Monday, February 25, 2013

Rings Primer: Five Variations of the Iron Cross

Want to feel like a total wimp? Watch this video:
Little Giuliano simply lowers down into his iron cross (which, for the super nit-picky readers who can't sit back and marvel at the fact that a little boy just did an iron cross, is a little low). Unless you're watching a gala, where the gymnasts are doing party tricks, most athletes won't simply lower into their iron crosses. Instead, many will do one of these variations.

1. Kip to Cross–C

C skills have become the ugly step sisters of men’s gymnastics. No one wants to do them. No one. So, it’s rare to see a more seasoned senior elite gymnast perform a kip to a cross or a kip to an L-cross. 

If you do see one, though, you don’t want it to look like Vitaly Scherbo’s. After piking and shooting his feet in the air, the athlete’s shoulders should rise to their final position. You shouldn’t see the gymnast sink down into the cross like Scherbo did back in the day.

2. Uprise to Cross–C

Another ugly step sister! Eew! This time, the gymnasts’ feet and shoulders drop below the rings before he rises into his iron cross. Once again, the gymnast's shoulders should rise to their final resting position right away. The gymnast should not lower his body into the cross.

3. Nakayama–D

You probably look at this skill and think, How the heck is this a D? It looks so simple! Even though the gymnast's legs aren’t swinging all over the place, the Nakayama requires more beef to perform. The gymnast’s shoulders must drop below the rings where the gymnast shows what is called a back lever. Then, his shoulders must rise up to ring height as his arms stretch out to the side. As you can imagine, this requires a lot of rippling muscles.

4. Azarian–D

Personally, I grew up calling this a "roll to cross"

The Soviet/Armenian gymnast Albert Azaryan (or Azarian or Ազարյան) performed this skill over 50 years ago. (And it's still a D part!) As you’ll see in that video, a true Azarian cross should be performed with one heck of a sexy mustache. Woof. And then a bunch of little kids should run up to you and give you a hug.

5. "Whip it cross"–D

The Code of Points refers to this skill as a “salto forward between rings to cross.” Quite frankly, I prefer this name over the term used in American gyms: “Whip It Cross.” Whenever I hear that name, I picture U.S. gymnasts from the 90s dressed up in Devo hats.
Personally, I usually just call it a "flip to cross."

How many iron crosses can the gymnast do?

Well, as many as he would like, but he will receive credit for only two of them–provided that they are distinct elements. You see, even though all 5 variations listed above finish in an iron cross, they are considered separate elements. That's because the way the gymnast maneuvers into the iron cross is different. So, for instance, a gymnast could do a Nakayama and an Azarian cross, but he couldn't perform two Azarian crosses.

Not even if one Azarian cross ends in an L-cross and the other in an iron cross. As I explained in the last primer, the FIG considers the L-cross and the iron cross to be the same strength hold.

With that out of the way, let's test your knowledge...


Watch the following routines and see if you can identify the iron cross elements. If you want to be an A+ Perfect 10 gym nerd, see if you can include the value of the skill, as well.

2012: Marcel Nguyen, Germany

2013: Danell Leyva, USA


Marcel Nguyen: Nakayama (D), Whip it cross (D)

Danell Leyva: Azarian (D), Whip It Cross (D)

Gym gods,

Please let NBC show some rings action this weekend. My readers are ready.


Rings primers:


  1. I have a question. For the kip to cross, you mentioned the gymnast's shoulders shouldn't go high and then sink down to rings level. What about for the Azarian? I notice the Chinese guy in your video example finishes the rolling backward part with his shoulders high above, and sinks down, whereas Azarian's shoulders seem to stay exactly at rings level. Which is optimal? To my completely ignorant eye, Azarian's looks harder.

    1. Anonymous:

      To avoid deduction, the gymnast's shoulders cannot go higher than the final strength position on any swing to strength or strength skill. Any "angular deviation from the perfect hold position" is deducted according to the angle of the error:

      0 to 15 degrees from the final position: small error (0.1)
      16 to 30 degrees from the final position: medium error (0.3)
      31 to 45 degrees from the final position: large error (0.5)
      > 45 degrees from the final position: large error (0.5) and the gymnast does not get credit for doing the skill.

      So what Uncle Tim said applies to all strength skills and all swing to strength skills, including an Azarian, a kip cross, etc. This rule does not apply to swing-to-handstand skills (which is governed by a different rule) or other swinging skills.

      (If you're looking in the Code of Points for this rule, it's repeated in several places: Article 9.2(8) on p. 29, Article 9.2(13) on p. 31, thee chart on p. 34, and Article 12.2(5)(a) and (d) on p. 73-74.)

  2. Thank you for sharing nice information this blog. i am very impressed your blog. your blog Uncle Tim Talks Men's look is very nice and I like this blog.

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  3. Well this would be a great and a perfect workout with gymnastics rings.

  4. you forgot the Pineda, which is also a D

  5. you forgot the Pineda, which is also a D