Pommel Horse Training Progressions
The circle is the basic foundation for learning skills on pommel horse. It is imperative that gymnasts learn the proper technique of the circle early in their career to ensure growth in routine difficulty, stability, and efficiency. The ideal body position on the circle is a straight body. This position enables the gymnast to maintain an even weight distribution throughout a routine, and allows for a more rhythmic swing and fluid transition between skills.
When learning a circle on Pommel Horse or Mushroom, breaking the hips or “piking” is a common mistake gymnasts make. Typically, this mistake will happen around the 3/4 point of the circle as the gymnast is putting his first hand down. Instead of placing the first hand down quickly and leaning on that hand, the gymnast will appear to fall onto that hand, breaking the rhythm of the circle. If not corrected early on, this can become a hard habit for the gymnast to break and can lead to a career of frustration when trying to learn more advanced skills on pommel horse. Here is an example of a piked circle.
Using a bucket to train pommel horse will allow the gymnast to concentrate on stretching out the circle to achieve the optimal straight body position. This bucket can be used for circles, moores, one-pommel circles, spindles and more. Performing the circles on the elbows, as shown in the video, will force the gymnast to initiate the swing from higher up in the chest, further reinforcing the straight body position.
Once the gymnast has obtained a straight body circle on a mushroom, the gymnast should move to a floor mushroom. There is less clearance on the floor mushroom so the gymnast must maintain an optimal speed and body position. This drill is excellent for helping the gymnast to build the clearance he will need for high-level skills on the pommel horse. Attaching a pommel to the mushroom is extremely beneficial for single pommel skills.
Good front loops and back loops on pommel horse require the gymnast to have good extension in their circle so that they can clear the horse as their legs circle over. Some gymnasts will start to pike their loops because the hand placement is narrower than the mushroom or regular pommel circle. It is important to maintain good shoulder flexibility to prevent a constricted circle in this position. Gymnasts should remove the pommels from the horse when first training loops and back loops so they can concentrate on proper technique without fear of hitting the pommels with their legs.
A spindle is performed on a gymnastics mushroom or ultradome when the gymnast turns his hips and shoulders in the opposite direction of his circle. This should be executed with a straight body position. The hand placement will need to be faster than the speed of the circle in order to achieve the spindle action. When just beginning, a gymnast should perform 1/4 spindle within 1 full circle, and advance to achieve 1/2 spindle within 1 full circle.
Once a gymnast has achieved a straight body circle on pommel horse, learning more advanced skills can be accomplished much more quickly. The first video shows an example of moores and spindles. The second video shows a magyar, full spindle, sivado, full spindle. The final clip shows a magyar, sivado, flairs, half spindle, 2 back loops and a russian dismount.