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Coaching Tips – WAG Coaches Teaching MAG

This page is intended to be a guide for gymnasts with WAG experience helping coach new MAG beginners who don’t know where to start. It contains some tips and tricks, skills that can be built upon, and strength to work on.


MAG floor has a lot of overlap with WAG floor, with the only “new” skills being some strength skills (mainly presses and some holds), and the need to know how to transition between skills without deduction. Check out this video for an explanation of some of the many ways to move around the floor between skills appropriately.

Pommel Horse

There’s a lot of wrist and forearm strength involved in pommels. It is very important to interleave exercises to strengthen the back of the forearm (eg. reverse wrist curls) and to stretch the front of the forearm to prevent wrist overuse pain.

Support swings 

When swinging on pommels the gymnast wants to keep their feet at a distance from each other, like there’s a stick or something preventing them from touching at all. These swings build momentum that can be used for other skills such as a scissor cut. A drill for keeping feet apart during a pommel swing is actually on Parallel Bars, using the upper arm support position and swinging feet back and forth without having them touch in the middle. The “tap” for this swing comes from flexion of the obliques to go from crunched fully on one side (eg. pulling your right hip up laterally towards your shoulder) to crunched fully on the other side.

Stride swings

Stride swings are the next step towards learning a scissor. The gymnast should have one leg forward and one leg backward between their arms, like a mini-split. To swing, the focus should be on the back leg lifting towards the ear. The hip should be rotated so that the knee faces the ceiling, just like in a straddle jump. The front leg only moves as a result of the back leg swinging, but should not be forcefully lifted. Athletes should practice these on both sides. Just like in the support swings, the tap comes from the obliques, with the hip flexor of the rear leg adding a bit of extra “kick” at the very end of the range of motion/swing. This video from an elite pommel horse specialist does an excellent job of breaking down the correct stride swing technique.

Planche Leans can be a helpful tool for wrist strength and pommel form. Have the gymnast begin in a push up position and lean forward, staying tight. Rocking back and forth in this position is a good way to shift more and more weight onto the wrists slowly. The gymnast can also do these leans with their feet on a mat, being careful to stay in a straight body position. This drill should also be done with the gymnast’s stomach facing the ceiling and on each side.

Another drill for pommel form includes having the gymnast sit in front of a mat that is larger than a panel mat, and place their heels on it. From here they should push their body into a straight body position and hold, paying special attention to keeping hips out of a pike position and pushing their bellies to the sky. Their fingers should be turned outwards to the sides rather than pointing behind them, similar to how it would be on a pommel horse. Holding this position is very helpful for circle drills. For a more advanced drill they can try to pick up one hand at a time and pat their hips where a front pocket would be. 


Circles are integral to higher level pommel horse, and for most people will take a lot of practice, so even though a beginner may feel far from competing them, they should start working them from day 1. Mushroom is the best place to start for learning circles. A circle is an integral part of many pommels routines, and although they aren’t technically required for a routine they can be helpful to train. 

When working on circles on mushroom, follow the stick principle. If the gymnasts body was as stiff as a stick, as their toes go one way they need to lean their upper body the other way to maintain that straight position. The lean is a very key factor to the mushroom and something that is fairly easy to forget. The other common mistake is to have the hips start really far from the mushroom – this causes the gymnast’s hips to drop as the perform the first half of the circle, pulling them off balance and off the mushroom/horse. The hips should stay at the same height and distance from the center of rotation for the entire circle, and thus should start low and close.

Because this motion relies on strength that most people don’t already have (single arm support in the full 360° of positions), progress will usually require a lot of circle conditioning to build that strength. The best way to do this is by doing lots of circles, which can be accomplished using a bucket on a rope centered on the mushroom/horse that the gymnast puts their feet into (example video).


Rings require some degree of shoulder flexibility so be sure to have the gymnast warm up their shoulders well prior to them trying rings. 

Rings strength doesn’t have to be learned or taught on rings themselves. Especially if you only have access to a rings tower, practicing rings strength in other places is much more convenient. Parallettes are a pair of small wooden bars that can be used on the ground. Many of the beginner strength holds can be practiced there .


Holding support on rings is a surprisingly difficult thing to do, even for people who are “traditional gym” strong. Make sure the person who is doing the support has their wrists turned out, that is, instead of their palms facing their sides, their palms would be facing forward during the support. Using a block to support that athlete’s feet can help take some weight off the athlete’s arms while they build the correct strength for a support.

Muscle Ups

Muscle-ups are a great way to start if someone is strong enough because this allows them to get on top of the rings, which opens up the opportunity to learn many other skills. To learn a muscle-up, the gymnast should start in false grip. False grip is where the gymnast “Karate chops” the ring, resting their hand where the bottom of their hand meets their wrist. From there the gymnast does a pull up to chest level while keeping your arms as close together as possible. Once past mid-chest you can lean forward to get your elbows up and it becomes a dip. Muscle ups can also be spotted by grabbing their legs and helping lift them up if they can get the pullup but beware of their legs coming apart because they may kick you. Also, if spotting, be careful of their hands coming too far apart or leaning too far forward as they may fall forward from that position which is especially dangerous if their legs are being held. A good way to build muscle up strength is to start in support and do the muscle up motion in reverse as slowly as possible.

Skin the Cat

Skin the cat can be done on rings but also can be taught on the low bar of the uneven bars. Essentially a skin the cat is a leg lift but continue to bring your legs between your arms. Be careful of shoulders because you will need to pull yourself back through your arms. You can practice with rings or a bar low to the ground where you’re able to touch the ground with your feet if you’re in an inverted pike. In the inverted pike position, pull your toes off the ground and up until your legs are horizontal with the floor then slowly lower yourself down again to the position you started in. This can be a way to get the strength needed for a skin the cat without injuring shoulders. When competing a skin the cat, in order to minimize deductions, after pulling their legs completely through their arms the gymnast should have a straight body with their toes pointing directly towards the floor, hold that position for 2 seconds, then pull themselves back up through their legs. 


Swings on rings are slightly different from a swing on WAG bars. Unlike with tap swings on UB where there is a hollow→arch→hollow sequence, the tap on rings is just a single shape change from hollow to arched (or vice versa when swinging back to front). Everything after the tap is just about guiding the motion of the body – no further energy is added after the tap. The majority of the flexion should happen in the back, evenly distributed between the belly button and the shoulders, with only minimal flexion in the hips and shoulders. This video from one of the top MAG coaches in the world does a great job of explaining the correct shapes and progressions.

Parallel Bars

Parallel Bar settings are much more individual, based on how tall a person is and their wingspan. The gymnast should hold one of their forearms up between the parallel bars and adjust the parallel bars until they have only enough space for their entire forearm with their hand flat out as well as the first one to three fingers on their other hand. Some people prefer slightly less space than this but the gymnast should be able to easily get their shoulders and hips through the parallel bars without them being too wide. Female gymnasts may need to use a wider setting to accommodate wider hips.

Upper arm swings

The upper arm position on parallel Bars is where you essentially make a chicken wing on the bar, with your forearms not laying completely parallel with the bar but rather making a shape like a 4. Weight should be on the meat of the bicep and the forearm to upper arm angle should be about 90 degrees. Practicing casting to the upper arm position is also important. This is swinging back and dropping down to the upper arms. This skill can cause some bruises, which is completely normal and will eventually stop once the gymnast gets used to it. Having strength through the gymnast’s shoulders is key to doing this skill safely. Upper arm swings seem hard but aren’t as bad as you think. Once again focus on feet staying together and extending through your hips. Keep power in your shoulders so you aren’t dipping down during swings because that makes it extra difficult. We promise the pain goes away eventually 😉

Support Swings

Support swings are similar to rings but make sure to start small and controlled. They’re lots of fun but you can easily kick the bars if your legs come apart. Also keeping strong arms (locked elbows, inside of the elbows facing forwards) and learning to control the leaning during a swing is really important, swinging your feet too hard to the back can cause the arms to fold forward which can be scary or potentially dangerous. On the forward swing, the athlete should be slightly arched so that their hips pass between their hands before their feet. Once the body passes through the hands, then the athlete can tap to a hollow position or even a bit piked as the swing gets larger. On the backward swing, the athlete should tap back into an arch before the hips pass the hands. Leading with the butt on the back swing can cause the athlete to pitch forward. After the hips pass the hands, the athlete should return to a hollow position.

Basket Swings

The third type of swing is a basket swing – swinging underneath the bars upside down in a pike position. This swing is important for peach basket type skills, casts, and kips. Most people find it very difficult to figure out how to generate swing in this position, especially from a dead hang, so helping them get a little swing first can help them start to feel the rhythm. Legs should stay horizontal throughout, and the gymnast should stay as compressed in the pike as possible, especially through the bottom of the swing.

Long Hang Swings

The fourth and final type of swing is the long hang swing – swinging underneath the bars in an extended position in either a pike or with knees bent. The only skill a beginner is going to do in this position is a kip, so there’s no need to tear up your hands doing repeated swings – just focus on swinging forward in long hang and bringing the toes up and back to transition to a basket swing on the return swing.


Back uprises and front uprises allow the gymnast to get from upper arm back into support. Ease of the skill depends on the person, I personally find back uprises easier but that might not be the case for everyone. For a back uprise, when swinging in the upper arm position, at the back of your swing there’s a slight lean forward and you use your momentum to push yourself up. For the front uprise, when swinging in an upper arm position forwards, the gymnast should push down and back with their hands/arms as their hips rise in front of them.


See the high bar section for tips to learn kips. Kips on Pbars should technically be easier than on a horizontal bar because there’s no bar in between your hands to stop you from inverting fully. Some people find it easier to make their first kips on the end of the bars since it allows you to bend your arms a bit as you come up (where as in the middle your arms would hit the Pbars if they bent).

High Bar

There’s a lot of similarities between MAG High Bar and the High Bar in WAG Uneven Bars, with a similar build of skills. Giants are much more prominent on high bar but there’s a lot of good basics for people to start with including pullovers, swings, and kips. 


Pullovers can be learned on the low bar of WAG uneven bars. The gymnast should focus on trying to keep their chin at the bar, walking feet forward, and bringing their hips to the bar without throwing their head back. Using a wall or a wedge is also very helpful so they can walk their feet up the wall/wedge as a way to start getting the strength for the skill. Having the gymnast begin in a pullup position then going into an inversion with hips at bar is a good way to teach getting hips to bar instead of thighs. This is also a good drill for keeping feet together in a pullover. 

A common mistake is for the gymnast to bend their legs as they try to get their hips to the bar – this pulls their center of gravity away from the bar and makes the skill harder, instead they should have straight knees and try to get as much of their legs as possible over to the other side of the bar. 

Another common struggle is straightening up to front support from being folded over the bar at the hips. This is a simple matter of physics – if you can get your center of gravity to the other side of the bar, you can straighten up! To do this, the gymnast must pull the bar up towards their belly button.


If you can coach a kip on the uneven bars you can coach one on the parallel bars and high bar. Make sure to emphasize the difference in thumb placements, high bar thumbs go around the bar and kips on p bars hands start on inside of the bars with thumbs next to hands but once in support thumbs go around the parallel bars to stabilize support. You can start with having them on the low bar, this is an easier spot to make them focus on their glide kip as compared to the high bar because they can’t shoot their toes down and they learn the correct positioning first. There is an adjustment to the high bar but it’s very similar to a long-hang kip on the high bar itself.