Toe Shoot to High Bar

Subject: Toe Shoot to High Bar

Dear Coach, My daughter is 10 and is doing very well in gymnastics. Her best event is bar. She has been learning toe shoot from low to high bar for some time. Her technique seems to be fine but she still cannot hold the bar. She has been doing drills like falling on her stomach. She is around 5 centimeters away from the bar. Her couch told her that there is nothing really that she can fix she just has to grab the bar. She really wants it very badly. Do you have any suggestions? She is kind of short.

Thank you.


Let’s talk about the toe shoot from low bar to high bar (also called sole circle catch the high bar, sit-up, chinese sit-up and hiccup) first. There are a number of improvements any one of which should add the extra 5 cm. (about two inches) to the skill. Actually she should be trying to maximize all of the techniques to give herself a margin of error in catching the bar and being in position to swing into the high bar kip.

Let’s start at the beginning of the skill and improve the techniques from the beginning also. Obviously, like most real bar skills, this skill should start in a handstand. Without starting in a handstand, it is impossible to generate the maximum amount of downswing.

Probably the most important part of the skill, the most common error and what you should spend the most time on is improving the “late drop” into the toe shoot. Late drop means staying extended from the handstand and falling fully extended for as long as possible and as late as possible to generate maximum speed before piking into the toe on.

The opposite of this would be to cast and pike on immediately before the center of gravity (the hips) have started to fall back down into the swing. This is the most common error and the swing that is not generated here cannot be made up later in the skill.

The idea is to fall straight body from the handstand until the last possible instant that the feet can be brought onto the bar. This will be well below horizontal. The actual point will be a function of the gymnast’s abdominal strength, quickness and pike flexibility.

To learn late drop we use a series of drills starting with jumping off a stack of two or three stacked mats or off a mini-tramp into a late drop, small casts into late drop until the gymnast can late drop from a handstand. Great attention is paid to body shaping.

The term “toe shoot” is an apt name for this skill. In order to catch the bar, the gymnast must shoot the skill in the right direction. For visual gymnasts (gymnasts who actually watch what they are doing), they should be watching their toes as they shoot their center of gravity (their hips) to a point in front of the high bar. The most common error at this point is shooting too early. That point should be just a little less than the length of their body from their hips to their hands. The metaphorical comparison is that you have to shoot the gun in the right direction and it helps to watch where you are pointing it. Shooting the body includes sharply and quickly extending the body straight and continuing through to an arch position.

The next main concentration is “throwing the bar” and taking advantage of that law of physics “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” To throw the bar correctly requires sufficient shoulder flexibility – somewhere around 15 – 20 degrees backwards. When the body reaches the correct angle for the toes to come off and shoot upward. As the body extends straight and then continues into an arch, the gymnast uses their shoulders and with straight arms throws the bar behind them. The harder the gymnast throws the bar backward and downward, the harder and faster they go upward and forward. Throwing harder upward and forward in the right direction can improve the chances of catching the bar.

Catching the bar is not the end of doing this skill correctly. Too many gymnasts, including some International Elites, catch the bar in virtually a dead hang and have to muscle up the kip. There are two trampoline drills that can give you a good feeling for the action that you need to use at this point in the skill. Doing seat drop and/or back drop to front drop on the tramp closely matches the action you should be doing before catching the bar. Doing (as you apparently already are) toe shoots to front drops on increasingly higher stacked mats is also a good learning tool and drill.

The body shaping for the entire skill goes from straight handstand, to round, to pike, and then up in pike to round to straight to arch. Head position is neutral, as long as eye contact is on the toes on the bar and then the eyes spot the high bar.

Working on this skill, the late drop action, the shooting action and the correct body shaping can lead to some other pretty big skills, like the Ray, named after Elise Ray which is a toe shoot into a reverse hecht action (toe shoot Tkatchev).

That’s pretty much the skill with some tips and places to look for improvement. Hope this helps.

Good luck to you and your daughter.

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