Using the Parallel Bars in Gymnastics

By: Jimmy Cox

Parallel bars represent the most desirable apparatus for the aspiring gymnasts. It is easier to learn most of the fundamentals that are common to other apparatus on the Parallel bars. It is here that the fundamentals of tumbling are most easily applied to apparatus. Time spent on the Parallel bars is usually rewarding in terms of stunts learned and in terms of progress on other apparatus.

Description of Activities

Stunt (1): Riding Seat Mount

Prerequisites: General conditioning and familiarity with upper arm hang position.

Description: Roll back on the bars until the buttocks are above the bars; then place the hips on one bar and roll up to a sitting position on one bar.

Major Cues: Kick one leg up to facilitate lifting the hips. Roll on the bar to a sitting position.

Teaching Procedures: Assume upper arm hang (bars at armpits, arms along bars, elbows outside); kick one leg up and immediately follow it with the other leg. Roll back until the buttocks are above the bars; then shift the hips over to rest on the left bar.

As this is done, rotate the left hand to the outside of the bar so that it will be out from under the hips. At this point the body should be in a tight pike position. Now lower the feet quickly and, as the feet and legs are lowered, lift the head and sit upon the left bar. Now drop to the mat on the outside of the left bar.

Frequent Errors: Throwing legs over bar; not rolling to the pike position with the hips above the bars.

Safety Precautions: Caution students about landing when they drop off the bar.

Stunt (2): Straddle Mount

Prerequisites: Riding seat mount. General conditioning, and some instruction on kicking one leg to help elevate the hips.

Description: Roll back from the upper arm hang until the hips are above the bars, then spread the legs and roll forward to a straddle position above the bars.

Major Cues: Roll back and roll up; spread the legs wide.

Teaching Procedures: From an upper arm support position, kick one leg up and over the head. Follow it immediately with the other leg. Roll back by pressing down on the bars with the hands. When the hips are above the bars, spread the legs wide and place the finger tips under the hips; then lower the legs and lunge the head forward to roll forward to a sitting position astride both bars.

Frequent Errors: Not rolling back. Not spreading the legs wide. Failing to lunge the head forward to facilitate roll.

Safety Precautions: Warn the performer to fix the shoulders, thus eliminating a sagging support.

Stunt (3): Swing Forward and Dismount (To Left Side)

Prerequisites: Some practice swinging. Also practice dropping from the seat on one bar to the ground.

Description: Swing forward; lift the legs up and over one bar; then drop to the ground on that side. Hold on to the side bar for balance.

Major Cues: Push the bars away; bend the knees on alighting; change the hands on the bars and maintain contact with the apparatus.

Teaching Procedures: While swinging slightly less than the height of the bars, lift the legs by piking slightly; at the forward end of the swing push against the bars to the right and swing the legs over the left bar. As the body passes over the left bar, grasp the left bar with the right hand; release the bar with the left hand. Maintain contact with the right hand on the left bar to aid the balance upon landing.

Frequent Errors: Failing to keep contact with bar. Bending the knees as the feet pass over the bars. (This causes the feet to hit the bars.)

Safety Precautions: The spotter can stand behind the performer and catch under his outside arm. Small boys should try the stunt from the low bars.

Remember practice makes perfect on the parallel bars!

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