As is the case with practitioners of any self-respecting profession, we coaches have developed our own lingo. This allows us to communicate more effectively with each other and with our athletes, and just as importantly, allows us to sound more pretentious to those outside the loop.
Here are some common gymnastics-specific terms you may hear used by coaches and gymnasts:
Salto: The technical term used to describe a single airborne rotation around a horizontal axis. In short, a flip.
Arch: The body position in which the upper body is bent backward.
Hollow: The body position in which the upper body is bent forwards, the ribs are pulled in, and the hips are tilted backward (ie butt tucked under). In simple terms, this is the opposite of an arch, however, this position is generally much more difficult than an arch to hit properly.
Tuck: The body position in which a gymnast bends her knees and pulls them to her chest.
Pike: The body position in which the gymnast is bent at the hips but maintains straight legs.
Straddle: The body position in which the gymnast’s legs are pulled out to the side and kept straight (in most cases, this lateral leg separation is accompanied by a pike in the hips).
Layout: The body position in which there are no angles in either the hips or knees. While any layout skill should theoretically be done with a perfectly straight body, it is in many instances more practical to train layouts in either a hollow or arch position (which it will be depends on the skill in question).
Tap: An aggressive and precisely-timed transition (or series of transitions) between arch and hollow positions. 99% of the time, this refers to the rythmic series of such transitions on bars, though the term is occasionally used to refer to such transitions in other skills (such as the snap to hollow in a backhandspring or Yurchenko).
Set: The takeoff movement for a salto. While the specifics vary depending on the skill being performed, this usually involves a snap from a slight hollow to a slight arch for backwards saltos, and vice-versa for forward saltos. In most cases, the arms should be extended upwards.
Punch: A quick bounce off the floor or springboard using the feet. The goal is to get off the floor as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Block: A quick bounce off of the floor or vault table using the hands (similar to a punch). Generally, the tighter and more rigid the gymnast’s midsection, the more powerful the block will be.
While I’m at it, a note about gymnastics shorthand: we tend to omit words such as “salto,” “twist,” and the like in skill names. For example, a double salto backwards is commonly referred to simply as a “double back”, and a double-twisting forward salto is commonly referred to as a “front double full” (often written as front 2/1 – we love fractions).
There’s probably a lot more terminology and shorthand with which we coaches are so fluent we don’t even realize we’re using them; if there are any other gymnastics terms you’ve heard that you would like to hear explained, mention them in the comments and I will be happy to explain them and possibly include them in future columns about gym lingo.