Gymnasts really need a variety of training to include sport specific training besides general strength conditioning in order to more closely simulate the skills in our sport. For example, many straight arm exercises such as the front lateral raise, press handstand, or planche drills more closely simulate gymnastics skills than bent arm exercises such as the push up, bench press, or reverse dips.
Here is one straight arm exercise that has helped many gymnasts strengthen their chest, shoulders, and back muscles, becoming stronger in two very important motions. Since the gymnast often must be able to open and close the shoulder angle during skills on uneven bars, I have included a very useful exercise which incorporates both up and down movements. This one should help her learn to efficiently transition from one arm motion to the next with ease. Picture your gymnast performing a glide kip, cast handstand, clear hip handstand. She will have to reverse shoulder movements several times within this short period of time. Once you see the shoulder movements necessary to connect these skills you will see the reasons I had for incorporating two exercises into one drill more than a decade ago. This exercise actually alternates the motions of opening and then closing the shoulder angle.
Lie Down Cast/Kip Drill (Barbell / Toning Bar)
1. Spot your gymnast during this exercise. Give her full instructions before she begins the exercise.
2. Setting Up: Have your gymnast lie on her back between two folded panel mats with her arms above her head. Her head must remain between the mats, but her hands and wrists should go beyond the mats in order to allow the bar to nearly touch the floor after it is lifted over head for full range of motion.
3. The folded mats must be a few inches higher than your gymnast while she is lying between them for safety reasons. The bar must be long enough so that each end can rest on the center of one of the mats. The bar will be lifted from and returned to the mats without touching your gymnast. There should be enough clearance for your gymnast to slide in or out while the bar rests on the mats. Although you will be spotting your gymnast, the mats will also help prevent the bar from touching her. If one mat on each side is not high enough, please use two folded mats on each side. If the bar is brought down too quickly or falls, it should land on the mats, not your gymnast. This is a very safe exercise when the coach and gymnast keep safety in mind.
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