A switch leap is an advanced leap that can help you earn difficulty in your gymnastics routines. Before learning a switch leap you should have mastered a split leap, and be able to do it with a 180° split with squeezed legs and pointed feet.
To do a good switch leap you will need flexibility. You will need to not only be able to do your splits on the ground in a static stretch, but also to be able to do good kicks, a dynamic stretch. A kick complex is a good way to improve your dynamic stretching, and a video is included below.
When you are learning your split leap, one of the keys to doing a good switch leap is the last step before you leap. Your last step should be a long “leaping” step. Think of it as leaping into your leap. This long last step should enable you to “punch” off the floor with your feet to give you height for your split leap.
Muscles You Need for a Switch Leap
In addition to flexibility you will need strong muscles to learn a good switch leap.
Leg: You need strong leg muscles to punch off the ground to get height in your switch leap.
Core: You will need strong core muscles to keep your ribs in, chest up, and back flat.
Exercises You Can Do at Home for a Switch Leap
Below are some exercises to help you strengthen your legs and your core. You will be using most of your muscles in your legs during your switch leap. You will be pushing off the ground, and then squeezing your legs throughout the skill to keep your body tight.
Squats: One exercise you can do to strengthen your leg muscles is squats. To do a squat, stand with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart. You can either do squats with your feet pointing out (with them slightly at a diagonal angle) or your feet pointing forwards. The squats will work different muscles depending on which way your feet are pointing. Keeping your back straight and your core squeezed, lower yourself with your weight on your heels. It can be easier with your arms extended out straight in front of you parallel to the ground. The goal will be for your thighs to become perpendicular to your calves, but only go as far as you can while controlling the movement. With the weight of your body in your heels, push against the floor and raise yourself back to a standing position in order to complete the repetition.
Hip Lift: Hip lifts will help strengthen your glutes. To do hip lifts, lay on your back with your knees bent, your arms at your side and your feet on the ground. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, hold for a second and then lower your hips back to the floor to finish the repetition. Make sure you are keeping your back flat and squeezing your butt.
V-Ups: You also need a strong core for split leaps. V-Ups are a great exercise for working your stomach muscles. Start laying flat on the floor with your arms over your head and your legs straight and squeezed together. Using your core, pull your legs up at the same time as you pull your upper-body off the floor, making sure to not arch your back. You want your hands to touch your feet. Lower both your upper-body and your legs back to the floor to complete the repetition.
Switch Leap Drills
Below are some switch leap drills to help you learn how to do a switch leap.
Kicks: The basic kick complex in the video above by famed gymnastics coach Mary Lee Tracy is a great workout that you can do at home or at the gym. I think kicks are a great exercise for doing gymnastics at home, that will really improve your gymnastics in the gym. Having nice kicks with good form is the first step to having beautiful leaps. Kicks help you develop the sharpness and control you need for a good switch leap. Once you have mastered kicks with no resistance, you can add resistance with therabands.
Split Jumps on Trampoline: Since the middle of your split leap is the split position, a good way to practice that position is by doing split jumps on the trampoline or the tumble track. Do split jumps with both the right and left leg in front. Practice keeping your chest up, your ribs in, your head up, your legs squeezed tight and your feet pointed.
Switching Split Jumps on Trampoline: Another great drill for switch leaps is to do switching split jumps on the trampoline.
Sissone onto Panel Mat: A sissone is basically a split jump where you start on two feet and land on one. One drill to work the second half of the switch leap is to practice sissones up onto the edge of a panel mat.
Split Jump onto Panel Mat: For this drill you will want to stand next to a panel mat. Do a split jump jumping sideways onto the panel mat.
Switch Leap off of Springboard onto Mat with Roll: This drill will help you learn to hit a 180° split in your switch leap without having to also nail the landing. To do this drill, you will set an 8 inch mat behind a spring board. Then you will switch leap off the spring board, land on the 8 inch mat and immediately do a forward roll out of it.
Tools for Learning a Switch Leap
Below are some tools that you will need to do the drills above.
Panel Mat: A panel mat is useful for many switch leap drills. You can do split jumps or sissones on to the panel mat.
Springboard: You can use a springboard to do leaps off of it onto a thick mat.
8 inch Mat: You can use any thick mat on the other side of the springboard for the switch leap off springboard drill.
Therabands: Once you have mastered kicks, you can add resistance with therabands.
So in order to learn how to do a split leap, you should first work on your flexibility along with your leg and core strength. Then you should practice switch leap drills. Drills along with the power of repetition practicing switch leaps will help you master the skill.