As with other events for women, it is often instructive to watch what the men are doing and plan that in four, eight or twelve years, that women will be doing the same vaults. It is rather obvious that the immediate future of women’s vaulting will come from adding another 1/2 twist to the 2&1/2 twisting Amanars and other twisting vaults, that are currently being done. Gymnasts are already training those vaults for possible performance in the 2012 London Olympics.
Men’s Vaulting Often Leads the Way
Men’s vaulting is leading in another direction that does not just include adding another 1/2 or full twist to current vaults. Virtually all vaults competed at the international level now are some version of a double rotation (some with various amounts of twisting), from the board to the landing. Men have already added that new dimension of doing triple rotating vaults. See a sample of what men are currently doing and we will begin to discuss what it will take for women to graduate to triple rotating vaults.
Men are already capable of doing triple rotating vaults with various amounts of twisting, due to their superior strength. What will it take for women to begin to compete triple rotating vaults?
Few men or women have maximized the speed of their run into their vaults, especially Yurchenko vaults. Some women do not even run the full length of the vault runway, when doing Yurchenko vaults. While safety is certainly always an issue, it is apparent that the speed of the run into front side of the Yurchenko vault has a lot of room for improvement. More speed adds the potential for more power, height, distance and air time in the back side of the vault. In order to do triple rotating vaults, women must maximize their run with speed training and front side consistency (at speed) training.
Straight Shoulder Angle
Many men and women are doing their vaults with a broken shoulder angle, which even for strong gymnasts, reduces the block and power they can generate doing the vault. This is especially true on handspring front type vaults (whether traditional or out of a round-off entry) and Yurchenko vaults. Women can afford no technical errors in their vault execution, if they expect to ever perform triple rotating vaults.
Stronger, Quicker Block
Explosive shoulder power is a function of the type of strength training program that gymnasts and coaches are using. Many of the strength and conditioning programs, being done in women’s gymnastics today, are not capable of maximizing shoulder strength enough to increase women’s vaulting block. While overall strength and power are an advantage for men, many women are faster and quicker. A faster and quicker block developed using upper body plyometrics can take advantage of women’s natural speed and quickness to add more block to their vault.
There are only a very few gymnasts who lift their Yurchenko and Tzukahara vaults. Most gymnasts are in too much of a hurry to rotate or twist that they do not do virtually any lift at all, even on very difficult vaults that need more air time. They go immediately into the tuck or pike or twist without lifting. The concept of lift in tumbling is well understood, but in vaulting (essentially tumbling over an apparatus), lift is seldom trained or used. For women, the lift will need to be quick, but without it, triple rotating Yurchenko type vaults are not going to get done.
Quicker, Tighter Compression
You see many vaulters doing vaults in an inefficient tuck or pike position, not being tightly enough compressed. The open tuck position, necessary for many multiple somersault twisting vaults, is often done in an especially inefficient manner. Women have somewhat of an advantage here, because they are likely to be able to compress more tightly and in a tighter tuck or pike compression than men. The smaller the radius, the faster the rotation possible. Women trained to use their quickness to quickly and tightly compress their tuck and pike vaults will be able to rotate faster, requiring less air time and power to do the same vaults. A strong program of teaching and learning to quickly get into the tightest possible tuck or pike position is necessary to move up to the next level of vaulting.
I am constantly amazed how slowly some gymnasts rotate skills and how little attention coaches pay to the speed of rotation, in both tumbling and vaulting. For both safety and efficiency, gymnasts need to learn to rotate quickly in tuck, open tuck and pike positions. A program of training dedicated to learn to rotate quickly, both forwards and backwards, must be instituted if women are to move up to the next level of vault. We use the trampoline and trampoline into the pit to train gymnasts to rotate more quickly.
Faster, More Efficient Twist
The faster a twist can be completed, the less air time a vault will need. Strangely, knowing that multiple twisting somersault vaults and skills require efficient twisting, many coaches and programs do not even purposely teach the open tuck position or open tuck twisting, until gymnasts need it for multiple somersault twisting. Many women, including those who are most likely to try to do any triple rotating vault with twisting, have never done open tuck twisting at all, until the are trying to learn the more difficult vaults or tumbling. This is a complete violation of proper progression, and yet, it is an extremely common situation in many gyms. Female vaulters will need to learn to quickly and efficiently twist in a tight open tuck position, if they are ever going to twist any triple rotating vault.