Vaulting in gymnastics requires speed, force and precision. The front tuck vault, also called a front handspring front, is a powerful skill that lasts only long enough for the gymnast to run toward the apparatus, spring off a springboard, place her hands on the vault in a handstand for only a matter of seconds and then complete a front tuck in the air before landing blindly and in place, on her feet. Several problems can occur while completing this skill, and improving a front tuck vault requires practice and drills that break down each part of the vault.
When a gymnast hits the springboard and reaches for the vault to achieve the handstand from which she will push off into the front tuck, she thrusts her legs into the air to get height. This can often create an arched back, which could get a deduction during competitions. Have the gymnast practice a simple front handspring vault until the preflight position of the vault is a straight, strong back. Constant practice of the front handspring without the front tuck will improve the first part of the entire vault.
Height and Distance
When a gymnast achieves flight for the front tuck position coming out the handspring onto the vault, she will need to get enough height to complete the flip and enough distance to land the skill several feet from the vault. Have the gymnast stand on the vault and complete a front tuck flip off it. This will help her get an aerial awareness of the skill as she moves off the vault. Consistent practice will help her get a higher flip and increased distance.
Tucking and Flipping
Practicing the front tuck and flip on a trampoline or into a foam pit will help improve a front tuck vault by providing a comfortable and safe way for the gymnast to complete the flip before putting it together with the handspring on the vault. Tucking too soon after the handspring can be a problem with this skill, so the gymnast should practice staying horizontal after the handspring before bending her knees for the front tuck. Pulling out of the tucked position too soon will also create problems with the landing. Practice just the front tuck on the trampoline or on the floor to get the timing right.
Coming out of the front tuck too early or too late will cause landing problems. A tuck that doesn't open up early enough will result in landing in a squat, or with the gymnast sitting down. A tuck that opens up too soon will create an over-rotation, which will mean several steps forward on the landing. Practice landing a front tuck on the floor to get the timing right for opening out of the tucked position. Standing on the vault and performing the front tuck off it will also give the gymnast a sense of when to open and how to stick her landing.
Make safety a priority when practicing the front tuck vault. Make sure the gymnast is always being supervised by a coach or experienced teammates. No one should practice front tuck vaults alone. Keep your conditioning level strong as well. If you are in good shape and you stretch before and after your practices, you will reduce the chance of injury when you practice this vault.
Cari Oleskewicz is a writer and blogger who has contributed to online and print publications including "The Washington Post," "Italian Cooking and Living," "Sasee Magazine" and Pork and Gin. She is based in Tampa, Florida and holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and journalism from Marist College.