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Handspring Ends on Knees


Hey Coach Wayne-
I am an instructor for a jr.peewee cheer team and a girl on the squad can do a back handspring but always lands on her knees if i don't spot her enough. What do you think she is doing wrong and what can help her. Thanks!


The handspring to squat is caused by a weak handstand and poor coordination in the EXIT from the handspring.

If you look carefully at a well-formed handspring, you'll see that the handspring is a HANDSTAND-based skill.
To get your student off her knees, we must STRENGTHEN her handstand entrance and exit.

Instead of a two-foot snap-down. Let's modify her exit to a "step-out."

The easiest way to develop her coordination and confidence with this exit is to have her practice the "step-in and step-out" of a HANDSTAND until she is proficient.
Have her step-in and step-out of her handstand 10 times each practice, first on her right leg, then on her left. She can place her hands near a wall and lean against the wall for support. If she needs a spotter to help her safely step to the handstand and down again, she does not need to be practicing her handspring at all yet; regress until she can step to handstand against a wall by herself. If your student has NEVER done this before, she may need a spot for the first 50 handstands, but after the first 50 she should be on her own. A mat against the wall and on the floor will make her feel more confident, but she should be PLACING her hands softly on the floor in exactly the same location each time, not slapping them on the floor. And she should be swinging her legs to the handstand and gently letting them rest against the wall for balance, not slapping them against the wall.

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As a coach you must DEMAND excellence in her simple step-to-handstand. IMPORTANTLY: To help with coordination, make sure she KEEPS her EYES focused on where she is ABOUT to contact the floor (hands/feet) when she is moving into and out of the handstand.

Once she can step into and out of the handSTAND, she is ready to step out of the handSPRING. When you spot her handspring, slow her AT THE HANDSTAND just a bit so she recognizes the handstand position. Have her stretch a STRAIGHT body in the handstand position; then ask her to step out. As soon as she realizes the handstand position in the handspring, she should not need ANY help with her exit. Whether she jumps backwards into the handstand position, or steps forwards into it, the familiar position will be the same.

Make sure she's covering the proper distance in her handspring. The placement of the hands and feet in the handspring can be precisely selected with an unchanging benchmark.

If you're unfamiliar with the placement and distances of the hands and feet in basic tumbling skills make sure to get a copy of my Benchmarks of Excellence.

While the step-out exit is beautiful and a valuable skill by itself, your student will still need the snap-down rebound exit for multiple handsprings and for entering back flips. By practicing her step-to-handstand DAILY with both her LEFT and RIGHT legs in the lunge she'll be COORDINATED for the two-foot landing, and it will take a load off your back while spotting. But, we'll have to save the SNAP-DOWN rebound (two foot exit) for another TumblingTIP.

Have fun; be safe; push HARD.

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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    Hi. I recently bought your video on how to do a better backhandspring. I am a cheerleading instructor (it's my first year) and I have discovered that I also need to be a tumbling instructor as well. Although I grew up cheering and mastered many tumbling skills myself, I had forgotten the learning process and needed tips on how to really teach correct form and control. I now pretend I am Coach Wayne in practice, and make my girls do the drills you have taught. WOW! I saw an improvement on the first day!

    I was wondering if you were considering making a video on the back tuck. Standing tucks and rbhs-tucks are really important for my girls who are improving faster than I can learn to teach! I remember drills for the tuck that I used to do (such as spotted tucks uphill with a spot as you mention in your "tumbling tips") but I am sure you could break down a tuck and fill a weeks worth of drills like you do for the bhs. If you are considering making one, or even if you need a little nudge, just let me know! I would be the first to buy it!

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