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- Keeping the Head Neutral


Hey Coach Wayne,
My question is in my back hand spring. I can't keep my legs together or get
enough jump!! And don't laugh but I can't do a round off back hand spring.

I always throw my head backwards!!!!!! Puh-lease explain to me the proper
techniques. The neat thing is I can do a bad back handspring but I taught



Stormy has quite a few corrections to make in that handspring! Let's work on the "head-toss".

The back-handspring is a "Blind-Entry" tumbling skill. That means you are "blind," or "can't see" where you are going as you spring from your FEET onto your HANDS. In other words, when you do the skill correctly, you SHOULD NOT see where your hands are about to land until the moment before they touch the floor. That's scary!

The NATURAL urge is to lift your chin & "toss" your head backwards. Partly the chin-lift "URGE" is caused by the desire to see where you are going. Partly that "URGE" is to help generate motion & power.

However, instead of helping the handspring, the head-toss hurts you. Tossing your head backwards tends to place the body into a position that is weak, dangerous, difficult to control and sloppy looking. You must LEARN to resist the "instinct" of tossing the head backwards. You will learn to discipline the head & shoulders into a position that is STRONG, SAFE, CONTROLLED and BEAUTIFUL.

Throughout the handspring the head should remain in a "NEUTRAL" position; neither tossed backwards, nor tucked forwards.It stays in the middle, in neutral. An easy "rule" to follow is this... "Keep your ARMS against your EARS".

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Try this now!!...
Sit up, and lift your arms STRAIGHT up over your head. Hold them in a very NARROW position, so the thumbs almost touch. Now wiggle your head so you feel your ears brushing against your arms. If you can feel your ears against your arms you are in correct form for the back-handspring.

Now remember, from the beginning of the handspring, through the leg-push-backwards... as you REACH into the handstand with the hands...through the handstand position... through the arm push/spring... and through the hollow-body landing... the head should remain in approximately that same position. NEUTRAL.

I recommend that the ARM swing, commonly used to gain momentum in the standing back-handspring, be AVOIDED... for the first 300 handsprings! Wait until the HABIT of proper head position is very well established. Once a tumbler is ready to perform the standing handspring with VERY little, or no spot, it's acceptable to allow the arms swing. It helps build momentum.

Another very common teaching technique is to hold the arms straight out in FRONT of the body at the beginning, as if to balance. Don't do it!


Coach Wayne is 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 world wide since 1991. Coach Wayne is available for in-gym instructor training and performance tumbling clinics throughout the year. For booking information, coaches/owners should call 912.398.8082. Students and parents should request coaches/owners to contact Coach Wayne.



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