We are all in favor of gymnastics programs using advanced video technology to provide gymnasts with feedback about what they look like doing gymnastics, but it would be foolish to ignore simple tools like mirror training that have some surprising advantages over video. On some events, like bars and vault, video is the only reasonable feedback tool, since gymnasts can’t watch themselves in a mirror while they do those events. But for beam and floor dance and poses, using mirrors provides an instant, efficient way for gymnasts to see what they look like. The feedback is instant, instead of having to rewind video and look and then go back an modify and watch the video again.
MIrror Training for Positive Body Image Coaching
Mirror training is a good place for coaches to emphasize what looks good on gymnasts and what makes them look good. Poses and skills can be modified to make gymnasts look their best, personalize their style and do something unique. Coaches should take advantage of mirror practices to build their gymnasts’ confidence in how great they look.
Mirror Training to See Your Stick Position
The first pose young gymnasts should see and work on is the stick position they use for all dismounts and tumbling pass landings (and often in the corners of floor routines before tumbling). The most common errors in this pose are not having the arms back far enough, not enough arch in the back, head and chin not up and inelegant hand and finger position. Using mirror training, gymnasts can experiment with developing their own personal style with their stick position and make sure it looks good.
Mirror Training to Ingrain Poses
Other dance poses are another perfect skill choice to use mirror training for. Again, gymnasts can instantly check how the pose looks and modify it until it looks just the way they want it to. For every pose, there should be a specific position for the head, arms, fingers, body, arch, legs and toes. Gymnasts and coaches should check for each one of those aspects of the pose and make sure they are correct and look great.
Perfect Pose, Close Eyes and Memorize
For both the stick position and poses, once gymnasts see they have the pose exactly the way they want it, they should kinesthetically memorize the way the position feels. That can best be done, in this case, by making sure the pose is perfect and then closing their eyes and memorizing how the pose feels. Regular repetition of this practice will ensure the pose remains just the way gymnasts saw it in the mirror.
Mirror Training to Watch Dance Skills and Combinations
Dance skills that move can also be watched in the mirror by strategically starting the skills where they will be able to see the skill in the mirror. Again, gymnasts should be checking the head, arms, fingers, body, arch, legs and toe positions, although they may have to modify the head position so they can watch themselves in the mirror. Dance acro combinations like round-off straddle jump are perfect for observation in the mirror. Gymnasts just start with their back to the mirror so after they do the round-off, they can see the straddle jump.
Mirror Training for Tumbling Landings
While it might be distracting for gymnasts to watch themselves in a mirror all the way through a tumbling pass, it can be instructive to watch their landing/post landing stick positions. Spotting landings on front tumbling watching yourself in the mirror is a particularly great front tumbling landing training technique.
Mirror Training for Floor Exercise
While it is fairly common for gyms to have mirrors by the floor exercise mat, this is not always the case. This should definitely be an addition to the gym that coaches and gym owners should make, if they have not already done so. Mirrors along one side of the floor should be a minimum and along two sides is better (usually works only if floor exercise mat in in a corner). If the floor is not along the wall or in a corner, portable mirrors or mirrors built with a sturdy framework can still be used. Mirrors need to be a safe distance from the floor to avoid gymnast injury and owners and coaches should consider the unbreakable mirrors that are available, although the clarity of the mirrors is not as great as real glass.
Mirror Training for Balance Beam
While mirror training may appear dangerous for balance beam work there are ways to make good use of mirrors.
Foam Floor Beam
One of the many, many reasons foam floor beams are one of my favorite pieces of equipment is that you can move them onto the floor in front of the mirrors and watch your beam dance and tumbling in the mirror without worrying about falling and injuries. Beam tumbling, dance, jumps and poses are all beam mirror work possibilities using a foam floor beam.
I also use mirrors with gymnasts working on low beam. Again, a low beam can be moved onto the floor and use the floor mirrors or a special low beam mirror station can be set up with mirrors at one or both ends of the beam (not too close for safety). Gymnasts should be taught to land skills and then quickly look in the mirror, rather than watching themselves in the mirror the whole time.
I have had high beam mirror stations in my gyms before, but I don’t necessarily recommend it for safety reasons. Gymnasts can learn how they look on a foam floor beam or a low beam, memorize the skill and they should look the same on a high beam even without a mirror. If you set up a high beam mirror station, only older, advanced gymnasts should use it.