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Bent Arms in the

My daughter is working on her back handspring but 8 out of 10 times she will land with her arms bent and her head almost on the mat, she has distance but can not get the arms to support her, what can she do better? She works really hard but I think she is starting to feel discouraged.
Thanks for the help.

Arm and shoulder strength is critically important for the handspring. The best advice is to practice more Handstands, Handstands, Handstands! Nothing can replace HOURS of handstands.

The handspring DEMANDS very powerful shoulders and elbows and wrists. Your daughter is not only diving backward ONTO her hands as she enters the handspring, but she must also pass through a long, straight handstand position. THEN she must aggressively spring OFF the hands onto her feet. That requires ENORMOUS strength.


Get her upside down in her handstand more often!

Is your daughter upside down while she’s watching television? Try it!
Is she standing on her hands while talking on the phone? (speakerphone recommended.)
Is she reading school homework with her feet over her head?
You must use GOOD JUDGMENT about when and where it is SAFE to practice handstands. Be creative; the trick is to make the handstand position something that she's EXTREMELY comfortable moving into and out of. Count how many handstands she currently practices each week. Next week, do TEN TIMES as many! The stronger her handstand is the stronger her handspring can be.

Make sure she practices well-formed, superbly executed handstands. There's no point in rehearsing sloppy ones. Any errors that occur in the handstand will probably occur in the handspring, only with exaggeration! That means EVERY time she's upside down... regardless of HOW or WHEN she gets there, she should maintain ALL these elements:

  • pointed toes

  • feet together

  • straight knees

  • thighs squeezed tightly

  • hips and buttocks squeezed tightly

  • back taut and straight

  • shoulders slightly hollowed (not arched)

  • head neutral (neither tucked nor arched)

  • Arms shoulder-width apart (thumbs almost touching each other

  • Remember that there are MANY exercises to help strengthen her arms. In my "Better Back-Handsprings" video I guide tumblers through dozens of such exercises that can be practiced at home in front of the TV in order to be better prepared for class.

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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