Believe it or not, having raw strength isn’t the “secret” to having speedy tumbling passes. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying being weak is acceptable because without optimal muscle mass to body weight ratio, you cannot generate the necessary force to tumble.
What I am saying is that while raw strength *IS* a requirement, it’s not enough by itself. There are 3 total factors that contribute to faster and more powerful tumbling. So for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that strength is not an issue for you.
Which means there are only two other possible reasons why your tumbling is slow: Lagging Mental References or Technical Inefficiency
Mental reference has to do with how quickly your brain can process the action you’re taking, and react to it while letting you perform your skill(s). And if your mental reference points aren’t trained to handle speed, then tumbling faster can become overwhelming. This is why many powerful athletes are actually scared to tumble quickly and instead, deliberately tumble at a slower pace so they can mentally keep up.
This is fine early on when an athlete is new, but it shouldn’t be come a habit. Because when it comes time to learn harder tricks (such as double fulls or double saltos) slowness isn’t going to get you anywhere. In fact, it’s going to become a thorn in your side.
And that is Technical Inefficiency. Or in simple terms, “having sloppy technique and/or incorrect physical habits”
Below are 6 of my favorite starting techniques to help develop more powerful Round Offs. Please note that they are listed in terms of easiest to perform to the hardest.
I hope you get a chance to try them all!
Method #1: Running (2 steps)
This is a very common way to start a tumbling pass, and my guess is that you probably already use this method. So I’m going to spare you the obvious details on “how”, and instead talk about a few of key points that you should be focusing on…
- If you’re used to taking more than 2 steps (3-5) then scale it back and try all of your passes from the 2 step approach while trying to keep the SAME amount of speed & momentum
- Be sure to start with feet together, then initiate the run with the same leg that you Round-Off with. Example: if you lunge forward with your left leg in your Round-Off, then that’s the leg you’d start with. See the animation above for more details
- Make sure your 2 steps aren’t inconsistent or slow. They should be evenly spaced and the steps should get faster. Many athletes make the mistake of doing a 2 step “walk” into their pass then wonder why it’s slow. It’s called a run for a reason. Pretend like you’re running away from a lion chasing you!
Method #2: The Power Hurdle (PH)
This is another common technique that I’m sure you’ve used. In fact, the PH is one of the very first techniques that an athlete will learn when they are developing their Round-Off and Cartwheel. It truly is a very versatile, and a legitimate skill in an of itself. Here are some key points to keep in mind.
- Make sure your two feet jump is LONG not high. The higher you jump, the harder it is to turn it into horizontal momentum. A good power hurdle stays just mere inches off the floor and transfers all the horizontal momentum into the Round-Off without any slow down. A good way to train this is by testing your horizontal jump. Measure it, then try and beat it weekly or monthly.
- When going into a PH, do not lean your chest back after the take off. When you do, you center of mass shifts backward, and this will slow you down. It’s another very common error I see often. Pretend that your chest has a rope which is tied to the ground, and after your initial leap, the rope tugs your chest downward.
- Always use a PH when tumbling on safety surfaces (TumbleTrak, AirTrak etc.) This is a rule we use quite a bit in my gym. The only exception is when athletes are learning elite skills and passes (whip to double fulls etc.) But even then, if an elite skill or pass has been mastered, they must go back to a PH entry.
Method #3: Opposite Hurdle
This is one of my all time favorite techniques to help develop power. Not only because it’s challenging, but it really forces an aggressive hurdle, needle kick and the snapdown out of the Round Off. It’s the perfect “sweet spot” technique to use in case you find Methods 4,5 & 6 a little too challenging.
I developed this by watching the start position of Olympic Sprinters. Have you ever seen them at the starting line? The way these athletes explode into their run is actually the fastest (and most efficient) way a human being can accelerate from rest. However, they do have some assistance because they get to rest their feet on starting blocks.
So for us, what you do is start in a lunge position with the opposite leg of your Round-Off in front of you. Then dip your chest forward, bend your back leg slightly, and have your arms pointing straight behind you (think Naruto Run). From here, you explode into your hurdle by driving your Round-Off knee forward while swinging your arms in front of you as quickly as possible. Just like the PH, we don’t want to go up, we want to explode forward. See the animation below for more details…
Method #4: Passe Hop
Sometimes I feel like a mad scientist because the instant a new technique pops into my head, I like to test it on my athletes in order to see what happens. The Passe Hop is the result of such experimentation.
I didn’t initially create it for power development… it was more of a “I’m not sure if this will work, but let’s see if ya’ll can pull this off lol”
Fortunately, not only did they pull it off, but this technique ended up being something a lot of athletes hated doing — which is a good indication that it’s forcing them to WORK, and that I should keep doing it.
Here’s how it works: Stand in the normal Passe position with arms up. Be sure your RO leg is the one with the knee bent. While standing on your stationary leg, swing your RO knee and your arms behind you, then immediately and simultaneously jump and swing them forward, launching you into your Round-Off. You are essentially doing a one leg “hop” off the leg you’re standing on, while using the knee and arm swing to give yourself extra momentum. Watch the animation above a few times to get a good idea of how it works.
Method #5: Passe Fall
As you can tell, this is a close cousin to the Passe Hop method. And while it’s tough to pull off passes from a falling position with no added momentum, this entry is also quite beginner friendly.
It’s also very useful for those athletes who have short lunges, and you want to teach them the concept of reaching.
Pro Tip: The faster your needle kick, the better you’ll do. So if you’re struggling to pull off your passes out of this method, spend some time on that basic movement.
Method #6: Kneeling Round-Off
This has to be the least favorite of all start positions for one simple reason – it’s friggin’ tough! The Kneeling Round-Off not only requires you start from rest, but you are so low to the floor, that you essentially have to perform a “jumping lunge” in order to get going.
So if you’re up for the challenge (and the pain), you might want to try it out. Let’s take a closer look at it…
While it looks pretty self-explanatory, here are a few key points to remember:
- Make sure your back leg has the heels up and that you are ready to push off the ground from the ball of your foot. You also need to remember to keep your RO leg in front.
- One of the reasons I try and be careful with this method is that weaker athletes will tend to drop their arms right away, producing a short reach in the RO. This is obviously NOT what we want, so a way to combat this is to put a block in front and have the athletes reach over it. And if they can’t do that, it’s a good indication that they are too under-conditioned for this Method. Strong Quads and Hamstrings are mandatory.
- Do NOT use this is a conditioning tool in an of itself (unless you’re just doing Round Offs). The Kneeling RO entry will fatigue even the best tumblers in just a few passes. And when fatigue increases, you want to decrease the difficulty or add more break time between reps. The last thing you want to do is ask your team to do 10 Kneeling RO passes in a row as quickly as possible.