Saturday, February 12, 2011

Clear Hip Circle on Bars

A clear hip circle (or free hip circle - I will use the two interchangeably as most coaches do) is a level 6 USAG uneven bars skill that is a variation of the level 5 back hip circle. I find this skill to be quite mechanical; there are a lot of specific things to keep in mind in attempting this skill as far as body position and timing go. Gymnasts need to be very aware of their form as well as their position on the bar and in the air in order to figure out the precise timing necessary for this move. Much of the most helpful instruction for free hips comes from timing drills that help the gymnast get the feel for when to open their shoulder angle and shift their wrists. Another main component of the skill is upper body strength.

While most of the progress with this skill will come from repetition and drills, there are a few tips gymnasts can keep in mind to make the skill go more smoothly. These are also tips that coaches should keep in mind in correcting form.

  • A strong cast - at least to horizontal - is highly recommended before the gymnast even begins to attempt this skill with or without a spot, especially if the goal is a clear hip to horizontal or higher. Without the momentum that comes from a high, tight cast, it is nearly impossible to complete this move successfully. Muscling it around is possible but likely will be accompanied by an arched back and other form mistakes, and the gymnast will probably just barely clear the bar.
  • As the gymnast begins to come down from the cast, she needs to maintain a controlled hollow body position with stomach muscles tight.
  • Instead of bringing the hips back to the bar as the gymnast would with a back hip circle, she needs to drop her hips below the bar. The bar and hands should be about in line with the gymnast's mid-thigh. When first beginning the skill, it's okay to drop the hips only an inch or so below the bar, but as the gymnast progresses with both strength and timing, she will find it beneficial to drop a little lower below the bar. During this point in the skill, it is also essential that the gymnast leans back with her shoulders. The timing as far as when to lean the shoulders back has to do with how high the clear hip is intended to be - for example, if the gymnast wants to do a clear hip to handstand, she should begin leaning back with her shoulders as she passes through horizontal coming down from her cast. If the gymnast does not intend to free hip too high, she can wait a little longer before dropping her shoulders back and beginning the circling motion.
  • While the gymnast is circling the bar, she needs to maintain the hollow body position. A slight pike is okay, but ideally the gymnast's body should make a hollow line. The main point to remember is not to arch at this point in the skill, as that will make it impossible to push up and off the bar. Likely an arched back will turn the free hip circle into a regular back hip circle with bad form, and the hips will come back to the bar, which of course is not the goal. Another point to remember as the gymnast begins to circle the bar is to keep the head position neutral.
  • As the gymnast comes around the bar, she needs to begin to open her shoulder angle and simultaneously shift her wrists. As she does this, she will push down with her hands into the bar and push her feet up towards the ceiling and back, clearing the bar and landing with her feet on the floor. Or, if the gymnast is performing a free hip to handstand, she can return her hips to the bar and finish in front support.


  1. Thank you so much! I needed this because I would always go to my hips on the bar, and I didn't understand how to drop, but now I now to stay hollow and that your shoulders should lean back so now I am ready and excited to get in the gym! Thank you so much this helped like a million times, omg thank u!!!