Home Page
About us
Find a certified coach in your area
Mailing list

Help on Youngster's Form

Hello Coach Wayne, I have a six-year-old that is an all-star cheerleader. She has been working on her backhandspring for about 3 months on the trampoline but 2 days ago she did it on the floor for the first time, and her form was great. After doing it several times, she began to bend her arms and land on her knees. What can i do to help her? Thanks.

Then handspring often requires several hundred HOURS of individual work to master. By Mastery I mean, the skill remains SAFE, STRONG, PROGRESSIVE, CONSISTENT and BEAUTIFUL over LONG periods of times and various environmental changes. Getting and losing a skill such as a handspring is very normal for an intermediate athlete, don't fret.
Every time a student grows or goes through a significant change in social or external environment (such as moving from tramp to mats or mats to gym-floor) she'll have to re-adjust. Even changes in her speed or form will occasionally force her to 're-learn' the skill. Relearning usually takes place quite quickly.


Keep your daughter working on the trampoline and OCCASIONALLY put them on the floor then go BACK to the Trampoline. Don't expect the transition from tramp to floor to take place all at once. ANY time she's strong and using good form on the trampoline move her to the mats for a few repetitions. Anytime she starts to lose her form you should move her BACK to the trampoline. Think in terms of MANY WEEKS, not any ONE practice. Habits develop over MANY repetitions and long periods of time.

The trampoline is different from the mats in that it depresses and responds more slowly but more completely so that LESS STRENGTH is needed to perform a handspring. Have her spend EXTRA time working on her LEG push to develop complete expression and greater power. Use straight knees, pointed toes and fully opened hips to develop the LEG strength she'll need to have a well-formed, full-speed handspring on mats.

A good place to evaluate the progress of her handspring is in the HANDSTAND position. YES, the handSPRING has a handSTAND in the middle of it. OFTEN students will arch through the handstand position without ever MARKING a correct (well-formed) handstand. In fact there should be a BEAUTIFULLY formed, strong handstand in the middle of the handSPRING, but the body will move THROUGH that position VERY rapidly. Most of the time when we think of a handstand we think of the skill as being STATIC, BALANCED, without movement. But the handstand POSITION is crucial to the handspring and if a student fails to pass through a well-formed handstand then she'll ALWAYS have trouble with her power-tumbling.

SO have her PRACTICE her handstand against a wall VERY often. 10x per day for 5 seconds each and if there are ANY errors (feet apart, hands too wide, back arched, head sticking out, etc.) she must do TWO additional handstands to make up for the error, or start over at a ZERO count.

Finally, I recommend that your daughter practice STEPPING out of the handspring rather than REBOUNDING. So, her feet should NOT come down together, (rebounding) rather, AFTER she springs THROUGH her handstand position (in the handspring). Instead, she should split her legs and step BACKWARDS on ONE foot (through a LONG LUNGE STEP position) and. then close the skill by CONTINUING backward into a STAND position (feet together) with the arms HIGH overhead. This will develop the HABIT of holding the hips HIGH off the floor instead of letting them drop (knees hitting) and keeps her center of gravity at the correct height for MULTIPLE handsprings. It's important to develop coordination in BOTH sides, so the student should step out LEFT, and then RIGHT, alternating. After a few hundred successful step-outs, and assuming the core abdomen/back strength is sufficient, the two-footed snap-down/rebound can be introduced.

Additional strength exercises are available in my "Better Back handsprings" video and my new "Basic Handstand Position" video details a well-formed handstand. I recommend BOTH for ANY tumbling student who has NOT yet mastered her handSPRING. My competitive collegiate cheerleading squad ALL practice their basic handstand position AND foundation strength building exercises at EVERY practice 3x per week. My Olympic gymnast practices her handstand at every practice and before every competition. That's one of the reasons why she's an Olympian.

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.


TumblingTIPS Index


printer friendly


TumblingTIPS Index