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.

Drills=Skills Show 09 – Classes

This week’s edition of Drills=Skills features Shea, David, and Sean discussing classes.

David on Handstand Technique

I’m sure that everyone out there has at least given a solid effort in attempting to do a handstand. And I’m sure that some of us did them fairly well. But, we all have seen people try this “simple” drill and epically fail.

What I want to do, is give you a few techniques that we should all strive for, so that we can teach our younger kids the most important skill in all of tumbling.

First thing I’m looking for while teaching a handstand is the positioning of the arms, head, shoulders and chest, and lunge positioning. First off, in the lunge, I like my athletes to be in about a 45 degree angle from shoulder to back leg.

I’m also making sure that the athlete’s arms are not just by the head, but behind the ears, so to open the shoulders throughout. This will also help prevent the dropping of arms going into this skill, as well as how we approach cartwheels and round offs.

I’m then making sure that the athletes head position stays neutral throughout this skill. It’s so easy to have your chin raised, while looking for your hands, when reaching into the handstand. This will only cause a slight arch in the back, which is one thing we are really trying to avoid while learning the beginning/foundation skills of tumbling.

Let’s make sure that while we are teaching our fundamentals, that we don’t just pass on by these skills and drills. You ever want to know why a level 5 kid has a bad full? Check out their round off. Ever wonder why their round off isn’t too hot? Check out that handstand.

Drills=Skills Show 08 – Technique

The 8th edition of Drills=Skills is all about technique.

Drills=Skills Show 07 – Roundoffs

The 7th edition of Drills=Skills featured Shea, David, and Sean discussing roundoffs.

Drills=Skills Show 06 – Handstands

The topic for today’s edition of Drills=Skills is Handstands.

Drills=Skills Show 05 – Front Twisting

Special guest Victor Rosario joins Shea, David, and Sean for the 5th episode of Drills=Skills. The topic is front twisting.

The show covers introducing front twisting, proper twisting direction philosophies as well as drills and conditioning to maximize front twisting.

David on Walkovers

I can’t begin to tell you how many athletes come into a cheerleading gym wanting to learn how to do any skill that involves a flip, without ever knowing all the progressions that come before that actual skill. And one of those most important progressions would be the walkover, front or back.

Before you even get to either one of those walkovers, there are progressions that come before them. Some of those for example would be, a bridge (from either a standing position or lying down and pushing up into it), bridge kickovers, and front and back limbers.

One of the most important parts to pay attention to while doing this skill, would definitely be the shoulder flexibility of the athlete. Too often you will see bent legs, or a severe bend at the hips causing a pike at the finish. This is often due to the lack of flexibility in the shoulder area and can be easily avoided if the progressions of these skills are taught correctly.

One of my favorite drills for the front walkover is a basic front limber, or front walkover off of a panel mat. Long ago, one of my mentors taught me the importance of “REACHING” into the front walkover, rather than “just placing” hands down in front of you. A lot of times an athlete will dive straight down into this skill. Reaching into a front walkover will help encourage more of a push from the lunge and promote a better stretch through the shoulders, and a better hip and heel drive over the top, while pushing through the handstand position before finishing in the front walkover.

As for the back walkover, I have to be able to teach the athlete that it’s not just a bridge and then kick over. When a kid does this, they miss the part of pushing through their shoulders. While teaching this skill, I like to focus on the timing of when their hands hit the mat, they then push through their shoulders, which will in turn help promote the drive through their hips and shins/toes while kicking over in the back walkover. There is no specific way of identifying the perfect timing of when to kick over, but I like to refer to my athlete that when they start to feel a slight stretch in the shoulders, that’s when the drive from the hips should start.

I could really go on for days about all the important steps to this skill. But, if us coaches can really take the time to teach our basic fundamentals, these skills will happen a lot faster and easier. Just remember that, “Progressions equals Perfection!” No matter what skill it is!

Shea on Walkovers

A prerequisite skill for a back walkover would be to fall to a bridge from a standing position and preferable to kick over as well.  For a front walkover I like to see that an athlete can do a front limber and stand without dropping their arms.

Walkovers, both forward and backward, are great skills for beginners to learn proper opening of upper back and shoulders to help prepare for front and back handsprings.  A common misconception is that arching using the lower back and kicking hard will get the athlete through the skill.  The skill can be done this way but it’s not recommended.  The upper back stretched has up to 70% mobility allowing for it to be much more useful.

Some progressions I use are standing with athletes back to the wall, placing hands on wall and walking down into a bridge (they need to walk both hands and feet).  Once the can walk down and up the wall I have them try to do it with one foot raised to build the necessary strength.  It may take some time but will build the shoulders, core and leg strength needed.

I like to do what I call “tic tocs” as well.  The athlete starts in a bridge, lifts one leg and kicks over back and forth only allowing one foot to touch the floor while hands do not move from the floor.  This helps the athlete feel the shoulders open as well as hip flexor press at the same time in both directions.

For beginners who haven’t mastered the kickover yet, I’ll have them lay on their back with knees bent, place both hands overlapping behind the head and bridge up on elbows.  This helps isolate the open shoulders (make sure they aren’t supporting weight on their head/neck).  Once in the proper elbow bridge I’ll have them kick over. If they close their shoulders they won’t be able to make it.

The techniques of both front and back walkovers is fairly simple but the fear of going backwards is real. Be patient.  In the front walkover athletes tend to want to rush to stand up, make sure the head stays neutral, shoulders open and really use the hamstrings and glutes to finish the skill.

Drills=Skills Show 03 – Tucks

Episode 3 of Drill=Skills features Shea, David, and Sean focusing on Tucks.