I’ve already written about how to do a split leap, and in that article I talk about how you have to do a leap in gymnastics routines from level 3 up to the highest levels. So it’s definitely a skill that is worth spending time to master.
What are judges looking for in a split leap?
What makes a good split leap?
- Even Leg Separation– You want both of your legs to go up the same amount.
- Hip Rise– You want to get good height off the ground.
- Straight Legs– You should have completely straight legs.
- Pointed Feet – You want your feet to be pointed.
- Shoulders Back- Your chest should be up with your shoulders back.
- Chin Up: Your chin should be level or slightly tilted up. You don’t want to be looking at the floor with your chin down.
It’s hard in the moment to think about all of those things, but that’s why it’s so important to practice drills to make sure all of those actions become second nature. So that when you actually do a split leap, your legs are straight, feet are pointed etc. without you having to think about it.
Exercises to Help you Improve your Split Leap
Kicks are great because they are an exercise that help with your active flexibility.
Kicks Forward: Keeping your shoulders back kick your legs in front of you, alternating to do a right kick, left kick, right kick, left kick, etc.
Kicks Rearward: When you kick backwards make sure you are keeping both your bottom leg and the kicking leg very tight and straight. Alternate doing right and left rear kicks.
Kicks Sidewards: You want to do kicks to the side to prepare for you when you eventually do switch side leaps. You can do these facing forwards and kicking to the side, or turning to the side and kicking to the side.
Kick Forward, Sidewards, Backwards, Pivot Turn: You can combine your basic kicks into a combination. Do a forward kick, then step and turn to the side. Do a sidewards kick, step and quarter turn to do a backward kick, then finish with a pivot turn so you are facing forwards again. Repeat.
Front Front Front Back Front Fouetté: I love this kicking combination as a drill for leaps. You can see it in the video above that they are doing kicks in combination with a fouetté. The combination is two front kicks, and then a front kick that you swing back and then do a fouetté. A fouetté turn is when your leg is at horizontal and you turn on your toe in relevé so you are facing the other direction. Then do it the reverse way with two back kicks, a back kick that you swing forwards and then do a fouetté.
Needle Kicks: To do needle kicks stand with your arms straight above your head next to your ears. Bending at the hips, lean over and touch the floor and kick one leg behind you making sure to keep it tight and straight. Stand up straight step forward and then repeat kicking the other leg behind you. You want to make sure that you are keeping your arms next to your ears and leading with your hands not your head.
A split leap basically has a split jump in the middle of it. When you think about it like that it makes sense to practice split jumps.
Split Jumps: Do split jumps in a row to practice the shape you want in the middle of your split leap. Make sure you are punching off the ground with your feet, your legs are straight and your toes pointed. You want your legs to be evenly split. Do them with the right leg in front first, and then the left leg in front.
These passes down the floor (or a mat at home) are drills you can do to help you improve your split leap.
Alternate Split Leaps: Alternate split leaps are a great pass to practice to improve your split leaps. You want to try to make the split leaps look the same from each leg. Try to do them in a row by doing a right leg split leap, immediately into a left leg leap, into a right leg leap, and so on down the floor.
Straight Leg Skips: Straight leg skips are great for working the same muscles that you use when you take off the ground in a split leap. To do a straight leg skip lift one leg to horizontal and push through the other foot to jump off the ground. Then step forward, lift the other leg to horizontal and push through your bottom foot to jump off the ground.
Connected Sissones: Sissones are helpful to practice when trying to improve your split leap because they help you practice getting your back leg up. Many gymnasts will let their front leg split higher than their back leg, and doing sissones can help fix that problem. To do a sissone start standing with your feet together. Then jump off your feet and split your legs with your back leg going higher than your front. Land on your front leg and then bring your back leg to a close next to it. To connect them, immediately take off for another sissone.
Switch Leaps: For gymnasts that have already mastered a split leap, you will want to master a switch leap. Practice doing passes of them in a row.
These exercises are a good way to practice at home since they can be done on a simple panel mat or on the floor. The more you practice these kicks, jumps and drills with good form the less you will have to think about it when you’re competing. It will become second nature.