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Last week, we learned about Perfection before Progression and why it’s so important. Many coaches focus a lot on this when it comes to stunting, but what about tumbling? Let’s explore.
I realise that this is at the beginning of almost all of my posts, but it’s such an important topic. Tumbling can be dangerous if we progress too fast. What you do in tumbling is not natural for your body. A caveman didn’t think “Hey, let me jump over backwards straight onto my head just for fun!”. It’s all the more important to focus on a clean progression, so your body gets used to flipping. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck with a mental block at some point down the road.
Your body doesn’t want to go upside down! Why should it? That’s not what it’s made for. You have to teach it that it’s safe to be on your hands instead of your feet. For this, a handstand is perfect. The risk of injury is very low, and you can get into the position slowly by walking up a wall or having someone hold your legs.
Building future tumbling skills
I’m sure you’ve seen videos of backhandspring fails before. Many of them happen because the cheerleader performing the handspring stops midway through because their body just blocks. 99% of the time, this is caused by a lack of aerial awareness and trust in the athlete’s own body.
Your body is used to using all senses to determine where you are and what’s surrounding you – as long as you stand upright. When you go upside down, it has to re-orient completely. The more you do this, the quicker your brain learns to process its surroundings and the position of your body. Once you have perfected that orientation switch, you will always know exactly where you are and what to do next, even if something goes wrong. This aerial awareness will stick with you for handsprings, tucks and fulls – and it starts with a handstand.
Virtually every single tumbling element hits a handstand position at some point. Your running tumbling will always incorporate a round off; if the handstand in that is crooked, your tumbling will be crooked. Time spent on your handstand is always time well spent.
Building stunt skills
For bases and back spots: What is an extension if not an uspide-down handstand? You’re balancing the weight of someone’s body on your hands. How can you confidently tell your flyer that you’ll always be able to hold her if you can’t even hold your own weight in the same position?
Underneath a stunt, you’ll get away with more than when you’re in a handstand, because there’s 1-2 other people to help you. But why not strive for more? If you ever want to single-base a stunt, you’ll have to do it by yourself as well.
For flyers: Handstands can be built into various cool mounts and transitions, but only if you master them on the floor first. Handstands will also build your stabilising muscles so you’re tight in every stunt. Additionally, many flips transition through the handstand position; think pyramid-style front layouts or fly overs.
This ties into both stunting and tumbling. A handstand is a perfect workout for your whole body. You can always step it up; handstand walking, press up handstands, handstand push ups… the list goes on. It’s a whole body exercise that will test your strength, endurance and balance. It helps you build that all-important core strength that you need to keep stunts in the air and to prevent back pain.
It’s not just for beginners
Simone Biles is the reigning olympic champion. She can double double (two flips, two twists – and she’s training a triple!) with relative ease. Still, she spends time on handstand variations every. single. day. So really, how cocky is it for us to believe that we mastered the handstand when we can hold it for a few seconds? No matter how good your handstand is, you should still be spending time on it. It’s the essence of all tumbling. It’s also a cool party trick!
If you want to know more about perfect tumbling progression, check out this more extensive post by Coach Sahil. I’ve had the chance to work with him before, and his tumbling drills are some of the best you can get.
I challenge you
Find a few friends and do a 1 week handstand challenge! At least one handstand a day, every day. Take pictures and send them to each other, or post them on Instagram with #cheeruphandstand! Repeating skills over and over is way more fun with some company and a goal to push for.