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Hi. I've heard conflicting suggestions about whether a gymnast should have her head neutral (not looking at hands) or flexed slightly so she can look at her hands while in a handstand. I know there should be no arch, and she shouldn't take her head out from between her arms, but most gymnasts feel more comfortable at least tilting their heads so they can see their hands. Is that OK, or is it better not to look at all and have the top of your head facing the floor?


You're exactly right.
I use the 'head-neutral' position... and allow enough tilt for the student to also see her hands. The trick, for me, is to use the descriptive, "Look through your eyebrows and just BARELY see your hands, but keep your chin as close to your chest as possible." I think it's CRITICALLY important for students to see the PRECISE placement of their hands... to accurately reach to a designated line (or point) in the lunge-step-reach-to-handstand (& skills using it)... so blindly placing the hands is a NO NO. But.... the (chin-lift) head tilt should be minimized to an ABSOLUTE MINIMUM to avoid any ARCHING in the back... and to avoid creating a weakened angle of support in the shoulder. Obviously, the hands must be directly over the hips and shoulders.

Most students... when told to 'look at your hands" will tilt the chin TOO MUCH. They should learn to work into and out of a handstand with momentary glances to where the hands & feet should be placed... but rely upon good biomechanics (rather than instinctive comfort) for well-formed tumbling.

Interestingly, I've recently found that a 'perfectly relaxed' head position... (in the handstand) creates a rather ideal 'neutral' position.

I recommend finding ways to get your students to learn to 'dangle their head loosely' from their shoulders. (when upside down) . That usually REQUIRES that they LEARN to identify "Chin on Chest", "Lift your Chin"... and turn/side-tilt positions also... so they recognize WHEN they are using muscles in the neck to HOLD a position of the head...and when everything is relaxed and the head is truly neutral.

Beyond that... teaching them to LOOK WITH the EYES independently of head movement... while the body is changing positions... is a vital KEY to controlling their tumbling.

Have fun, be safe, push HARD.

You may also be interested in the following:
(FLASH player permission is required to view animations.)
Back Tuck Progressions
Benchmarks of Excellence
Cross Arm Spot
Gymnastics Jump
Jump, Set, Tuck
Lunge to Handstand
Round-Off Hand Placement
Straight Body Fall


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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