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Back Handspring Leg Push

Coach Wayne,

My daughter is a power tumbler. We have your video and it has been very helpful. My question is she has a very strong round-off back tuck, she gets a great push coming out of the round-off and gets great height on her tuck, and even her layout. The problem is she has problems with her back handspring. She tends to lift one leg instead of pushing through the floor and doesn't get the same push as she does in her tuck. Are there any tips that you can give her to get the push need for a better back handspring?

The push into any skill is virtually useless unless there's something to push against... in this case...the floor. If your daughter is lifting one leg off the floor rather than pushing it completely straight BEFORE she leaves the floor, then she is definitely losing a great deal of the potential power, grace, and beauty of her skill.

The error, however, is extremely common. The way you're describing her tumbling makes me think she's simply set up a weak habit for the leg-push into her handspring. Finding the exact drill to allow her to correct herself is our goal. Here an exercise set that should work.

1) In day ONE of my "Better Back Handsprings" video... during the first lesson... I discuss in DETAIL the extension of the hips and knees through the leg push. Start there and have her review that lesson. Pay particular attention to the part where I am actually spotting and holding the tumbler. Please realize that Brian (in the video) is demonstrating the exact error she's making, although he's exaggerating it for me. To correct the error we watch him FULLY EXTEND both knees AGAINST the floor...and STRETCH them as straight as possible THROUGH the handstand position. Your daughter must make the same correction although the problem is only with one of her legs.

2) NEXT, she needs to isolate the skill she's working on so she's not attempting to correct the leg-push in the handspring while focusing on the round-off and flip. Have her schedule 10 minutes or so in her next few workouts EXCLUSIVELY to the back-handspring.

3) I would have her begin that 10 minute training period with LEG PUSH exercises onto an incline mat. This exercise set allows her to isolate her knee straightening in the leg-push. It is simple, clear and quite effective.  Now you can use your tablet to help build specific strength for superior tumbling, click to find out how.

     a) Stand at the small end of a wedge/incline mat. (at least 8 feet long)
     b) Starting in a gymnastic-stance position, have her fall FLAT back onto the wedge with a straight body. This simply allows her to point her attention to the STRAIGHTNESS of her knees when she's standing and keeping them straight throughout the fall. (arms overhead) Her body should be perfectly straight, head-to-toe, throughout this drill. Remember to "SQUEEZE the legs COMPLETELY straight and tight."
     c) Next, add a small JUMP/PUSH into that fall. The ONLY part of her body that's changed is her knees... as she leans she bends her knees and then pushes them straight and HOLDS them straight after the jump as she 'flies' onto her back. Again, "Squeeze the legs completely STRAIGHT." Make sure she REALLY focuses on those knees. You should SEE her leg muscles tighten and once the knees are straight the legs must remain straight, from hips to toes.
     d) Finally, progress from a small jump to a GIANT jump. Now the jump should be in 'real-time' (as if she's actually doing a handspring) with the same POWER needed for the handspring. Have her also swing the arms into this jump for about 1/2 the repetitions. On the other half, the arms should remain straight overhead. 

4) NOW, move her to standing back-handsprings (level floor) on a straight line. Mark "body-length-plus-arms" (as in day four of the "Better Back-Handsprings" video) & make sure she can CONSISTENTLY push knees straight & KEEP them straight. You should be able to watch her and SEE her pass through the handstand position of the handspring before the snap-down. These can be spotted or solo handsprings. Her goal is twelve perfect standing handsprings. (I recommend a step-out rather than a rebounding handspring at this point)

NOTE!!!! & HERE is the TRICK...
If she fails... even ONCE to push the knees COMPLETELY straight...(and KEEP them straight) or if she bends the knees OR the hips AT ALL in her spring through the handstand position ... she must IMMEDIATELY return to the wedge and repeat those earlier-basic exercises three or more times. Most students do NOT want to return to those simpler exercises... this becomes a discipline tool. If she cannot perform the progression correctly, she must return to the simpler drill to correct the error.

After a while, she'll catch on and will take command of her OWN body and DEMAND that it performs correctly... that the knees straighten COMPLETELY through the leg-push. She'll be able to demonstrate correct leg-work in the handspring 12 times CONSTANTLY.

6) Once the standing handspring is consistently accurate... advance to multiple standing handsprings... and round-off handsprings, etc. Through repetition she'll develop the CORRECT HABIT, effectively replacing the poor habit.

The poor habit may slip back in as she adds difficulty or complexity to her tumbling... or if she becomes a bit tired or lazy. It still happens to me after over 20 years of tumbling. But now you know how to correct the pattern before it redevelops into a bad habit.

Please let me know how ya'll are doing... stay in touch!
Have fun, be safe push HARD!!!


Coach Wayne was the Head Coach for the Savannah College of Art and Design Cheerleading team and Executive Coach of Olympic Gymnast Zuzana Sekerova. His articles, videos, and books have been used by students and instructors worldwide since 1991. Coach Wayne is available for tumbling instructor certification training. For booking information, coaches/owners should text or call 912.238.1747.



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