Backwards Power Tumbling

The basis for nearly all backwards power tumbling is found in the round-off back handspring, or sometimes called round-off flip-flop (which is often abbreviated RO FF). The key to getting explosiveness into your backs, layouts, fulls, double backs, or whatever else you are throwing, is a long and powerful round-off flip-flop. 

Before we begin, take a pencil and toss it eraser-first on a solid surface. If it makes contact at the precise angle, it will bounce and flip over to land on the lead end. Now do the same with a limp piece of clay, if you have some handy. (If not, just imagine it.) What's the point of this activity, you ask? Although this illustration is somewhat of an exaggeration, it shows that fast and solid tumbling requires a tight body. Many gymnasts make the mistake of piking excessively on the round-off and snap down of the back handspring, arching into the back handspring, and in general, not being tight enough throughout the pass.

First off, let's work on the technique of the round-off. Many gymnasts try "cheating" into the twist by turning their bodies so that their hands land perpendicular to the direction of their bodies. In other words, they've already made the 1/2 turn by the time their hands hit the ground. Unfortunately, this takes away from the potential power you can get from the round-off.

Find a straight line on which you can do round-offs. With a small step-hurdle, do a round-off, but keep both hands along the line. As you become comfortable with these, you should notice that your second hand is giving you a little more power.

Let's try another drill, again concentrating only on the round-off. Do a running round-off onto a crash mat. Hurdle and place your hands on the floor in front of the mat and only let your feet land on the crash mat. Try a few round-offs here until you get used to the feeling.

Now try a few, but deliberately miss your feet and roll to your back. Ultimately, in combination with the previous drill, you should be applying the power to try driving your feet as quickly as you can in front of you so that your roll quickly to your back. However, do not pike your body; you should be hollow as soon as your hands leave the ground. The purpose of this drill is to learn to drive your feet in front of you while keeping your body hollow. Your arms also should be squeezing tight by your ears, with your head neutral.

Now, with a spotter, go ahead and apply both techniques of the previous drills to a round-off flip-flop. If all goes well, you shouldn't need to arch into your flip-flop much at all. The backwards momentum you gained from your round-off should be enough to do a long flip-flop. Think back to the pencil. Notice that since the pencil is made of a rigid material, it bounces well. Therefore, even as you put a slight arch into your flip-flop, you should still be tight. Your head should remain neutral.

The snap-down out of the flip-flop should be tight as well. Pop off your shoulders and snap your body into a hollow body position.

But coming out of the flip-flop depends on what you will do next. If you plan to string a series of flip-flops together, the snap-down of each flip-flop should be similar to that of the round-off: quick and with your feet in front of you. If you are going to do a back out of it, you should finish your flip-flop with your feet behind you. Therefore, at the right angle of contact, the backwards momentum will now be transferred to upward momentum, giving you the height you need. The same goes for any other backward somersault skills.

A few more notes:

In summary, you will get the most out of your round-off back handspring if: