Sports & Games

Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles Vault Drills for Every Gymnast

Written by MasterClass

Aug 20, 2019 • 3 min read

Gymnastics vault exercises are part of the four main exercises in women’s gymnastics events, which also include balance beam, floor exercises, and uneven bars. Understanding and perfecting the fundamentals of vault exercises is crucial for gymnasts of all levels and abilities.

Olympic Gold medal gymnast Simone Biles has a vault skill named in her honor: the Biles on Vault, which is one of two skills on vault that has the highest difficulty score (6.4) in the Code of Points.

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What Is a Gymnastics Vault?

The gymnastics vault is an apparatus as well as a skill that both male and female gymnasts perform. The vault features three main sections.

  1. Vault runway. The runway lead- ing up to the vault table.
  2. Entry. A hurdle for a vault, including any skill before the board until you touch the vault table. For example, the Yurchenko requires a mat placed over the springboard, leading to a back handspring onto the vault.
  3. Vault table. The aerial part of the gymnastics skill, the vault table allows gymnasts to spring up and dismount.

4 Basic Vault Drills

Whether you’re just starting your gymnastics career or have been training for years, Simone Biles’s MasterClass will help you improve your technique by perfecting the basics of the sport and then using those basics to execute more advanced moves.

Front Handspring Drill
It’s useful to learn a front handspring for any front vault. This helps you work on the shape of the preflight.

  1. Start on the tumble track trampoline.
  2. Bounce to your knees in a nice, rounded shape. Make sure to keep your core engaged.
  3. From there, bounce to an angled handstand (at about 45 degrees) in a “preflight” position.
  4. Return to your knees.
  5. Repeat: Knee, bounce, knee, bounce, either moving all the way down the trampoline or staying in one place.

Yurchenko Preflight Drill 1
This drill helps you work on the roundoff and bounce off. It also helps you learn to get your chest up off the board quickly. That way, you’ll be able to do a perfect straight jump while still traveling back, and land on your feet on the stacked mats. Using mats will help you build to a Yurchenko.

  1. Place a springboard in front of stacked mats. A combination of mats, like a whale mat with a few eight-inchers on top of it, works well. The mats should be close to the height of the vault. Make sure the u-pad is around the board.
  2. Round off onto the board, and rebound with feet together.
  3. Land standing up straight on the stacked-up mats with your arms by your ears. (If you don’t get your chest up quickly, you’ll land on the mats on your bum.)
  4. Once you’ve mastered the above, try the same drill again, but land all the way on your back.

Yurchenko Preflight Drill 2
The focus of this drill is to practice the body shape into the preflight. It simulates how you should enter your back handspring and helps assuage any fear (since there’s no vault there for you to run into).

  1. Place a springboard in front of stacked mats. A combination of mats, like a whale mat with a few eight-inchers on top of it, works well. The mats should be close to the height of the vault. Make sure the u-pad is around the board.
  2. Round off onto the board.

Basic Landing Drills
All skills build on the basics. These drills are useful for beginners and seasoned vets.

  • If you can’t yet do a backflip off the vault, just stand on the vault and jump off to familiarize yourself with “sticking” the landing.
  • You can also jump off backward to practice landing.
  • Once you can do a flip, practice a plain back tuck or a plain front tuck off of the vault.
  • Upgrade from there: standing layout, then a full.

How to Become a Better Athlete

Want to become a better athlete? From training regimens to mental preparedness, learn everything you need to enhance your athletic abilities with the MasterClass All-Access Pass. Gain exclusive access to video lessons taught by world champions, including Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, World No. 1-ranking tennis player Serena Williams, and six-time NBA All-Star Stephen Curry.

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