Gymnastics is one of the most important elements in cheerleading, and it is one of the few that you can work on entirely on your own. While dance, cheer, and stunting require working with other members of your squad, tumbling is something which has to 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.
There are literally thousands of exercises you can do to improve your gymnastics, but most of them require either an experienced coach watching over you while you practice or expensive equipment. These exercises have been chosen because they require little more than a six foot by six foot 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 medical personnel.
These exercises are more advanced than the ones in our previous post and are intended to be a progression. Make certain you have perfected those exercises before you move on to these!
Almost all backwards entrance tumbling is built around the handstand. In parts one and part two we discussed different ways that you could build up to a point to doing a free handstand. This is a culmination of those activities. It’s important to remember that holding handstands is so critical in something like a back handspring or even a roundup for a cartwheel. Well you might often only think about the end skills and tumbling past, like a layout or a full, if you have a bad back handspring or a bad round off you’re never getting to a point where you can execute those skills as cleanly as possible. Thus even experienced gymnasts spend a lot of time working on their handstands.
Once you reach a point where you can hold that free handstand you should be working on how long you can hold it and also working on blocking or shrugging drills while you’re holding your handstand. For the varsity variation, a harder version once you’ve fully mastered the skill, you can work on doing a shoulder touch, or you would hold your handstand with one hand while you touch the shoulder with the other and then quickly swap to the other side. You can see these walking type handstand drills all over the place. Still, you must walk before you run. So here is a short video explaining how to get into your free standing handstand.
In part one we talked about the hollow hold, and in part two we talked about mastering the via. The next skill is going to be the hollow roll, which in some ways is a combination of a hollow hold or a be up with a back limber. You will start by balancing yourself in your hollow hole position, please go back and see part 1 if we learn more about hollow holes, and then you will slowly rotate to your right as you’re rotating try to keep your shoulder blades and your feet off the ground, eventually you’ll be in a belly down position keeping your chest off the ground and your feet off the ground creating a slight bow in your back.
Once you’ve gotten there you will continue to roll to the right until you’re backing your hollow hole position. Once you’ve completed that, try rolling back to the left. Working on this will help to contract your entire core, not only the abs which everyone is aware of in the front of your body, but even those key lower back muscles, your upper glutes, and the muscles along either side of your abdominal wall. Holding all of these together is how you’re going to strengthen your core and give yourself the strength you need to produce those high intensity backwards and forwards flipping skills. Here is a short video about how to execute a hollow roll.
Gather Step to Box Jump
The majority of cheerleading tumbling is backwards tumbling. Certainly there are some exceptions, like an arabian or a punch front step out, but most of the time we are talking about back handsprings, back tucks and fulls. As a result learning how to correctly do a gather step into a jump is important. To help you work on this we’re doing a gather step variation on a box jump. The idea is relatively straightforward: practicing stepping backwards to build momentum will help you especially when you’re doing a multiple back handspring to standing skill. Developing the coordination and power to do this in a consistent way will quickly improve your speed and your momentum in throwing these skills. Here is a video explaining how to execute a gather-step box jump.
Flexibility is a critical part of tumbling not just because of its importance in getting into skills like round-offs and cartwheels. But also because it helps to decrease the likelihood of injury. No gymnastics training is complete without a focus on flexibility. In part two we focused on forward split flexibility, here in part three we’re going to focus on sideways flexibility. By stretching your groin muscle and your hamstrings you will make certain that you can land more consistently, that your power from your round off and cartwheel increase, and that if something should go wrong you can avoid getting hurt. Consistent stretching is always important. This is how you work on your side split.
Central to a lot of chilling tumbling is the back handspring. The back handspring requires you to be able to bridge your back and then flip over. In order to do this, you have to have three key elements: back flexibility, the power to kick over, and the abdominal strength to pull your feet back down to the ground and underneath you so that you can stand up. The bridge kick over works on all of these skills. In part one (include link) we worked on the wall walk to get into a bridge. In part two (include link) we worked on how to do a bridge from a standing position. In part three we focus on how you can kick over once you’ve gotten to that bridge. Please make sure that you are completing all of the previous skills and mastering them before you move on to a new set of gymnastics skills. Here is how you do a back bridge kick over:
Important Things to Consider
Always remember, when beginning a new workout regimen, that you are taking the appropriate precautions to make sure you are doing it safely. You should be doing all of these activities with a partner, both for help in case a movie comes too difficult, but also to be there if something does go wrong. Working on these exercises consistently before you begin working on gymnastics will make a significant difference in how quickly you move through the progressions at a cheerleading or gymnastics gym. However, working on it everyday is critical. While certainly rest is an important part of it, and the occasional rest day is okay, only consistent work on the skills will help you get to your goals and the amount of time that you want.
Sometimes you need a little motivation while you are working through these skills. They can be difficult, and sometimes the idea of going through another workout can be daunting. One of the things that you can do to help keep yourself inspired is to listen to some of the hottest cheerleading tracks in the country. Listen to the music on CheerleadingMix.com to help you stay inspired and help you keep your eyes on the prize.