For Coaches BackHandSpring hand position?

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KimmieS

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On backhandsprings, should the hands be facing inward (fingers pointing together) or backward? I heard from another coach that it's better for them to point inward to prevent elbow hyperextensions -- is that true? The only time I've ever had my hands pointed inward was on a backroll-to-handstand. Is this a new technique?
 
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ryantroop

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Sep 21, 2008
423
Illinois
As my coach always said when I asked about technique - ask 10 coaches, and youll get 10 answers.

In my opinion, your fingers should not be turned in. I feel it helps with pushing off the floor, to develop more aggressive backward tumbling, where hands facing inward would be a shoulder push only.

Again.. this is my opinion...
 

GymLyon

New Member
Oct 12, 2008
44
I always teach them with the hands parallel, fingers facing towards where the gymnast was standing. I usually don't mind a slight turn inwards, but I feel too much of a turn takes away from the power generated in a tumbling pass much as ryantroop has explained. I've never thought about it alot though and I guess, in special cases, it can be used to help someone, say if they are more comfortable with their hands turned in and that the "only" way in their minds to keep their arms striaght. I would probably work with them and slowly get them to turn their hands more and more outwards until it is parallel. Turning outward, however, is a huge no-no as I'm sure you're aware. Unfortunately I've personally seen an elbow broken from this and numerous hyper-extensions.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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I teach them with hands turned in. It's easier on the wrists and elbows, and as an added bonus, allows the arms to bend for higher-level skills -- which may not sound like a good thing at first, but if you watch any elite gymnast doing a double-flipping element, you'll almost always find that they have their arms bent on the backhandspring. The reason is that a lower backhandspring results (to a certain extent) in greater height on whatever skill comes next.
 

Linsul

Active Member
Sep 19, 2008
876
Pripyat
I teach bh's with slight inward turn as well. When it comes to hands, the skill is so fast it's hard to get a result from simply explanation/trial and error I find. What I do is chalk the gymnasts palms so they can see the handprint they leave after. Usually makes things click the fastest.

Like Geoffrey Taucer I prefer low bh's. A good low bh, approximately the length of the gymnasts body with a great snapdown to feet slightly in front is what I'm going for. It is considered a milestone skill for many gymnasts, so it's always exciting to watch one get it without a spot. Behind the achievement itself is the utility of the skill as a launchpad to more advanced tumbling connections.

To get kids to understand that without killing the wind in their sails about getting the bh, I use a roller coaster analogy. They're the roller coaster cars, tumbling skills are the track, and the bh is the initial burst of speed from the station at take off that makes it all happen. Without that, there'd be no way to get to the loops and twists and turns (aka more advanced tumbling) later on the track!
 

GymLyon

New Member
Oct 12, 2008
44
I teach them with hands turned in. It's easier on the wrists and elbows, and as an added bonus, allows the arms to bend for higher-level skills -- which may not sound like a good thing at first, but if you watch any elite gymnast doing a double-flipping element, you'll almost always find that they have their arms bent on the backhandspring. The reason is that a lower backhandspring results (to a certain extent) in greater height on whatever skill comes next.

That's interesting I know what your talking about my coach was having me and a few other of my teammates who were level 8+ do this (back when i competed). I agree with you that higher-level people do this, but I think it is detrimental at the beginning levels to teach something where it's easy to bend the arms, as most of what gymnasts hear in those levels is "keep your arms/legs straight". When someone is higher level they have the self-discipline to change something and make it better without developing bad habits. But if you can make it work, and I'm not saying it doesn't, then more power to you! :D

$.02
 
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KimmieS

Guest
Wow! Lotsa different answers. I guess a lot just depends on general technique of the particular coach. I appreciate all the answers!

Also, (I forgot to ask at the beginning) what are your opinions on the starting position for backhandspring? I was always taught to start with arms up (no swing) and to quickly go into the "seat" position, but I've seen other gyms teach the "cheerleader" swing (my name for it) where they swing their arms down in front before jumping back. To me, it seems like this makes it too likely that they will go more UP instead of BACK, but others say it's better because it gives them more power in the jump, but I haven't tried teaching this way, yet. Opinions???
 

GymLyon

New Member
Oct 12, 2008
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, but I've seen other gyms teach the "cheerleader" swing (my name for it) where they swing their arms down in front before jumping back.

AHH NOOOOO Not that evil word!!!;) I have always been taught and teach the arm swing, starting with the arms up, dropping them either straight out or all the way down when you sit, and swinging them upwards/backwards when they jump. Of course you can't do this when doing a running round-off back handspring. Cheerleaders usually start with their arms down and by their side instead of up (in my experience with cheerleading, which isn't a whole lot).

I find the arm swing makes the backhandspring mcuh more comfortable and less scary for beginners. However you have to teach a different backhandspring when you move into ROBH. To me it is worth it because if you're going to teach a BH out of a rebound instead of a sit/jump you may as well teach em to keep their hands up at the same time.

My .02 :)
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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That's interesting I know what your talking about my coach was having me and a few other of my teammates who were level 8+ do this (back when i competed). I agree with you that higher-level people do this, but I think it is detrimental at the beginning levels to teach something where it's easy to bend the arms, as most of what gymnasts hear in those levels is "keep your arms/legs straight". When someone is higher level they have the self-discipline to change something and make it better without developing bad habits. But if you can make it work, and I'm not saying it doesn't, then more power to you! :D

$.02

It does indeed make the backhandspring much harder for beginners. For somebody just learning, a backhandspring with hands out is MUCH MUCH easier. BUT once that habit is ingrained in their heads, it's almost impossible to fix. I'd rather they have a harder time learning their backhandsprings at level 4 than have to relearn them at level 9 & 10.
 

GymLyon

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Oct 12, 2008
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It does indeed make the backhandspring much harder for beginners. For somebody just learning, a backhandspring with hands out is MUCH MUCH easier. BUT once that habit is ingrained in their heads, it's almost impossible to fix. I'd rather they have a harder time learning their backhandsprings at level 4 than have to relearn them at level 9 & 10.

I would like to know how large or advanced your gym is. I do not think your technique is wrong and mine is right, but I realize that 90% of the people who learn a back handspring are not going to be doing double backs, or even full twisting layouts. To have kids go out and do other things like cheerleading, or just tumbling for their friends, I would have a better peace of mind if I knew they were doing it with straight arms (and therefore safer). By the way I, of course, do not encourage kids to go out and do this stuff in their backyard, but it happens. Also just to clarify, maybe you read my post wrong, but I will never ever teach a BH with hands turned out. Parallel is what I teach. I have seen the effects of a turned-out BH and it's not pretty.

I do not teach very high level gymnasts, but if I did and wanted them to do lower back handsprings, I probably would not mind taking a few weeks re-teaching a single element in tumbling to the 5-10% or so of gymnasts who made it far enough to warrant that kind of tumbling. When a gymnast is that high of a level, a few good drills repeated over the course of two or three weeks I think would be sufficient for them to grasp the skill, especially one so simple, no matter how engrained it is. But like I said, I have not taught many higher level gymnasts and I am speaking from personal experience as a former level 8. You sound better qualified to comment on this.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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I would like to know how large or advanced your gym is. I do not think your technique is wrong and mine is right, but I realize that 90% of the people who learn a back handspring are not going to be doing double backs, or even full twisting layouts. To have kids go out and do other things like cheerleading, or just tumbling for their friends, I would have a better peace of mind if I knew they were doing it with straight arms (and therefore safer). By the way I, of course, do not encourage kids to go out and do this stuff in their backyard, but it happens. Also just to clarify, maybe you read my post wrong, but I will never ever teach a BH with hands turned out. Parallel is what I teach. I have seen the effects of a turned-out BH and it's not pretty.

My gym currently has two level 8 girls (well, one L8 and one L8.5) and one level 9 guy (though he's more of a front tumbler), and myself (I'm elite). The experience I draw from in coaching tumbling is not so much experience coaching a lot of high-level tumbling but on what I've found to work with myself, being an elite with floor as my strongest event. Though I have worked with level 9, 10, college, and elite girls on occasion, I've only been coaching for four years, and haven't coached anybody up to that level from the bottom.

You're absolutely right in that most kids never will be doing double-backs. And to clarify, I'll usually aim for hands turned in, but settle for hands parallel. But the natural tendency is to turn the hands out unless a specific effort is made to do otherwise. When my kids learn their backhandsprings (and 9 out of 10 times a kid's first backhandspring is done with hands turned out, regardless of what the coach says), I focus on "getting the hands turned in" to combat that. Sometimes they will end up with their hands actually turned in, sometimes they merely get them parallel. I guess you could say I insist on them being at least parallel before I move on to other corrections and other skills.

I also find that generally the kids who have a strong enough roundoff and good enough upper-body strength can keep their arms straight (or straight enough) even with hands turned in. It may take a little more work, but the difference in how long it takes to learn the BHS is measured in days or weeks; we're not talking several months here.

The hardest part is simply remembering, since often a kid will go right back to doing it with hands turned out if they aren't reminded frequently.

I do not teach very high level gymnasts, but if I did and wanted them to do lower back handsprings, I probably would not mind taking a few weeks re-teaching a single element in tumbling to the 5-10% or so of gymnasts who made it far enough to warrant that kind of tumbling. When a gymnast is that high of a level, a few good drills repeated over the course of two or three weeks I think would be sufficient for them to grasp the skill, especially one so simple, no matter how engrained it is. But like I said, I have not taught many higher level gymnasts and I am speaking from personal experience as a former level 8. You sound better qualified to comment on this.
My experience has always been that these little details get harder and harder to change the longer you wait.

I think this comes down to a difference in methods, and I wouldn't call either way "right" or "wrong."
 

gymdog

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Jul 5, 2007
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I personally don't start teaching young kids (cheer or gym) with the arm swing, but I don't think it's a "cheerleading thing." It's common technique to swing into a standing BHS. You do so in the USAG 6 compulsory and very few people are going to initiate a standing BHS beam series with no swing. Cheerleaders usually start with their arms parallel to the floor or lower for various reasons, while gymnasts usually start with the arms by the ears, for various reasons, but I don't really see why it matters all else being equal. I start with my arms parallel on beam BHS anyway.

I don't bother to teach turned in, but I make sure they aren't turning out. In my experience teaching a lot of beginning BHS, turned in hands are associated with shoulder angle and bent arms. Bent arms are okay to some extent but not usually to the extent I will see at that level. I find it easier to get them into the correction open shoulder position with the fingers facing forward or only very slightly turned in, and this is the HS position I focus for with beginners.

I would be okay with working on turned in hands after the BHS is relatively strong, but it isn't something I'm looking for as they learn it (I'm only looking for hands not turned out). I wouldn't make a priority in L4 and 5 to be honest. I did RO BHS double back without turning my hands in significantly (I have done it but it feels awkward to me and I'd rather not), and I certainly think it's barely an issue at all for a full twisting layout. Really the biggest problem I see with tumbling at all levels where significant improvement could be made is with RO and shaping of BHS (needing faster or more significant shape change). I do think there is a benefit to turning the hands in, but with limited time at the average non-elite tracked level, it's not what I see as the most important thing to focus on.
 
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