Do you want to be a better tumbler?

There is a saying of “Perfection before progression”. There are many reasons to master the basic tumbling skills before moving to more difficult ones.

First and foremost, it reduces the risk of injury. The more your body has been through the proper motion of a skill, the more your brain and body can coordinate what it’s doing. For instance, it will be physically easier to do a back handspring with a mastered back walkover because the legs, shoulders and core will be stronger. It will mentally be easier as well since jumping upside down backwards onto your arms is a pretty scary thing – the more you’ve done that motion at a slower pace (like in a back walkover) the easier it is to understand what that skill will look like as you progress to doing back handsprings.

Secondly, not mastering skills can lead to bad habits – which will only get you so far. For example – an athlete rushes into learning a round off handspring tuck without a really strong round off three handsprings. Without a strong foundation of the previous skill, the athlete won’t have enough power to set up before the tuck so instead they throw their head back to help rotation. They may have enough body strength to compete the flip, but it will be long, low and inconsistent on landing. Maybe one day they get stronger, can get a little higher and turn it into a whippy, archy layout – but with the same issues of the thrown head tuck. Now this athlete wants to learn a full – they will be unable to. Twisting does not occur easily in an arched position, plus they will not have enough height in the layout to complete a twist before they land. Bad habits are EXTREMELY hard to break, so now this athlete has spent hours and hours on skills with poor technique, eventually it will stop their progress and they will have to go back and correct the issues. This can be very frustrating to an athlete and is very hard to correct. This will end up taking them longer to achieve the skill, having to go back to basics and fix the technique of their less advanced skills before building back up correctly.

There is also a danger to rushing from one skill to the next too quickly since the athlete may not be physically strong enough to do the more advanced skill, which can lead to injury (which no one wants). But the bigger problem many coaches see every season from athletes moving on too quickly is mental. There is mental practice of visualizing what will happen before attempting a skill and what you picture while doing the skill. If your mind can’t understand what it will feel or look like to do that skill it can be frightening. It has led to many “blocks” where athletes became afraid to do a skill, would refuse to do that skill and many times led to the inability to perform very basic skills at all. It takes a lot of time and energy to recover from this sort of thing, which almost always is preventable by going slower and doing proper skill progressions and skill mastery before moving to the next skill.

There have been way too many cases of injury, “blocks” and more when athletes have been rushing themselves through skills or have been pushed to do things, they are not comfortable with. Every athlete is unique and will take a different amount of time and possibly a different approach to learn a skill. No two athletes are alike; they all have their own way to get where they want to go. Parents should encourage athletes to condition and stretch at home to help prepare their body for the skills, as well as mentally visualize doing the skill.

If tumbling is really something you want to excel at you have to put the work in, both in the gym and at home. You have to be well conditioned, strong and flexible to be a great tumbler. Get instruction – you have to be willing to make the changes in technique that at the time may seem small but in the long run can make a huge difference in the quality and consistency of your skills. Keep at it – some skills will take a while to learn or master, but once you do it there are many more skills to learn that will come more easily.


FORWARD ROLL – This is the first skill to master in tumbling. The correct roll shape is consistent with front and back tucks, so learning how to get into a proper ball, how to use muscles to hold that shape while moving and teaching the body how to go upside down with minimal risk to injury is key. General balance and coordination is also needed in this skill to go straight and stand up without the use of hands.

BACK BEND / BRIDGE – These skills are important to acquire proper back, hip and shoulder flexibility. The muscles in the shoulders, legs and back are also strengthened when practicing these skills so the body can be properly supported during more difficult skills, decreasing the risk of injury.

HANDSTAND – The handstand is the fundamental position in all tumbling elements. Round offs and back handsprings – the building blocks for all tumbling lines in cheerleading contain handstands. Learning how to have proper form in handstand positions as well as the strength it creates through the core and shoulders will improve power and speed in both standing and running tumbling. Even a layout (building block for all twisting skills) contains a handstand shape (without arms of course).

CARTWHEEL – Cartwheels are the building blocks to round offs. Important steps to the cartwheel include the lunge (distance and depth of lunge are important to allow for the strongest push-off), the handstand shape (being completely vertical while passing over the top is critical), the 1/2 turn while upside down allows for redirection (go from travelling forwards to backwards mid-skill) and the landing (how to position the weight of your body in the lunge to prepare for additional skills) Working together towards a common goal, relying on each other through good and tough times and achieving your dreams together is something many do not get to experience. Teamwork holds athletes accountable for their actions, gives them a support system and allows them to build many important life skills that will carry into their futures.