Debunking More Twisting Direction Myths

There is still too little agreement on how to choose twisting direction for gymnasts just learning to twist. Just so we know the methods I advocate and what I teach are not theoretical, I have had 5 girls out of a 40 girl team doing triple fulls on floor including some young Level 8s. In the same year every Level 8 was doing at least double full on floor and every girl on the team, including Level 5’s were doing fulls on tramp, rod floor and/or floor. I have never had any problems teaching and coaching multiple twisting. Somewhat separate topics but have also successfully taught and coached full-ins, double-doubles, and full-outs.

We Leave It to Others to Debate. We Already Have a Successful System that Works

Twisting is an area of considerable confusion and debate. While we don’t expect to win the debate we hope to eliminate some of the confusion. Again, we have seen coaches pick twisting direction for their tumblers in a wide variety of ways. Some coaches are rather casual about the decision and just ask a gymnast to jump and turn around. Some check the direction a gymnast does their step full turn (the dance skill) on floor. Some coaches look at current good twisters and apply their individual situation to all their gymnasts. We have even seen a coach who taught all his gymnasts to twist left because that was the only way he could spot. And some coaches are very serious about how twisting direction should be decided and which way they believe is the right way to twist.

Humans and Gymnasts are Infinitely Variable

Everyone, including me, should first acknowledge that there are successfull Elite gymnasts twisting in all of the possible variations of ways. Eye dominance, handedness, left or right-brained, strong or weak corpus collosum right – left brain communication, foot dominance, kinesthetic skill feelings all may or do affect twisting direction dominance. As I have also stated, having a training system is often more important than what the system actually is. Gymnasts have made Elite with a wide variety of systems.

Twisting is as Complex as the Human Brain

The problem in determining twisting is the interweaving complexity of physical factors, handedness and brain side dominance. Statistical analysis has revealed no clear pattern or key which can be used to predict twisting direction. There are successful twisters of all kinds and who twist in completely different directions given the same physical similarities.

The Round-Off Determinant

Our absolute go-to choice for method of choosing twisting direction is the twisting direction of the round-off. The round-off is a sufficiently complex skill for gymnasts to have a definite preference and can determine both front and back twisting direction. Is there is ever a problem with gymnasts not knowing their good side round-off from their bad? Really, I have never seen that. Every gymnast who is ready to twist already knows which way they round-off. Proper progression means choosing somersaulting twisting direction before we teach a round-off. Really? Round-off dominance choice seems to be way more valid and powerful than rolling or running around on the floor, jump turns or any other choice method like those.

Barani = Round-Off Determinant

For front twisting, a barani is just simply an aerial version of a round-off and the twisting direction should be the same. And it is definitely good practice to twist the same direction both backwards and forwards. Barani is a round-off with no hands. What makes them so similar? Because both skills are 1/4 in, 1/4 out twisting skills. Makes no sense for a gymnast’s barani to be a different twisting direction than their round-off. I know the Canadians think they can choose twisting direction early. Asking very young, impressionable gymnasts to chose their career long twisting direction by jumping and turning. They will be responding with their conscious mind, when it is actually their subconscious mind that performs all physical movement. Do we have any solid scientific research on whether anything works better than using “natural” round-off twisting direction?

The Jump Full Turn Test

Testing for full turn or jump turn direction might possibly have its only validity in gymnasts experienced enough to recognize which direction they feel most comfortable. The problem is still that young gymnasts may not recognize which direction is best for them due to a lack of experience and youth. Testing both the jump full turn twisting direction and the step full turn twisting direction gives more data. If in both cases the direction is the same, well that definitely creates some credibility. But none of that really significantly changes the natural dominance of round offs as a determinant.

Early and Late Twisting Can/Should be Done Differently

Early twisting direction has to be the same as late twisting direction. If you are leaned forward and twist off the floor that takeoff is the significantly the same as your takeoff for front tumbling and it makes no sense for that twisting direction to be different. This is a relatively obvious safety issue. It is likely that gymnasts at some time or another will either accidentally late or early twist. If the twisting direction in not the same, they may get lost and risk injury.

Should Modify Twisting by Doing Early or Late Twisting

For safety and fast learning progression, I am an absolute late twisting advocate, but I cannot advocate for ignoring the possibility that a gymnast will or will have to twist early and if coaches have tried to modify twisting by forcing them to change with early/late twisting, they will have no experience twisting that direction and will not be safely prepared for it. Trying to teach a gymnast to do their barani or fool them into doing it a different twisting direction by using late twisting. And what happens if you try to teach them a skill where you have to twist early, like a half-in back out? With a full?

Make the Wrong Twisting Choice and Suffer the Consequences

There are many advanced skills that have twisting direction choice ramifications. Skills like Arabian double front – twist one direction going into Arabian back twisting direction and then barani out twisting in the other direction. I think not. 1&1/2 and 2&1/2 twisting step-outs going into a round-off that twists the other direction – problem. Virtually any double somersaulting skill on any event that twists in and out will be affected. Understand What your Choice Means for Your Choice of Skills

Don’t Try/Bother to Change Long-Established Twisting Habits

In spite of how persuasive our justifications for choice of twisting direction are, we cannot advocate that anyone who has already established their full twisting direction attempt to change the direction of their twist at this point. Changing habits simply takes too much time and work and you may not end up any better twister after the change, anyway.

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2 Responses to “Debunking More Twisting Direction Myths”

  1. Karen November 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    I know this is an old post, but a lot of it goes completely against what we teach at our club so I thought I would put a word in for an alternative view for other people who come across this article:

    From personal experience as a gymnast and coach, most gymnast’s natural twisting direction is the opposite way from what they will cartwheel or round-off.

    I would theorise that the reason that the cartwheel, and later round-off, twists the other way is because when gymnasts initially learn to cartwheel, they place the same leg forwards as they would in a handstand. This is later transferred to round-off. For this reason, I would disagree that round-off is a good determiner of twisting direction as it is more likely to instead show which leg is more dominant.

    This been said, there obviously are exceptions. If your club trains both cartwheel directions evenly before moving onto round-off then this may not factor. Additionally, some gymnasts natural twisting direction will be the same as in their round-off.

    We therefore use a variety of ‘twist tests’ to determine which way a gymnast most naturally twists. These include spins, turning jumps, twists during a falls forwards and backwards, running forwards turning round and running back again etc. We may also try both directions when gymnasts learn their first twisting somersault to see which is more natural. In the majority of cases it is the opposite direction to their round-off.

    Therefore for the majority of gymnasts, we coach all moves to twist in the same direction, with the exception of the cartwheel/round-off which twists in the opposite.

    However, I must completely agree that it is most important to have a policy on twist direction and that policy is kept to, regardless of what this is.

    I would also add that our club teaches the barani as a front somersault with a late half-twist out, opposed to a quarter turn in-quarter turn out. I think more clubs are moving towards this approach now. This is to help avoid ‘barani confusion’ when the somersault twist direction should be different than it is in round-off, although with the policy in the article above this obviously wouldn’t be a problem.

    • Gymnastics Zone January 2, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

      There is no doubt that twisting direction is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the sport of gymnastics.

      It seems that every gymnastics coach has an opinion on determining twisting direction. But opinions are like…

      Since all learned physical movements are actually “trained habits” controlled by the subconscious mind, conscious mind testing of inexperienced athletes makes little sense as a determinant.

      Coaches need a systematic method of choosing twisting direction in order to train efficiently.

      A round-off is not a skill which gymnasts will do to both sides. They always have a dominant side round-off and the preference is extremely pronounced. This makes them a skilled choice on which to base future twisting direction it more difficult skills.

      An evaluation of the round-off and twisting directions of international gymnasts gives extremely mixed results with especially US gymnasts and Eastern bloc gymnasts displaying very different tendencies. I was trained by Russian World Champion tumbling coaches and my systems are based on their training and successful results. (It always seems to prove interesting to learn the tumbling success levels of the various coaches with their varying opinions).

      As regards to twisting step-outs, it should be obvious that in a right twist, the right foot comes around first and therefore should step down first, leading to a (second step out) left foot in front “left” round-off (and vice versa).

      Finally, while clubs are free to teach however they wish, by definition a barani is a quarter turn in – quarter turn out somersaulting skill. It is not a front somersault with a half twist (late or otherwise). Feel free to teach what you want, but trying to change the actual definition of a skill is hardly a wise gymnastics educational choice. And it is difficult to see how that will be anything but confusing to gymnasts, when they encounter other gymnasts and coaches who know and use the correct definition of the skill.

      High level T&T (Tumbling & Trampoline) athletes, who do the most difficult tumbling in the world, do numerous versions of barani out/rudi out/randi out skills and they do not do them in a front somersault-late 1/2 out style.

      Thanks for your theories, opinions and suppositions but this seems hardly convincing.

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