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Tumbling for Cheerleading: Tune your body to Tumbling


Dynamic tumbling skills add TREMENDOUS excitement to cheer-routines. The vigor of handsprings & the power of flips add rich variety. What a thrill it is for an audience to see a solo tumbler bound into a long series of rolls, flips and springs. You can hear the "Wow!" from onlookers when all the members of a well-polished squad demonstrate simultaneous standing back flips. What a sight!

BUT, some days it doesn't happen that way. The flip was low and Suzy-Q made that FUNNY sound, you know the one that sounds like knees smacking hard against wood. ("Is she crying?") OR, Judy B. Bop bent her legs in her cartwheel, kicked Mary in the cheek, stomped Beth's hand and bounced out the door on her backside. ("Oh, I bet THAT hurt.") Like an orchestra in chaos everything ends up a little "out of tune."

Here's the situation: It's 20 minutes before the game, the crowd is gathering, the teams are in the locker-rooms and most of your squad is stretching or casually rehearsing some leaps. YOU are wondering about the tumbling, you're wondering if the the tumbling will be "on" or will there be "chaos? Will there be cheers, or jeers? So, here's a tip to TUNE your tumbling before you perform. HOW? With your own "tumbling-tuning-fork" ... THE HANDSTAND!

Yes, the handstand! It's so simple, so basic & such a "beginner thing" that most beginning and intermediate tumblers avoid practicing the handstand; after-all, wasn't that what you learned in DAY 1 of your gymnastics class? Yet, that MOST BASIC of positions holds the SECRET to having CONSISTENTLY GREAT TUMBLING. Think about it, in almost EVERY tumbling skill, a body will pass through a handstand position (or a variation of it). That makes the handstand a critical position. Great handstands lead to great tumbling. Consider it a "foundation" skill, a "Cornerstone" to great tumbling, think of it a "tuning fork" for your body.

Tune it up! The trick is to carefully perform each "piece" of your handstand slowly, meticulously, with great precision and attention each time the handstand is practiced.

1. Warm-up the wrists - Acclimate them to weight, pressure and stresses. Press, bend and rotate them. Pound your hands together in a vigorous clap.

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2. Stand straight and tall - Feet together. Knees straight. Tummy tight, buttocks firm. Torso erect. Chin level. Arms reaching high overhead. Elbows straight. Arms narrow. HOLD this "Gym-Stance" for 2 seconds.

3. Lunge-step - Lean & take a BIG step forward. Arms narrow, back straight. Front knee bent. 100% of your body-weight is on your front leg. Back-leg straight, toes touching the floor. From fingertip to toe there should be a straight line. HOLD this "Lunge position" for 2 seconds.

4. Kick-to-handstand. From fingertip to toe the body remains straight & taut. Arms remain narrow, thumbs almost touching. Elbows straight. Feet together, toes pointed, knees straight. Balance against a wall and hold.

5. Extend and push & tighten - Push through your shoulders, stretch your toes as high up the wall as possible. Feet together, belly tight, chin level, eyes focused on the thumbs, elbows straight. Breathe slowly in and out five times while you're standing on your hands.

6. Exit - In reverse, gracefully, slowly step BACK into the "lunge position" & pause, hold, check your arms, legs, head, back. Then continue back to the "Gym-stance" and pause arms still narrow-overhead. Shoulders still extended, reaching to the ceiling. Back straight.

7. Relax.

8. Repeat-2, repeat-3, repeat-4, and repeat-5. (Five solid handstands.)
Now your body is tuned to tumbling! This is a QUICK exercise set that should be a MANDATORY part of EVERY practice, especially in your warm-up immediately before a competition or performance.

(An easy way practice it is to PRINT this page and read steps 1-8 out loud.)


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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