the whole taping and critiquing thing is supposed to be a very positive experience, so I would warn gymnasts (many of whom are too hard on themselves) to be forgiving of their own mistakes and to notice both the good and the not-so-good in their routines. Watch the video with a coach, a teammate, a parent, or a friend who knows at least a little bit about the sport; they will be able to provide you with constructive criticism and support. :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tip #4: Being a great gymnast.

Tip #4: Watch your lines. You guys all know this, but it's SO important to keep your legs straight, your body tight, and your toes pointed at all times. I'm sure you've watched Nastia Liukin's bar routine and heard almost every commentator say something about how impressive her clean body lines are. Even if your clear hip or cast doesn't quite reach the height it needs, if you make a nice line with your body, it's going to give a better impression and you just might get away with it. This doesn't apply only to bars, of course, but I think it's most impressive if you can look graceful and polished during a bar routine. It's expected on floor and beam especially, but bring this to bars and vault as well. It looks nice. If you can make the routine look effortless by polishing it up and displaying great form, you've done your job.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tip #3: Being a great gymnast.

Tip #3: Study ballet. Again, this probably seems very basic, but grace is a huge part of gymnastics, and it is something that has to be learned. My mom used to come to my meets, and almost every time, she would say, "I can tell which girls are ballerinas and which aren't." Girls who have taken a few ballet practices learn to extend all their limbs, point their toes, and move in a way that looks totally effortless. My sister, who is a dancer, tells me that gracefulness eventually comes naturally. If taking a ballet class is not an option, that's okay. There are other ways you can practice being graceful. Take the time to stand in front of a mirror at home and go through a routine only completing your arm movements. Watch the way you move and try to make it appear as light and as polished as possible. It will pay off!!! I wish I had done more of this when I was a gymnast.

If you watch "Make It or Break It" on ABC Family (come on, I know most of you do :P), you will see Sasha Beloff telling his girls that there are two types of gymnasts: power gymnasts and artistic gymnasts. To an extent, that is very true. I always considered myself a power gymnast. However, to be the very best, you need to have both power AND artistry, and both those elements can be learned.

I would also suggest watching a few videos of past Olympic gymnasts (and by past, I'm talking 1960s-1970s). Over time, the emphasis on poise and beauty has slowly made room for a greater emphasis on power. That's not a bad thing by any means, but sometimes it helps to look back at how gymnastics has evolved and how it all started. Watching early gymnastics routines always inspired me to bring back the artistry in my own routines.

Since I don't know how to embed videos yet, I will provide you with the link to a routine from 1968. There are a lot of lovely, beautiful dance moments in here. Enjoy :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tip #2: Being a great gymnast

Tip #2: Smile at the judges. As much as the judges say that your presentation and attitude don't affect you're score, they really do. Technically speaking, judges can't deduct for lack of presentation. But selling yourself - in your floor routine especially, but also in your beam routine - will give the judges a better overall impression of you, and I can almost guarantee that it'll win you a couple of tenths. So make eye contact and smile during your routine. Let them know how much you love this sport. Show them that you're passionate about it. These guys watch the same routines over and over and over again in compulsory meets, so shake it up a little bit and be the gymnast that stands out in their minds at the end of the day.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tip #1: Being a great gymnast.

I will be posting a series of tips to help you become the best gymnast you can be. Here is the first of the tips. It might seem simple and unrelated, but I assure you it is not :)

Tip #1: Support your teammates.. Establishing a close bond with your teammates by praising them for their accomplishments, as well as supporting them during the rough patches, will make for smoother practices. If you encourage your teammates, they will encourage you back. I can honestly say that I would never have been able to progress at the rate that I did in this sport if I had not had the constant support of the people around me. My coaches and teammates helped me to overcome fears and to keep pushing even when I was frustrated and tired. A simple high-five and a "good job" when I achieved something new was enough to get me really pumped up to keep working hard. Try this out at your next practice. If this is something you already do, keep doing it! Maybe there is a teammate that you don't talk to as often or don't know quite as well as the others; try giving her a high-five next time, or telling her you know she can do it. Being a good teammate is just as awesome as being on the podium at a meet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back Extension Roll Tips

I'm answering this in a separate post because I think quite a few people have trouble with back extension rolls at first. I know I did. So, to the anonymous reader who asked the question, getting only a few inches off the ground and then falling back down is an extremely common problem with this skill. It's a practice-makes-perfect move, nobody gets it exactly right on the first try.

The back extension roll is dependent on timing and strength. As you roll back, make sure that you're keeping your arms straight (VERY IMPORTANT! Bending you arms and pushing up is incorrect and judges hate it) as well as pushing your arms/hands hard into the ground as you open your shoulder angle. You will use your abs to help elevate your body. You can start with a backward roll to the hollow push-up position and slowly work your way up to the extension to handstand. Hope that helps!

Photo provided by cgill on Flickr.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reader updates!! Poll: Season goals and current skills.

I want to know how your skills are coming along! And what is your number 1 goal for the upcoming season?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tips for Back Tumbling Skills

Gymnasticsluver wanted a few tips on back tumbling skills, so I'll just give the basics. The biggest errors I see in back tumbling usually happen at the very beginning of the skill, on the take-off, so that's what I'm gonna talk about.

So in your back handspring, the squat is really important. If you feel like you're undercutting it or piking down, it might have something to do with the take-off. When you're going into your squat, make sure that your knees are in line with your feet (not in front of them). The backwards motion starts at the very beginning, so you should feel like you're sitting back in a chair. That way, when you push off with your feet you'll get a nice backwards motion and a good arch position over the top.

In any flip skills (tuck, pike, layout) the take-off is also VERY important. The main thing is that you need to get a good set before you tuck (or pike, or flip in general lol). You can practice getting a big set out of your roundoff back handspring, as long as you have a coach there to support your back. If you're tucking immediately out of the rebound or throwing your head back, your form will be sloppy and incorrect. Same applies to twisting moves; you still need to set before you flip and before you twist. Twisting right away is a mistake.

Other than that, obviously make sure you're getting a good sprint and a powerful hurdle into the roundoff before any tumbling pass. Keep your body tight and you should be good to go!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gymnastics Camps

The following is a list of some of the best-know and most reputable summer gymnastics camps in the US. I've compiled some of the basic information by looking at the camps' respective websites. Seek out those sites for more information.

International Gymnastics Camp (IGC) -
Location: Pennsylvania
Ages: 7-17 (co-ed)
This camp offers week-long sessions throughout the summer for gymnasts beginner to advanced. They, like most camps, offer other general camp activities like a climbing wall. They've got a great staff of elite coaches, National champs, and Olympic gymnasts. This summer they've had a lot of Olympian visitors, including Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Chellsie Memmel, Paul Hamm, etc. The facilities are very conducive to learning; they have five different gyms - an Olympic gym, a beam gym, an uneven bars gym, a vault gym, and a dance gym. As far as training facility goes, I think ICG wins.

Lake Owen Camp -
Location: Wisconsin
Levels: Boys and girls, levels 1-10 and elite.
Lake Owen is a fun place with a lot of great coaches. They have clinicians who are All Americans, National Champions, International Competitors, Judges and Olympians, and they have a lot of college coaches there as well. Like IGC, Lake Owen has Olympian visitors, and in the past have had Carly Patterson, Dominique Moceanu, Shannon Miller, and Kim Zmeskal. They have a floor gym which includes beams, pits, and vault tables, and they also have a separate bar gym. All their facilities have the best equipment available. At the end of the week, this camp has an exhibition where parents and friends can watch what the gymnasts have learned over the course of the camp session. One of the unique things about this camp is that they have really fun recreational activities. They have one of those giant blob that you can bounce on into the lake, as well as tubing, skiing, and a ropes course.

Camp Woodward -
Location: Pennsylvania
Co-ed. Gymnasts are grouped by age and ability.
This camp has special guests each summer, including US Olympians, International Olympic medalists, National teams from many countries, and coaches from the US National team and many Universities. This summer they've been visited by Bridget Sloan, Sam Peszek, Svetlana Boguinskia, Courtney Kupets, Courtney McCool, and tons more. The facility includes a beam gym, a pit gym, and a fully-equipped open gym that's available for 4.5 extra hours of practice for kids who want a little extra gym time. They also have a separate men's gym. There is also a Woodward West located in California that opened in 2003. It also has a gymnastics camp for kids 7-17.

Karolyi Camp -
Location: Texas
Ages: 7+
This camp was established by and is directed by Bela and Marta Karolyi. This camp actually offers some of the most reasonable rates, as far as gymnastics camps go - about half the cost of the others, which is a definite plus. They have a 25,000 sq. ft. gymnastics complex. Not much information is available online about the equipment but I would assume that the Karolyis provide nothing but the best, especially considering this is the USA National team's training center. Other than gymnastics, a bunch of other activities are available. They have an Olympic sized swimming pool, a petting zoo, and a lake for boating, as well as horseback riding, basketball, tennis, and other activities.

There are, of course, many smaller camps in different states like YMCA camps, so if none of these camps are in your area or if you're not willing to travel, a Google search should be good to help you find something that's more convenient for you. These are just some of the most notable camps in the country. I hope you find the right summer camp for you or your kids!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Overcoming Fears and Mental Blocks in Gymnastics

A lot of gymnasts I come across on yahoo! have developed fears of certain skills. If you're one of those gymnasts who is currently going through some weird stage where you fear a particular skill or event, I just want you to know you're not the only one!

When I was a level 6, one day I suddenly became afraid of the vault. I had been practicing and competing a handspring vault very successfully for over a year, and out of nowhere, I had developed some crazy fear. I know this happens to a lot of gymnasts; whether it's fear of a certain move or of an entire event, or whether you took a bad fall and are afraid to get back up there.

Everybody is different in how they deal with these situations, but the one thing that we all have to remember when overcoming fears or mental blocks is to trust ourselves. You KNOW you can physically perform a move, it's just the psychological part that's holding you back. Trust that your body has the capability to safely perform the move with precision and focus. Remember that your coaches are trained to know when you're ready to do a certain skill. If they tell you that you're ready, you probably are, whether you believe it or not. Ask for a spot if you have to... Whatever you need to do in order to get past your fear. Most likely the more you practice it, the less you will fear it. Even the best go through this.

So I hope you're all overcoming your fears and tackling the psychological aspect of gymnastics, which we all know is absolutely huge. Good luck to everybody!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

List of Compulsory Gymnastics Skills

This is an alphabetical list of COMPULSORY SKILLS only (by request). Bracketed is the abbreviation for the event(s) that skill is used on in levels 5 and 6. If you have questions on any of these moves, or on any other higher-level moves that I may not have listed, feel free to ask in a comment!

Aerial cartwheel [FX]
Baby giant [UB]
Backbend [FX]
Back handspring [FX]
Back hip circle [UB]
Back extension roll [FX]
Back tuck [FX]
Back walkover [FX,BB]
Cartwheel [FX,BB]
Cast [UB]
Cast to handstand [UB]
Clear hip circle (AKA free hip circle) [UB]
Dive roll [FX]
Front... Blah blah, all the same as the "back" skills.
Flyaway [UB]
Full turn [FX,BB]
Handstand [FX,BB]
Handspring vault [V]
Kip [UB]
Long-hang kip [UB]
Pivot turn [BB]
Roundoff [FX]
Scale [FX,BB]
Split jump [FX,BB]
Split leap [FX,BB]
Squat on [UB]
Straddle jump [FX]
Tap swing [UB]
Tuck jump [FX,BB]
Undershoot [UB]
Wendy (dismount) [BB]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Q: Gymnastic camp goals?

Ah, tis the season for gymnastics camp. Yay! By Kat's request, I'm going to go over a few goals for compulsory and early optional level gymnasts to work on while they're at camp. Obviously it depends on where you're at with your gymnastics and how prepared you are for the upcoming season, so this will be a very general overview, keeping in mind that most girls enjoy learning upper-level skills during their time at gym camp. Obviously you're going to need to listen to your coaches and do only the skills that they feel you're ready for in order to avoid injury.

Rising Level 4s: The most important thing, for ALL levels, is to make sure your skills are solid for your next competitive season. To be honest I don't know a lot about the level 4 requirements, since I began competing at level 5. But once you've got your skills and routines down well, I think the next most important thing is to start working kip drills. Kips take quite a while for some girls to learn, so starting early will never hurt. Fun new skill for level 4s to try: dive rolls.

Rising level 5s (for you, Kat!): Once you've gotten all your level 5 skills down (cartwheel on beam, front hip circle, RO BHS BHS, a strong vault, and glide and long hang kips being the most important skills in my opinion), start working on connecting great casts to your kips. If you can get a kip cast-handstand, or just a cast-handstand alone, that would be an awesome step to serve you well in future levels. Maybe you could work back handspring back tucks on the tumble track or into the pit, and you could even start twisting if your coaches think it's a good idea (though level 5 is pretty premature for twists). If you can get a roundoff back handspring with a great, high set at rebound, you're already preparing well for level 6. If you're like my new gymnast friend, Kat, starting to work back walkovers on a straight line to prepare for level 6 beam wouldn't hurt. I would also suggest doing a few clear hip drills - but don't go overboard with all this new, high-level stuff. I know it's exciting to learn new skills, but the most important thing is that you're totally ready to compete come October (or whenever your season begins). You might think your routines are perfect, but there's always something you can polish up. Camp is going to help you with that, since you'll have new opinions and perspective from different coaches. Fun new skill for level 5s to try: aerials.

Rising Level 6s: For me, back walkovers on beam were always an issue. Camp will be a great place to perfect that move. Again, the various opinions from different coaches will help you to figure out where the problems are stemming from and how to fix them (that applies to everything you'll learn). Work baby giants, your tumbling pass on floor, of course your handspring vault - maybe even a half-on or something of that nature to mix things up, etc. Things you can start working on to get ready early for optionals of course are your giants and your back handspring on beam, which you can practice on floor beam. This is also the perfect time to get a teeny bit of experience with twisting your tumbling passes. Try that into the pit, on a tramp, or whatever your coaches suggest for you. Fun new skill for level 6s to try: arabian fronts and tsuk drills.

Rising Level 7s: This is where it gets tricky, since not everyone competes the same exact skills in this level. You're going to have to use your own judgment to determine what exactly you need to learn. Typically, giants connected to layout flyaways, back handsprings on beam, and layout fulls will be good things for 7s to work on at camp. Tsukahara drills may not be necessary for all gymnasts, but for a lot of you it could be great preparation for level 8. This will be a really exciting time also to try interesting new beam mounts and dismounts. I competed a gainer dismount in level 7 and really enjoyed it. The cool thing about going to camp as a new optional is that even if you already have your routines set, you can always find a way to add more difficult skills (of course within the requirements) that you've learned at camp into your routines. Fun new skill for level 7s to try: double back flyaway into the pit.

Rising Level 8s: In my personal opinion, it'll be very important to work on connecting your new tumbling series on beam and polishing your tuck, handspring, etc. Those deductions get a lot of level 8s, so perfecting that now will give you an edge during the season. Whatever vault you're planning on performing during level 8, make it bigger and better right now. If it's a tsukahara, yurchenko drills might be fun. Definitely work on transition moves on bars (pak salto, shootover, staddle back, whatever - for me that took a long time to learn) and cleaning up your pirouettes. Fun new skill for level 8s to try: front giants.

Alright, that's as far as I'm gonna go with that. It all gets too complicated in the upper optional levels, since there is so much variation in the skills gymnasts compete. But if you're going to camp or just doing some fun new stuff during summer gymnastics practice, I hope this has been helpful! And have fun at camp!

What skill are YOU working on right now?

What's the main skill you're working on in the gym right now? How is it going?

I just want to take a quick poll so that everybody can see what everyone else is doing and you can support each other! Sometimes it's good to know that you're not the only one who is struggling to get a difficult skill. Sometimes it's also good to know that you WILL get that skill, in time. :)

Q: Do you think it's good for a level 3 to be able to do level 4, 5, 6, and 7 skills on all the events?

Sure, why not? Some girls focus only on the skills that apply to their level at any particular point in time, but other girls might begin to work skills for much higher levels long before they actually need to compete those skills. It all depends on your the way your coaches want to do things and their particular coaching styles.

Ex: When I was a level 5 (close as I can get to your scenario, as I didn't compete level 3 or 4), my coaches had me focusing only on level 5 skills and routines during my competitive season. But the second the last meet was over, we began our summer training, which meant that we stepped up the hours per week in the gym and started to focus not only on the next level's skills and routines, but also on higher-level drills to help prepare us for the future. The summer before my level 6 season I was working clear hips, back tucks, and all the other skills needed for level 6, but I was also working double backs into the pit, straddle backs, handsprings on beam, arabians, and other skills that would benefit me up through about level 9. Because we increased practice hours, we had more time to focus on more difficult skills. Not only was it good prep for future seasons, but it also helped with body control and conquering the fear issue and all that other stuff. However, when I moved out of state and switched gyms (during the summer before my level 7 season), I realized that not all coaches utilize summer workouts that way. At my new gym I focused solely on perfecting my routines and skills for the upcoming level 7 season, and that was absolutely fine as well.

I'm not sure exactly how your coaches train you, but the purpose of my example was to show you that each coach has his or her own system for preparing their gymnasts for the upcoming levels. Some coaches take it strictly one level at a time, others don't. Personally, I enjoyed being able to train higher-level skills during the summer. I found it useful in later years, and I also just found it to be something new, interesting, and exciting. It helped me to really stay engaged in the sport during times I might've otherwise felt burned out. But that might not work for everyone. I think it's perfectly acceptable for you to focus on the level at hand. It's okay if you're not ready for level 7 right now, and it's okay if you don't have all your skills even for the next level. Work at your own pace, that's the most important thing to remember. I know that it's incredibly frustrating to feel like your progress is slow, but that's something every gymnast goes through.

Wow, I'm really blabbing. The moral of the story is, yes, it is okay to be working level 5, 6, or 7 skills during level 3, as long as you still feel prepared for the level you're competing right now. It might even be beneficial, depending on the way your coaches handle it and the way you prefer to progress in the sport. But if you can't move that quickly and prefer to focus on the level you're competing NOW, that's fine too! Lots of gymnasts work that way. Be patient with yourself.

A Gymnastics Poem, for Inspiration

Patience is a man's greatest virtue,
Or so the saying goes.
A gymnast must've said it
For a gymnast surely knows

That in this funny sport of ours
Discouragement runs high,
And at times the very best will find
This virtue has passed us by.

When hands are ripped and throbbing,
When every muscle is sore
Can a gymnast have the patience
To limp back in for more?

When you've lost moves you used to do
And progress seems so slow
Can you have faith in better days,
And not feel sad and low?

Can you admit you're frightened,
Yet not give in to fear?
Can you conquer pain, frustration,
And often even tears?

When someone else does something
You've tried so long to do
Can you really feel glad to her,
Or just pity for you?

And when success feels far away,
Your efforts all in vain,
Can you force yourself to wear a smile
And disregard the pain?

If despite the tribulations,
You can say, "I won't give in."
Maybe someday you'll discover
That it is your time to win!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Road to Elite Gymnastics

There are a lot of questions about the path to becoming an elite, and that's probably due to the fact that that path changes all the time; just about every time the Elite Committees meet, something is changed. It keeps us on our toes, as gymnasts or gym parents, that's for sure. So as of July 2010, I'd like to give you a brief overview of the progression of a gymnast to elite status.

There are a few different ways gymnasts can go with this. One is with the J.O. (Junior Olympic) program. This is the level 4 - 10 program that a lot of you are probably familiar with. For gymnasts who have their sights set on the world stage from the beginning, this is not a popular option, but it is the option that your average USAG competitive gymnast takes. It is the path I took, along with the TOPs program which we'll get to later. The purpose of the J.O. program is to give the gymnasts experience in meets and to move forward in the sport at a steady pace (this is what I was talking about earlier, when I said most gymnasts take one year per competitive level).

A separate program is the TOPs program. TOPs is a program for young gymnasts, ages 7-11, who have the strength, agility, and flexibility it takes to potentially learn elite-level skills. They are tested less on actual gymnastics moves (such as back handsprings, vaults, etc.) and more on their strength and other attributes that are important in high-level gymnastics. While TOPs is not required of gymnasts who want to test into elite, it does emphasize the abilities elite gymnasts need to have and can be play important role in training for the elite level.

Finally, you have the Elite programs. Gymnasts have to test into the elite program by their scores in an elite qualifier meet. You've probably heard of the two classifications of elite gymnasts: Juniors and Seniors. This has nothing to do with skill, but with age. Junior Elites are between 11 and 15, and Senior Elites are 16 and up. When gymnasts first test into the elite level, they are classified as National Elites, and then have the opportunity at various Elite meets to qualify as International Elites. As you guys know, there are age restrictions at the Olympics, so only Senior Elites can compete at Worlds and in the Olympic Games.

Something relatively new in gymnastics is the Hopes program, for 10- to 12-year-old pre-elite gymnasts. Gymnasts must test into this division at a Hopes qualifier.

So there you go, gymnastics lovers. These are just a few of the ways that gymnasts can reach their elite dreams. However, there's a lot more to this stuff than I can't begin to understand. I've given you a brief (well, somewhat brief) overview of the information I gathered from If you would like to read the full answer that includes all this information and more, check out

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Conditioning You Can Do at Home

Okay, a lot of people ask about what sort of conditioning routine they can do at home. I'm just going to give a few examples of the different things you can do for strength training on your own time with little equipment.

-Push ups. There are a lot of different kinds of push ups and they work different parts of your arms. The first is the standard push up, maintaining a tight hollow body position. The second is the wide-arm push up with your hands farther out to the sides; this one works your pecs, shoulders, and your underarm area. The third is triangle push ups, where you make your hands into the shape of a triangle (thumbs touching and pointer fingers touching); this will work the outsides of your arms. The fourth is handstand push ups which you can do against the wall. If handstand push ups are too difficult, another great exercise is putting your feet up on a couch or bed and placing your hands on the floor, creating as close to a 90 degree angle as you can between your upper body and your lower body, bending at the hips, and then lowering yourself down until your head almost touches the floor before coming back up. You can do 15 of each or so, or just figure out what amount of conditioning works best for you.

-Sit ups. You guys know all these... there's the regular sit-up, the "crunchie", the sit-ups where you raise both your torso and your legs (bending your knees), and of course the dreaded V-up. I find V-ups to be the most beneficial for muscle building. My coach used to say, "Do 30 in 30 seconds." This is a challenge at first but becomes easier, like anything else, the more you practice it. Other stomach exercises include the hollow hold as well as hollow rockers. Those are both great - you should definitely feel it the next day.

-Squats, leg swings, lunges, and calf raisers. Take these and get creative with them. If you have latex bands at your house, use them for leg swings. For the calf raisers, stand on your stairs with your heels hanging off the edge to get more out of the exercise than if you were just to do it on the flat ground. With the lunges, hold weights in each hand or jump in and out of the lunge position rather than stepping out. For squats, look to ballet - they do a lot of that fancy plie stuff. Don't just DO the squats, but hold the squat position as well. If you like wall sits, those are great for the thighs. Or you can always just stand on one leg and hold the other at a 90 degree angle for as long as you can, then switch. If you've got a practice beam to do that on, even better. I've always found leg exercises to be more difficult at home than in the gym, but there really is a lot you can do.

I hope these exercises help. I've tried to break them up into arms, abs, and legs, which are the main areas to focus on. Find a conditioning routine that works for you. Consult with your coaches, if you want, and get their recommendations on how many repetitions you should be doing on your own time. Have fun, drink water, don't over-do it, and build muscle! Ready... GO! :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poll: Which current gymnasts do you think will show up at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London?

I've got my eye on Jordyn Wieber. If only Lizzy LeDuc would be old enough by 2012... *sigh* She turned 13 not too long ago, and she's still a junior, but I expect to see her in the future. Both great little gymnasts.

What do you guys think? Who you expect to see? Leave your answer in a comment!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Where can I get good leotards?

This is a question I have answered repeatedly on Y!A. The simplest answer is, you should be able to find them at your gym! If not, look for leotards at other gyms during meets. If you are not competitive, or if you just would rather order online, you can go to...

And my favorite...
This site is cool because it allows you to customize your leotards with your choice of colors, materials, and crystals. You'll need a coach to help you order it.

Or you can look at any of the other sites you can find just by searching Google :) Sometimes there are ads for discount leos posted on this blog, as well, since they get really expensive sometimes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How to get your splits down faster

I can't get my splits down, and it's hurting my gymnastics. What can I do?

The simple answer is... stretch! Stretch at gymnastics, stretch at home, stretch at your friend's house... wherever. One trick I used to use is called contractions. No, not the kind you have when you're in labor, but I suppose the word is used because it is based on a similar concept. Contractions work like this: Go into your splits as far as you can, even if that means you're a foot off the ground. Now squeeze your leg muscles as hard as you can, so it's almost as if you can hold yourself off the ground not with your hands, but with your legs. Hold this longer than you think you can. 30 seconds, maybe. Then relax your muscles and slide a little bit further into your splits. If you've done it correctly, you'll find that it seems much easier now to split further than you could before. Do this every day until you feel confident with your splits, just be careful not to overdo it. Pulled muscles = bad, successful splits = good.

Q: How quickly can I move up?

How quickly can I move up levels?

I get this question a lot. And the answer is: It depends on the person and his/her individual pace in the sport. It will be easier to move forward quickly in the earlier levels. Some girls only take a few months to progress from level 2 to level 3, then from 3 to 4. Level 8s, 9s, and 10s, however, might spend one, two, or even three years perfecting their skills at that level. Generally, a gymnast will spend one year per competitive level - The competitive season for performing at that level, and the summer for preparing routines and skills for the next. However, there is no rule that says you must advance at any particular speed; if you want to compete two levels in one season, that's just fine, but it's not commonly found.

So you think you're too old to start gymnastics?

Q: Am I too old to start gymnastics now?

So maybe it wouldn't be the best idea for my 80-year-old grandmother to get involved in gymnastics... But too many of you out there worry about being "too old." If you are 13, 14, 15, or even 20, you are NOT too old to get into recreational gymnastics classes. I REPEAT: You are NOT too old! You may be older than the other kids in your class, but don't let that hold you back. The gym I used to go to held adult (18+) recreational gymnastics classes once or twice a week for people who decided a little later on that they wanted to try out the sport, and they all had a great time. Just because you're a little older doesn't mean that you can't be successful and enjoy the sport. Sure, you probably won't be an Olympian or even a level 7, but who cares! Do what you love, no matter what. I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to get involved in this sport. If nothing else, it will earn you a great work ethic, a new leotard, and some wonderful friends.