For a child in gymnastics the words “skin the cat” is a common phrase heard and it is used to describe a skill they perform on the bars. However, I so often hear this skill repeated as “spin the cat”. This is a common mistake, and honestly, it makes quite a lot of sense! The gymnast is physically spinning him or herself upside down, so the term spin the cat makes sense, but things in gymnastics don’t always have the most obvious names! For the past month I have had several people ask me, “why do they call it that?!”. Honestly, I am not sure. I have researched it and had no success in finding the origin. But, it’s an important skill that we as coaches often teach in classes ranging from pre-rec to Level one so in lieu of this I decided to write a short blurb about what a “skin the cat” is and why it’s an important milestone for your kids.
First, let’s break down the movement. A skin the cat is generally performed on the rings, however, you will often see them learning and performing this skill on a bar. A gymnast first holds onto the bar (or rings) with their hands and then proceeds to to pull their feet to the bar. They then pull their feet in between their arms and begin flipping over. Generally, when they first learn this movement we have them flip completely over, pull their feet all the way to the ground, and complete the movement by planting their feet on the mat. However, once this is achieved we begin having the gymnast extend their legs to the ground and instead of landing on their feet they begin pulling their feet back up and back through. It is kind of like a “yo-yo” motion!
The skin the cat is a great exercise for your young gymnast. It teaches him or her how to grip the bar and most importantly to hold on! Especially, when they are upside down. It also boosts their confidence because it is generally the first upside down skill they learn on a bar. How exciting! It is also important for strength. During a skin the cat your gymnast is working their abdominal muscles, arms, and upper back, as well as, improving their flexibility in their upper extremities. So, yes, it has an odd name but all in all it’s a wonderful skill to practice and a great milestone to accomplish!