For Coaches Thumb position - uneven bars

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Jun 9, 2013
How do you teach your gymnasts to grasp the bar?

I always assumed that except for pirouetting skills, maybe catching a Pak/overshoot and front giants, the thumb is placed on the same side as the other fingers. However, I've had coaches tell me they teach their little gymnasts to switch the thumb to go around the bar when reaching the support phase in a kip, as well as on close bar elements (free hips, etc.). I've always corrected this (made them put the thumb on top) because I feel with little hands, they tend to bend their arms a lot when switching the thumb to go around the bar. Now I'm coaching a gymnast who works with a men's coach once a week and he has taught her to switch her thumb even on baby giants. I don't feel this is safe at all, because the girl is not able to keep her arms straight while doing this.

So how do you teach that?
I teach my gymnasts (squad gymnasts) to have thumbs the same side as fingers but to switch it to other side in handstands (for better support) pike ons etc.
For the recreational group I coach I teach them to have thumb same side as fingers regardless of whether they are in regular or reverse grip.

Hope that helps :)
I have them do thumbs on top (next to other fingers) for all regular-grip skills. If they start switching the thumb to go around on handstands/pirouettes, I don't have them change it, but I don't encourage it either. In my opinion the least amount of adjustment the better.
The gym I work at teaches thumb around the bar in support skills (casts, shoot through, pirouettes) for better grip and balance. They then slide the thumb next to the fingers during circling skills and swings. Works well.
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I don't force anything. Most of the best uneven bars workers switch their thumbs to the opposite side of the rail in support and back over to the same side on swings. Their are always some outliers in gymnastics. That said, using your thumbs on giants on women's unevens is not a technique I would encourage. Men's high is completely different.
I don't really feel that most young kids can efficiently wrap their thumbs completely around in a support skll, so I prefer them to simply move them on top of the bar (parallel with the bar), and then back with the other fingers as they swing down.

I feel like this gives them the sense of balance that is required for good handstands later without having to move the thumbs around so much that they think more about that than about the skills that they are completing.

As kids get more comfortable with basics like giants and cast handstands, and begin working on more difficult skills, I tend to let them figure out what is comfortable to them, but with my beginners, I always teach that the thumb is not with the fingers in support.
I think of it like men's p-bars. Thumbs around in support, and make the switch in the transition to and from hang. I have seen a few men do certain under-bar skills with their thumbs around... as gymdog said, there are always outliers.
I have always switched naturally. when doing things like cast clear hip. The thumbs will naturally change from grasping around the bar to on top. But I was always told thumbs on top. And constantly am getting told to put them on top. So have gotten used to doing everything on top besides giants where I still wrap thumbs around bar when in handstand.
We do not teach the thumb flip because it promotes an automatic arm bend during the shift. Once they get much older and close to graduating I will teach them to flip thumbs in casts, (because some of the college coaches may want it).
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