Gymnastics Drills to Boost Student Skill

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Sports like gymnastics require a sharp and well-developed skill set, with skills building on each other as gymnasts progress to more complex routines. Gymnastics drills are important because repetition helps the proper movements and techniques become second nature to your students. Combining handstand gymnastics drills, balance drills, and gymnastics pad drills gives students the foundation they need to advance. 

Try incorporating these fun gymnastics drills at the beginning of class, or to break up longer sessions, to keep students’ abilities sharp. Each of these drills is designed to deliver a short but powerful reinforcement of key gymnastics principles.

Handstand gymnastics drills

These handstand gymnastics drills are designed to engage the arms, core, and legs, which must be strong to perform handstands safely and correctly.

  • Open shoulder. Have gymnasts keep a tight posture as they get in a plank position and walk forwards, backwards, and side-to-side.
  • Bear walk. This drill conditions the arms and back, and are effective on a flat surface, or better yet, down an incline. Bear walk drills help gymnasts keep their arms straight (essential for safe form), and get them used to the sensation of being upside down.
  • Walking up a wall. With their back to a wall, gymnasts bend forward, place their hands on the floor and practice kicking their feet up on the wall, slowly walking them up. Once comfortable, they can lift a foot up into the air to achieve a straight posture.

Balance drills for gymnastics

Balance is the foundation of all gymnastics moves, and drills teach you to remain in control of their bodies as they work through each move. These balance drills should be done on the floor first, then the low balance and standard beams as they improve.

  • Lever drill. Have gymnasts stand with hands extended up in the air. Step forward with one foot, slowly bend from the waist, and slowly lift their rear leg to create a “T”. The arms, torso, and lifted leg should all be in alignment.
  • V-sit drill. Ask your students to sit on the floor with legs together and toes pointed. Placing their palms flat behind their butt, they should smoothly lift their legs to a 45-degree angle, keeping them straight. Have them hold their legs in this position for a few seconds before bringing them back to the floor.
  • Arabesque balance drill. Starting from a standing position with arms stretched out wide to the sides, gymnasts stand on one leg, then tilt at the hips to raise the other leg straight behind them, maintaining good tension throughout. Have them hold this pose for a few seconds before returning to standing position. Repeat the drill with the other leg.

Gymnastics pad drills and floor work

  • Roll drills. Have your students practice the building block of all gymnastics moves: the forward and backward rolls. Doing rolls down an incline mat can help beginners get comfortable with each movement.
  • Roundoff drill. Help students get the feel for a roundoff, which is foundational to many other moves, with this easy floor drill. Stack a couple of panel mats together to give gymnasts a slightly elevated position from which to start their roundoff. Next, place a hula hoop or mark a circle on the ground at the end of the mats to indicate where their roundoff should land. Have them practice landing in that circle each time.
  • Jumping and landing drills. Challenge gymnasts to practice and repeat a variety of jumps and leaps. Make sure they focus on executing a clean landing after each one. Try tucks and pikes, straddles, scissor leaps, split leaps, and any others you’d like to incorporate.

Finally, consider how to bring these handstand gymnastics drills, balance drills, and pad drills into your regular practices. You could split your room into zones, with students moving from one to the next as they practice. Then set a timeline (i.e., 10 minutes) for each station before having them move to the next.

Try using these fun gymnastics drills to integrate foundational skills into your classes!

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