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Coach Sommer

Basic Bucket Circle Training Tips

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Coach Sommer

Bucket circles, as well as circles in general, can be rather complicated initially to get a handle on. The majority of issues with circle training arise as to the fact that when performing circles you will essentially be combining a support with a swing; two elements that on first appraisal appear to be diametrically opposed. Circles are however well worth the effort; consistent training of this element will deliver enormous benefits to the practitioner in terms of shoulder girdle and core strength.

Here are a few tips to help your own circles and bucket work become more fluid:

1) Perhaps the most difficult aspect of circles for most people to grasp is that this element is a swing, NOT a support. The body will be "hanging" in between the hands. It is this "hang" that allows the body to swing fluid circles; much like a soft towel can be "snapped" - but a stiff bar cannot.

2) For this very reason, I introduce all of my athletes to circle training by having them do upper arm circles on the parallel bars. This allows them to immediately and clearly feel what I mean by the body hanging while performing circles.

To perform upper arm circles, begin from a straight arm support on the parallel bars. Now dip down until your shoulders are completely on top of your hands and then fall back until you are resting in a upper-arm support with your upper arms firmly on top of the rails. While in upper arm support, your hands will continue to hang unto the bars. In order to not fall through the bars, you will need to maintain firm pressure with the upper arms and shoulder girdle.

Now simply begin to swing your legs around in a circle. Please note that I said swing and not lift. There should be no segmentation of the body; the body should swing freely and smoothly as a single unit.

3) Once you feel that you have mastered upper arm circles enough to move onto bucket circles, I recommend that you lower the bucket until it is only a few inches off of the ground.

4) Strive to keep the arms firm, but the shoulder girdle relaxed. To feel this relaxed shoulder girdle, assume a straight arm support (the beginning position of a dip) on a dipping bar. Now keeping the arms straight, simply allow your shoulders to relax and your neck to sink downward in between the shoulders. There is no need to over exaggerate the degree of sag, just allow the body to do whatever is most natural and comfortable.

5) At your level of development, my recommendation is to not consciously push down during your circles; but to rather concentrate your focus on letting your body continue to "hang" while swinging. For beginners, pushing down will almost always cause you to either lift the feet in front, or lift the hips/back/shoulder girdle in the rear. There is a subtle, but substantial difference between leaning on the arms and pushing down with the arms.

6) The 3/4 of the circle is usually the most difficult part to perform correctly. The temptation to push down and lift the hips here to complete the circle is extreme; do not give in to it.

7) To make your circle larger and more fluid, either lean more to the sides during the circles, swing faster, or both.

8 ) A fun way to very quickly increase your proficiency in the bucket is to play "Add On" with a friend. To play Add On, the first player will perform a skill in the bucket. The next player will perform that skill plus then add a new one of his own. The game goes on in this back and forth manner, creating a longer and longer series of skills strung together. When someone makes an error (i.e. unable to complete a skill in the series), they get one additional attempt. If they miss again, they are out.

Pommel horse routines on YouTube are an excellent resource for seeing new skills to try in the bucket and to use in Add On. What would be impossible to perform without years of practice, now becomes plausible with the bucket and a great way to help you begin to break down the intricacies of pommel horse on your own. In addition, bucket training is just plain fun. My own athletes will occasionally play Add On in the bucket for an hour or more until they quite literally can no longer hold themselves up - and they will literally be laughing and smiling the entire time 8).

9) Extensive work in the bucket will require that you use the correct equipment. By far the best training mushrooms on the market today are the EGE versions. I believe in them so strongly that I have two of them in my gym. The EGE pommel trainers have a far greater curve to the top surface than traditional mushrooms which greatly diminishes the stress on the wrist from training. They come in two sizes; the red - (which is smaller and was originally designed as a special request and built to my specifications) and the black (larger and capable of holding two pommels)

DGS-ege-lg.jpg

The following

will show you the EGE being put through its paces by its inventor, Andrew. It will also give you some skill ideas to incorporate into Add On games of your own in the bucket.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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sghetti

I'm going to have to make myself one of these!

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Guest Valentin

Thanks for another good post coach.

At my gym we built a pommel size version of the EGE trainer. We probably increased the curve a little more by mistake haha. I will post a picture soon. Unfortunately soon after we built it, the MAG program failed, as all the boys (4 of them) found something else to keep them busy 10hrs a week haha (school, diving, friends, etc...). However it did definitely help a lot while it was used.

Anyways have a new group coming through and look forward to having them use it.

Personally i don't get the kids in the bucket until they can walk the circles properly. I believe this to be the best beginner drill for pommel. Any kid at any level can begin to work on this, it helps develop the support strength, and shapes from day one. Its SUPER frustrating because the kids get confused with the leg coordination (i am talking about 5yr olds) and it takes time. but after about a month, month and a half (1 session a week on pommel, for 4-5 circle walks both ways, clockwise and counterclock wise). They get to the point where they can start working it on their own. Its quite coach demanding drill, but by the time they are able to do it, they can hop in the bucket and crank out the circles in no time. That is my personal opinion.

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Coach Sommer

I also formerly used the walking drills, followed by 1/4 drills etc. prior to allowing the athletes to work on the mushroom. I found however that the walking drills caused the athletes to focus excessively on support during the circle, rather than hanging and swinging the circle, resulting initially in a relatively poor quality circling motion (pushing off to the front or rear, toes high in the front, hips high in the back, shoulders hunched in the front support etc).

Using upper arm circles as the primary technical introduction to circles has drastically increased the speed and the quality with which the younger athletes pick up correct circling technique. I now wait to use the 1/4 drills for additional refinement after the athlete has already achieved a reasonable basic circle.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Guest Valentin

Interesting. How to do you get around the upper arm support issue know as "ouchihatethisatis" haha..In previous experience upper arm support with really young guys has always been a pain due to the constant complaining of the pain. Even when using pads.. Maybe i have just had soft athletes, however it is not unreasonable i suppose as it does hurt.

I will incorporate the circles in upper arm into the program and see how it goes.

The problem you mention about the "pushing off to the front or rear" is the only one i have to say i have experience as a result of using the walking drills as first line of progression. Do you use the circles hanging from the rings or High bar method. I can see the benefit of the upper arm support being far greater, but just curious.

Ideally i would not move an athlete beyond the 1/2 circle until they have the initiation of the circle correct. This to me is the most important part of the learning process. However rarely do i get the luxury of working the ideal because of competition requirements/ administration haha.

Do you use any additional supplementary drills and progressions/exercises during the learning process.

Thanks coach.

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Coach Sommer
How to do you get around the upper arm support issue know as "ouchihatethisatis" haha..In previous experience upper arm support with really young guys has always been a pain due to the constant complaining of the pain. Even when using pads.. Maybe I have just had soft athletes, however it is not unreasonable i suppose as it does hurt.
.

This issue continuing for any length of time is usually the result of insufficient physical preparation and can easily be mitigated by including Russian Dips (dips that go down to upper arm and back up again) into their conditioning as soon as they have mastered basic dips.

Do you use the circles hanging from the rings or High bar method. I can see the benefit of the upper arm support being far greater, but just curious.

No, hanging from the rings or high bar would fail to allow the athlete to feel the body "hanging" in between the shoulders while circling. Although my older athletes like to use the circling on rings to loosen their lower backs prior to ring swing training.

Ideally I would not move an athlete beyond the 1/2 circle until they have the initiation of the circle correct. This to me is the most important part of the learning process.

Formerly, I felt exactly the same. However, I have found that focusing too early on a perfect 1/4 and 1/2 circle forces the athlete to compromise their technique by attempting to use strength rather than swing to lift the body. In actuality, the majority of the power in a circle comes from the sideways lean and the speed of the swing; very little of it comes from the support. In my opinion, the sooner the athlete realizes this, the faster and farther they will progress on pommel horse.

Do you use any additional supplementary drills and progressions/exercises during the learning process
.

There is a tremendous list of progressions and sequences that I use with my athletes after they have learned a basic circle. It is however far too long and technical to be included here; and would more appropriately be addressed in the setting of a technical coaching symposium, rather than a forum designed for the discussion of Gymnastic Strength Training™.

I will close however by mentioning that Eduard Iarov's preferred progression and mine were nearly an exact match. I found this to be quite surprising as I have never seen anyone else use anything similar to mine in all the years I have been coaching. In fact, this progression was the exact one that I trained my current Junior National Champion with who also happens to currently be one of the finest young athletes in the U.S. on pommel horse.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Guest Valentin

Thanks coach.. Lots to think about.

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griffdrc

how do you attatch the rope to the bucket?

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Coach Sommer

You may place an eye-bolt through the bucket and then from there use a clip with a swivel top (similar to those on the end of a dog leash; available at Home Depot or Lowes) to attach the rope to.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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griffdrc

ok... so your feet rotate inside the bucket rathering thn having the bucket rotate... thanks

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Coach Sommer

Yes, that is correct and probably the best that you can do with the tools that you currently have available to you. In the gym we use a twisting belt to facilitate the bucket twisting around the feet, however this is not cost effective for most as the twisting belts cost several hundred dollars each.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Blairbob

btw, your skin and the hair on your toes besides your shins will appreciate long socks. I use a satin like bucket bag sold by my friends on gymnasticsman.com because boys or myself will forget their socks.

Would you possibly go over your pommel circle curriculum at any of your seminars? Or an article? I have one made by Vince Miller besides what I had pieced together over the years and Dan Juszczyk but nothing all encompassing.

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Ortprod

This is awesome and I can't wait to try it. :)

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Kamali Downey

This is indeed awesome. So great to get real training knowledge on how to do this stuff.

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Mats Trane

Very interesteing! I always thought circles was a support element and have been focusing on pressing down. Now I understand the concept much better. The expresion leaning on the arms instead of pressing down makes sense.

One Question though, while doing circles in the bucket

How and when should hiprotation occur?

I´ve learnt that I should lead with my left hip from 6 o´clock then from 12 o´clock

lead with my right hip. I do my circles counter clockwise

Thanks again for a very inspirational training site! Bodyweight training rules i can be done anywhere anytime!

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Coach Sommer
How and when should hip rotation occur?

I´ve learnt that I should lead with my left hip from 6 o´clock then from 12 o´clock

lead with my right hip. I do my circles counter clockwise.

For beginning circle work, that is a very good way to think about the counter rotation of the hips involved during a circle.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Blairbob

Look at how the hips are already turned before the first hand lifts off in the first circles. As he goes through, he kinda loses it. Counter rotation from the start.

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rambo5501

This Bucket Training looks good. Too bad I don't have a place to make one :?

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Mats Trane

When am i ready to practise on the mushroom? What should it feel like doing bucket circles before i move on?

And when i move on to the mushroom, how should I start?

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Blairbob

I'll have to look for the circle training guide I had posted for the boys at my last gym. It should be somewhere on my hard drive. Oops, I guess I will have to re-create it as it doesn't seem to be in that folder if I did save it. It was a training guide for the other boy's coaches.

Basically start off by working the feint and initiate with the hips turned as much as possible. I divided the circles into 1/8ths but generally taught it in 1/3rds at first.

If you divide the mushroom into quarters and just further divide from there.

Next you work the feint past 1/8th to 1/4 where the hips knock the first hand that lifts out of the way. Doing this, the gymnast does not focus on picking up the hand yet. More so, just bumping it out of the way. Again counterturned hips. Next is 1/4 circle with shoulder lean on post hand, second hand picked up. Next is past 1/4 with the hand put back down so the gymnast focuses on picking up and putting down the hands as fast as possible. Next is right before 1/2, counterturned hips, weight on the hand that had been picked up.

It goes on and on like this till after the first circle.

I kind of based this on Vince Miller's circle guide at congress once and it became sort of blended with my OCD for details.

Generally I tell the kids there is just thirds of a circle. First third ( past 1/4 ), 2nd third and well the finished circle. It's easy to reinforce the counterturned hips circles. Maybe because it was taught as quarters to me and I found counterturned hips weren't stressed enough as if they are turned at quarters, it's too late.

Ok, getting back to it, you can start training on the mushroom when you are training on the bucket. Actually before you even start the beginning parts of the circle are " circle walks. " Simply walk slowly, inch by inch around the mushroom feeling the proper shoulder lean and correct positions. I spot this as well.

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Gregor

I'm teaching->when you're rising hand, you must turn the hips before the hand slaps back on the mushroom....Usualy they understand that quickly. But I find litlle bit more difficult , to make them understand how must they push hands from the surface for hips rotation :(

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tigerforce

Thanks for the post Coach,

Really enjoying the book and DVD also :-) Getting some really solid gains since following your advice.

Where can I buy the EGE trainer please? I want to purchase the black one with the two handles.

This weekend I am making the bucket trainer but don't want to delay my training program

All the web sites I have found only list the red smaller version.

Many thanks for your kind assistance.

When will your handstand book be released? I need to traning for this as well.

Also do you think you could publish a article or video on the Russian Circut training? Even if only one rep of each exercise was demonstrated that would be a huge help. if not which book from Amazon night show all the correct exercises please? I need pictures as I know very little about gymnastics so far.

King regards

Alex

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Kamali Downey
Thanks for the post Coach,

Really enjoying the book and DVD also :-) Getting some really solid gains since following your advice.

Where can I buy the EGE trainer please? I want to purchase the black one with the two handles.

This weekend I am making the bucket trainer but don't want to delay my training program

All the web sites I have found only list the red smaller version.

Many thanks for your kind assistance.

When will your handstand book be released? I need to traning for this as well.

Also do you think you could publish a article or video on the Russian Circut training? Even if only one rep of each exercise was demonstrated that would be a huge help. if not which book from Amazon night show all the correct exercises please? I need pictures as I know very little about gymnastics so far.

King regards

Alex

You can get the EGE trainer from Norbert or you can email Andrew at ege_llc@msn.com. I'm in the process of ordering one now. His email was attached on that youtube demonstration video.

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markbauerjav

hey coach just a quick question. I have just set up a bucket in my basement. but when i started to do them, my legs didnt extend all the way. the string stopped them from extending. at first i simply thought i needed to let more string out. but when i let more string out, the bucket scrapped the floor. so i spent an hour playing with the length of the string, but i didnt get it perfect. could it be that my ceiling is too small? do you need a minimun ceiling height to do these? thanks in advance

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Blairbob

I've set up a perfectly good bucket system off just a high bar that is around 8 feet if that.

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