Back handspring troubles

Discussion in 'Coach Forum' started by skfleming255, Jul 15, 2008.

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  1. skfleming255

    skfleming255 New Member

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    How do you get a child to keep their arms straight in a back handspring? Does the problem lie with fear or strength? My dd is trying to get hers. When she jumps back her arms are straight but when her hands hit, her arms are bent. Thanks for any advice.

  2. gymdog

    gymdog Coach Coach Proud Relative Former Gymnast

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    It's usually a shoulder angle problem when I have this problem with people. I demonstrate it by pushing against them with their arm at an angle (to their torso); it usually collapses. Then I have them raise it to an open shoulder and push down from the top. Most of the girls I am working BHS with have the stregnth to resist in this position. For many of them it isn't really a strength issue (although more core and handstand conditioning never hurts), but a positioning, timing, and sometimes flexibility. Many girls pike over early and collapse through their shoulders. I encourage them to push back through their legs (extend through the toes on the take off) and then push their hips forward until the HS (head neutral), and then WORK FOR IT - push off the hands, lead with the chest. Rather than just waiting for it all to come over through the shoulder angle. A lot of beginning tumblers don't work enough for the end of the skill. They work to initiate and wait for it to just come over (I have this problem with teaching BHS and BT).

    The other body awareness issue especially with younger girls is trying to resist through the elbows to finish the skill rather than blocking through the shoulders. This is why having a good BWO with correct shoulder action is important (don't get me started on teaching BHS without a BWO or back limber through HS!!!) I do pretty much only BHS to HS (only the first part, stopping them in the HS position) with young ones as well for some time.
  3. Geoffrey Taucer

    Geoffrey Taucer Admin/Coach/Gymnast CBBC Board Member Verified Coach

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    It could actually be a problem with flexibility. If a kid has stiff shoulders, she may not be able to get her arms back far enough to do it comfortably, and often when this happens, kids will bend their arms.
  4. MyrtleWarbler

    MyrtleWarbler New Member

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    I agree with what the other coaches said... it's generally more about the shoulders than the elbows.

    If the strength is basically there, and the flexibility in the back and shoulders is there, and they aren't undercutting (BHS that goes up too high and comes straight down will be harder to turn over with straight arms), then simply shifting the body awareness to the shoulders rather than the "arms" may help. I never tell a kid having this problem simply "straight arms" - I always tell them "strong arms" or better yet "strong shoulders." I've seen that make all the difference in a kid who was really close on the BHS. Sometimes it's amazing what a little shift in emphasis can do.

  5. gymnasticcoach

    gymnasticcoach New Member

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    I do not know how old your child is but here are some ideas i have used to teach and help bhs.

    1...If you have a barrel or some type of roll have the gymnast stand with heels against roll and fall back into a hdstd & then to their feet. Please make sure that the roll/barrel is a bit higher than their hips.

    2...Same as above but with a small jump bkwds, and when they stand against the roll have their toes on a slight height (say the bottom of a beat board) so they appear to be falling bkwd.

    3...If the coach is a strong spotter have them spot the child for the bhs & stop & hold them in the hdstd position, before lowering them to their feet.

    4...If undercutting is a problem and your gym has folding mats that are 2 feet wide have the gymnast stand with their heels against the mat and put gym chalk on their hands. Have them do a bhs with or without spot and see where their hands land. If the hands land anywhere within the first panel (first two feet) of the mat they are undercutting. The hands should not appear any closer than 2 feet from their heels.

    5...One more than may be diffcult for me to explain. If you have an trapezoid take the two bottom blocks and a mini trampoline and a 8-12 inch landing mat. Place the high end of the mini tramp on the trapezoid blocks so it is angled down. Place the landing mat against the bottom of the mini tramp. Have the gymnast take no more than 3 steps and jump off the min tramp and perform the bhs on the landing mat. PLEASE USE A COMPETENT SPOTTER IF THE GYMNAST IS UNSURE OR AFRAID...(can also be used for teaching back tucks)

    Hope these ideas help.

    Don
  6. ACoach78

    ACoach78 Coach Coach

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    First of all, if the gymnast is truly jumping backwards, that's a problem. The gymnast should think about jumping upwards, not backwards. How a gymnast/tumbler travels backwards on a back handspring is the result of the center of mass being outside of the the base of support (i.e. not directly over top of the feet) at the initiation of the jump. When this occurs, a torque is generated. The arm "throw" backwards also contributes as they create an "unweighting" effect when they start to swing upwards.

    Secondly, what is the head position upside down? If the gymnast is "ducking" the head or not looking at the back of the hands, the arms will bend every time as it's impossible to fully elevate the shoulder girdle and lock out the upper back with the neck in full flexion. As a result, all of the weight is being pretty much supported by the arms and they're going to bend unless you want a hyperextended elbow.

    I'd venture to say it's a combination of these two things with some under-cutting mixed in. Bottom line - she probably needs to spend more time doing the main progressions - (i.e. jumping to back on a big resi or porta pit, handstand snap-ups, etc.) and less of the actual back handspring.
  7. lannamavity

    lannamavity New Member

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    More recently, I've had more success with delaying the extension of the shoulders when reaching into the back handspring (the "arm throw" as ACoach describes). I think kids sometimes reach their arms back so early that their shoulders actually snap their arms back down toward their torso as their hands contact the floor. They also try to get their hands up so early that their ribs pop out and their knees actually move forward ("undercut").

    During the late 90's, there was a trend where kids were taught to either not swing their arms or use a minimal arm swing, so the kids were effectively just jumping backwards onto outstretched arms, which, in my opinion, is very difficult and dangerous...and just biomechanically weird. I never understood that.

    But the problem is not at all unusual, and even the best kids go through that phase at some point. All is not lost.;)
  8. gymdog

    gymdog Coach Coach Proud Relative Former Gymnast

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    Absolutely. They hit the extension through their shoulders (if ever) virtually before they've even started getting background momentum and then they tend to pike over, angle their shoulders, and sort of collapse in on themselves.

    I don't teach a swing with younger kids initially usually, but it depends. To some extent I'm willing to go with what they catch onto, so if they start showing an indication of correct arms, I'll have them start doing it earlier (I don't try to teach all the way to unspotted on floor without swing or anything - this is just for awhile when they first start). I have them get into a good initial position and spot it back to stop in HS. Eventually I'll move them to swing (this is partly cheer so there won't be a choice anyway - everyone has to do things standard). But it's much easier for me to get them in the correct positions without the swing. Just takes away one thing to think about from the beginning. I've never really had problems getting them to pick up the swing.

    When the swing BHS is competent, I have some drills and regular work that might call for no swing but that would be much later. With high schoolers, it's simply not an option...I can't carry spot an incompetent BHS back from no swing to HS since I'm the size of the average high school girl, actually a pretty good majority of high school cheerleader are significantly taller than me. Plus they usually need a halfway decent standing BHS fast so not looking to waste much time. I like to have the little mini kids have a concept of the no swing BHS through correct positions as we go because it makes it easier to teach running and connection tumbling. With older girls I would just be a lot more concerned that "have to do things the way I always have" rigidity sets in and it would just add another hurdle for them to jump through.
  9. ACoach78

    ACoach78 Coach Coach

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    What you're describing are all symptoms of the disease. And, the disease is that the kids aren't taught to the beginning part of the back handspring properly - how to "fall back" so as to move their center of mass away from their base of support (sort of the "sit"...but, I hate using that term to describe it) while simultaneously jumping upwards.

    The root of the problem has absolutely nothing to do with what the arms are doing, etc. etc. The real issue is that the kids haven't been taught to jump properly so as to create the necessary rotation (torque) to perform the skill. How much force are you generating by swinging your arms? None. You create a reaction force by pushing against the ground. Do the arms contribute? Absolutely...to the total body angular momentum. How much? Well, that's debatable. But, research from the world of track and field has indicated that in the jumps (high jump / long jump), the arms contribute about 10% of the total body angular momentum.

    To be quite honest, you should never be so "heavy" on the hands to actually get a true "push" off of the ground. In reality, you should pretty much bounce off of your arms and it's all dictated by very precise, sequential timing from elevation of the scapula/shoulder girdle down to wrist and finger flexion during the finish of the snap-up phase in addition to transferring this force effectively by maintaining a rigid shape (hollow, bottom squeezed, pelvis rotated under) during the snap-up.
  10. lannamavity

    lannamavity New Member

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    That backhandspring is the goal...as impossible as it seems most days.:crazy:

    BTW, gymdog...I was referring to coaches having ALL kids do ALL backhandsprings w/o an arm swing. I do understand how a focus on shapes as opposed to arm movement is a great training tool for beginners.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2008
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