Daily Thought: Form Is Essential to Safe Development in Gymnastics

photo of male gymnast practicing in gym

Yes, you should insist that your gymnasts always points their toes. I prefer to ask them to point their feet, as that includes all ten toes and the ankles, but you get what I mean. And this isn’t only because it makes skills look sharper, but because form is essential to safe development in Gymnastics. 

I often hear and read from people in other sports like Parkour or Freestyle trampoline say that form is unnecessary or that it makes the skill look bad. 

Both these statements are false. First, flexed feet and legs apart and bent at the wrong time look sloppy. It’s like a poorly drawn picture or a badly painted wall. Sure, the image might make sense, and the wall is your favourite colour, but are either the best possible version of themselves? 

The answer is a direct and resounding no. 

It Looks Better

Canada’s Olympic silver medallist Jason Burnett, from Etobicoke, Ont., performs in the men’s trampoline final at 2012 Summer Olympics Friday, August 3, 2012 in London.

Aesthetically, holding tight, controlled positions makes any acrobatic skill look sharper and better – it adds a touch of beauty to already intricate combinations of movement. 

Think of that picture drawn by an experienced artist, not a kindergarten child learning to hold their crayons. Imagine your wall done by a professional painter. 

Of course, you can be that artist and painter, but first, you must respect the processes behind the skills. You must understand how pointing your feet and keeping your legs together makes you a better acrobat. 

It’s A Safety Thing

Keeping tight body positions also minimizes the probability of injuries by adequately aligning body parts. We know that even landing on your feet can be dangerous if the angle of approach is wrong. 

This video shows that the athlete could have injured her neck and back only by looking in the wrong direction during the landing.

Thankfully, she’s alright and returned to doing double pikes shortly after shaking the fall off. 

@invertcity

Landing on your feet can be dangerous sometimes if the angle is wrong. She’s fine, and doing double-pikes again. #tumblingfails #scarylanding

♬ Se Acabo (feat. Method Man) (Remix) – The Beatnuts

It Is Essential to Safe Development in Gymnastics and All Other Acrobatic Disciplines

Thinking about pointing the feet, and keeping limbs straight when they should be, leads the athlete to focus on essential details of the skill being performed. 

And yes, actively thinking about what the body should do while in motion develops spatial awareness, or what we sometimes call air sense. 

All technique is the same. Initially, we all have to consider the smaller movement units to achieve competence in any skill. We did this when we learned to walk; you just don’t remember doing it. Apprehend the fact that many people who were not helped during their normal developmental stages experienced physical and psychological impediments. Some with dire consequences in adulthood that require therapy to correct bad walking. 

Form is important in power tumbling

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There is more to say

In my twenty-five years of coaching, I have seen athletes suffer career-ending injuries from bad form and technique.  

Fractured backs and dislocations of the elbows and shoulders could have been avoided if the proper positions had been held. I know people who needed knee surgery in their mid-twenties due to bad form in training. 

Think about the tremendous force the body experiences when impacting the floor or the bed of the trampoline at high speeds.

Some studies have this force measured at six times the athlete’s body weight. Still, I’ll investigate this further instead of relying on my personal experience and confirmation bias. 

Lastly, and this is a bit of a jab to those who mock gymnastics form and technique from another acrobatic discipline, remember that it all came from gymnastics. 

Most (if not all) of the tricks you do on your trampoline were invented by gymnastics. I commend you on doing big skills and pushing the limits of the sport, but never forget where it all came from. 

In the end, good form and power are the perfect combination. To do power moves in the correct body position is optimally awesome. It is optimally beautiful. 

Thank you for reading. 

— Coach José

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