This is the first post in a series we have put together pertaining to compulsory leaps and jumps. Before we dive into drills, we first need to talk about the muscle development needed to successfully perform the basic compulsory jumps and leaps.
First, and foremost, a gymnast needs flexibility. Be sure as your gymnasts are stretching out their splits, they are also practicing good habits. Locked knees and pointed toes are an easy fix, but don’t let closed hips slip by your radar. Without proper hip extension, the chest will drop on jumps and leaps, and to compensate a gymnast will tend to arch their low back and stick out their ribs–a big no no! My second suggestion for proper split development is not to allow a gymnast to sacrifice their square hips in order to get their splits “down”.
To go along with static stretching, be sure to include some dynamic stretching into your workouts. A great example of this is basic kicks. Adding a kicking complex to your workouts will help develop the speed, sharpness, control, and poise needed in beautiful jumps and leaps.
Below we have two videos examples of a kicking complex. The first is on floor. Mary Lee Tracy does a great job of explaining what to look for in a kick. i.e. flat back, ribs in, tight turnout, etc.
In this second video I like that the girls are able to use the beam as a support, that way they can control their movements better. I especially love the static holds the girls do starting at 4:10. This is a great way to develop the hip flexor muscles and well as many others, which are used immensely in jumps.
Having gymnasts practice sharp kicks in different ways is a great idea. Have them hang from the bar and do kicks. Try laying down on the floor and kicking. Doing needle kicks on the beam. The more ways they can learn to contract quickly and tightly, the more their jumps and leaps will improve. If you’re having trouble with a gymnast constantly dropping her chest on her kicks, try having her kick while using her back to hold a piece foam to the wall. If she drops her chest, the foam will fall. Another idea is using the p-bars. A good video of that is below.
Using therabands and ankle weights make for great progression for kicks. Keep the stress added minimal, not much is needed to see results.
This is a great example of dynamic stretching and flexibility with two especially nice drills starting around 3:35. The key to dynamic stretching is to make sure the movements are fast but controlled.
I’ve shared this video before, but it’s jam packed with great stretches and drills to develop great legs and shapes for leaps.
Another great way to help develop tight legs is to have the gymnast sit in a pike or straddle and squeeze the legs so hard that their heels lift up off the ground. We do sets of 10 or 20 seconds depending on the level. This drill helps differentiate between straight knees and LOCKED knees.
Lastly, don’t forget about strength! It is every bit as important as flexibility. Side stations that condition the main muscles used for leaping and jumping (quads, glutes, low back, hip flexors, and abdominal muscles) would make useful side stations during a leaps and jumps circuit.
P.S. – Don’t forget that clinic dates for spring and summer of 2016 are already starting to fill up. If your gym is looking to do a Swing Big! clinic in that time frame, now is the time to book — Inquire about dates and information HERE