Punch fronts (AKA front
flips, front tucks, front saltos, or just plain fronts)
are one of the basic skills in front tumbling. They are often used to set up more
difficult tumbling passes, such as front step-out round-off flip-flop backs or front
step-out front handspring fronts. Punch fronts are usually learned early in the
intermediate level, usually once the gymnast has mastered the front handspring.
There are several drills that should
be mastered prior to learning a punch front, and can also be used as drills for
Straight jump punches
- From a few running steps, hurdle and punch with both feet into
a straight jump. ("Russian fronts" -- which are done by swinging the arms to the
back and up -- can be taught, but I will focus on the "arms over the head" punch.)
However you swing your arms, they should end up over your head when you rebound.
Remember that your feet should be in front of you in the hurdle and your body
hollow and tight. This will give you the lift you
Dive rolls - This may be
a trick that's already been taught, but let's refine it a bit to suit the needs
of a front tuck. Most gymnasts will have been doing this in a more or less piked
position, but now we shall try straightening the body. When you punch, it should
be just like the straight jump punches from above, but at the same time that you're
going up, you should be driving your heels so that you rotate to an inverted position
by the time you reach the ground. (More experienced gymnasts often "exaggerate"
this pre-flight position, flying high in the air and rolling out of it at the
last minute -- a very dangerous technique, but very amazing when done right.)
The area to focus on here is just after your feet leave the ground. Your feet
were in front of you at the time of impact, so now you want to transfer that horizontal
momentum and turn most of it into vertical power. As you get better, you will
be able to drive your heels to get you the rotation while keeping your body hollow
Now, it can be taken to completion.
Preferably, it should be attempted first off a springboard and onto an 8-inch crash
mat with the help of a spotter. Remember the key points emphasized in the previous
two drills: punch with your feet in front and punch up with a straight body. To
ensure this position, try spotting an object on the wall or directly in front of
you at eye level. Watch for a moment as you punch before rotating. The rotation
motion should be primarily from lifting the hips. Then the chin should tuck into
the chest as you bring your chest to your knees. To land, the tuck should open up,
but keeping the legs bent and body tight in preparation for the impact.
If you feel like you're landing
short and almost about to crash your face into your knees, you may want to straddle
very slightly so you don't end up with missing teeth -- just until you learn to
land on your feet, at least.
Punching with the feet
in back: First of all, you most likely won't get very
much height since a lot of your momentum is continuing to go forward instead of
up. Second, this significantly diminishes the ability to rotate. When you punch
up correctly, it places the axis of rotation around the midsection of your body.
But when you have your feet in back, it causes you to lean forward and the axis
of rotation is somewhere around your head. And since your head is continuing to
go forward, so does the axis of rotation and this makes it incredibly difficult
to get around.
Not tucking enough: According
to the laws of physics, an object with a smaller radius can rotate faster than
an object with a longer radius. Therefore, when you roll your body into a tighter
tuck, you will rotate faster and it will make it easier to get around.
When you first try the punch front,
you may find it difficult to figure out when to open up to land. Since fronts are
a skill with a blind landing, it will require you to practice and practice
some more until your body learns to "feel" its way around and anticipate the ground
at the right time.
Don't get discouraged. Just keep
practicing and it will come to you. Good luck!