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GymSmarts Community » Floor - Tumbling

Archive for the ‘Floor - Tumbling’ Category


Sunday, May 20th, 2007


The 2006 National Training Camp for TNT was held at Bounce California in Rancho Bernardo, California. I spent many hours watching the sessions for the athletes representing Trampoline, Tumbling and Double Mini. Each of the sessions impressed me in different ways – how high the trampoline participants bounced, how precise the double mini athletes had to be, and how much speed, distance and noise the rod floor tumblers generated.  

Viewing the rod floor tumbling sessions made me reflect on the evolution of tumbling: early circus performers with no mats, horse hair mats, floor exercise on wood floors, then 3/8” pads, tennis balls, tires, flex wood, 1”, 2”, 4” spring floors, and now uniform ROD floors used around the world. 

Some purists may say that tumbling is tumbling. I would like to present some of the ways the evolution of the tumbling surface has changed tumbling mechanics. The sprung floor system allows basic skills to be performed higher with more turnover, generating SPEED-DISTANCE-POWER, and thus has changed the dynamics of explosive tumbling. 

Tumbling well has always taken flexibility, strength and correct tight body shapes to utilize the rebound to the greatest advantage. The spring floor surface allows performers to perform with a more extended body shape and quicker take offs. 

The road to success is found through hard work and commitment to excellence. It doesn’t take talent to work hard. Tumbling and Vault success are more than ever based on speed to generate power and then the strength in the correct body shape to rebound off the spring board, vault table or spring floor system. 

Athletes now not only have the new equipment developments but also more knowledgeable coaches. The body shape, tension on round offs, back and front handsprings, fly springs, whip backs allows athletes to maximize performance. Constant surface push is critical. The round off and the correct hurdle into it are critical in turning the body 180 degrees to facilitate powerful back tumbling. (See Technique, Volume 19: Artemov / USAG: Dvd by Wills & Biggs). 

The round off, back handspring, and whip backs in correct body shape allows the chest to rise when snapping off hands and extending the feet in front of extended body to rebound into the next skill. The extended throw with arms extended behind ears and upper body arch allows hand placement to facilitate backward acceleration. 

If you watch a tumbler performing correct and powerful back tumbling, you will notice a rhythm created by the upper body whipping, followed by the total body snap. In order to have the athletes understand, have them stand tall, arms extended behind ears. The athlete should then change body shape from upper body hollow to hyper extended arch, mainly in shoulders, not in lower back. Body shape resembles a bent metal yardstick. Head should not pass arms. 
Remind athletes that backward tumbling should always push back until they want to go up. They then change body shape to tight straight and put feet back of center of gravity to allow rebound into take off. 

Success in forward tumbling mirrors much of the principles stated for back tumbling. A study reported in Technique by Phds’ Sands and McNeal concluded that the hyper extended arm and shoulder was proved the best body shape to generate powerful take offs. 

I feel one of the most important basic skills to be mastered for front tumbling is the headspring. Learning the kipping action, body shape change from pike to extended can be used in later more advanced forward skills. Front take offs in the hyper extended upper body shape allows the center of gravity to move upward and forward. If the performer’s upper body is in front fo the center of gravity, the body is thrown forward and down on take off. 

An analogy I have used successfully to help athletes understand is to have them visualize a spring loaded window shade. If the shade is extended all the way down and then released, the shade rolls up around the rod on top. If they can then flip on the way up in the same manner, they will experience success. Forward linear motion has already been established by the forward run and the front handspring or fly springs. When athletes are training front tumbling past head-spring skills such as handsprings and flysprings, they should be performed to an over rotated run out. 

Share with the athletes the importance in more advanced rebound tumbling that the center of gravity should be moving upward and forward. Take offs should be in the hyper extended shape to a subtle pike to initiate rotation for layouts, twisting and double saltos. Get strong, tumble fast and fly! 

A reminder; the two limiting factors that inhibit performance are lack of strengthand flexibility. Hard work and a knowledgeable coach help athletes practicewith the correct body shape and tension to handle the violent take offs and landings.


For more information on Glenn Vaughan, and tumbling, purchase his DVD from GymSmarts:

Tumbling for Speed and Efficienct by Glen Vaughan 

Tony Gehman - Advanced Tumbling Skills - Multiple Somersaults

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Tony Gehman discuss’s and breaks down advanced tumbling.  In this article he talks about prerequisite drills, and progressions for twisting  If you would like more information on advanced tumbling you will probably find Tony Gehman’s  DVDs:  Advanced Tumbling 3 Disk Set: Disk I: Twisting Backwards Disk II: Multiple Flipping Disk III: Warm-up & Conditioning Drills helpful.  You can purchase them individually or save by purchasing all three for $75.00 

The main prerequisite for advanced tumbling, is the ability to develop horizontal momentum across the floor-ex area.  This may be achieved through a well executed series of consecutive  back handsprings or bounding whip back somersaults.   Next, the gymnast must be able to demonstrate the ability to perform a round off, back handspring, back layout, approximately head height or higher, with a straight body position throughout.  The chest should be contracted(shoulder blades apart) and the hips are straight.  This is the core somersault for twisting or flipping.  It is important to develop specific gymnastic conditioning, in order to perform higher level tumbling skills.  It is helpful if the trampoline is used at least in the early stages of flipping to help ensure proper body position, awareness, and vertical take off.  200703tg1.gifSteps for the double tuck1.  Perform a round off back handspring back lay out onto a stack of mats approximately chest height.  Have them attempt to stand straight up and down at the finish of the flip.  During double back tucks and pikes, the chin should be slightly in, similar to a cruncher sit up.  Therefore, it is helpful to have the gymnast attempt to see the other end of the floor or the wall straight out in front on the way up.  As they pass through the vertical with their feet, they should be encouraged to spot the mat they will be landing on.2.  Have them execute a back tuck 1 ¼ to the back.  The back of the arms should contact the mat first to protect the head.  Do not have them land on the mat holding onto the legs.  This could result in a head first landing.  To gain awareness first perform a back tuck landing on the feet and fall to the back with the arms contacting the mat first. When they feel comfortable with that step, move on to the 1 ¼.  The coach may want to spot at first until they get the hang of it.  After they have learned the flip with the arms overhead throughout, it is good to have them take the arms up on the set, then touch the legs in the middle and then bring the arms back over head for the landing on the back.  This mat should be soft.  Once they can perform the 1 ¼ at chest height, raise the mats to shoulder height.  Another commonly used drill, is to place a large wedge or “cheese” mat on top of several 8” mats and perform a back tuck 1 ¼ followed by a back roll immediately after contacting the mat with the back.  This allows the gymnast to experience 2 complete rotations for further awareness.3.  Next, we want to gain awareness in another area on double flipping.  Performing the skill into an open foam pit with a safety spot is one way.  Have them keep the knees slightly apart at first to protect the nose, etc.  An over head spotting rig on the trampoline, is another way.  A bungi rig on the floor or tramp is another method.  Another lead up on the trampoline, is to perform a back tuck 1 ¼ followed by a back pullover.  This should be done with a qualified instructor.Note:   Whenever someone is performing multiple somersaults, especially in the beginning stages of learning,  there exists the inherent danger of opening up in the middle, exposing the possibility of landing on the head.  It is for this reason primarily, that they should gain awareness in an area that will minimize this risk.  It is wise, from the start, to encourage the gymnast to over rotate the skill during each step taken.  If an open-foam pit is used, they should attempt to over rotate to the back, avoiding landing on the head or stomach.  It can be helpful to tell them to “pull” on the legs as they approach the second  flip.4.  If you have the benefit of the open foam pit, then that is the best place to first turn double backs.   Next, we add a mat to the pit.  When they go onto a mat, it is important to attempt to over rotate by going through a proper landing position and then squatting deeper into a roll backwards.  It is also important to safety spot when first introducing a mat, especially in the early stages of learning.  When proficiency is shown, then progress by adding another mat.  Proficiency here means, they feel comfortable and so do you.  We continue to build the mats until they reach a height of 4-8” above the floor level.  Tumbling up (higher than floor level), is the single most specific conditioning you can do to build reserve power to safely execute the multiple flips.  Each time they take a step learn to over rotate at that stage.  Hundreds of double backs should be performed before going to the actual competitive surface.  The double pikeThe steps for the double pike are virtually the same as the double tuck.  I think it is important to learn the double tuck first, since the tendency is to land the double pike with straight legs, seeing how they are already flipping in that position.  The takeoff is also basically the same as well.  As with all double somersaults, it is very important to learn right from the start to over rotate by passing through a squatted landing and roll out. 200703tg2.jpg The double layout While the double tuck and pike are very close in difficulty, the double layout is usually reserved for the most powerful gymnasts.  Many gymnasts can execute a double layout into the in-ground pit mat but, very few actually compete the skill for various reasons. The takeoff for this skill is quite different from all the other doubles.  The most obvious difference is, as the gymnast is leaving the floor, instead of the shoulders lifting upward towards the ceiling, the shoulders are driven backwards causing a significant arch  throughout the entire body.  The head is back, the arms are somewhat overhead and the hips are lifting somewhat vertically.  In fact, the position resembles a blocked whip back somersault.  Thus, a series of well executed whip backs are an important pre requisite.Steps1.  Perform a round off back handspring back layout onto a mat about waist high.  The arms should be overhead and the body is arched throughout the entire somersault.  During the Snap down, the feet should contact the floor directly under the hips.  Too much block is often a mistake made causing a gainer type takeoff.  The knees will usually buckle during the punch when this mistake is made. 2.  Next have her execute, onto the same height, an arch layout 1 ¼ to the back.  The arms will lift quickly overhead and then immediately pull down in front of the body.  As the feet pass the mat, she must lift the arms back overhead to contact the mat first.  Note:  It is important to stay on these two drills to develop a proper takeoff.  As with many skills, this one is often won or lost during the takeoff.3.  Once proficiency has been shown, then it is time to turn the double layout.  It is important to first turn this skill into a very soft landing such as foam pit or an in-ground pit mat.  A spot to assist the lift and rotation is recommended at first.  Note:  A short landing of this skill on a firm surface, can put a great deal of pressure on the soft tissue and joints of the lower leg.  It is extremely important to proceed through the steps methodically, so as to  minimize this risk.  4.  If you have used the foam pit, next we will add a mat, still a little below the height of the floor.  Once she can repeatedly complete the skill and over rotate it, you may add more mats.  I would recommend raising the height in 4 inch increments. Continue to raise the mats until the gymnast can complete the skill easily at 4 inches above the floor level.  When you move the skill to the actual floor I would suggest landing on a good 4 inch throw mat.  I also recommend that you spot this skill when first moving it over.  When you attend high level competitions, the double layout will often receive a spot on the first one, at least, even when the other skills do not.  Even when the gymnast has successfully competed this skill, I would still go back to steps 1 and 2 on a weekly basis.  It is good practice to make the 1st day of the week, a day in which more timers are performed as a review.  The double ArabianThe double Arabian, is a double somersault with a ½ twist performed on the first flip prior to vertical (“early”).  The double Arabian tends to be more difficult than the double back tuck with the full twist, since the landing is considered blind.  Since the second flip is performed forward, there is a greater risk for a knee injury.  It is recommended that the gymnast works some specific hamstring conditioning to help protect the knee from hyper-extending, in the case of an incorrect landing.  Prior to learning the double Arabian, The coach and the gymnast should decide that she is comfortable with double flipping forward.  One way to determine this is, to have her learn double fronts first into the open foam and then onto mats.  It is wise to have her separate the knees slightly during the second flip, since it is possible to hit the nose on the knees during the landing.  Double fronts can also be worked effectively off of a mini tramp or on a tramp with an overhead spotting rig.  Steps1.  First, from the spring floor onto an 8 inch mat, have the gymnast execute a standing  Arabian dive to a handstand followed by a forward roll out.  The coach will need to spot this at first.  If the gymnast twists to the left, the coach should stand to her left, while she executes a jump ½ turn to your arms.  The coach should catch her at horizontal and then carry her to a handstand, followed by a roll out.  This should be repeated until she can do this easily by herself.  2.  Next, have her perform a standing Arabian from the edge of the pit, down into the pit.  It is normal to begin the skill exactly like the Arabian dive and then tuck as she is completing the turn.  It is helpful to see the pit as the ½ turn is being completed.  This can be used as a reference for the double Arabian.  This progression may also be worked from the height of 2 panel mats (16”) folded up, onto an 8 inch mat.  3.  Now have the gymnast do a round off back handspring Arabian dive handstand, to a stack of mats about waist high.  Again, you may want to safety spot this at first, the same way as you did during the standing ½ turn dive on the floor.  Once she can do this easily, raise the mats to about chest height.  4.  Have her now perform an Arabian tuck to the feet onto the stack mats.   5.  Once the tuck is learned, I like to have them learn the same skill in the layout position.6.  Next, we raise the mats to shoulder height and have her do an Arabian tuck 1 ¼ to the hands and knees.7.  When proficiency is shown on the 1 ¼, we move to the open pit.  I highly recommend using an open foam pit for first turning this skill, due to the blind landing and the exposure of the knees upon landing.  8.  When they appear comfortable, we add the soft mat in the pit.  It is at this time, we want them to hit the mat and over rotate.  You must constantly remind them to land with the knees bent.  9.  Now simply add 4-8 inches of matting and work at this height until proficient.10.  The gymnast needs to perform several hundred repitions in the pit with the mats or into an in-ground pit mat before putting the skill onto the regulation floor.  The first time on the floor should be onto a 4 or even an 8” (broken in) skill cushion.  The gymnast must again be reminded to bend the legs and attempt to roll out during the landing.  It is always better if the can select reference points during the skill.  For example, at the completion of the ½ turn they may be able to see the floor and at the end of the second flip as they are landing. The full-in double back tuckThe full-in double back, is a full twisting double back, with the full twist being performed on the first flip.  This is the most commonly thrown full twisting double.  The takeoff for the tuck full-in, is identical to the double Arabian tuck.  It is for this reason, that it is a good idea to learn the double Arabian first, even if only doing it from a tramp into a pit or floor into a pit.  The tendency on the full-in, is much like a regular full, and that is to twist to soon thus, loosing height and or rotation.  Training the double Arabian helps to assure a proper set up for the full-in.  Steps1.  Have the gymnast do a standing Arabian tuck somersault into a foam pit. Next, have her twist a little further gradually, until she has achieved a full. The arms should reach overhead and then back down to the legs in time to grab for the second flip.  After she can complete a back tuck with a full twist, have her attempt to over rotate to the back in the foam.  If you don’t have access to a foam pit, have her perform the same drill from 2 panel mats onto an  8” skill cushion and attempt to roll out.  Another good method is to use a vaulting board to start on.  2.  Next, have her perform a round off back handspring to a lay out full twist to her feet onto a stack of mats about chest high.3.  Have her do a round off back handspring tuck full, using the same method as the standing full in step one and over rotate to the back.  The arms should reach over head and the come straight down towards the legs.  She should touch the legs briefly and then reach back over head in order to contact the mat first.   You may also use the method described in step 2 of the double back.  4.  Next, move to a foam pit and turn the skill.  If you use an in-ground mat, you will need to spot the same as the double back.  Follow the steps above for the double back to get the skill  to the actual floor-exercise area. The full-in back out double pikeThe full-in pike, is basically the same as the full-in tuck except the legs are straight.  As a rule of thumb, the gymnast who is a little more comfortable with the double pike than the double tuck, is probably better with the full-in pike as well.  You never know for sure, until you try.  The lead ups are the same as the full-in tuck. Conclusion

It is important to respect the risk involved with multiple somersaults.  You can minimize that risk by mastering the steps along the way. It is also important to use good judgment for when to place the skill into a routine and into a competition.  Always teach the gymnast to over rotate properly in the beginning.

About Tony Gehman

Tony has been recognized as a leading coach and clinician for over 20 years. He has placed numerous gymnasts into the elite level and onto the National Team since 1983. For a decade Tony was the president of the United States Elite Coaches Association (1991-2001). Tony has escorted his gymnasts to Russia, France, Korea England, Columbia, Cuba and Bulgaria, and is best known for his work with USA Gymnastics, writing the Safety Guide for the Yurchenko vault, and the USGF Conditioning Packet.

Tony Gehman - Advanced Tumbling Skills: Back Twisting

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Tony Gehman - Back TwistingIntroduction - The main prerequisite for advanced backward tumbling, is the ability to develop horizontal momentum across the floor-ex area.  This may be achieved through a well executed series of consecutive back handsprings or bounding whip-backs.  Next the gymnast must demonstrate the ability to perform a round-off, back handspring, backlayout approximately head height or higher, with a straight body position.  The chest should be contracted and the hips are straight.  This is the core somersault for twisting and multiple flipping.  It is important to develop specific gymnastics conditioning in order to perform higher level tumbling skills.  It is helpful if the trampoline is used in the early stages of flipping to help ensure proper body position, awareness and vertical takeoff.

Twisting - When learning to perform twisting somersaults, there is a tendency to twist “too soon”.  The goal is to go as high as possible, and then execute twist.  For this reason, we will purposely use lead ups that first encourage the gymnast to complete the takeoff and then perform the twist.


 1.  Perform a ¾ layout to a stack of mats approximately chest height, to the stomach.

Note: The coach may choose to safety spot depending on the level of the gymnasts.  During the takeoff it is important that the gymnast finishes the “snap   down phase” with the chest in (the shoulder blades are apart), the hips under, and the shoulders lifting to complete elevation (touching the ears).  The feet      should be a little behind the hips during the takeoff to ensure a high somersault.

2.  Perform a ¾ layout to the stomach and roll to the back in the desired twisting direction. It is now that we practice what the arms will be doing during the twist. 

There are two methods that I prefer: 

1.       For a left twist, the left arm will be pulled 90 deg. to the side.         

2.       For the same direction the left arm may be bent all the way into the body completely flexed.

Tony Gehman - Back TwistingTwist direction:  Most gymnasts have a dominant direction in which they twist.  We put them through several drills to help determine this direction. 

Have them jump and turn to the maximum of their ability. For instance, 1 ½ or 2/1.  Observe both ways (right/left) and see which one they favor.  This can be done on the floor or trampoline.  Next have them perform a standing back handspring followed by a jump half turn and then a full turn, both directions and see which way they favor.  As you take them through the progressions for flipping with twists, see that the direction they are going, is consistent with the way they favored during the tests. Once the dominant direction has been determined, they should twist forward and backward the same way.

3.  Perform a ¾ layout with a ½ turn after vertical.  “See the mat, then twist”

Note:  They must not twist before the feet pass thru vertical in the beginning because they may stop rotation and possibly land on their head. It is recommended that you safety spot at first to ensure complete rotation.

Tramp drill:  Perform a ¾ layout to the stomach onto an 8″ mat placed on the trampoline.  Follow the steps above for the ½ twist.

4.  Remove the stack mats and perform a layout, land followed by a jump ½ turn.  It is good to see the floor prior to landing.

5.  Next, have her do a layout followed by a ½ twist after the vertical.  This should be done onto soft mats with a spot or into an in-ground pit.

6.  Gradually allow the gymnast to twist before the vertical but encourage her to bring the body at least to 10:00 and finish by 12:00.  It is sometimes necessary to go back to the stack mats and develop the twist just prior to vertical.  Note:  It is essential to master this layout ½ twist between 10 and 12:00 before proceeding on to the full twist.

7.  Once proficiency has been demonstrated then you can have her perform a layout ½ to a stuck landing followed by an immediate jump ½ turn.  If she is over rotating the layout ½ she should not go on to the next step.  She should be able to complete the twist 8″ above the level floor to show she is high enough for additional ½ twist.

8.  Next she should be ready to execute a layout with a 1/1 twist.  A soft landing is recommended at first to protect the knees and ankles due to the potential for an incomplete twist or flip.  If you do not have a safety pit, I would recommend a spot onto a soft 8 “mat. The spotter in this case, will stand on the same side as the direction of the twist.  The coach should follow the hips on the way up and catch her as she is landing. Twisting is better learned if the landing surface is the same or slightly higher than the takeoff surface.  This will encourage the gymnast to go up rather than down during the takeoff.

Note:  During the takeoff for the twist, the shoulders should be lifting to the ears, the shoulder blades should be apart and the hips should be lifting upward.  It is helpful if the arms are somewhat overhead and slightly curved.  

The gymnast should “appear” to rise above horizontal and then wrap the twist.  The body should twist as one unit with the feet, hips, and shoulders all twisting together.  If the snapdown is not completed and the somersault is not completely set, then the body will tend to twist in separate segments rather than together.  This will also cause the legs to tend to separate. It will be wise to keep reviewing the layout ½ a as warm up for the full twist until the full is mastered.  This will help the gymnast to resist the tendency to twist too much during the takeoff.  The goal is to go as high as possible, execute a dynamic full twist and then open completely for the landing. The arms should be lifted in the rounded position on the takeoff and then wrapped quickly into the body.  I recommend that the arms form an X across the chest or be tucked in tightly side by side.

The gymnast should be encouraged to watch the other end of the floor on the way up, twist and then look for the floor prior to landing. 

9.  Once proficiency has been demonstrated repeatedly on the full, we may proceed on to the 1 ½.  Have the gymnast execute a layout full with a stuck landing, followed by a jump ½ turn. When the gymnast shows awareness for this progression, have her execute a back layout with a 1 ½ into the safety pit or onto soft mats with a safety spot.  The spotter should stand on the left side, for a right twist.  In other words, the gymnast should be twisting away from you and you are simply assisting the ending of the skill.

10.  The same process should be followed for each additional ½ twist.

I recommend highly, that the gymnasts use the trampoline with a qualified instructor or a tumble trak in order to increase awareness for multiple twisting and flipping skills.

For more information on Tony Gehman vist GymSmarts or purchase his DVD Advanced Tumbling 3 disk set.