The stage of the vault is after your feet hit the springboard to the time your hands hit the vaulting horse itself. There are several ways to do the pre-flight, depending on the particular vault you're doing. A few of these are handspring, half-on, and Yurchenko entries. But for our basic purposes, we will only look at handspring and half-on vaults.
Something I forgot to mention last week was the importance of landing with your feet in front of you when you hit the board. This will ensure an upwards transition of energy; otherwise, with all the forward momentum you have created from the run, if you lean forward when you hit the board, you'll smack your face into the vault. Not a pleasant feeling. Trust me.
Now, on to the pre-flight. Here the most important thing to keep in mind is to stay tight. The same principle goes for vault. If you stay tight, you'll bounce and fly right into the after-flight.
The handspring vault is the compulsory vault for the USA Junior Olympic Levels 5 and 6, and is often used as the Level 7 optional vault. And while the judging gets more specific and "picky" in the higher levels, the vault is exactly the same.
Besides staying tight, another important element to remember is to produce a strong heel drive to get the flipping motion for the handspring. There are several exercises you can do to strengthen your back and stomach muscles.
|"Superman" body tighteners||Lay on the floor on your stomach with your arms in front of you, tight by your ears. You whole body should begin as tight and long as you can make it. Then lift your chest and your legs at the same time and hold it for about 20 seconds.|
|Heel kicks||This is one where you'll have to lie lengthwise on the vault. Grab the underside of the vault for balance. Let your legs hang off the end. Then using your back and leg muscles, kick your legs up into the air as high as you can. Ideally, they should be above horizontal. Remember to keep your body tight throughout the repetitions.|
Once you develop a strong heel drive, it's time to refine it. You'll probably notice that these drills cause your back to arch. With the handspring vault, you don't want to arch at all; the pre-flight should be hollow. But you're still going to need to drive your heels just as hard.
With a spotter watching, try doing dive rolls over the vault. You'll want to have quite a few mats stacked up on the other side of the vault to soften the landing, and it doesn't matter if the stack is high. The point is to drive your heels while staying tight so that you go over the vault.
Once you get that, go ahead and apply all these drills into your handspring vault. Another thing to keep in mind is not to bring your pre-flight too high on to the vault. Like the springboard, the vault is designed to transfer some of the horizontal energy into height.
With half-on approaches, you want to keep just about everything from the handspring the same: the low hurdle, punching with your feet in front, finishing your arm circle to the top, and staying tight throughout the pre-flight. The only difference you make is when you twist.
The important thing to remember is to twist only when you have completed your arm circle to your ears and have begun to start your heel drive. If you start twisting too early, you won't go over the vault straight; instead you will go around the side.
To get a good, tight twist, don't think about it as if you were twisting by pushing your leading shoulder in front. Instead you want to twist by throwing your following shoulder behind you, and using your leading shoulder's arm as the axis around which you turn.
And finally, as soon you hit the horse, don't let you body, especially your shoulders, sag. Stay pushed out, hollow, and tight to get to a good block, especially if you're going for Tsuks.