David on Back Handsprings

David Petty is the Tumbling Director at Cheer Extreme Raleigh in North Carolina.

Favorite drills and progressions

I like to use simple “jump back” drills. Using a small sit with an exploding jump back onto an elevated mat, or mats.

For a strong arm swing, there are numerous drills for this. You can use a weighted medicine ball, or one of my favorites is to place a wedge against a wall, have your kid sit against it with their hips and shoulders in line, palms on the ground by the hips, and then swing 10 times in a row from the ground to hitting the wedge with arms by the ears against the wedge.

How do you teach your athlete the difference between good/bad arm swing?

There are so many approaches coaches will use when teaching this skill. Arms up. Arms in front. Arms by the side. My personal opinion is that I will sometimes use all of these when teaching, (completely based off of the need of the athlete), but my favorite is the arms by the side. In a routine, you will never see an athlete, or should never see an athlete start with arms above head, or in front of their chest. I like to teach the method of “Do More with Less!”

If your athlete is starting with arms up, or in front of them, they often will have to swing down, just to swing back up. Like I said, there are uses for all starting positions, but if I’m starting to teach an athlete this skill, I try to start with arms down so that they can fill the arm swing.

Drills to fix bad legs during a back handspring?

One of the best drills that I’ve started using, is one that Shea Crawford taught me just by starting with your feet apart, and then teaching how to engage the proper leg muscles to squeeze the feet together at the top of the skill. There are many more that work, but this one has been my “go to” for about a year now.

Author: David Petty

David Petty is the Tumbling Director at Cheer Extreme Raleigh in North Carolina. See David's bio for more information.