Stay Tight! (Part III)

If you were holding a scale on the beam, would you fall off if I came up to you and gave you a
nudge? Most of you would probably say yes, but stop for a moment and think. Would you fall
because you aren't tight enough to hold your balance? In this third and final section of the "Stay
Tight!" series, we'll take a look at one connection that we can very easily forget: tight body and
balance.

To a lot of people, this may seem a blatantly obvious thing, but you'd be surprised how often
one can forget it when immersed in learning a new skill. Sometimes, even an old trick can
suddenly turn shaky when the importance of maintaining a tight body takes a back seat to
something else.

First off, think about how it is we balance. In fact, think about how it is we are able to stand at
all. It's the muscles in your body that hold you up, right? If you stripped your body of the
muscles to leave only the skeleton to support itself, it would collapse to the floor in a heap.
Muscles, by paired contractions and relaxations, work together to support your body. So, when
you stand, there are muscles in your legs and feet to hold your skeleton upright. (This is why
babies cannot stand for quite some time -- their muscles are too weak.)

In gymnastics, the same principles apply. Whether you're balancing in a scale, a handstand, in
relevé, or making a transition, keeping your balance relies on the strength of your muscles to
keep you in the proper position. Go ahead and try standing in a scale. First try it with your
body, particularly your supporting leg, loose. Difficult, eh? Tighten up your entire body and see
how much easier it is hold it.

So, whenever you're having trouble balancing, check to see if your body is tight. If it is, and
you have the correct technique, perhaps it means the principle muscles needed aren't quite
strong enough. Work on strengthening them and see if that helps.

Good luck!