So you have a routine with all the requirements for your gymnastics level. And now you want to perfect that routine. Maybe you have competed at a meet and didn’t get the score you wanted to, or maybe you just want to improve your score.
There are many different aspects of a gymnastics routine, therefore, many different areas that you can improve in order to perfect your routine. And unless you are getting 10.0s, a perfect score, there is always room for improvement.
One of the best ways to analyze your routines is by watching them on video. So have your parents video your next gymnastics meet and then when you have the video to watch, follow this process.
Here are 10 steps to perfecting your gymnastics routine. I would recommend watching the video with a piece of paper so that you can write each of these steps down. You will probably have to re-watch the video with each step.
1. Analyze Each Skill for Body Position
Write down each of the skills you do during your Floor, Beam and Bar routines. As you watch the video ask yourself these questions for each of the skills that you perform:
- Are my arms completely straight when they should be ?
- Are my legs completely straight when they should be ?
- Are my legs squeezed together when they should be?
- Are my feet pointed?
For Vault, think of your vault divided into three phases.
- Pre-Flight: From the time you land on the spring board, until your arms hit the vault table.
- Support: When you are on top of the vault table.
- Post Flight: From the time you block off the vault table, until you land on the ground.
As you watch the video of your vault, for each of the phases ask yourself the questions above. Analyze whether your arms and legs are straight and whether your feet are pointed.
Every time your arms are not completely straight in a skill when they should be, your legs aren’t completely straight in a skill when they should be, or your feet aren’t pointed, the judges will take a deduction.
This is one of the easiest steps to make improvements. Once you realize you have bent arms or legs in a skill, it should be easy to fix for the future.
2. Assess Each Dance Skill for Form
This step is just for beam and floor. Write down each dance step, skill or turn that you perform. Then as you watch the video ask yourself these questions:
- Am I in high relevé ?
- Am I performing with control?
Each dance skill should be performed in high relevé with control (meaning you aren’t falling out of the skill), or you will receive deductions. High relevé is when you are standing on your toes, and the rest of your foot is making a straight vertical line.
Performing dance skills with control in high relevé makes a routine look polished, and is more pleasurable to watch.
3. Analyze Tumbling
Write down the tumbling passes or acro skills you have in your floor and beam routines. Excluding very basic acro skills like rolls, cartwheels and handstands, most acro skills should have power. Saltos should have height. Watch your tumbling skills on video and ask yourself:
- Is the tumbling skill or pass powerful?
- Do I get nice height on my saltos?
If the answer is no, the solution for more powerful tumbling, which leads to high saltos, is usually conditioning. The stronger you are, the more powerful your tumbling will be.
For Bars we are going to analyze any salto dismount, like a flyway, the same way.
- Does my dismount have good height?
On Vault, let’s think about the vault as if it was a tumbling skill.
- Is my vault powerful?
- Do I get good height off the vault table?
- Do I land a good distance from the vault table, because my vault is powerful?
A good vault should be like a powerful tumbling pass. You should explode off the springboard, in order to then block off the vault table and get nice height and distance from the table.
4. Evaluate Balance
Maintaining a tight body position is important during your routines, not only to prevent deductions, but also to help you keep your balance. You might think that balance is only important on Beam, but breaks in form can also cause balance errors on Floor and sometimes on Bars.
Watch each of these three routines and ask yourself:
- Are there any places I am off-kilter?
- Are there any moments where I have to balance-check myself? (ie. Put a foot or hand down to steady myself)
- Are there any pauses so I can maintain control?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then deductions are being taken for balance.
5. Evaluate Leaps & Jumps
An important part of a gymnast’s beam and floor routines are leaps and jumps. Every gymnastics level has at least one split requirement, meaning the gymnast must perform a leap or jump with a certain degree of split.
For example, in Level 6, gymnasts must do a leap or jump with a 180° split.
So write down each leap or jump that you perform, and then ask yourself:
- What is the angle of the split?
- Are my legs evenly split?
If your leap or jump is less than the required angle there will be a deduction. Another important aspect of a leap or jump is that the legs go up evenly on each side.
6. Consider Connections
In upper level floor and beam routines, there are connection requirements. Meaning, there are skills that need to be combined together to create tumbling passes, acro series’ or dance series’. When there is a series requirement, the two skills need to be connected seamlessly.
Write down each of the connections you perform in your beam or floor routines, and then watch them on video. Ask yourself:
- Do I pause between the two skills?
- Do I move my feet in between the connection?
- Is there time to count “1” between the two skills?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then either rhythm deductions are being taken, or the series is being broken. A series being broken means you don’t get credit for the series.
7. Assess Rhythm
This step is for bars, beam and floor. One of the components of a great gymnastics routine is good rhythm.
Watch your bar routine and ask yourself:
- Are there any pauses?
Bar routines should flow without any pauses or stops between skills.
On beam, the same is true. A beam routine should be performed confidently, without any pauses, bobbles or stops between the dance movements and the skills. As you watch your beam routine ask yourself:
- Are there any pauses?
- Are there any form errors as I transition from one skill to the next?
For floor routines, rhythm errors are a little easier to spot. The routine should be done to the beat of the music. In compulsory levels, the music has cues so that both the gymnast and judge can tell whether the routine is being done to the right rhythm. Watch your floor routine and ask yourself:
- Am I on the beat of the music?
- Are there any pauses?
8. Evaluate Body Position throughout the Routine
Not only is body position important during skills, but in order to perfect your routine you must have a tight body position throughout.
Watch your beam and floor routines and try to look for moments when you aren’t completely squeezed in a tight body position.
- Are there any moments when I am noodle-like?
- Are there any moments where I could be squeezing my bottom, or my core and I’m not?
This is a hard step, but try to look at your routine like you’ve never seen it before. This will help you identify moments where you aren’t as squeezed or tight as you should be.
9. Analyze Your Angles
Angles are very important on both bars and vault. On bars there are different requirements based on the level. In the upper levels there are angle requirements for casts, and some skills require the gymnast to hit vertical.
Watch your bar routine being aware of the angle requirements for your level. For example, in level 7 the requirement is to do a cast to a minimum of 45° from vertical.
- If I draw a line from my shoulders to the lowest part of my body, do I meet the angle requirement?
On vault, it’s important to leave the vault table by vertical if you are performing a handspring-entry vault.
Watch your vault and ask yourself?
- Are my hands still touching the vault table by the time my feet hit vertical?
10. Assess Routine Overall
Both beam and floor routines are evaluated overall for artistry and dynamics. This is a way to separate those routines with great energy, crowd appeal, and showmanship. Judges look at the choreography, movement and expression of the gymnast during the routine.
So, while there isn’t a deduction for not smiling, judges are looking at the gymnast’s expression to see if it matches the routine. Think about Laurie Hernandez’s floor routine at the Olympics. She doesn’t smile the whole time, but she does smile at certain points. You can tell she is having fun, and the crowd loves it!
Think about your floor routine music, is it upbeat where smiling is appropriate, or is it more dramatic where a different facial expression is appropriate?
- Does my facial expression match my routine?
- Do I inject energy or enthusiasm where appropriate?
- Am I performing? Or simply going through the motions?
This may seem like a lot of steps or things to think about when evaluating a gymnastics routine, but in reality this is what judges do every time they score a routine. They think about these things and more.
It can be hard to watch and evaluate every little mistake you make, but by identifying your mistakes you will be able to fix them and improve as a gymnast.
When you go through this process, share your results in the comments so we can all encourage each other!