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Technique discussion: back tumbling

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Geoffrey Taucer

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This is basically an offshoot of a side discussion we were having in the vault thread. I'd like to leave this fairly open; we can discuss handpsrings, tucks, layouts, doubles, whatever.

I'll post my thoughts/philosophies later, when I have a bit more time to write them up.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Ok, so here are my thoughts. This is going to be a bit more rambling than my earlier technique topics, because it's covering a wider range of skills, and has a few elements that I haven't entirely figured out how best to coach myself.

Roundoff:
Until you get to twisting double saltos, a roundoff is the most obscenely complicated and arguably the most difficult skill to learn on floor. The reason we teach it to beginners is not that it's easy enough for them to get, but that it's absolutely necessary for any higher level skills.
I don't think there's much debate about what a roundoff should look like; long hurdle, long step comming out of the hurdle (this often isn't emphasized enough by coaches), a late but fast turn of the upper body so that one hand ends up facing back the direction you came from by the time the hands hit the floor, legs come together as soon as the push off the floor is complete, and then the feet are pulled down and under with an agressive snap to hollow. It should be landed in a hollow, on toe, leaning backwards. The backwards lean on landing is necessary to set up for a good backhandspring; obviously this must be altered if the roundoff is to be followed by something other than a backhandspring.

Backhandspring
This is far less complicated than a roundoff; all you do is snap to a tight arch, and when your hands hit, snap to a tight hollow. There really isn't much more to it.
The only really complicated part is the block off the hands and the snap down at the end, as this section must be altered depending on what skill comes next. If it will be followed by another handspring or a whip, the feet should be snapped under the gymnast, like a roundoff. If it will be followed by a salto, the feet should be snapped down behind the gymnast to deflect their power upward.

I'm still working out the details of how this last part can best be accomplished. It seems to me that there are two ways of getting this deliberate underrotation in the backhandspring. The first is to not snap down so hard. This extends the backhandspring and causes it to underrotate, setting up for a powerful upward punch. I hesitate to coach this, as it seems counterproductive to deliberately decrease your power. The other method is to bend the arms; the decrease in upward push off the hands causes the feet to come to the floor faster, and thus the backhandspring is underrotated. I hesitate to teach this one as well, though it seems to happen naturally as gymnasts develope more powerful roundoffs. As I haven't figured out my preferred method of coaching this myself, I neither encourage nor discourage either of the above techniques.

While we're on the subject of backhandsprings, does anybody have any good drills or tricks to fix problems usually encountered by kids with hyperflexible backs? You know the type; they underrotate their roundoffs and undercut the first half of their backhandspring, but because they can arch their backs so far, the backhandspring still feels smooth and fast to them, so they have trouble correcting it.

Anyway, on to other elements.

Back Tuck
Comming out of the backhandspring, the chest and shoulders are openned to hit an (ideally) straight body position on contact with the floor. After the feet leave the floor, the gymnast pulls the knees up to the chest for rotation. I tell my kids that their head should be the last thing to flip, as the most common problem is throwing the head and chest back on takeoff. As the gymnast developes more powerful tumbling and a better set, he/she can add a slight delay before pulling into the tuck and a kickout at the end.

Back Layout
Chest and shoulders should be slightly more open on the set than for a tuck. After the set, there's not much to it except to stay tight until you see the ground. Ideally, the body should be completely straight, but it often ends up being done with a slight arch or hollow. In my experience, most gymnasts tend to fix this automatically when they start twisting.

Double Back
Same as a tuck, only more so. What more is there to say?

Double Layout
I want to hear somebody else's input on this; I've been trying, without success, to learn it for about a year. I've never coached anybody at a level anywhere near high enough to work this skill.
 
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JBS

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Roundoff:
Until you get to twisting double saltos, a roundoff is the most obscenely complicated and arguably the most difficult skill to learn on floor. The reason we teach it to beginners is not that it's easy enough for them to get, but that it's absolutely necessary for any higher level skills.
I don't think there's much debate about what a roundoff should look like; long hurdle, long step comming out of the hurdle (this often isn't emphasized enough by coaches), a late but fast turn of the upper body so that one hand ends up facing back the direction you came from by the time the hands hit the floor, legs come together as soon as the push off the floor is complete, and then the feet are pulled down and under with an agressive snap to hollow. It should be landed in a hollow, on toe, leaning backwards. The backwards lean on landing is necessary to set up for a good backhandspring; obviously this must be altered if the roundoff is to be followed by something other than a backhandspring.
I don't think it's that hard to teach...not enough time is spent on it. This is due to one thing...RO-BHS. The RO-BHS is the money:greedy: skill, everyone wants to have one (and the parents want to see it). And let's face it, a RO-BHS is easier than a standing BHS. If, as a whole, the industry would keep the RO and the BHS separate until they are both correct, we wouldn't have all these goofy tumbling problems. Of course, we'd have a lot more kids quit due to boredom.:bored:

Working at a rec. gym, I don't have trouble teaching a RO. I have trouble getting the kids the proper strength to do it correctly...they just aren't in the gym enough hours.

I'm still working out the details of how this last part can best be accomplished. It seems to me that there are two ways of getting this deliberate underrotation in the backhandspring. The first is to not snap down so hard. This extends the backhandspring and causes it to underrotate, setting up for a powerful upward punch. I hesitate to coach this, as it seems counterproductive to deliberately decrease your power. The other method is to bend the arms; the decrease in upward push off the hands causes the feet to come to the floor faster, and thus the backhandspring is underrotated. I hesitate to teach this one as well, though it seems to happen naturally as gymnasts develope more powerful roundoffs. As I haven't figured out my preferred method of coaching this myself, I neither encourage nor discourage either of the above techniques.
I agree with your second theory. If you watch high level men's tumbling on a tumble track...you will see the arm bend. I don't coach it or notice that I do it on floor, but on a tumble track I definitely soften my block.

While we're on the subject of backhandsprings, does anybody have any good drills or tricks to fix problems usually encountered by kids with hyperflexible backs? You know the type; they underrotate their roundoffs and undercut the first half of their backhandspring, but because they can arch their backs so far, the backhandspring still feels smooth and fast to them, so they have trouble correcting it.
We should strap a girdle on them so they can't bend so much.:rotfl:Beyond that...more strength and carry them through the correct positions.

Double Layout
I want to hear somebody else's input on this; I've been trying, without success, to learn it for about a year. I've never coached anybody at a level anywhere near high enough to work this skill.
As Devo would say, "Whip It...Whip It Good!"
 
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LasswadeCoach

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While we're on the subject of backhandsprings, does anybody have any good drills or tricks to fix problems usually encountered by kids with hyperflexible backs? You know the type; they underrotate their roundoffs and undercut the first half of their backhandspring, but because they can arch their backs so far, the backhandspring still feels smooth and fast to them, so they have trouble correcting it.
Your gymnasts do'nt sound strong enough in their stomach's to control theyre extremely flexible backs, if a gymnast has an extremely flexible back, the need very very strong stomach muscles to control it, as the muscles work in pairs. Perhaps try doing more stomach contioning for your gymnasts, also some spacial awareness exercises, if your gymnasts can't correct their mistake, they are not fully aware of where they are in the air. Running backwards, jumping backwards ect, all of these drills improve spacial awareness greatly.
 
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ACoach78

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Backhandspring

I'm still working out the details of how this last part can best be accomplished. It seems to me that there are two ways of getting this deliberate underrotation in the backhandspring. The first is to not snap down so hard. This extends the backhandspring and causes it to underrotate, setting up for a powerful upward punch. I hesitate to coach this, as it seems counterproductive to deliberately decrease your power. The other method is to bend the arms; the decrease in upward push off the hands causes the feet to come to the floor faster, and thus the backhandspring is underrotated. I hesitate to teach this one as well, though it seems to happen naturally as gymnasts develope more powerful roundoffs. As I haven't figured out my preferred method of coaching this myself, I neither encourage nor discourage either of the above techniques.
I see what you're saying and it's an interesting observation. There is usually some degree of arm bend, but I'm not sure that I'd ever teach that. In fact, the less arm bend, the better in my opinion. For the most part, I prefer to limit segmentation of the body as force is better transferred through a rigid body. The key to finding the proper block angle is simply through teaching a good RO BHS and spending a lot of time on practicing the take-off. Most of the take-off problems occur because gymnasts tend to pike down as opposed to snapping up. If you want to get a lower block angle relative to the horizontal, say for twisting, my recommendation is simply to run a little slower into the tumbling.

While we're on the subject of backhandsprings, does anybody have any good drills or tricks to fix problems usually encountered by kids with hyperflexible backs? You know the type; they underrotate their roundoffs and undercut the first half of their backhandspring, but because they can arch their backs so far, the backhandspring still feels smooth and fast to them, so they have trouble correcting it.
To me, this is just flat out a round-off problem. The underrotated round-off is causing the knees to buckle forward and that causes the backhandspring to undercut.

Back Tuck
the gymnast pulls the knees up to the chest for rotation
The gymnast should focus on rotating the pelvis under and "pressing" the hips as opposed to just pulling the knees up. I'd recommend teaching more of an open tuck as opposed to what you're teaching.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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(regarding undercut backhandsprings)
To me, this is just flat out a round-off problem. The underrotated round-off is causing the knees to buckle forward and that causes the backhandspring to undercut.
In some cases yes, in some cases no; I have one or two who have very nice roundoffs and land at the proper angle, but still arch to the point where their hands are comming back towards their feet. The result is that their backhandsprings rotate extremely fast, but don't stretch out far enough.

(regarding back tucks)

The gymnast should focus on rotating the pelvis under and "pressing" the hips as opposed to just pulling the knees up. I'd recommend teaching more of an open tuck as opposed to what you're teaching.
I've heard this before, but I've never really understood exactly what is meant by pressing the hips.
 
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ACoach78

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In some cases yes, in some cases no; I have one or two who have very nice roundoffs and land at the proper angle, but still arch to the point where their hands are comming back towards their feet. The result is that their backhandsprings rotate extremely fast, but don't stretch out far enough.

I've heard this before, but I've never really understood exactly what is meant by pressing the hips.
Well, it sounds like to me that your gymnasts are not rebounding into their back handsprings. Instead, they are just landing out of the RO and immediately throwing themselves backwards while neglecting to remember that there has to be a jumping component. Without a video, that's about the best I can offer. It has nothing to do with a "hyper-flexible" back. In fact, the range of motion of the back is very limited, anyway. What allows the lumbar spine to get into the extreme hyperextension is really a function of the flexibility of the shoulders.

"Pressing" the hips is simply a description of the opening and pushing forward/upwards of the hips as one takes off of the floor. By pushing the hips forward, this positions the center of gravity away from the line of action of a force and creates an eccentric (rotational) force a.k.a. torque. As the gymnast leaves the ground, ideally speaking, the gymnast should tuck the bottom under and be focused on pulling the hips over and pressing their shins in the tuck shape. I see a tuck as a bent-knee candlestick position, basically.

The more efficient that a gymnast can become at assuming this position as such, the better that they'll be able to improve his/her ability to rotate due to the fact that they can stay in the stretched take-off position at a littler longer before snapping into the tuck shape. This will allow them to achieve greater height and to complete the necessary rotation at the top of the parabola, theoretically speaking. This efficiency can be enhanced through proper conditioning. Most gymnasts are lacking in the necessary core strength to be able to assume this position and to assume it quickly.

If you've ever seen high level trampolinists doing basic somersaults, that's the theoretical model that I'm trying to depict. They leave the tramp in pretty much a vertical position, rotate the somersault at the top of their flight path, and open out to prepare for the landing.
 

JBS

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Great description

I see a tuck as a bent-knee candlestick position
Very nice description:applause:...I get a perfect visual off of this. I'm going to try this explanation with my gymnasts.
 
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