Dear Coach Wayne:
I have noticed in the few the years that my daughter has been a competitive cheerleader, that there are indeed a variety of body shapes and sizes that can perform all levels of tumbling. She is very slender, sleek and tall, and perfect body weight for her height and age, although she does not have a great deal of muscle mass. However, there are other girls that might even qualify as "chubby" or overweight, that I have seen have sky-high tumbling. Can you help me understand? Is it merely about physics and momentum?
One would think that the heavier the body, the harder it would be to tumble but that doesn't seem to be the case. Thank you SO much for any light you could shed on this for me
Actual body weight has very little to do with a student's ability to tumble. Most likely those "chubby" students you mentioned have some seriously important muscles underneath their skin. As long as they have enough muscle in the right places to move their own body around they'll tumble well. Insufficient strength IN THE AREAS THAT MATTER is the most common cause of failure in tumbling. The following are factors that largely govern tumbling success:
1) Relevant strength - or, how much force a tumbler can generate in the ways that matter to tumbling. Carrying lots of irrelevant muscles (or fat) is definitely not an advantage in tumbling. Not having enough of the relevant strength is worse.
2) Horse-POWER -: or, the ability to push that body over a given distance at a given speed. Getting the body up to speed is critical for successful tumbling. Horsepower combines having the relevant raw strength and being able to use it to move the body.
3) Grace -: or, efficient motion. For safety, beauty, and consistency, tumblers must learn to use the muscles that are needed, precisely when they are needed, and only in the amount that's needed for the task. Coordination & timing can be considered as aspects of grace.
For all three factors, skill-specific strength development is the most effective means to achieve the desired outcome. Tumblers, thin or thick, heavy or light, short or tall, must be unusually strong in key areas in order to consistently perform well. My "Better Back-Handsprings" video addresses MANY of the MOST IMPORTANT strength & conditioning exercises for the back-handspring.
Have fun, be safe, push hard.
You may also be interested in the following:
(FLASH player permission is required to view animations.)
Back Tuck Progressions
Benchmarks of Excellence
Cross Arm Spot
Jump, Set, Tuck
Lunge to Handstand
Round-Off Hand Placement
Straight Body Fall
Coach Wayne was 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 worldwide since 1991. Coach Wayne is available for tumbling instructor certification training. For booking information, coaches/owners should text or call 912.238.1747.