In a recent email a coach asked for assistance and advice on what progressions to use in setting up a Uneven Bar plan. This coach had just been assigned the duty of taking over as the main bar coach having watched for some time from afar. She witnessed consistent inadequacies, lack of continuity and attention to detail in the application of any coherent plan. I thought this would make a great BLOG topic.
First of all I will revert back to a couple of previously posted BLOGS 1- Raising the Physical Abilities of the Athletes (Lets Talk Conditioning) and 2- The benefits of a quality compulsory program (Coaches Love your Compulsory Programs). Your job as an optional level bar coach will be far less frustrating if the athletes that you inherit are physically prepared, (strong, well educated in proper shaping , and warrior ready for the demands that required of a great bar worker). Advanced physical abilities combined with the great basic techniques learned in a quality compulsory program will make optional bar progressions considerably less stressful for athlete and coach.
What should be the focus as the athletes progress through the levels?
- Level 5- learning the basics of form and execution, the ability to kip with straight arms, attain the desired dynamic shapes in a quality cast and tap swing action. After mastering the skills in this tool box (and while competing them successfully) coaches will want to provide time for increasing the amplitude of the casts and introduce fly away and clear hip progressions.
- Level 6- Building on the cast and swing amplitude introduced at Level 5, the athlete will need to become stronger. The physical demands of a quality clear hip circle and fly away should not be underestimated. By the completion of this level athletes should have a basic understanding of casting to handstand (even if straddled), and giants (even if in straps). Level 6 is where we introduce grips.
- Level 7- In my opinion, athletes with optional level potential should not progress to this level until they have mastered the Level 6 basic elements, can cast to handstand from a kip and swing a quality giant. Level 7 is a hot bed of talented athletes (many of which have Level 8 ability) so being “skill ready” is essential to success at this level. WHen putting routines together remember to keep your L7 routines short and sweet (as the rules don’t favor longer, more difficult routines). Glide kip- squat on- long hand kip = cast handstand- clear hip handstand- one giant to a layout flyaway is our “template routine.” If the athlete can not handle a clear hip on the high bar, we would do it on the low bar realizing that this lengthens the routine and subjects this athlete to more deductions.
While mastering the competitive aspects of this beginner optional level, coaches will want to get ahead of the game by introducing pirouetting, and a chosen transition release (counter swing/straddle back, or bail), and perhaps front giant work (even if in straps).
- Level 8- The transition from Level 7 to 8 is probably the easiest to be found at any level. With the core routine learned at Level 7 all we would have to do is add a change of direction (most often this is a handstand pirouette on the low bar as a mount). The rules do allow for transition releases at this level BUT the risk involved and the judging rules make it a tough return on investment.
The ease of this level does however provide ample training time to continue working a transition release (high to low bar), start mastering front giants and an upgraded version of the fly away dismount (most often a double tuck). This is also a good time to introduce single bar circling elements such as toe shoots and stalders as they will have added value in routine composition at Level 9 and 10.
- Level 9- As easy as the transition from 7 to 8 was, the advancement from 8 to 9 uneven bars is probably the hardest. Since we currently are not allowed to compete many of the “C” value skills at Level 8 that will help at Level 9, we had better be sure to do our homework on the side WHILE AT LEVEL 8.
Our 2 core routines that we shoot for at Level 9 are 1- Glide Kip- squat on- long hang kip hop (change hands), front giant pirouette, bail, kip squat on, long hang, giant, giant, double tucked flyaway. 2-Kip squat on, counter swing straddle back (handstand), Kip squat on, long hang kip cast handstand, Clear Hip, Giant Blind, Front Giant pirouette, giant, double fly away.
While competing and mastering the above routines I suggest training future upgrade drills and skills for Level 10 on the side. Skills like a major release (chosen based on the individual aptitudes of the athlete), a low to high transition skill (toe up, shaposhnikova, stalder up etc), Blind Full Pirouette and an upgraded version of the fly away dismount (half in half out or double lay).
- Level 10- If the athlete has a good core Level 9 routine we would simply add a release and upgrade the dismount being careful not to add unmanageable amounts of difficulty. Once the release is stress free and they have the ability to work in and out of it easily we would consider adding combination work (a blind full in front of the tcatchev etc.).
Those athletes considering the elite level will want to explore a significant variety of skill categories as well as grasping all the minimal requirements (Single bar release, D value dismount, High to Low Release, Low to High Release, Front grip or El grip skill, and Full Pirouette, front(compositional requirement).
Ok perhaps the general template outlined above will help with the organization of your Bar plan but some coaches like a little more detail in their plan. Here are some additional ideas to consider.
1- Compulsory Bar rotations – 45 minutes 4 times per week.
2- Beginning Optional Level Bar Rotations- 1 hour- 4 or 5 times per week. Advanced Optional Bar Rotations -1 hour 5 times per week with supplemental time added as needed (Elites add 3 – 30 minute AM sessions)
3- All Bar rotations should be supplemented with specific conditioning as part of a separate rotation.
4- Each Rotation would begin or end with a 15-20 minute complex. I like to alternate between a kipping/casting and a Swinging/levering emphasis. These complexes consist of drills, shaping exercises and skill progressions designed to enhance the efficiency of the basics.
5- Switch up the complexes every 4-6 weeks fro variety and for different emphasis.
6- Hands on Shaping should be the norm especially at the developmental, compulsory and beginner optional levels. Coaches placing athletes in the correct shapes and constantly reinforcing proper alignment and tension is the fastest way to achieve quality results. SO GET ON A SPOTTING BLOCK!
7- For Levels 8-9-10 June-October is generally skill a skill development or refinement period. Late October through December is a gradual progression to full routines. January and February is routine development and upgrade skill work. March through May is championship season where time is devoted to consistency and masterful execution of the routines.
8- The number of routines varies depending on the competition schedule. During down times or when upcoming competitions are less important (not that all competitions aren’t in some way important) the numbers would be 2-3 routines thus allowing time for upgrade skill development and isolated problem areas. During championship season numbers may increase to 4-6 routines or x amount in a row or x routines that score a targeted score etc.
9- Listed requirements assume that the requirement is MADE and not attempted unless stated. If the requirement is 4 routines.. that means 4 routines made to an acceptable standard for that athlete, mount through dismount. Counting routines with falls simply encourages less effort. If you have to lower the requirement numbers NOT the standard of what is acceptable.
10- Chalk Box Time- Chalking up prior to a full routine is certainly acceptable BUT other than that we try to use a 15 skill or 5 turn rule. Most kids chalk up far to much and therefore get used to fresh chalk/water on the hands. Well by the end of a 12-15 skill routine they start to panic cause they no longer have fresh chalk. Learning to work bars without fresh chalk is an important lesson. AND IT SAVES YOU MONEY.
Without a doubt Bars is the most hands on, coach intensive event in gymnastics. Although I wouldn’t say it is the most important (BEAM) due to the unnatural working on your hands instead of your feet, and the amazing amount of body control required, it could be considered the most difficult. Be patient in development, stress quality basics, and shapes and work your tail off and the results will be rewarding.