Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rings Primer: What the H is a Maltese (and other strength moves)?

The American Cup is only 9 days and 23 hours away, and you, my friend, need to know a little something about rings–just in case NBC decides to show the American population a routine or two. Last year, we saw a total of 0 rings routines, which was probably a ginormous disappointment for the grandma in Wichita who loves iron crosses. Seriously, casual viewers love rings. Heck, while I was in the Land of Hyper Heteronormativity (aka Vegas), I had a 10-minute conversation with a cabby about rings.

So, NBC, if you're listening...


In the event that NBC does hear my cry, here are a few basic strength positions.

1. Iron Cross

What's that saying? Iron crosses are like @$$holes; everyone has one. Seriously, every male gymnast has one.

2. L-Cross

The FIG lumps the iron cross and the L-cross together, but I thought that I would split them apart for you, my ever anal reader.

3. Inverted Cross

Inverted crosses are not all that common. In fact, our 2012 Olympic Champion did not perform one.

4. Planche

Unless you are one of those insufferable people who goes around using phrases like "raison d'État" or "joie de vivre," you might not know that "planche" means "board" or "plank" in French. It's a pretty apt description. While doing the skill, the gymnast's body needs to be stiff and straight like a board, forming a line from his shoulders to his toes. Oh, and that board needs to be parallel to the ground. In men's gymnastics, this wouldn't count.

5. Straddle Planche

A straddle planche is not considered as hard as the normal planche. Nevertheless, lots of gymnasts struggle with this skill. It's hard to keep your feet at the right height when performing this skill. Lots of gymnasts like to lift their butt and lower their feet like they are doing a bear walk in mid-air. Not cute.
It's usually not quite that bad, but you get the picture.

6. Maltese Cross

Notice the difference between a planche and a Maltese. With the former, the shoulders are much higher. With the latter, the shoulders, wrists, butt, and feet should all be aligned.

By the way, I have no clue why Americans call it a Maltese cross, but I do know that the official name is pretentious as heck. "Hirondelle" is the FIG-approved name, which is French for "swallow" (the bird). I hope that one day Al Trautwig uses this little piece of trivia on air.

7. Inverted Swallow

Pretty much no one does this skill. If you see one, it's like finding a four-leaf clover.

Rings 101: Quiz

All right, I think you're ready to quiz yourself. Watch the following routines and list the basic strength holds that you see.

Jake Dalton, Winter Cup Rings Champion

Alex Naddour, second place on rings at the Winter Cup

Brandon Wynn, U.S. National Team Member and Rings Expert

The Answers:

1. Jake Dalton: Maltese. Planche. Iron Cross. Maltese. Iron Cross. Straddle planche.

2. Alex Naddour: Maltese. Planche. Iron Cross. Maltese. Iron Cross. Planche.

Yes, they have pretty much the same routine. (High-level compulsories!)

3. Brandon Wynn: Maltese. Iron Cross. Inverted Cross. Maltese. Iron Cross. Planche.

As you can see, all three gymnasts repeat positions. This might seem like a no-no, as gymnasts cannot repeat elements on the apparatus. But it is completely acceptable. I'll talk more about this in upcoming tutorials. But for now, celebrate! You (hopefully) know a little more about the rings!


  1. Lets hear from you why is it acceptable.

    1. The Code of Points expressly allows gymnasts to show each final strength position up to two times in a routine, though he cannot repeat the same skill (as nystudios below put it, the same way of entering into the final strength position).

      From Article 12.2.2(2) on p.74 of the 2013 Code of Points:
      "Repeated elements (same Code Identification Number) cannot contribute to the 'D' score. On Rings, this rule is extended so that the same final strength hold position may be shown at most twice if the position was achieved from a different Code Number element. Thus, for example a final inverted cross-position, a swallow position, etc. may be used twice (belonging to Element Groups III and/or IV) for difficulty credit. . . ."

  2. It is acceptable because the gymnast enters the position via various entry methods, i.e. swinging to, backward rolling to, or kipping to the desired position.

    And, Tim we are agreed, everyone loves rings.

  3. The average guy is most impressed by rings, because rings guys are strong.

    Slightly off topic, but Vegas isn't about "heteronormativity". Vegas is about money, and that is all.

  4. That female gymnast is not holding a straddle planche, she is mid-way through levering to handstand probably in a stalder press. To take that and pretend that poor form is accepted for women's gymnasts is disingenuous.

    I can see that it is frustrating if you don't get to see much of your favourite apparatus on TV and I would certainly like to see more men's gymnastics on TV, but not at the expense of women's gymnastics. I would like to see more time devoted to coverage of all gymnastics. I know gymnastics is more popular and better funded in the USA and the UK, but I doubt the situation is so very different in terms of the TV time given to it as compared to professional league sports or sports more associated with gambilng.

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