A front handspring vault:

Run You have to run as fast as you can. I've seen my teammates try to make a handspring vault with a fairly slow run. There's no way you can have the energy to do a good vault if the run is slow.
Hurdle The hurdle should be as low as possible. The springboard is designed to take forward energy and turn it into up energy. Use it.
Punch Because of the design of the springboard, you can't lean too far forward on the board, or you'll smack your face into the vault. Keep your chest up, and punch with your feet in front of you.
Pre-flight Kick your heels as hard as possible, but do not arch. Stay hollow. Keep your head neutral.
Contact Contact with the vault should be as short as possible. Stay tight as you hit the horse, so you can bounce off. (A pencil dropped on it's head bounces, right? That's because it is tight and straight.)
After-flight 'Pop' your chest and arms into a hollow-body position, and STAY TIGHT. The 'pop' is what will rotate you to your feet.
Landing Land tight, but bend your knees to absorb the shock. (I learned that the hard way.)

Half-on approach:

Run, hurdle, and punch Should be exactly the same as the handspring.
Preflight Many gymnasts try to twist into the half-on by twisting their arms (and not their shoulders). Doing this won't get your entire body to twist. Instead, you should twist by turning your outside shoulder behind you, and if you stay tight, your shoulders will lead the rest of your body into the twist, and you won't have to twist your arms (in other words, you will still twist even if your arms stay parallel at your ears).

 Another problem with the preflight is that many gymnasts try to twist too early. They start twisting before their feet even leave the board. This causes you to go around the side, rather than going straight over the horse. You want to be able to hit the top of your arm swing at your ears before you start your twist. It will feel like it's too late, but this will give you the power and flight to make a 180 twist on top of the horse.



Kip  One of the most difficult basic skills (I should know!). (1) Be sure to glide as low to the ground as possible. (2) Extend the glide so that you are hollow, but out far. (3) Pike feet to bar, keeping your most of your weight still in front of the bar. (4) Don't try to kick your legs or arch to get up. (5) Keep the bar along your legs as you ride up to front support. 
Cast squat-on  (1) Have your shoulders a little bit in front of the bar. (2) You don't need to cast very high, but be sure to get your bottom high enough so that your legs can get right on top of the bar. 
Free-hip (or Clear-hip) Circle  Coming out of a cast as high as possible, whip your legs around the bar (but don't pike), and throw your shoulders down hard. Many gymnasts try to do a free-hip like a back-hip circle, but the circular motion won't help you go up to handstand. To go up, you must first go down. So you have to throw your energy down so you can go up to the handstand. Stay tight as you throw open your shoulders, and rotate your hands to the correct position a little earlier than you would think. (Remember, use up energy to go down, and down energy to go up.) Be careful: Don't pike into it or pull the bar too far down your thighs, otherwise you will fling off the bar (which I did twice). 
Flyaway  (Because flyaways are hard to explain, I'm just going to include a couple tips.) (1) You need to have good tap swings to get a good flyaway. The tap is what is going to give you the upward momentum. (2) Spotting your feet at a certain point before releasing the bar is a good idea so you don't let go too early or too late (about 25-40 degrees above horizontal). (3) Keep your shoulders open. Don't try to pull in with your arms to help you rotate; otherwise, you will pull yourself back towards the bar and hit your feet. 
Long-hang kip  Much different on the high bar than on the low bar, huh? The biggest mistake I've seen is letting the momentum go too high in the "glide". This causes the momentum to go straight back down, making it difficult to kip up. Keep your feet behind you as you swing to slow down the forward movement. As you work on this more, you will learn what kind of swing feels right.
In general, everything should be practiced on the floor and low beams before taking them up to the high beam for the first time. 
Cartwheels  (1) Place your hands close together, but not too close. This should help you pirouette easier. (2) Make sure your feet go straight over the beam, and not around the side. As you land, lift your chest (thus reducing the time you have to fall). 
Back Handspring (step-out)  (1) Don't sit your bottom too far down. Only bend your knees a little. It makes it harder on your legs to bend all the way down, and then push them back straight. (2) Push out your legs straight as you go into it. You should go as high as possible. (3) I won't say what is the best hand position, but use one that does not make your shoulders or hips turn. (4) You should try to split on top. It makes balancing easier. (5) As you land, lift your chest.

 It is important to keep your hips and shoulders square with the beam. If they're twisted at all, you will have a crooked flip-flop. Also, you should push as high off your feet as possible so you have time to get your hands securely on the beam. 

Back Walkover  (1) Basically, the main tip is to be square with the beam. Your hips and shoulders should be square, and keep your arms and legs in a straight line with the beam. (2)When landing, lift your arms and chest as soon as your first foot is securely on the beam. If you are still bent forward when you try to land, you will most likely lose your balance.

 Also, don't try to rush it; you will have less control if it is too fast. 

Round-off  Practice these a lot on the low beam because it takes a bit of courage to land with both feet on the beam. As you land, your hips should be square with the beam. If you land incorrectly it will hurt your feet. So you want to land flat-footed, but bending your knees to absorb the shock. Be sure to lift your chest upon landing, with your arms above your head. 
Pirouettes  There are different ways to do turns, but in general, there are a few rules that remain the same. As you pull into the turn, be sure to pull up as if there was a string going through your body from your head to your feet, and someone pulled straight up on the string. If you lean in any direction in the turn, you will lose your balance. Spotting isn't necessary for half-turns, but it is recommended for full turns, and necessary for any more rotations. 
Balancing skills  This includes handstands and scales or other difficult poses to hold on the beam. Try keeping your focus on a spot on the beam. Stare at a chalk mark or speckle on the beam covering. With scales, you don't want to stare straight down at a spot near your foot. Instead, you should stare at a spot at least 2 feet in front of you. 
Punch Front Salto  (1) Make your hurdle long and low to the ground. (2) Punch with your feet in front of you, and your chest up. (3) Don't lean forward into it. It should go up as high as possible. (4) To rotate, lift your hips over your head, and tuck tightly. 
Front Handspring  (1) Hurdle low. (2) Don't place your hands too close to your feet. (3) Kick your feet and after popping, lift your chest, but don't hollow or pike. 
Aerial Cartwheel  Whether you start this from a run and hurdle or from standing, the movement is the same. (1) If you are hurdling into an aerial, the hurdle should neither be too long nor too high. You need some forward momentum, but you don't want too much. (2) Be sure to push off of your take-off leg. This is where you get your height. (3) You need to kick your back leg as hard as you can to get around. This is where your rotation comes from. (4) Swinging your arms will help in both rotation and height. There are several ways to swing the arms, and I can't say which is better. Some people do aerials better swinging the arms down by your side, and others do an arm circle into it. (5) Don't try twisting your body into the aerial. This throws your alignment off and makes it harder to rotate. (6) As your land, you want to lift your chest up. Not only will this make it easier, it looks better than having your upper body flopping over when you land. 
Back Handspring (aka Flip-Flop) - Stationary  (1) Start by standing with your feet together and your arms straight above your head. (2) Swing your arms down and behind you as you bend your knees and sit back. The position your knees should be in is similar to that as if you were sitting in a chair. (3) Using the backward momentum, swing your arms up and back above your head as you extend your legs and push off the ground. At this point you should be arching your back as you are in mid-air, and diving towards your hands. (4) Keep your arms straight as they come in contact with the ground. Your shoulders should also be tight and squeezed towards your ears. Your feet are still behind you, with your back still arched. (5) Once your hands hit the ground, push through with your shoulders and snap your body into a hollow body position. (6) Remaining in the hollow-body position, drive your feet to the ground and lift your chest to maintain the hollow position. 

Some bad habits to avoid and tips to make it easier:

As you sit back to go into the back handspring, your knees should not bend more than 90 degrees. Your chest may bend forward a little, but not too far. 

A back handspring should go backwards as well as up. Be careful not to go straight up. Use the force from swinging your arms to go backwards. 

In an ideal back handspring, your hands should be turned in towards one another. 

Although you are arching in the pre-flight of the flip-flop, your body should still be tight, and not limp. Also be careful not to arch too much. 

When you start working flip-flop series, there is the tendency to pike down before going into the next flip-flop, but that only slows down the series. Stay hollow. 

Power Tumbling 
Backwards Nearly all backward tumbling involves the basic roundoff flip-flop (back handspring). The key to good back tumbling is a fast and solid roundoff flip-flop.

 (1) First, you need a fast run. This is where most of your power comes from. 
(2) The hurdle should be low and long. You want to keep the momentum going forward, and not up and down. 
(3) As you start your roundoff, place your hands away from your feet. This keeps the momentum along the ground. Your hands should be placed along the same imaginary line, as you would a cartwheel, rather than trying to twist a 3/4 turn into the roundoff. Your second hand is what gives you the push to continue the roundoff.
(4) Snapping down should be fast, but many gymnasts try to speed it up by piking down. Piking makes your body loose, and the power goes straight into the ground, and none into the flip-flop. The snapdown should be done in a hollow body position. Snapping down should also be driven so that your feet end up in front of your body, keeping your body hollow. (A good drill for this is doing roundoffs on a crash mat and pulling your feet so hard in front of you that you almost miss your feet and roll to your back.)
(5) Going into the flip-flop should involve very little arching in the back. The momentum from the roundoff should be enough to flip you into the flip-flop. Your body should remain tight, and you should snap into a hollow body position. Like a pencil, a tight body will bounce you to your feet as you pop off your hands with your shoulders. In general, a flip-flop should be long, so that the momentum continues laterally. However, be careful not to make it too long. On the same note, a flip-flop with too much height loses the lateral momentum, and the energy goes straight into the floor instead of boucing up.
(6) Landing the flip-flop depends on what the next trick is. If it is a salto, your feet should land behind you so that the momentum bounces and goes up, giving you the height you need. If the next trick is another flip-flop or a series of flip-flops, you should continue pulling your feet in front of you, just like the roundoff. 

Be careful when trying these techniques for the first time. Have a spotter nearby in case you generate more power than you are ready to handle.

Often, if you're having trouble with a trick, it's because you don't have quite enough strength. I've noticed sometimes that if I let a particular muscle lag in conditioning, certain tricks become harder to do, or I lose completely.

 I find it more effective to do more repetitions of easier conditioning than doing conditioning that is hard to do. Often when you're doing difficult conditioning, you work the muscles incorrectly as you try to do it right. Therefore, it's better to do easier exercises that you can do correctly. However, this only really applies to individual muscle targets.

 In gymnastics, almost all the muscles in the body are used, so it's important to try to work all your muscles evenly. But a few muscles are essential to keep in shape: triceps, upper and lower abdominals, calves, hamstrings, quadraceps, deltoids and the lower back muscles. And there are also some muscles that help prevent injury when they're properly worked out.

 If you think you could benefit from doing conditioning in addition to your workout conditioning, the following exercises will help increase your strength. The number of repetitions depends on your strength ability. When you start out, you should do fewer repetitions in a set, but do more sets. As you get stronger, change only the number of repetitions in a set. 


The tricep muslces are very important muscles in gymnastics are they are usually not developed in athletes in other sports. Several exercises are effective in strengthening your triceps (in order increasing difficulty): 
Support yourself as shown in picture #1. You can use a chair, a block, a stack of mats, or a low beam. 

Your hands should be placed about shoulder width apart, and the difficulty increases as your hands are closer. Your shoulders should be directly over the structure you're being supported on. 

Bend your arms so that your hips go straight down, but don't let your hips touch the floor.

Using only your arm muscles, push yourself back up to your starting position. Your feet should not move at all. 

Push-ups are one of the most disliked exercises, but are effective when they're done correctly. Most atheletes are used to push-ups where your elbows bend out to the side. That exercise will work your biceps and pecs, but not your triceps. 

Try doing push-ups with your hands about shoulder width apart, and turning your elbows as you bend down so that your elbows touch your waist. Your fingertips should remain facing forwards (don't turn your hands out), and don't let your elbows in so much that your stomach rests on them. You should be able to almost touch your chest to the ground and still have your elbows touching your side.

Your body should remain in a hollow body position (do not arch) as you go down and as you push back up. For an added bonus, if you push your shoulders out hollow at the top, you will work your shoulders and deltoids.


Some variations: (1) Once you're bent down, hold that position for 5-10 seconds before pushing back up. Remain hollow. (2) Bend your arms only half-way and hold it for 5-10 seconds.

Pull-ups are disliked even more than push-ups, and I generally don't like to do them because I know I do them wrong. But if you're strong enough to do them right, they will help you get stronger.

 Just a few tips:

Pull-ups are with your hands facing forwards.

Don't swing - that's cheating! 

Try to keep the lower part of your body still as you pull. Use only your arms to pull-up; don't jerk your hips or legs. 


Strong abdominals help you stay tight. There are all kinds of exercise for stomach muslces, and most of them are effective in their own ways. Find for yourself which ones work. Here are a few suggestions: 
Body tighteners: lie on the floor and pull your body into a hollow position. Your shoulders should be off the ground and your legs should be off the ground. Your arms can be by your side, or next to your ears over your head, though the latter is harder. Hold for 20-30 seconds each. (Be sure to not let your lower back arch off the ground, as this is bad for your back. Try to keep your back rounded so that it is always touching the floor.)


V-ups: start in a body tightener with your arms by your ears. Using your stomach muscles, bend at your hips, lifting your chest and legs simultaneously. Bring your arms down in front of you. Then return to the body tightener and repeat. Don't let your feet or shoulders touch the ground as you return. 



Tuck-ups: start in a body tightener with your arms by your ears. Lift your chest and pull your knees towards your chest simultaneously, and then return to the body tightener. Repeat without letting your shoulders or feet touch the ground. 




Calves and ankles 

One exercise I like works both your calves and ankles. Often, ankles sprains are due to weak ankle muscles and the following exercise can help reduce the chances of sprains.

Stand on a low beam (or other raised structure) facing a wall. Put only the balls of your feet on the beam and let your heels hang off the end. Place your hands on the wall for support. Now push up so that you're up as high as you can go on your toes, and then drop back down so that your heels are as far down as they can go. And repeat many times.

You can do this on one foot at a time, or both at the same time. You can also work different muscles by having your feet parallel, turned out, or turned in. 

Be sure to go up as high as you can and down as low as you can each time, and this exercise should be done slowly.


Remember to breathe when you do conditioning. Getting blood and oxygen to your muscles is what will help make them stronger. Holding your breath does nothing to improve your strength and actually is a waste of energy.