Gymnastics is one of the most important elements in cheerleading, and it is one of the few that you can work on individually. While dance, cheer, and stunting require working with other members of your squad, tumbling is something which must be learned and mastered individually. Tumbling lessons can be expensive, too, with private lessons costing $75 an hour or more! Becoming a better tumbler is not something that happens overnight – it takes years of practice to hone and perfect those skills. However, there are a few things that you can do on your own that will help you attain your tumbling goals faster. Whether you are working on a standing full or just trying to master a forward roll, these five fundamental exercises will make it easier for you to accomplish what you want.
These exercises have been chosen because they require little more than a 6’ by 6’ workout area, a workout partner, and a wall. No new gymnastics skills should be done without the supervision of a qualified professional, and you should trust your judgement when you start any new exercise regimen – if it seems unsafe please do not do it. This is no exception: if you have medical issues or concerns about your safety please do not try any of these skills until you have consulted with a medical professional.
These exercises are more advanced than the ones we shared in 5 Exercises to Improve Your Tumbling: Part 1 and are intended to be a progression. Make certain you have perfected those exercises before you move on to these!
The ability to support your weight on your hands is a critical ability in many different gymnastic skills including roundoffs and cartwheels, but moving through the back handspring and even further. As a result, learning how to support your weight well by blocking through your shoulders and extending your arms is going to be important if you want to learn how to tumble more quickly. If you want to get these skills quickly and safely you should work on the wall assisted handstand. The wall assisted handstand is exactly what it sounds like: you will kick up to a wall and use it to support and balance yourself while you work on blocking and controlling your body while upside down. When you are doing the wall assisted handstand, try to do shrug drills or block drills while you are upside down. Working on shrugging through your shoulders and keeping a hollow body position will help you move more quickly to being able to eventually do a freestanding handstand. You should be able to hold your handstand for up to a minute. This video gives you some basics on how to do a wall assisted handstand.
Perhaps no skill is more associated with gymnastics than the V-up. The V-up is a core and hip flexor exercise designed to increase your ability to pull your toes up and over your body. First, balance yourself on the very top part of your glutes and extend your arms up above your head. At the same time keep your heels off the ground. This position should be very similar to the hollow hold that we showed in the first set of exercises to improve tumbling. Once you have hit your hollow hold position, in a controlled fashion reach up and try to get your toes and your hands to meet in the middle, then slowly lower down without your mid back or feet touching the ground. At first this will be a difficult exercise, but by practicing a lot you will find that you get the balance and control you need to be able to do multiple reps in a row. Eventually you should be able to work up to doing five sets of 20 repetitions. This video gives you details on the proper form of a V-up.
Developing explosive power from your legs is a crossover skill which applies to many different gymnastic skills. Even something as basic as a roundoff requires you to be able to push aggressively through and create explosive power in your legs. The box jump is an excellent plyometric exercise which helps to develop that power. The box jump is relatively straightforward: simply jump up to a certain height and then jump backwards back down. Focus on maintaining control and keeping your feet together the entire time. If you do not have a box, you can simply use a step at your house. Once you feel like you have control over doing it on one step, try to move up to doing two steps. If you get to a point where you can do two, try three. For a more advanced version, consider going to a local stadium and doing them on the stadium steps. These larger steps provide an excellent and stable platform for you to practice working your explosive power. Here is an example of how to do a box jump.
Flexibility is closely tied to success in gymnastics. The entry mounts for even the most basic front and backwards tumbling (the roundoff and the front handspring) both require a significant amount of flexibility, particularly in the hamstrings. Being able to stretch those hamstrings becomes especially important. Here is a video showing you how to do a series of stretches to work on your forward leg split. Do not attempt to go straight into a split immediately if you don’t have not done it in the past. Instead use active stretching to run through these drills and work on extending your functional flexibility.
Standing Back Bridge
In the earlier post we talked about doing wall walks. This is an assisted method of getting into a back bridge. You should be certain that you have mastered doing a backwards wall walk to a bridge position before you attempt an unassisted standing back bridge. The standing back bridge is a crossover skill that prepares you for the back handspring. Most gymnastics gyms will require the skill before they let you work on a back handspring. So it is important, if you want to move quickly through your skills progressions, that you work on this before you begin taking your gymnastics classes. Here is a video showing you how to do a standing back bridge.
Remember that gymnastics can be dangerous. You should always take part in these activities with a friend or a partner present who can be there both to spot and to encourage you along the way. Make sure that you are using an appropriate progression: only by working through these skills to perfection before you move on to the next skill can you guarantee that you’ll be able to do more advanced skills safely.