One of my favorite skills to teach and perfect as a boys’ coach is a swing handstand on p-bars. I feel it is a skill that is often taught improperly and without correct attention to detail, and yet it is one of the most important basic skills for a developing young gymnast. A swing handstand is one of the rare skills in gymnastics that combines strength and power with artistry and body line. A great swing handstand is a beautiful blend of upper body strength, body tightness and alignment, toe point, leg form, balance, handstand position, and control. When taught properly, it is one of the most impressive aspects of a young gymnast’s gymnastics.
I included a couple of drills here that I have found very helpful in teaching a swing handstand. One of the biggest challenges a coach faces when teaching a swing handstand is the “fear factor” involved. Many boys are extremely fearful of a handstand on the high parallel bars, and even more so when done from a swing where they feel out of control. “Crashing” on a handstand on the big p-bars can be among the most traumatic and frightening experiences for a young male gymnast, as can “buckling” through the bottom of the swing. I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve seen crash on a handstand on p-bars and NEVER swing with the same confidence again. The trauma can literally last for years, if not for the rest of the gymnast’s career. This is why it is ESPECIALLY important to take your time as a coach when teaching a swing handstand, and NEVER rush the kid into a situation where he may crash. Not only is it dangerous both physically and psychologically for the kid, but I can ASSURE you that you will pay for it dearly as a coach.
Though we take numerous steps and have many drills for both the swing and the handstand itself, I really like this one because it emphasizes the “locked out” position that must be obtained with each handstand. I believe this drill really helps to build the confidence of a young gymnast in performing the skill on the high parallel bars, which should still be gradually developed with a spot for a LONG TIME before allowing the kid to do them on his own.
Bungee swing handstand drills
This bungee device is most often used for cast handstands on uneven bars or high bar, but it works perfectly for a swing handstand on p-bars as well. The two kids in this video have been in the process of perfecting and gaining confidence in their handstand positions for the past year and a half. Although they are certainly not perfected yet, they both have come a very long way. I still spot both of them on most of their swing handstands and constantly help mold them into the right shape, but the gymnast below has developed enough confidence where I know he can at least comfortably do them on his own:
Still needs some straightening out of the lower back and shoulder angle, but he has come INCREDIBLY far in the last year. Just one year ago he literally had no concept of how to hold a handstand or swing to one confidently on his own. Just being able to stand back and film allows me to see how well many of our drills have paid off.
I think this bungee device is also perfect for swing early pirouettes as well as for front giant and front giant-pirouette drills on high bar. Hopefully I’ll get some videos of these very soon and post them as well.
What drills do you find helpful for teaching swing handstands on p-bars?