Sports & Games

Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles’s Advanced Uneven Bars Drills

Written by MasterClass

Aug 20, 2019 • 5 min read

Gliding, pirouetting, and doing handstands on uneven bars are part of the fundamental exercises in women’s gymnastics training and competitions. Uneven bars is the name for a gymnastics exercise and an apparatus of two bars, set to different heights. Uneven bars is one of the main events in women’s artistic gymnastics, the others being floor, vault, and balance beam (men’s gymnastics events use parallel bars). Practicing and performing well on the uneven bars requires upper-body strength and impeccable timing. Each movement should flow into the next without additional swings, and you don’t want to “muscle through,” or rush, your new skills.

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. Find our basic uneven bars guide plus drills program here before progressing to the more advanced technical work listed below.

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9 Advanced Uneven Bars Drills

Upper-body endurance is key for elite gymnastics bar routines. All of the classic conditioning will help: rope climb, circle sets, hip circles, handstands connected to giants, and then a dismount and flyaway. Any routines that keep you on the bar for a good amount of time are key for upper-body endurance. Mastering bar skills requires patience and getting a feel for a good swing. The more experience and time you have on the training bar, the more you’ll be able to get into the groove of your swing.

Ground Rail Pirouette Drill

  1. Kick up into a handstand on a rail bar with your legs resting against a wall. Keep both legs together in a straight line.
  2. Pushing through your shoulders, shift your weight into one arm.
  3. Lift the other hand off the bar slightly—making sure your body stays in a straight line.
  4. Place your hand back on the bar.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Next, lift and turn your hand, allowing the rest of your body to turn while maintaining a straight line. Holding your body in a straight line while lifting your hands will help you get used to posting and turning without using your body weight.

Pike Press or Straddle Press Pirouette Drill
This exercise helps you get used to spinning on the vertical axis.

  1. Do a pike press to handstand on the floor, coming up with legs together.
  2. Do a half pirouette with your hands. The rhythm should go “one, two.”
  3. Then pirouette again for a full (again, think “one, two” with each hand), finishing in a controlled handstand position.

Back Extension Roll Half Pirouette Drill
This drill for the floor teaches you how to initiate your pirouette by leading with your toes and not your belly.

  1. With straight arms, do a backward extension roll through candlestick up to a handstand.
  2. Before you reach handstand, post on your dominant arm, and do a half pirouette (called a blind change), ending in a controlled handstand.
  3. Roll out through candlestick to standing.

Back Extension Roll Full Pirouette Drill
Once you’ve tried the drill half pirouette drill above, add on another half turn to achieve a full pirouette. This time, step down from the handstand instead of rolling out of it.

Handstand Pop Drill
This drill will help you get used to the feeling of power coming off the bar.

  1. Do a toe circle to handstand.
  2. When you reach the handstand position, given the momentum of the circle, you should feel as though you are coming off the bar. This handstand repulsion will allow you to then throw the bar and complete the release.

Maloney Prep Drill

  1. Place a whale mat on the ground behind the low bar.
  2. Facing the high bar, start in front support on the low bar.
  3. Cast to handstand.
  4. Drop, and push away from the bar as if you’re about to go into a giant.
  5. Stay extended as long as possible and, rounding your back, snap your toes to the bar.
  6. After your hips have circled past the height of the low bar, release your toes.
  7. Extend through your whole body into that stretched rubber-band shape
  8. Throw the bar as you complete the repulsion.
  9. Land on the mat with your shoulders open and extended.

Maloney
Place a whale mat on the ground between the low and high bars so there’s enough room for you to clear the mat when you cast to handstand.

  1. With your back facing the high bar, start in front support on the low bar.
  2. Cast to handstand.
  3. Drop and push away from the bar as if you’re about to go into a giant.
  4. Stay extended as long as possible and, rounding your back, snap your toes to the bar.
  5. After your hips have circled past the height of the low bar, release your toes.
  6. Extend through your whole body into that stretched rubber band shape
  7. Throw the bar.
  8. Allow momentum to pull you up and over the bar.
  9. Reach to catch the high bar in a tight, extended-body backswing. Your arms are by your ears, head tucked in, and eyes are looking toward the bar.

Ground Prep Drill
This allows you to practice the Tkatchev motion on the ground.

  1. Place a wedge mat going downhill and an eight-inch mat behind it. The thinnest side will be closer to the eight-inch mat.
  2. Sit on the wedge mat with your back toward the eight-inch mat.
  3. Do a back extension roll through hollow pike position. Instead of going to a handstand, open your shoulders and hips into a bridge shape with your head tucked in.
  4. Repeat the same roll and bridge-throwing action to finish in a seated position with your legs straddling behind you all the way to your stomach.

Giant to a Flyaway Drill
This drill is a helpful way to practice the release into a dismount. Try this into the pit or with soft mats stacked high on the landing.

  1. From your giant, keep your shoulders open.
  2. Go through your tap with a stretched rubber-band shape.
  3. Your toes should tap up above the bar at the same time that you release the bar. Your shoulders should be open and your arms stretched by your ears.
  4. At the height of your flyaway, your hips should be over the high bar.
  5. If you do this properly, you will master your flyaway and have enough height to complete more difficult dismounts.

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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