Bars: Layout Flyways

Making the transition from tucked flyaways to layouts? This can be a very scary change to make, especially if you've done tucks for a long time and are used to doing them. Some gymnasts are lucky enough to have coaches who insist that they learn both tuck and layout at the same time, but for those of us who are forced to have to do the progression, it's just a little -- just a little -- more work.

 Tucked flyways are much easier because your body is tucked into a little ball with a small radius, and in physics, objects with smaller radii rotate faster and more easily. With your body in a layout position, the radius of your body is longer and that makes rotation more difficult.

 Many gymnasts try initiating the rotation by arching their backs, and when there is too much of an arch, judges consider it a form break. So, if you can't arch, how do you get the rotation you need to get all the way around?

The key here is to lift your feet to a higher point before letting go of the bar. When you were doing tuck flyaways, you didn't have to lift your feet as high as you do now, because the motion of tucking your knees can be enough to give you the rotation. However, with layouts, if you don't get your feet to a point high enough, you will either not get enough rotation, or you will "fling" into the layout which feels quite scary and doesn't look very good.

 The momentum for this lift comes from the tapping motion in your swing. Last week we studied how to increase the power in your tap swings, and here is one of the major uses of tap swings. After the slight arch of the tap, you should snap your body tightly and quickly into a hollow body position as you continue to up to the peak of your swing.

 However, just lifting your toes isn't enough. You much continue to hold your body in a tight position as soon as you let go, because you lose some of the rotation energy if you pike or arch. In addition, you have to "lift" with your chest to add a little more rotation to the skill. This doesn't mean to arch; your body is still in a stretched or hollow position, but you use your chest to lead your body's rotation around.

 If you're having trouble holding your body in the hollow position, you probably are little weak in the abdominal muslces. Practice doing hollow hold rocks to get the feel of rotating with your body in the correct position, and to get your muscles stronger.

 This is a skill that requires lots of practice; it won't come to you overnight. Your body and mind need to get used to the new feeling of having a longer body radius to pull around, and you'll have to experiment with the different components to find the right balance that best suits you. Keep trying, and good luck!