We are continuing to look at our basic shapes and this month’s shape is pencil (straight shape). We tend to practise this shape on the floor at first but it will progress on to a straight jump as the gymnasts progress.
Step 1: Gymnast lies on their back with hands above head and arms squeezing their ears.
The shoulders are fully extended and the arms should be as flat on the ground as possible.
The legs should be fully extended and toes should be pointed.
From above the gymnast should look completely straight (not like a banana).
Step 2: Ask the gymnast to turn over on to the front.
Again you are aiming to be as flat as possible on to the floor – particularly look at the angle at the shoulder.
This should be wide open so that the armpit is as close as possible to the floor – as flat as a pancake.
Compare this picture with the one above. The angle at the shoulder is not open and the arm pit is well off the floor. Practise to be as flat as possible will help to improve flexibility in the shoulder.
Taking things one step further
Step 3: Arch
By raising the arms and legs off the floor the gymnast moves into an arch shape.
The arms should be squeezing the ears. The legs should be tight together and the toes pointed.
Step 4: Sky diver
This is not a gymnastics move but when gymnasts are starting to learn arch -and get strength in their backs, necks and legs – this is often how they will start. It gives them the right idea of ‘balancing’ on their tummies.
With practice they will move towards the arch shape.
The last shape from pencil is the dish position. We would only encourage gymnasts to work dish if they are already doing it as part of their weekly session (10am and 11am classes).
This is because when the children are small their heads are relatively big and they can find it difficult to support the weight of their heads on their necks in this position without additional help. Your gymnast will know whether they are able to attempt it or not.
Step 5: Dish
The gymnast should lie in pencil on their back. Then bring their hands down on to their thighs, keeping their arms straight.
The head and shoulders and legs should then be lifted off the floor.
The last step is to practise rolling from arch to dish and back again. See the photos below.