Sole Circle Dismount

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Jun 12, 2008
I have several level 2s in my class who simply CANNOT keep their feet on the bar long enough to execute a sole-circle (straddle, not pike) and this is when their feet actually make it to the bar :) Their feet instantly drop off.

I am using the drill where you lower the bar and have them jump to a straddle-on and fall onto a mat on their rumps, as well as the drill where you have them jump from the block to the bar in a straddle. I have also tried a drill where I have them sit in a small straddle facing me and I do the same with our feet touching. I then have them hold my hands and we press our feet into each other so they can get the feel of really pushing their feet into the bar while also pulling on the bar with their hands. I have tried holding them in the straddle-on position while pulling back on their hips and telling them not to let their feet leave the bar. I have told them to push through their hips. In other words, I have tried EVERYTHING I know of to no avail!

PLEASE help!


Coach & Mom
Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Feb 5, 2006
Have you tried putting a large pit mat under the bar and have them climb up to the straddle position, don't let them fall back until they are fully extended and pulling on the bar. Have them land on the pit mat still holding onto the bar, they should land on their buts with arms still extended and legs straight.


How about having them hang under the bar, bring their feet up so they're in a sole circle position, and give them a little swing back and forth a few times? You have to really hold their hands and feet on the bar - some of them like to let go - but it makes them try to keep their feet on for an extended period of time rather than just for a split second like they would in an actual sole circle. I like to do this drill where I swing them three times and then have them "dismount". The "dismount" mostly consists of my taking their feet off the bar, arm behind the back to extend them, and then hands off while they're getting the feel of the skill.


I have them do the hop on from front support, straddle fall to their butt on something soft. I go over head inside the arms and nice extension.

They grip the bar by pulling but push the bar away through their shoulders and arms. Same thing with legs. Initially I place their feet in the arch of their foot but I'm told forefoot is better for sole circles.

I also do a drill where they learn how to in effect squat on in a straddle, then tuck or pike. Situate two big blocks lower than the bar and have them cast and get their legs on top in a straddle. Build this up with mats till they are on the bar.

Learning how to just hold on while swinging them in the sole circle position is a defnite must.

We teach this first then a jump like a glide swing ( hollow shoulders, head in, jumping up/back [ which is difficult for 2's and 3's ) and straddle on, swing off in the front.

When they can do a straddle squat on, they are gonna have a nice sole circle dis if they can hang on. Going to squat on is easier this way as well.

I'll spot for under the bar or I am if they are small spot through the entire skill in slow mo. I have gotten kicked really bad in spotting sole circles and thus I don't bother to spot it much anymore. Nothing like telling your friends you got a black eye by getting kicked by a 8 or 12yo girl.
Sep 13, 2007
way out West
One thing I see a lot of coaches try to do is get a young gymnast to go for sole circle dismounts from a block/ support above the bar first, when really, the earlier their feet go on, the harder it is to keep their feet on.

The lower the surface they jump from (even the floor), the better, then build up the height so that their feet go on the bar earlier and earlier. It's important that they learn to jump up, away from the bar and push on it while their feet contact the bar. If they don't understand this concept early, every time they drop from above the bar, their feet will slip right off.

They really never need to "push" with their feet. It's best to push the bar away with the arms and "hook" their feet on the bar like hands, so that the feet move with the hands instead of stopping, whereby falling off the bar.

Trying this approach with all the other great ideas above should work if you are willing/able to take a small step back
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Jul 5, 2007
They really never need to "push" with their feet. It's best to push the bar away with the arms and "hook" their feet on the bar like hands, so that the feet move with the hands instead of stopping, whereby falling off the bar.

I would really highlight this as an essential verbal cue if they are not getting it. We used to need this dismount for high school bar routines, because an underswing isn't acceptable. There were lots of problems with letting go under the bar no matter where they did it from. If they don't understand the mechanics of the skill (which they most likely don't) one of the more common initial assumptions seems to be that you should drive the feet off on the swing down (rather than the swing up) and that the body will somehow follow. In the USAG system we have a sole circle in 3 (? I think) and an underswing in 4. I see where they're going with that in general, but I have found at least a decent underswing to be necessary in order to see correct performance of the upswing release. One of our problems is that since a sole circle was a dismount and an underswing wasn't, we had people just trying a sole circle without having worked on their underswing. Once they understood the direction of the underswing, the sole circles improved at least marginally (even if they let go early they usually achieved more horizontal distance instead of falling under the bar).

However we were also dealing with some less than ideal strength and what we really found people improved with, rather than working from the straddle on (which in our case, since we were not training pre-team or young gymnasts) usually suffered from flexibility and strength problems in establishing the position. We moved to routines that ended with the hands on the high bar and the feet on the low bar, push away to grab low, into a sole circle (spotted with two people on either side at first). The old L5 dismount. Once they got over the initial "scarier" feeling of that, they usually found it easier since it put them in a better initial position than their squat ons and gave them a little "thinking time" before they started the skill. If I was training L3 pre-team I probably wouldn't do this, but in some situations it might help complement the squat on training. Of course in a real gym I'd have to rig something up so I didn't have to mess with the bars spread so much probably.
Jun 12, 2008
Thanks so much for all the tips and advice! I have now gotten one of the girls to keep her feet on the bar, she's now afraid to let go with her hands. We're working on that and it will get better. The main issue now is that she can't cast out and put her feet on the bar. Even from a block her feet never hit the bar. She can keep the feet on if she does a pizza hang and has me swing her, she just needs to be able to cast and get her feet on.

The main problem seems to be the fear of casting with her shoulders over the bar, she wants to push away because of the fear of falling over the top of the bar. I have taught her that if she does tip over the top, she can just let go of the bar and hop over it to the floor with her feet, but she's still afraid and wimping out :) I've tried standing in front of her holding her shoulders forward and blocking her fall, but she claims it's harder to cast with me holding on to her.

I know that once she does it one single time, she will have that "aha! moment" and be able to repeat it, but it's just taking so long!
Jun 12, 2008
Yay! One of them did it! I drilled her to keep her feet on the bar by placing a barrel standing up on the other side, and then swinging her, telling her NOT to let her feet come off the bar until her bottom knocked the barrell over. Then I kept moving it further and further away until her bottom was up high enough in the swing for her to release her feet. Then I took the barrel away and she got it. Thanks for all the great drills! Let's just hope my other ones get it soon! :)


The main problem seems to be the fear of casting with her shoulders over the bar, she wants to push away because of the fear of falling over the top of the bar. I have taught her that if she does tip over the top, she can just let go of the bar and hop over it to the floor with her feet, but she's still afraid and wimping out :) I've tried standing in front of her holding her shoulders forward and blocking her fall, but she claims it's harder to cast with me holding on to her.

I would have her straddle cast on top of the bar and "fall" over so she can see that it's no big deal to just lift the hands off the bar and jump down. Fear can really make a kid hold back so I like to make them practice the "oops, I screwed up" version of the skill so they know they'll be safe if they miss.


Use straps?

You could also try it on shiney bar (strap bar)... that way friction is reduced and also easier to support.


Proud Parent
Nov 4, 2009
North Carolina
I would train it as a cast squat one or straddle on. I really don't like the USAG Level 3 for many reasons. The sole circle dismount is one of them since if it its done correctly, it is very difficult to land on your feet. I once had a 6 year old working these (when we did level 3) and she developed a very good toe on front into the pit.
All of that aside, I'd focus on controlling the squat/straddle on. This should help focus on getting the shoulders over the bar. Once they get up there with control, they can either push back into the sole circle or stand up for a bar change.


Club Owner / Manager
Mar 23, 2009
West Midlands, England

So glad you have had some success so far!

Thought I'd just add my 'method' of teaching this dismount

1. Start on a floor bar, have the gymnasts stand on the bar in straddle, holding on with hands, and really go through all the things you want them to remember - straight legs, tiptoes on the bar, head between arms. Then tell them to 'pull' the bar with their hands and 'push' the bar with their feet, without bending the legs. Then get them to fall backwards to sit on a mat, still with hands and feet in contact with the bar.

2. As above with a jump to straddle on to the bar.

3. Move to the low bar, have the gymnast upward circle to front support, then you move round behind them. Hold onto the back of their legs, and lift them to straddle on (they must have straight arms and legs throughout) and get them to jump off the bar. (If you are on your own, this is how I'd do it, if you are with another coach, You can both stand at the side of the bar, holding upper arm and one leg each, and lift them up this way)

4. As number 3 but this time you lower the gymnast down to horizontal, then slowly let go of them telling them not to take their feet off the bar at all. Repeat this over and over, letting go of the gymnast earlier and earlier until you are letting go right ontop of the bar. They still shouldn't be taking their feet off the bar. During this phase it might be possible to get the gymnast to straddle on from a cast if they are confident with it.

5. Now work on the release part. Have the gymnast hang under the bar with feet in straddle, and you lift them up to the point of release. (Make sure you have a good grip on them, I like to hold them around thier back so that if they let go with hands and feet I've still got them!) When at the point of release, tell them to take their feet off the bar, fully extend their body, and then release with the hands. Look at where they land and put a marker down (this is for later)

6. Combine numbers 4 and 5: Either straddle on, or lift the gymnast to straddle on, lower down slowly right to the point of release, take feet off, extend body, take hands off and land. As with number 4, let the gymnast do the lowering down on their own from different points until they are doing the whole thing on their own. Tell them to aim to land on their marker

7. If you haven't already got the gymnast to straddle on from a cast then this is the last phase for me, I just do hundreds with support, ensuring that the gymnast has straight legs and arms.

following this method, I've actually had gymnasts who have achieved this skill in 30 minutes, but others have obviously taken longer.

Just one other thing - I never teach this skill until the gymnast can squat onto the bar on their own. The straddle on is much easier than the squat on, so it might seem a bit backwards teaching straddle second, but having done it the other way round in the past, I've decided I like it this way best! If they learn the straddle first, I find teaching squat on very difficult because it is scarier than the straddle, so if I teach the squat first, they think the straddle is super duper easy and get it straight away!

Hope something helps!


We do not compete level 2 so I don't teach this skill until level 3 as a squat on, pike sole circle.

I usually do not start teaching it until the child has their mill circle or is very close. Once they have their leg cuts and mill circle they have a good understanding of supporting their weight on their hands on the bar.

At this point they have been doing straddle hang and pike hang on the bar for 5 sec. at a time since they started in a preschool or beginner class, and have been doing reverse bar dips (front support then push the bar down as close to the knee as possible in a tight hollow position) since they joined the developmental program.

Our average 6 yr old level 3 picks this skill up in one practice. We have them in a front support on the bar. Standing behind the bar I take both legs by the outside of the thigh and move them through a slow cast and then pull them back to sit on my shoulder and put their feet on the bar. I let them sit there for a few seconds and adjust hands/feet and make sure they are pulling/pushing before letting them swing down. (after letting go I grab the wrist and/or back as they swing down the first time) Most of them do not want to sit on my shoulder a 2nd time and ask if they can try to get their feet on the bar themselves.

At this point they have been doing pike hangs and swings, and bar dips as side stations for 6mo-1yr. and are familiar with and strong in those positions. They know how to lean over and push on the bar and are comfortable with their feet on the bar, it just takes a practice or two to put the pieces together.

I think it would be much harder to teach this to level 2's. If you are not doing it I would add reverse bar dips maybe even with their legs in a straddle so they get the feel of how much work the arms and hands have to do while getting their feet to and on the bar. And use a swinging straddle hang as a side station where they have to climb on a pretty low bar hands first then one foot at a time and swing.
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