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Summer is a great time for gyms to work on all the things they don’t have time to focus on during competition season! Whether that is going back to the basics, cleaning up form on old skills, or learning upgrades, we have a drill for you to incorporate into your summer practices. Here are 10 drills to work on bars for various skill levels. If you have a good one we missed, link a video in the comments.
1. Clear Hip Shapes
This drill takes more work because it needs one-on-one spotting from a coach, but it is a great one to work on with kids learning clear hips! Showing kids the right shapes and talking through how their bodies should look during a skill can really make a difference.
2. Clear Hip to Handstand
Once kids get the correct body shape to keep in a clear hip, this drill is great to teach them how to hit a handstand out of the skill. It might take a bit of practice, but this helps keep arms straight and teach the shoulder positions needed to get the skill around. If gymnasts aren’t quite ready to learn a handstand out of the clear hip, it can also be used to teach just a clear hip itself by shooting over into a push-up position.
3. Giant Drill
Gymnastics coaches know that teaching a giant on bars is not an easy task. Thankfully, this drill can help! Showing gymnasts the right shape to have and to keep their arms pushing against the bar until the are completely in a handstand is very helpful when they transfer to a real bar and do the skill on their own. This drill could be combined with others in a day totally focused on working giants, or used as a side station while working on other tasks.
4. Flyaway Drill
For gymnasts with a fear of flyaways or those who just need extra practice with them, this is a great drill to get them comfortable with the skill! It has the added bonus of being very safe and something gymnasts can do completely on their own to work on the mental and physical elements of the skill.
5. Jump to High Bar Shape
Summer is a great time to work on the small things, no matter how little they seem. The silliest things give away points, and most can be easy to fix! This drill works on jumping to the high bar in a good position, and it forces the gymnast to be in the correct shape upon reaching the high bar. Give it a try with the setup in this video, or try it with mats set up a different way and let us know how it goes.
6. Kip Drills
Kips are such a frustrating skill for young gymnasts, and also one coaches can run out of drills for. Using many different drills for this skill is important, because different drills will help the skill click in different kids’ minds. My personal favorite is the first one shown in the video, because it helps with the extension at the beginning of the skill and lets the kids do most of it on their own, but all of these drills are worth a try.
There are plenty of casting drills out there, but this one is especially good because it provides a fun incentive for gymnasts to cast high enough to have a friend roll the mat underneath them. Sometimes gymnasts have the ability and skill to cast higher than they currently do, but they are afraid to get higher. This drill takes the fear out of that idea by giving them something to land on and a fun reward of working with a friend to accomplish that goal. Gymnasts can do this in pairs or a group, or have a coach put in the mat when first learning the drill.
7. Blind Change Breakdown
Blind changes are a big skill to learn on bars, and one that can cause a mental block for many gymnasts. This drill works on the skill itself, but also overcoming that fear! In this video it is spotted by a coach, but after awhile could be done with a partner. This gymnast is showing great form and how to work on body shape, realistically preparing to move the skill to a real bar.
8. Learning Pirouettes
This genius pirouette drill can be used as a station on bars and done independently. By keeping the area they have to use small, it teaches gymnasts to keep their bodies tight and turn quickly. The pool noodles stop them from getting hurt if they don’t do it correctly, so even beginners can benefit from this station without fear.
9. Tkatchev Timing/Catching
This Tkatchev drill is very helpful in teaching gymnasts the correct timing of the skill. It also helps them prepare to catch the bar, and know how it will feel on the real bar. Their attempts likely won’t look this good or be this close to the bar at first, but practice makes perfect! If gymnasts are afraid of the landing or you suspect they might not land that nicely at first, you can always put a sting mat on the landing side of the Tumbl Trak for awhile.
10. Tap Swing Body Shapes
Tap swings are easy to teach, but clean ones that don’t get deductions are a little tougher! This drill is an easy one to set up and have gymnasts do alone that can help remind them of clean lines. Especially if it is done right before or after a turn, it can help young gymnasts keep those positions fresh in their minds—or remind older ones of the basics!