Holding Legs Up on Kips on Bars

RE: Level 8 Bar Question


Can you suggest how our daughter can prevent her feet from hitting the floor on her low bar pirouette? She’s very strong, so, she doesn’t think it’s a strength problem.

Thank you for your help,


A very good question and a common problem for both skills like handstand pirouettes on the low bar and high bar to low bar release moves like underswing to handstand on the low bar.

The three most common causes for the problem would be lack of the particular ab/quad strength needed for this skill, a broken shoulder angle coming down from the handstand into the glide and not choosing the right glide technique for your individual body capabilities.

If ab/leg lift strength is the issue, as your daughter appears not to believe, then specific gymnastics strength training for this skill is an efficient method of fixing the problem. Even if you and your daughter are convinced that ab and leg strength are not the problem, there is no such thing in gymnastics as too much strength in areas of leg form and avoiding fall deductions for hitting the feet on the mat coming out of handstands into kips. Brute strength can solve many problems on bars (not that we don’t want to teach and learn perfect technique).

While the scientific research into specificity warns against doing strength training in skills closely matched to the actual specific skills athletes do in sports competition, this is such a gross motor movement that it is not a problem here. So one method of progressively building the necessary specific strength for this skill is to wear progressively heavier ankle weights while first doing glide kips and then increasingly higher and higher cast glide kips until the gymnast can hold the legs up on the glide kip from a cast handstand with weight on the ankles. I usually start this specific skill progressive strength training process as soon as gymnasts can do kips and can cast into kips.

Probably the most common problem in this situation (and the one I Would guess is your daughters’s problem) is that the gymnast has a broken shoulder angle coming down from the handstand into the glide. When doing kips and swinging bars in general, there should be a straight line from the gymnast’s hands on the bar to their hips. If not, when the gymnast’s body passes through the bottom of the kip swing, gravity and centrifugal force jerk the shoulder angle straight pulling the body down, including the legs, which snap down and hit the mat.

The solution to this problem is to re-teach the gymnast to immediately straighten their shoulder angle in the handstand (in your daughter’s case, as soon as she finishes the pirouette). Again, this is something that I would normally teach relatively early in the kip-cast series training process. To review and relearn it correctly, your daughter needs to learn to straighten the shoulder angle right after casting starting from low casts into kips and working up to a kip-cast-handstand series with a straight shoulder angle.

The third potential problem has to do with the action of the gymnast’s legs during the glide. There is a tremendous variety of techniques that you see gymnasts doing in glides for kips out of a handstand, even at the Elite International level. Some of the variety has to do with gymnasts adapting to variances in where they are, how fast they are moving, the angle at which they get their shoulder angle extended (or do not) and which methods they are familiar with.

The variety of techniques for the leg action in glides from a handstand includes the commonly known pike glides and straddle glides. But in addition to those there are other techniques and an almost infinite combination of the common and unusual techniques. The two unusual techniques that I teach includes a leg action similar to a drop kip, where the toes are held relatively close to the bar as the body comes down (instead of normally holding them just off the floor in the kip glide) and a straddle glide with a leg circle action (from small to large circling actions). Again, I teach all of these from very early in the kip and kip-cast series process). You can enhance practice of these using ankle weights.

Most likely, the cause of the problem is the broken arm angle. Check video of her on this skill and check to see if there is or isn’t a straight line from her hands to her hips. If the shoulder angle is not straight, you will likely see it jerk straight through the bottom of the swing causing the legs to drop and hit the floor.

I hope that helps as this is the best I can do without actually seeing her doing the skills. Good luck!

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