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.
Standing tucks might just be my favorite skill to teach, but at the same time, can be one of the most taxing skills to get accomplished.
Some of the most common problems I see with standing tucks are the dropping of the chest in the entry, lack of use of the arms, throwing the head back, and heels being driven to the rear, instead of over the head. All of these can be resolved by simple basic drills. Some of these problems can be fixed two or three at a time with one drill. You just have to be patient.
A good drill to start out with is a basic straight jump onto a box mat, or panel mat. Try to encourage the arms being used, and the actual jump into the skill. If your athlete is going into this skill through a good athletic stance, this will help promote going through the right form into the jump, before the tuck.
Another drill I like to use, that also helps condition the athlete’s core, is to stack mats between the lower and midpoint of the athletes back, and then have them jump into a candlestick position, that will tuck at the top. Just make sure that once the athlete is driving their hips through the candlestick position, to drive their shins and toes over their head to hit the tuck position. You’re most common problem with standing tucks would be landing short. If you are able to teach a good shin and toe drive that goes over the head, this will help stop your athlete from landing with too much weight in the front part of their feet. Also, this will save ankles for the long run.
Too often, standing tucks can be the most rushed skill for an athlete to have. Let’s just all take the time to teach them correctly, so we then can be able to teach all the other skills that will come after.