Sean on Roundoff Technique

There are a couple different variances in roundoff technique just like with any other skill. The main principle no matter what the technique is to efficiently change athlete from using forward facing momentum to backward so they can go up or back depending on the desired angle of trajectory.

You’ll find the hurdle and lunge entry technique typically stays the same. We have all been taught to have a straight body line, strong deep lunge, with a big heel drive. The most underrated and under worked part of the roundoff in my opinion is the block. Strong block through the shoulders allows for better height and control of the ending portion of the roundoff.

Most of the time, your roundoff will go into a backwards skill (like a back handspring, or whip) the ending of that roundoff should over rotate so that we can get the feet in front for a more efficient punch into the back handspring . The ending of the roundoff and position of arms can vary depending on the skill that is being thrown after the roundoff. Always do your own research and find what works for you and your athletes.

Priority is to always make sure that you or your athletes are conditioned, and technically sound in basic tumbling movements, before progressing to harder skills.

Sean on Handstand Drills

The handstand by far is the most crucial movement an athlete will learn when starting to tumble. This position will be the foundation of almost every tumbling skill. While learning this movement, conditioning is the most important aspect due to the full body strength and awareness needed to properly perform this skill, so strength is key along with overall flexibility.

When it comes to drills, the benefit comes from knowing how to attack certain key issues. A drill that is beneficial to help athletes feel comfortable upside down is Box Handstand, which takes the weight of the lower body off the athlete’s arms allowing for perfection of upper body positioning, along with alleviating any fears of being inverted.  Wall Crawls is another drill that has dual use, allowing athletes to do a full body conditioning crawl up a wall until the athlete reaches a wall facing handstand.

When an athlete has a good understanding of upper body positioning, I like to then transition into lower body movement that puts them into the full weight bearing skill. Front lever repetition, learning to drive that back heel without breaking the upper body positioning and donkey kicks to levers.

Sean on Standing Tuck Troubleshooting

Having trouble with a standing tuck?

As a coach when I have an athlete having issues with a standing, I look at their physical conditioning. If an athlete can perform a standing tuck with precise technique on apparatuses such as tumble trak or air track, but are having issues on the floor, they have an athletic deficiency in some aspect.

To perform a standing tuck properly, requires an athlete to have many different types of strength and muscular reactions so you want to make sure you train them properly. Explosive hamstrings and glute muscles are absolutely crucial to propelling the athlete off the mat quickly and powerfully, along with creating the “hip lift” movement. Exercises such as box jumps, depth jumps , and broad jumps are some explosive movement exercises that help tremendously.

Moving along the upper body, a strong core to maintain the hollow body position, plank holds, plank ups, and ab roll outs are some things I use to help strengthen the abdominals and the intercostals (rib muscles). In outs with paper plates, and hanging leg raises to activate and isolate the knee drive, which help train the hip flexor which pull the legs up into a tucked position. Finishing off with fast arms, which require fast and flexible shoulders. Front raises and lateral raises with ankle weights around wrists for strength, along with resistance band work goes a long way.

The other part I like to reinforce is the stick. Single leg box jump landing on one leg, keeping it small about 8-12 high. Allowing the calves and ankles isolated training create a strong stable base for landings. Jump squats and lunges are daily to keep the absorbing motion strong and stable.

Sean on Walkovers

Whether you are going forward or backward, walkovers are one of the most basic, fundamental tumbling movements athletes start performing. Just as any other skill, the most important part of learning walkovers is the physical readiness of the athlete in both strength and flexibility, along with a good understanding of the prerequisite skills. Some of the prerequisites skills include handstands, back bends, front/back limbers, and bridge kick overs.

When dealing with either front or back walkovers, you want to pay close attention to the flexibility and positioning of the shoulder area.  Really focusing on active shoulders, and the open position of that area throughout either skill will help the athlete move through that handstand portion of both skills, with safety and efficiency. You will see, failure to do so will result in weak skills and an unnecessary compression of the other parts of the back which result in injury.

Just as with any other tumbling skill, breaking up the walkovers into pieces will help the athlete better understand each position, and aid in the timing of the skill. The entry, mid point (handstand position), and exit is just one basic, yet effective way of breaking down the skill.  Having a mastery of all 3 segments, will allow the athlete to move through the skill with confidence and complete awareness. As a coach our job is to always help the athlete have complete control through the entire movement. Going slowly and taking time will always benefit the athlete in the long run.

Sean on Back Handsprings

Sean Guzman is a Team Coach and Tumbling Coach at Top Gun in Florida.

Being one of the most basic fundamental tumbling movements, back handsprings are also one of the most difficult skills to master. Flexibility, strength, precision, timing, are all some of the key factors when performing a back handspring. Lack of shoulder flexibility and mobility, weak core, along with a lack of proper understanding of each position all make up some of the issues seen on many of our athletes while performing a back handspring. Knowing that this skill is crucial in the progression of an athlete, our attention as tumbling coaches should be to help athletes understand the importance of perfection before progression.

Athletes in our sport for many years have been plagued with issues such as, “head being out”, low back pain, and a lack of “power” when throwing a back handspring improperly. By making sure our athletes are being programmed from the start, to have both physical capability, and a strong understanding of each position, we avoid many issues in the future. We are also giving the athlete the best possible tools for their tumbling career. Back handsprings are one of the most basic skills our athletes perform, however they are technically one of the most difficult to master.

In competitive cheerleading, we see a trend in athletes progressing through this beginning stage very quickly achieving their goal of throwing the back handspring within weeks, not realizing the amount of technical issues they have. As time goes on, and skills get more difficult, those technical issues from the back handspring carry over causing the athlete to become stagnant in the higher levels. Pacing the athlete, and spending time on flexibility, strength, and speed will ensure safety and technical understanding of the skill for the athlete. The basis of a good back handspring, is a good foundation in all aspects of athleticism.

When dealing with an athlete who is ready to start learning a back handspring, breaking down the body positions of each part before focusing on the movement patterns. In my experience, reinforcing of positions before movement patterns allows the athlete to better understand the timing within the skill. Handstands, open shoulder handstand to vertical handstand and using boulders, to to stop in each position, and to also allow the athlete to move through the skill safely. Handstand snap downs blocking drills are all time tested drills and movements.

Starting slow, on an apparatus such as a trampoline aids in the explosive movement of the jump, allowing the athlete to really focus on the timing. Once the timing is consistent, the athlete can be progressed to more difficult surfaces forcing the athlete to use its conditioned muscles to speed up the timing of the movements allowing for a more powerful skills which will be necessary on the harder surfaces.

Good Luck to all you athletes and coaches and remember to stay safe!

Sean on Standing Fulls

Sean Guzman is a Team Coach and Tumbling Coach at Top Gun in Florida.

Standing fulls have always been a trickier skill for the average cheerleader to master. Even some of the most elite athletes in our sport have some sort of technical issue prohibiting them from having that picture perfect standing full. Lack of arm swing, weak hamstring and glutes, insufficient knowledge of body shape, and missed timed movement patterns, are just a few of the factors we see. Since many of these factors are issues seen in standing tuck, always remember to progress an athlete when ready and shows mastery of these elements in the more basic skills.

An athlete should always be conditioned enough to perform these skills. Conditioning assures the athlete and the coach, that the athlete is capable of performing the required movements. Standing fulls require fast arms, strong core, and explosive hamstrings. Wrist weights help tremendously for shoulder strength and speed. Arms are the leader in almost all our skills, so working the shoulders is crucial. There are a number of exercises that can be done with those wrist weights. Front raises, lateral raises, small arm circles, find what works for your athlete. For hamstring work, I like to use box jumps and I modify them with a quarter jump on, along with repetitive broad jumps and some other movements. Core work is of utmost importance. Hanging knee raises along with side v-ups and Russian twists, are my go-to workouts to target the obliques for all twisting skills.

Drills along with how the skill is taught can vary. There are 100’s of different ways to teach a standing full. I have always been a big advocate of the standing Arabian/front half approach. The standing Arabian being the first half of the standing full, and at the peak of the skill, it becomes a front half. Breaking down the standing full in this manner, allows for proper timing and air awareness. When you break down a single twist, it’s 4 quarters, when you break down a single flip, it is also 4 quarter, remembering that, allows you to breakdown the timing a lot more efficiently. The standing Arabian is a difficult skill to master, so do not rush this portion. Proper conditioning will always move the process along.