Over the years, I have learned that there are many ways in which basic back handspring technique is taught. There are 5 essential steps to the back handspring approach: bend & swing, fall, jump (also known as “standing fast”), and the snap (or more accurately, pulling to handstand). However, there is one very specific difference in the way coaches will teach the initial or starting position.
Many of the athletes I’ve worked with over the years have been taught to “sit” at the beginning of their back handsprings. Put simply, this means that when they start in the standing position, they then proceed to drop their butts into a seated position. I’ve found that this is fundamentally flawed when teaching back handspring technique, especially to new tumblers. And here’s why:
When we sit, we place our weight and balance back into our hips. When performing a back handspring, we want our backward momentum to happen in the “fall” portion of the approach. By sitting and placing our weight in your bottom, you prematurely put your momentum backwards and “force” your fall. This can cause athletes to skip the fall, causing them to “undercut” their back handspring.
This is why I prefer to teach my athletes to “bend” instead of sit. By bending, you keep your weight centered, with your chest over your knees over your toes. This will accomplish 3 things:
It will keep you from skipping the fall, which comes after the “bend & swing” in the 5-step approach.
It will provide you with a more explosive jump (“stand”). Keeping your weight centered in your toes & thighs instead of your butt and falling from a bent position, you will also allow your body to jump (“stand”) into a hollow body position, which will lead into a proper arch-to-hollow succession thereafter.
Finally, it will allow you to have greater control over your fall and help to keep you from undercutting.
The back handspring is a “corrective” skill, meaning you intentionally fall into the skill and correct yourself from falling by standing fast into a hollow body position. Sitting puts your weight into your heels and butt, two places you do not want your weight when jumping into your skill. You want your jump (“stand”) to come from your toes.
To some this might seem like a minute (pr. “my-NOOT”) difference in instruction, but to me, it’s the details that make the difference between an “ok” tumbler and an exceptional, detail-oriented athlete.