Is there a right/wrong way to teach a hurdle into a roundoff? I don’t know if I could legitimately say that there is a wrong way to teach any skill, but the most productive way that I’ve seen taught and used, is hurdling in a tight “touchdown”, or another “Shea technique” that was taught to me this past summer, was how to lift the arms behind the ears while clasping the hands at the top of the hurdle. These two techniques really helps an athlete to reach, instead of drop arms into a roundoff. Most of your running tumbling will start with this skill. So, if this isn’t a strong skill of yours, the following skills will more than likely suffer.
What is the proper lunge and leg positioning? Most common problems with this is a short lunge, or a deep lunge into the roundoff. I also am seeing athletes who will cross their lead leg over their back leg while trying to push into a roundoff. All of these cause short and crooked roundoffs which then turns into less power into the skill, and less effective power into their connecting skill. An easy fix to this that I have just started to use myself, is to lead with the toe, and not knee into the athletes roundoff. This forces a stronger lunge, which in turn promotes a better push and reach into this skill.
Hand placement in the skill? This is one of the many debates of roundoffs. Is there a right or wrong way to teach an athlete to place their hands in this skill? Not really sure, but I will tell you what has worked for me. What I have always taught, and a great example that was explained to me one day by my boss, who just so happens to be a genius with analogies. She says it’s like parking a car in the garage. So, if your athlete is doing a left roundoff, I teach to reach into the skill, while left hand’s (the garage) fingers are pointing towards the left, and then to bring the right hand (the car) over the top while pointing right hands fingers towards the separation of the index finger and thumb of left hand. The right hand coming over the top of the left should help to get the hips rotated through this skill.
Often times when dealing with the roundoff a few issues are getting feet together fast enough to allow for blocking as well as pushing through toes from each foot. A few drills to help with getting feet together faster.
- Roundoff to push up shape. I like to introduce this from a lung with landing onto a soft surface. Once the hands touch the floor they stay there and I tell my kids I want to “hear” their feet clap.
- Roundoff up a wedge mat. This will allow the athlete to feel their improper landings. In order to rebound up and back they have to get their feet together quickly.
Pushing through toes is a concept that takes time so it’s important to be patient and try several drills to see what clicks with the individual. Here are a few things I like to do.
- I like to have the athlete start with their good leg knee down on the floor, hands back. Athlete will stand up on their bad leg and push through their toes into a proper lunge and complete the roundoff.
- Another popular one is to start standing with good leg lifted off of the ground, toe slightly in front. I ask the athlete to hop (preferably punch) off of the other leg as far as they can 3 times and then roundoff. This helps engage the hips and forces them to push through their toes. Watch for turning as sometimes athlete feel the need to wind up but it’s important to stay square.
There are many variations of these drills as well as ways to combine them and challenge your athletes.
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.
Some of the common issues I see in handstands are a short lunge, head out and improper balance.
A tip I got from Debbie Love was to walk heel to toe 4 steps and that should be the distance of step into the lunge. Elbows behind ears with an invisible straight line from finger tips to pinky toe. This lunge will provide the proper angle for athlete to stretch to the floor for their handstand.
Neutral head position is often tough for athletes starting handstands as they often feel as they will fall over if they don’t poke their head out. I prefer the athlete watch their fingertips touch the floor then look back the direction they came. This will allow for a neutral head position.
Balancing a handstand to hold for 3 seconds is often much more difficult than it may seem. Kicking legs and arching the lower back is the most common ways I’ve seen athletes try to balance and hold a handstand. I have my athletes clap their hands palm to palm and squeeze their fingertips so that their palms stay touching but there is a slight lift in the finger while the palm and tips stay touching. This allows the athlete to engage the muscles throughout their arms into the core. Pointing toes and engaging glutes, quads and hamstrings is crucial to holding a proper handstand.
The handstand is such an important skill for shaping as well as strength and when done properly helps all aspects of the athletes tumbling.
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.
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.