Athletes, Competition, Mental Training, Preparation, Training, Winning

Training Methods to Maximize Success: Preparing for the Big Moment

So you have a big event to prepare for and it is imparative that you are ready in every aspect for a successful outcome. How is this done? What are the best methods in preparing both physically and mentally? It is different for every individual so there is no specific training manual on how to accomplish this goal. Here we will discuss several methods of Preparing for the Big Moment. Since the methods vary and are personal to each individual, I will discuss the methods that worked best for me in my preparation for a Big Moment. (This is a snapshot of material on this subject)

Preparing for big events, such as national or world competitions, requires training that is both physical and mental. Both work hand-in-hand and must be synched perfectly for the ultimate positive result. We call this “Peaking”. The process may be long and take months in preparation. Although there are many methods used, there are particular steps that should be followed along the way.

Although it takes both physical and mental preparation (both are extremely important for success), the physical aspect usually is the first step in preparation (once a commitment has been made). An athelte must get in the best physical shape possible as they progress toward the goal. This takes time and requires a highly structured training schedule. As in all physical activities, training should be progressive. This means the athlete should start off slow and increase intensity as the body becomes stronger. In many cases, if the athlete initiates a training schedule aggressively, the potential for injury becomes greater.

In the initial training process, focus should be on gaining strength, endurance, and skill development. These elements are crucial as it is the foundation that will be built upon as training progresses. New skill development and training for perfection is a major part of the process. This is what the next stage is based on.

As initial training progresses and the athlete gets into optimal shape, the training regiment should change. It takes many hours of hard work to get the body in top physical condition. Once this is achieved, it should be maintained. Thus, training time and entensity may taper off. If the athlete “overtrains”, they could experience injury or burn-out before peak performance is achieved. Many athletes refer to this as “training smarter – not harder”.

The time at which this change in intensity takes place in training development is different for everyone. In many cases, the younger athlete may endure longer periods of intense training. Whereas, the older athlete may need to make this change earlier. It takes time and experience to get this time dynamic figured out. In my early years as an Elite athlete, I could train aggressively for long periods of time. However, as I became older (and more decrepit:) I needed to adjust my training schedule to lower the intensity much earlier so as to not increase risks of injury.

This is the stage in training where the mental and emotional aspects become a major focus. At this point, the body should be in great and optimal condition. Skills should be developed and closely (if not) perfected. Complete “routines” should be created at this point and trained mostly in entirety. This is the stage when consistency is created and consistency is developed through repetition.

As time gets closer to the Big Event, the athlete needs to gain complete confidence in their ability to succeed (the emotional factor). Maintaining success in every training session is critical. Meaning- every routine and performance in practice needs to be successful without fail. This will create a great deal of confidence. If there is consistant failure (missing routines), confidence will be weak and will most likely make for questionable results.

At this stage, mental preparations will naturaly occur. This includes mental performance even outside of the practice arena. We call this “Imagery”. Most athletes will emotionally perform their actions or routines in their minds as if actually doing the action physically. In initial Imagery practices, the thoughts may not always be positive. In many cases, the imagery has failure. This may be a result of a lack of confidence. However, as the athlete becomes more confident, the Imagery will be mostly positive and successful.

1984 USA Men’s Olympic Gymnastics Team

When both physical and mental abilities are at their most positive levels, the athlete is ready for the Big Event. Much time and effort has been put into this preparation and the outcome will hopefully be a successful outcome. We all learn by our mistakes, so if the result is not as positive as hoped for, adjustments will be made so the next Big Event will have a better chance at success. No matter what though, the athlete needs to Go For It!! Who knows, it could result in an Olympic Gold Medal!!

Scott Johnson
1984 Olympic Gold Medalist 1988 Olympic Team Captain

My Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is available and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0847D3VQC

These neoprene wrist supports are the best for gymnasts and cheerleaders experiencing wrist pain. The neoprene provides support and warmth to the joint to help relieve pain discomfort.

This is the best syle of leotards for recreational gymnastics. Get yours today!!

Coaching, Preparation, Skill Development, Training, Tumbling

The Truth About Skill Development: Learning Tumbling Skills May Take a Long Time

Many coaches have been in situations where they will see students and parents become frustrated at how long the process is to learn tumbling skills. It can be even more dramatic when the process involves fixing bad habits. We all live in a fast paced world and many times expect all things to move and progress quickly.

In the complex sport of tumbling, this is rarely the case. In fact, it is common for skill development to take months (and for some skills, years) for students to acquire skills. The same goes for fixing bad habits . Many people who are not familiar with this sport need to be educated on how skill development works and the path it takes for achievement.

In the cheer and dance industries, there are just a few specific skills that students would like to acquire for growth potential. ( tumbling-and-the-cheerleader). These may include skills such as the back and front walk-overs, front and back handsprings, aerials, and back flips.

We often have students interested in our programs specifically to learn these skills. In many cases, the request is made to learn the skills quickly. An expample would be to prepare for a try-out event. Unfortunately, the reality is that it takes consistency and time to learn the skills requested. There are no quick learning situations (at least for the majority of athletes).

I hear from many parents that they are frustrated that their child is not progressing as fast as they believe they should. So why does it take so long? There are many factors that are considered when learning tumbling skills. Not only are there physical attributes needed in development, there is also the emotional effect – which can be the biggest hurdles to accomplish. Students who have not developed a strong foundation of basic skills will struggle with learning the more advanced skills (tumbling-importance-of-building-a-strong-foundation). In this case, skill development may take much longer.

I strongly suggest to all parents that they should consider placing their child in a tumbling program consistently so they will get the training needed to learn their skills properly and safely. We often see cheerleaders and dancers who are challenged with schedules so they cannot participate in a program consistently. The result? They usually do not learn the skills they are wanting to learn or it takes an extremely long time.

Another factor which may cause skill development to take a long time to achieve may be the poor quality and/or inexperience of the coach teaching the skills. When students are wanting to learn specific skills, parents should research and seek out experienced and qualified coaches. Not only will an experienced coach train the proper technique and progressions, the student will learn in a much safer environment.

We have seen many students develop a mental block while learning skills and much is due to poor coaching resulting in an accident. Once a mental block is developed, skill progression becomes much more difficult and sometimes may come to a complete halt.

Learning tumbling skills, like many other sports, takes hard work, consistent training, and time. Patience is a key element for positive growth in skill development. The road to success can be a long one.

Scott Johnson – 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist

If you are interested in a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

My new Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is published and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0847D3VQC

These neoprene wrist supports are the best for gymnasts and cheerleaders experiencing wrist pain. The neoprene provides support and warmth to the joint to help relieve pain discomfort.

This is the best syle of leotards for recreational gymnastics. Get yours today!!

Back Handspring, Bad Habits, Coaching, Skill Development, Training

Fixing this Bad Habit: Back Handspring: The Undercut

One of the most popular skills in gymnastics and tumbling is the back handspring. In sports like cheerleading, the back handspring is a major focus and a requirement for many team programs. Not only is this skill a difficult skill to learn, it can take years to acquire and perfect. In addition, there is a high risk element to consider. Many bad habits can be acquired if not learned properly. The most common, and difficult to fix, if not caught early, is what we call the “Under Cut”.

So, what is an Under Cut? There may be several different explanations, but I will give you my thoughts and best explanation. The Under Cut is a technical problem that occurs at the beginning of performing the back handspring. As the arms are beginning to lift up for the back handspring, the student begins to throw their head backward while thrusting their hips forward in front of the feet. The result is little or no jump and lift off the floor creating a heavy arch position. The hands actually land very close to where the feet are, which creates no backward traveling. The back handspring may only travel several feet when it should travel almost the length of the body.

This is a very common problem and recognized by most coaches. Even many students with the problem have been told they have an “under cut”. However, what is surprising to me is that many students who have the habit do not know exactly what the problem is except knowing that their back handspring is too short and the hands land to close to the feet (as they have been told by other instructors). I ask most all my students who have this habit if they know why this happens. Most do not know!! Let me discuss what causes this problem.

The under cut can occur as a result of several different circumstances relating to poor technique in proceeding skills to the back handsprings, like a poorly executed Round-Off (https://scottjohnsonsgymexperience.com/2019/06/04/tumbling-technique-is-there-right-or-wrong/. Let’s first discuss the problem relating to standing back handsprings.

First and foremost, as discussed many times throughout my posts, students must have developed a strong foundation of basic elements prior to learning the back handspring. The back handspring involves a jumping action ( as described in the term “spring”). This element must be effective to ensure the proper lift and rotation needed for the skill. For a jumping action to occur, the body must be in a proper position so the legs can be effective in the action. The under cut causes the body to be in a position that inhibits or highly reduces the body from performing the jump or spring action off the floor.

The arm swing performed while initiating the back handspring is what usually causes this problem. Students get in a hurry to look and attempt to flip the back handspring before the proper body position is acquired. When the arms begin to lift up at the beginning of the skill, the student will begin to look backward before the arms get stretched above the head. In many cases, the arms do not get to a horizontal position before the student begins to look back and initiate the back handspring. This causes the knees and hips to thrust forward in front of the feet which eliminates any jumping action. It creates the effect of a back limber in a fast-whipping motion.

A great way to prevent this habit from occurring is to begin teaching the back handspring without an arm swing. We have the student stand with their arms stretched straight above the head. We then have the student sit back (slightly) as in starting to sit in a chair. From this point, the student jumps up and back with their head and eyes following the hands as they reach back. This prevents the head from throwing back too aggressively. This action should allow the student to have the proper lift and rotation at the beginning of the skill. When the hands make contact with the floor, the snapping action should occur for the landing (this snapping action has a characteristic of its own and will be discussed in another post).

For students who have developed this habit, we will re-train the skill from the beginning and teach without the arm swing. The student, in many cases, kinda freak out about this new technique, however, once performed several times (with a spot) they get more comfortable with it and realize what a difference it makes (https://scottjohnsonsgymexperience.com/2019/07/20/why-it-is-important-to-spot-skills/.

Please note that teaching this skill without an arm swing requires a spot from an experienced coach. It is very difficult to perform a standing back handspring without an arm swing. If a gym has a back handspring trainer block (like the Resilite Smarter Spotter), this is effective in training without the arm swing and without a spot. Once the student has learned the proper technique without the arm swing, we begin to incorporate the arm swing. However, it is important to reinforce that the arms get stretched above the head before looking back for the skill. One other note of importance: Make sure the student keeps their eyes open. It is very common that students close their eyes!!

There are many drills to teach the back handspring effectively, however, many gyms and programs do not have the equipment or ability to train many of the drills that can be effective. Focusing on the elements described above can be used for almost any athlete in any environment.

Good luck with this skill and remember – Safety is the most important. DO NOT ALLOW A STUDENT TO ATTEMPT THIS SKILL WITHOUT PROPER AND PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTION!!

Scott Johnson – 1984 USA Olympic Gold Medalist

If you are interested in a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

My new Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is published and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0847D3VQC

These neoprene wrist supports are the best for gymnasts and cheerleaders experiencing wrist pain. The neoprene provides support and warmth to the joint to help releive pain discomfort.

This is the best syle of leotards for recreational gymnastics. Get yours today!!

Coaching, Skill Development, Training, Tumbling, Tumbling Technique

Tumbling Technique: Is There Right or Wrong?

The sports of gymnastics and tumbling are very complex and it can be considered an art. Skill development is highly complex, even at the most basic levels. There are many factors that are in play when developing skills. Strength, speed, aggression, and flexibility only to name a few. Body in motion is complex and one must have detailed knowledge and experience in the skills they are teaching in order to understand how to approach skill training.

A common question that is asked in almost every industry that entails tumbling skills is: “what is the correct technique?” This can be a serious issue with programs teaching these skills. As I mentioned, due to the complexity of the skills in this sport, coaches should have extensive knowledge of the skills they are teaching. To gain this knowledge, coaches need to train with qualified professionals that do have the knowledge and experience. Much like a physician – a doctor cannot diagnose an illness or injury without the knowledge they have learned in medical school.

When coaches are teaching skills they have little knowledge of or have not learned the proper technique or methods, there can be negative consequences. For one, the student may not learn the skills properly which may make if difficult for the student to learning more difficult skills. For example, if a student is not taught how to do a round-off with proper technique, they will struggle in learning a round-off back handspring. The biggest concern with teaching improper technique is the safety concerns. There are risks with skill development in the sport of tumbling . If the student is not taught the proper progressions with proper technique, the risk factors increase dramatically.

It is important to note that there may be several methods of technique that work for the same skill. Some coaches may teach a skill one way and others may teach a different way. Both methods may be correct which can develop the same positive result. It is also important to understand that technique development may vary from one student to the next depending on the the physical and mental attributes of the athlete. For example, a tall and thin student may need to learn a skill slightly different than a student who is small and stocky. This may effect the developmental stages, but the end result should remain mostly consistent.

Coaches need to be sensitive to technical issues when working with students from different programs. Although the coaches may have the proper knowledge and experience to teach the skills, different coaches may have different methods in teaching skills. This can be very confusing to the student at times. They may say, “my coach doesn’t want me to do it this way” or “my coach told me this was the wrong way to do it”. Introducing new or different methods of development can be a positive thing and may work but it needs to be explained to the student “why”.

In some cases, however, there are programs where the coaches do not have the knowledge and experience to teach tumbling skills properly. In these cases, the student will struggle in developing the skills properly and safely. Programs that do not have the coaching staff qualified to teach skills, should take actions to either outsource or hire someone who is properly qualified. There are usually programs or events that are scheduled within a region or community like clinics or seminars that are great for increasing education in needed areas. In addition, many questions on skill development and technique issues can also be found on social media.

There is certainly right and wrong ways to teach tumbling skills. If a coach is not sure of the proper technique or methods in development, they should not attempt to train the skill by guessing. I have seen many bad habits created and unnecessary injuries due to lack of knowledge. Don’t take chances and do what is best for the positive development of the athletes.

My new Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is published and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0847D3VQC

I am a true believer in the neoprene material for relief of joint pain and discomfort. The following product is ideal for athletes who experience wrist pain while tumbling.

Looking for the perfect leotard for your little tumbler? This is a great leotard for the recreational tumbler and gymnast!!

Front Handspring, Skill Development, Training, Tumbling

The Front Handspring Step-Out (Walkover)

front hndsprng stepout

The Front Handspring step-out, also known as the Front Walk-over in cheerleading and dance is a common skill and one that is used often in combination tumbling passes. It is also considered an elegant skill, if performed correctly, but difficult to learn properly for many athletes. Here I will share my thoughts and techniques that has worked well in teaching this skill.

As with so many skills, it is important to learn the prerequisites first so the student has the ability to learn the Front Handspring correctly. These prerequisites include, but not limited to, the handstand, bridge, lunge, and hurdle step.

There are several factors that go into play when developing these types of skills. For this particular skill, flexibility certainly is one of the most important factors. This flexibility concerns primarily the legs, back, and shoulders. Arm and body positioning is another factor that must be accomplished for a positive result. And finally, strength and aggression are important.

spotting front limber

The front limber is a skill that should be introduced and learned prior to learning the front handspring. This will prepare the student in understanding the dynamics of the skill. There are several good drills used in learning the front limber. The most effective drill that has worked well for my students is the bridge “rock and stand” motion.  This should be spotted by a qualified coach through the developmental stages.

While the student is in the bridge position, they will rock back and forth and as they rock toward the feet, have them stand upward making sure the student keeps their eyes on the floor and not looking upward or forward. Upon the finish of the skill, the body should be in a slightly arched position.

Limber position

Once the student understands the front limber, they are ready to begin learning the front walkover. The concept is very similar to the front limber, however, the student will keep their legs split throughout the skill and land on one leg. This is where flexibility plays a major roll. The farther the student can split their legs, the easier it is for the student to land with the lead leg under the torso. Shoulder flexibility also plays a roll which will allow the student to place the lead foot close to the hands.

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When the student has learned (or trained and understands) the front walkover, they would be ready to perform the skill from a run and hurdle step. It is critical that the student has a proper hurdle step in order to perform the front handspring The Hurdle Step The Key Ingredient. Arms should be straight and extended up above the head and ears throughout the skill.

The arms should reach well in front of the body when placing the hands on the floor. It is important that the shoulders do not rock in front of the hands. The arms should remain straight and should create a blocking action (bounce) off the floor. The block should be felt on the palms of the hands (if the shoulders rock forward upon placing hands on the floor, the pressure would be on the fingers preventing the blocking motion).

finish pos of front walkover

The finish of the skill should be the same as in the standing front walkover. The major difference between the front walkover and front handspring step-out is the blocking motion off the arms.  The stronger the blocking motion, the more momentum created for connecting skills.

If the students follow this  type of training progression, they will learn the skill effectively.  It will take time and consistency but the results should be positive.  It is always important to remember to follow the proper techniques so the students will not develop bad habits.

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My new Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is published and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0847D3VQC

Front Cover.Red Lettering