Here’s the brutal truth about learning a new gymnastics skill:
Everyone wants to learn a new gymnastics skill fast, but in reality there are many steps that need to happen before you will be able to learn a new skill.
Have you been trying to learn a new gymnastics skill, but just can’t seem to get it? Do you wonder what else you can do to get this new gymnastics skill?
You probably already go through some of these steps without thinking about it. But today, I’m going to lay out the 8 steps, that if you go through them will help you learn a new skill.
Sure, you can learn a new gymnastics skill without thinking about these steps–but, if you go through them, you will be able to focus your efforts and it’s almost guaranteed you will learn the skill faster.
Want a cheat sheet of The Building Method Steps? Click Here to Download
The Building Method
So, here is the Building Method for learning new gymnastics skills. Think about when construction
workers build a new two-story house. First they pour foundation. Next they build the walls, and then put in the floor for the second story. Then they build the walls for the second story before putting the roof on the house. At some point they go back in and build walls to separate the rooms inside the house.
Now let’s think about when you learn a new skill. The strength training, and shape learning steps are like the foundation of the house. Until the foundation of the house is poured, the construction workers won’t try to build the walls, because the house wouldn’t be stable. It’s the same thing when learning a skill. There is no point in learning the movement of the skill, without first having the strength and learning the body positions. The strength and body positions are what make the skill “stable”.
Next in the house building process, walls are constructed. These walls are like the progressions that you learn before learning a new skill. There is no point in trying to build the second story of the house without the walls of the first story. There is no point in trying to learn a new skill, without first learning the skills that come before it.
When you learn a new skill it’s also important to learn and practice the drills for that skill. This is like the second story floor when construction workers are building the house. The drills are another important layer that the house needs before it can be finished.
After the second story of the floor is built, the workers build the second story walls. The house needs this support before the roof can be built. So when you are learning a new skill, this is like when you are first attempting the skill. Your coach will spot you until they are confident you can successfully do the skill by yourself.
Then the roof is put on the house and the house is “built”. But, the house is not finished. When you can do the skill by yourself, yes, you can go through the movements, but you are not finished learning the skill.
Next in the house building process, the inside walls of the house must be constructed. This step in the skill learning process is when you can do the skill but you are learning to do the skill with good form consistently. The inside walls are the finishing details of the house building process. Being able to consistently do the skill with good form is the final detail in the skill learning process.
After that the house is finished. When you can consistently do the skill by yourself with perfect form, you have mastered the skill.
In this article we will use this method for learning how to do a back handspring, as an example skill.
The first step in learning how to do a new gymnastics skill is to strengthen the muscles you need for the skill. This is why in my skill how-tos I first list exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles you need.
So, for our back handspring example, you will need to strengthen your legs, abs, arms and shoulders. You will need strong legs to push you off of the ground. You will have to have enough arm and shoulder strength to hold the weight of your body upside-down. Your abs will need to be strong enough to pull your legs over your head, and your arms and shoulders will need to be strong enough to push against the floor, and “snap” you to your feet.
You need to have this strength, and have worked these muscles, in order to learn a back handspring.
The second step to learning a new gymnastics skill is to make sure you have learned how to hold your body in the various shapes of the skill. Think about the different positions your body will be performing during the skill. Can you hold all of these body positions?
Check out some of the basic shapes in gymnastics. Some of the shapes you see most often in gymnastics skills are:
- straight body
If you can’t do the shapes in the skills statically, or by themselves–how are you going to combine it with other shapes to do the skill?
For example, in a back handspring, there is both the arch shape and the hollow shape.
The third step to learning how to do a new gymnastics skill is to make sure you can do the progressions that lead up to the skill.
In our back handspring example, before you learn how to do a back handspring, you should have learned how to do a handstand, a bridge and a back walkover. This also means that you should first learn a back handspring on trampoline and on a mat, before trying to do it on the floor.
We learn skills in a certain order for a reason. The more basic skills prepare us for more advanced gymnastics skills.
The fourth step to learning a new gymnastics skill is to practice and master drills that will help you learn different movements or shape changes that happen in the skill. Drills help your muscles learn how to do different movements and then with repetition create muscle memory.
As wikipedia says, “[w]hen a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort.”
Ideally, you will do drills enough times that your muscles will remember how to do the movement with little conscious effort.
For a back handspring, common drills are sit-lean-push back on a mat stack and handstand snap down drills. These drills teach both the beginning and the end of the back handspring, respectively.
The fifth step to learning a new gymnastics skill, is to do the skill with a spot. This is when your coach physically guides you through the skill, helping your body with the movement. This is important for two reasons:
- Your muscles are learning the entire movement of the skill, and then trying to create muscle memory.
- Safety. Until your coach is sure that you can complete the skill safely by yourself, you should be spotted.
Once your coach has given you the OK, you can move on to trying the next step.
The sixth step is when you can physically execute the skill by yourself safely. Now is when you do the work of trying to perfect your form. In this step, practice is crucial, because with practice you will improve.
Can Do Well
With practice you will be able to move into the seventh step. This is when you can do the skill well, so you can do it with good form and are becoming more consistent.
You know you have mastered the gymnastics skill when you can consistently do it with perfect form. This should be the goal of every skill that you learn, so that when you perform it at meets, you know that you will be able to perform it perfectly!
So to learn a new gymnastics skill, the first step is to strengthen the muscles you need for the skill. Next, learn the body shapes and the progressions. After that, practice and master the drills for that skill. Once you can do the drills well, your coach will spot you or guide you through doing the skill. After your coach is confident that you can do the skill by yourself, you can try the skill by yourself. Then comes the work of perfecting the skill, to the point that you can do it ten times in a row with perfect form.
These are the steps of the Building Method for learning new gymnastics skills. I’d love to hear all the skills you are learning in the comments!