TUMBLING – basics


Coach Wayne,

My name is Emily and I am a coach in Philadelphia for a cheerleading squad. There aren’t many local gyms for my girls to learn the basics at and I was wondering how I could teach them some of the basics ( back walk-overs, front rolls, etc..)

Do you have any potting tips for me ( to give my girls the courage to try some things)? Some of my girls are very flexible and do back walk-overs, but are too afraid to try a hand-spring. Can you give me some help/advice on what to do?



The Solution

Hi Emily,

Thanks for writing! “Here are some Back-to Basics” guidelines for EXCELLENCE in TUMBLING:

The better your handstands are, the better your other tumbling can be. Almost EVERY error a tumbler makes in her HANDSTAND will be echoed and exaggerated through MOST OF her other tumbling skills.

If you think about it… the HANDSTAND position, or a variety of it, is found in MANY other tumbling skills:

  • Cartwheels
  • verdana Cartwheels
  • Round-off
  • Front Walk-Overs
  • Back Walk-Overs
  • verdana Walk-Overs
  • Front Handsprings
  • Back Handsprings
  • others….

You will effect DRAMATIC change in tumbling skills by focusing on IMPROVING handstands FIRST. Do this for a significant amount of time, during EACH and EVERY workout. (As well as before ALL performances).

The unwise thing to do is jump out and begin tossing walkovers and round-off handsprings from the get-go. It’s EXCITING to jump ahead and “TOSS” the “BIG” skills, but a wise tumbler will approach EACH work-out as a chance to develop ENDURING HABITS of EXCELLENCE.

Handstands are a skill that should be performed MASTERFULLY, EACH and EVERY day, for excellence in tumbling. It takes 5-7 minutes. YOU, as coach, must COMMAND that discipline & CONTINUALLY drive improvement in the handstands!


1) To acclimate your body to being upside down… do this: Work on your handstand against the wall… Start by standing with your BACK to the wall… then place your hands about 10 inches from the wall… push against the floor with STRAIGHT elbows… and then walk your feet UP the wall until you’re standing on your hands.

Have some one WATCH you to make sure your body is in good form… look for:
a) Head RELAXED and hanging down loosely between the arms
b) hands almost touching one another… thumbs about 2 inches apart
c) body in a STRAIGHT line from wrists to toes… no bends! Especially in the shoulders & back
d) feet TOGETHER… toes pointed… knees TIGHT.

Remain on your hands for about 10 seconds… then reverse down to the beginning position and relax, then repeat that about 20 times a day. If your form is bad or weak… don’t count it.

2) practice a STRAIGHT BODY LUNGE STEP with BOTH legs… and LEVER your straight body ON the lunge leg only…until your hands are supporting you partly and PUSH the body forwards onto your hands with ONLY your front knee working.

So… here are the steps. (have a friend help you read and do this)

a) start standing on your feet… arms overhead, straight and narrow. (gymnastics stance)

b) lift ONE leg in front of you… straight knee… until your feet are as far apart as you can make them (without letting EITHER knee bend) and then STEP forward onto the front foot. Your feet should be FAR apart.

c) BEND the front knee… BUT keep ALL the rest of your body EXACTLY as it was when you were standing straight on your feet. (arms overhead & narrow…back & shoulders in the same LINE as your ankle and wrist and KEEP bending the front knee (lunge leg) until ALL your weight is on that FRONT foot & your back foot is brushing softly on the floor. The front lunge knee should be bent DEEPLY at a right angle (90 degrees)

d) HOLD that LUNGE position for 5 seconds and let NOTHING move. just breathe. MAKE SURE your arms don’t drop.. your back doesn’t arch and your back leg remains STRAIGHT.

e) THEN> yes it gets tougher (but you CAN do it!) KEEP lifting your back leg up in the air… towards the ceiling… until your hands touch the floor. but keep your hands as FAR from your front (lunge) foot as possible so that you are REACHING (lunging!) forwards aggressively. When your fingers touch… put ONE hand in FRONT of the other (turn your hands sideways in the same direction)…

BY THE WAY!!!!! make sure you are working on a STRAIGHT LINE. Begin here at one end with both feet “8” together.
8|———-> step forwards onto your lunge leg “o”… onto the same line o|——–o————-and reach with the hands “xx”to the same line 0|——o——-ax-ax———> HOLD that position for 5 seconds….

f) THEN REVERSE the process EXACTLY with the feet ending up EXACTLY in your starting position and your body in a gymnastics stance.

g) rest

h) repeat 10 times… LEFT foot in front and 10 times with the RIGHT foot in front

i) repeat 10 MORE times… both sides… but this time when your hands are on the floor in front of your lunge leg…

I want you to PUSH the lunge knee straight … push HARD enough to actually get the knee COMPLETELY straight AND off the floor

LASTLY… practice LOOKING at different parts of the STRAIGHT LINE… each time. For example… the first time you do it.. LOOK at your hands the ENTIRE time second time… ONLY at your right foot third time… only at your left foot… and then try CHANGING from one to the other RANDOMLY throughout EACH attempt.

OK… I PROMISE you… if you’ll do those exercises for the next few days… when you attempt your cartwheel on Friday, EVERYONE will be amazed at how strong and well-formed your cartwheel is.

Expect your shoulders and knees to be a bit sore with the new work. good luck!