10 Tumbling Hacks That Work So Well

Tumbling is a sport of patience.

This is especially true for those that are new, and have just begun their journey in the art of going upside down.

I think the reason it tests one’s patience is because you can never accurately predict the day you’ll accomplish a new skill or trick.

Sure you can train hard, eat well, and condition to keep yourself strong and injury free, but you can never say, “exactly X days from now, I’m going to land Y skill!”

So without further ado, let’s begin…

Hack #1: Develop Round Off Power

“I would say that kicking your 2nd leg up (the back leg) in the round off can really help drive your kick stronger/faster thus creating more power for your tumbling pass.”

Lee has a great point here. A lot of times, athletes will get the correction to snap their feet together in the round off but this can go one of two ways:

  • They might snap them together too early, resulting in a loss of power
  • They may snap them together too late which is again, not very efficient

Instead, try this simple two step process:

  1. Train your needle kicks to be as fast as possible. Really focus on driving those heels up (see video below)
  2. Once your needle kicks have become quick, work on snapping the feet together at the 12 o’clock position in the handstand.

Once you get good at that, it’s just a matter of doing the same thing during your round off. A fun and fool-proof drill is to try a round off on to a block. It’s really hard to do this unless you have a good drive from the back leg, and a pop off your shoulders. See the video below.

Hack #2: Increase Power In Back Handsprings

“I would say that pulling the arms to horizontal (straight out in front of you) after your round off, before swinging them back, can increase the length and power of the back handspring.

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 If you’ve been doing back handsprings for a long time and already have lots of power, then this might not be a hack for you since there’s no point in fixing what’s not broken. But for anyone that needs to work their speed (especially if you’re level 1-3), then you should definitely give this a try.

Hack #3: Getting more set for a back tuck or layout.

“This advice is for anyone who already can do a back tuck or layout and wants to learn how to make it higher. One thing that I’ve been doing to achieve more height in any of my tumbling is keeping in mind a very simple technique: if you want to go higher in your sets, you have to get your upper body lower.

What that means is that whether you’re tumbling out of a round-off or a back handspring, it’s very important to focus on looking at the floor and trying to keep your chest as low to the ground as possible before take off. You can achieve this in one of two ways:

  1. As you rebound off your shoulders, you want to absorb slightly through your arms (yes, bend them) so that you get lower to the ground before pushing hard and standing up quickly! Or…
  2. Make your back handsprings longer and really reach back, which in effect brings you lower to the ground like the first technique but you don’t have to sacrifice form to achieve it; however, this technique is a lot harder and takes a lot more strength.

Focusing on looking at the floor longer, getting your chest closer to the ground and standing up quicker will all help to a higher and more efficient set!”

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Hack #4: Ultimate Round Offs

“Probably the ultimate hack is the kick over the head in the round off, if the chasse(ing) motion is fast and the kick hard, it rotates the round off faster and takes a ton of pressure of your hands.”

Hack #5: Front Twisting Without Getting Lost

“In front fulls you should actually look over the opposite twisting shoulder, which allows you to see the ground the whole time.”

Hack #6: Smelly Twisting (this one is my fav!)

“Can’t get a student to get their head turned around to spot in a full? Putch a scratch and sniff sticker on their twisting shoulder and have them tell you what flavor it is after the full, if they don’t know the flavor then their chin wasn’t turned in!”

And why not get creative with it? After thinking about it, another way you can use this is when athletes that have very open tucks (front or back). Put the stickers on their knees – they will have to tuck tighter if they want to smell the flavor!

Hack #7: Get That Chin Down

“Can’t get a student to get their head in? Especially in double backs or vaulting? Teach backward rolls with arms behind head grabbing your opposite elbows.”

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This one is great because it’s basically fool proof.

If you need to see it visually, see the image to your right (note: the only difference is that she’s putting her hands behind the head, but you should use them to grab your elbows)

What you’ll find is that your forearms really don’t allow your head to be thrown back, so when you attempt the back roll, it forces you to feel what it’s like to have your chin tucked in.

I cannot tell you how important a tucked chin in for your tucks and layouts. I literally will not let an athlete progress to layouts until they’ve shown me good back tucks and pikes with their chin tucked in.

Hack #8: Go Higher… Without Actually Going Higher

The easiest way to work this hack is to do jump backs on to a mat that is at least hip-height, while landing in a candle stick position. While driving the hips up, focus on the following 3 things:

  1. Keeping your chin down
  2. Opening up your shoulders but not bending your back
  3. Squeezing your glutes (your butt)

See my back tuck video below to see the end results.

Hack #9: Your Tumbling Is What You Eat?

As far as sports are concerned, tumbling is about as “unnatural” as you can possibly get. Think about it for a second, soccer revolves around running; something we’re designed to do. Football (or Rugby) requires throwing, running and smashing into each other; something humanity has been doing for a while. But tumbling?  Well we weren’t exactly designed to hurl ourselves upside down.

So as a tumbler, you need to take advantage of every edge that you can get. This is why inadequate nutrition is something you cannot afford to ignore.

Below is a simple but powerful smoothie recipe I’ve come up with, which will do the following: Flood your body with anti-oxidants (which will help reduce muscle soreness), repair and rebuild muscle tissue (so you can come back stronger) and finally, provide you with ample energy so you can push hard at practice.

I’d drink this 1 hour before practice and then again immediately right after.

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup low-fat greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup tart cherry juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/3 scoop vanilla whey protein

You may add water, extra tart cherry juice or even some orange juice if you want to make the consistency a bit thinner. Play around with it and have some fun.
If you’d like more information on how nutrition can help boost your performance, help reduce soreness keep your joints feeling healthy.

Hack #10: Fixing The Set Before The Twist

If you’re working on your full or double twist, chances are you’ve been told to “set” before you actually do the twist. Nothing wrong with that, as it’s a very common correction, and something that takes time to master. But here’s something that will fix the setting problem in literally 10 minutes (provided you have a solid layout!)

It’s called a layout to push up, and I picked it up at the amazing Woodward Camp. Basically, you do a round off >BHS into layout with the arms in the set position (by your ears), and leave them there! While doing this, stay in a hollow body position and you’ll notice your layout rotates slowly. Be patient and keep it that way until you land in the push up position. Once you land, you can do a log roll in whichever direction you twist.

See the video below.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed these tumbling hacks, and that you get to try them out the next time you hit the gym. But before I sign off, I should say that you should never neglect working on your basics. 

Sure, it’s fun to use these once in a while, but if you really want to improve (and continue improving), your fundamentals not only need to be strong, you need to work them every single time you hit the gym.

A tumbler who applies some of these tumbling hacks to a strong foundation of basics will see their tumbling improve so quickly, it will seem like magic.

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