Tumbling – Back strength, Exercises

Hello Coach Wayne,

My 8-year-old daughter takes gymnastics, likes it, but she has a fear of hurting her back while learning to do a backbend.

Could you please help her get over her fear of this?

THANK you. From BECKY and SARAH Ross.


Note From Coach Wayne

Fear and discomfort are very common while learning skills such as walk-overs and limbers. Just as muscular strength may or may not come easily for some of us, flexibility ALSO may or may not come easily.

The following are a series of exercises are designed to be practiced in the home environment to increase back flexibility and strength.

They will help you accomplish your front and back-walk-overs & limbers or arch-stand kick-overs.

Cheerleaders!!!! Please write me with your questions and comments on the subject of TUMBLING. I’ll answer all I’m able. Coach@CoachWayne.com

Many people have mentioned that it’s MUCH EASIER to understand my coaching instructions when they see them on VIDEO, rather than reading them. I agree… If you haven’t seen my “Better Back-Handsprings video” you should check it out.

Unless you have genuinely superior back-handsprings, this tape will help you.

Having said that, here’s the latest news…I’m going to begin making NEW VIDEOS soon!!! I want YOUR input!!! If you could learn ANYTHING about tumbling from a “CoachWayne” video, what specific questions would you like to have answered?

What specific tumbling challenges are you having? What specific skills, lessons would you like to learn about?

Write often.
Have fun, be safe, push hard!
~Coach Wayne

Until the new videos are available.. here’s some great reading for those of you who haven’t mastered your Walk-Overs.

The Solution

Coach Wayne’s simple back strength & flexibility exercise

1) Lay on your back on the edge of a bed or couch… with your head and arms hanging off. Then GRADUALLY… slip off the bed until your hands touch the floor. Just slipping off slowly is FUN, but here’s the good stuff.

2) Once you’re hands are beginning to support you.. straighten your arms COMPLETELY at the elbows… look at your hands with your eyes.

3) Now bend your arms and let your head touch the floor… then STRAIGHTEN them again.. so it’s a type of “push-up” but the back muscles are working too!

For MORE fun…slowly…bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the bed.

Then… push UP into an arch stand.. feet UP on the bed.. hands DOWN on the floor.

THEN try the “push-up” exercises (10-20 reps)
If that’s too simple… lift ONE let straight into the air…. then switch legs (like a split)

MORE great “CoachWayne.com” exercises for your back

The PRIMARY element for being able to kick-over from an arch-stand is SHOULDER/UpperBack flexibility & strength.

Here are some more ways to improve your shoulder flexibility.

1) Lay flat on your belly… arms stretched out straight over your head. This is called a “Back-Arch-Rise”. You may want to slip your feet under a heavy piece of furniture or have a partner hold them down. Now, hold a BOOK between your hands.

Now.. lift the book off the floor but keep your NOSE ON the floor. Hold the book as high as possible for 5 seconds… relax to the floor.

Repeat that a dozen times.

NEXT: Lift the book.. AND your head… AND your shoulders off the floor. Lift the book as FAR as possible… your ribs and even your belly may come off the floor. That’s great! Keep your eyes open and LOOK behind you.

Try and touch the book to your feet.. and look at your feet. When you’ve lifted (arched) as far as possible, HOLD that position for 5 seconds… then relax again to the floor.

Repeat that a dozen times.

2) Lay with your back on the floor. You are going to be performing a “Modified” back arch-stand… also called a “back bend”. You’ll be pushing UP onto your hands and feet from that position.

Bend your elbows.. and place your hands flat on the floor underneath your shoulders with your fingers pointing towards your feet. Bend your knees… place your feet together … with your feet FLAT on the floor.

Now, without moving the hands or feet, STRAIGHTEN both the elbows and the knees. This should LIFT your body off the floor. Relax your head backwards and look at your hands. Stay up for a count of 10 seconds… then relax to the floor and repeat 20 times. Ideally, your knees and elbows should be completely straight. (but that’s pretty advanced.) Remember to FOCUS the pressure/stretch into the SHOULDERS! They should feel the stress. There’s no need to attempt to kick over.


You’ll be performing the same arch-stand.. only this time you’ll start with your feet elevated. Your buttocks will be almost touching the front edge of the couch. Place your feet up on the hard front edge of your couch..

About 8-12 inches high should be adequate. Now push up into the back arch-stand again.. but this time your feet are not on the floor.. they are UP off the floor … so your sort of standing on the very edge of the seat of the couch.

NOW… here’s what is important… Push up as HIGH as possible in the arch stand (back-bend) and keep your hands as close to the couch as possible.

As your knees straighten up you’ll feel more and more of the weight of your body on your hands… and off your feet. Keep opening the chest and shoulders… arching harder… with the elbows perfectly straight. Push your head out.. so your nose is as far in front of you head (away from the couch) as possible.

Go as far as possible (again emphasizing the tretch/stress in the shoulders) HOLD for 5 seconds… then relax to the floor by bending the elbows and knees… returning to the beginning position. Repeat a dozen times.

Practice those exercises.. for another week… maybe 10 days. Shoulder flexibility is something that may require a few weeks to attain. Try those now and let me know what problems/questions arise.

Yet MORE “EXCELLENT Walk-Overs” Exercises

PLEASE READ ALL these instructions COMPLETELY before beginning this exercise.

Think them through FIRST, then perform them accurately, adjusting for your individual body limits and circumstances.

1) Stand with your back against a wall. (a closed door works well too)
2) Take ONE step forward
3) KEEP your feet in a STRIDE position with your knees as straight as possible.
4) Hold your ARMS high over your head, elbows straight, arms narrow so your thumbs touch each other
5) Look at the ceiling.. then tilt your head backward until you can see the wall behind you.
6) Touch the wall behind you with your hands. Keep your arms as narrow as possible and VERY VERY far back (down behind)
7) Relax your head back & STAY in that position for 4 LONG breaths, relaxing your back and hands LOWER on the wall with each breath.
8) Bend your FRONT knee to stand, keeping your back arched as LONG as possible and bringing your head/arms back up LAST. All the weight should MOVE to your FRONT LEG. REMEMBER to LOOK AT YOUR HANDS!!! Keep your chin up and head BACK to encourage arching.

9) Each time you repeat this (5-10 times) begin standing FARTHER away from the wall (move forward one or two inches at a time) & eventually you’ll be able to lay your hands on the floor or grab the BACK of your foot!
10) At advanced levels, the entire exercise is performed standing on ONE foot only with the front leg being held (knees straight) as high in the air as possible.

***NOTE*** in this exercise, to PROTECT and SUPPORT the LOWER BACK… you should TIGHTEN/SQUEEZE your BUTTOCKS and HOLD THEM in a tightened condition.

There should be NO pain, but a bit of general “discomfort” may be expected. Be sure to warm-up and stretch the back muscles BEFORE and AFTER this exercise.

Remember, strong abdomen/chest/hip muscles are needed to balance out strong back muscles.


A hand, placed lightly on the gymnast’s back should help stabilize and control a gymnast. Maintain VERY light pressure, enough to perform these functions.

1) Minimize lateral (sideways) or twisting motions. (a second hand, at the hip bone or sacrum, may help) You should NOT be HOLDING the gymnast’s weight. Let HER hold herself.

2) To help prevent “falling” until the muscles/brain learn to coordinate & balance & control THROUGHOUT the entire movement. Usually only needed for a few of the first 10 repetitions.

3) To help the gymnast “sculpt” and shape the curving bend of the back. By moving your hand up and down the entire spine lightly, a “brushing” /probing with the fingertips, you help the gymnast identify muscles & vertebrae/ribs which are, or are not, being used.