Basics, Basics, Basics!!! Training the Front Handspring on Floor – Part I

I had a request from a good friend of mine to do the next basics post on Front Handsprings on floor.  As I started doing this, however, it got really long (I know, surprising, right?).  Therefore, I’m going to post this in several parts.  So, here goes Part I:

The biggest thing that I would stress about FHS on floor is that I try and do about a gazillion times more front handspring step-outs than front handsprings to two feet.  This is the same philosophy I have about cartwheels and round-offs.  In my opinion, the more round-offs and front handsprings to two feet the athlete does, the more she re-enforces the bad habit of bringing her feet together too soon.  This habit is extremely counter-productive to the speed through these skills that is necessary for the continuation of the pass after this skill.  I’ve had it explained to me in the past as a simple matter of physics.  Basically, if an athlete kicks her back leg over the top as hard and as fast as she can, then it is virtually impossible for her to bring her feet together at the top without slowing down the leg that kicked over first.  This is a sure-fire method to a loss of momentum through the skill.

THE HURDLE:  Chris has written two very informative articles on the hurdle.  Please refer to these to understand the importance of the hurdle.  As far as the technique itself, I always teach the knee-up hurdle technique.  I have never been a big fan of the “chasse’ ” type hurdle or the recently seen “straight leg in front” hurdle.  The “chasse’ ” type does not lend itself very well to getting to the lunge as efficiently as the “knee-up” type, in my opinion.  The “straight leg in front” type is very confusing to me, and I would love to hear any opinions on this method.  I don’t really understand, from a physics point of view, how this could possibly be beneficial to the speed and power of the tumbling pass.  I have been proven wrong before, however, so I will gladly listen to other ideas on the subject. 

There is a great video from Bart, who coaches at Flips in Minnesota that demonstrates a great hurdle drill.  You can view this on Chris’ post on the Hurdle – Part II.  Here is another drill that Bart has up on his website gymnastics-skills.com for round-offs, but I like the hurdle part of this:

Thanks, Bart, for some very good drills!

Here are two other drills that we do for hurdles:

The point of the first drill above is to try and get the athlete to really feel the back leg get underneath them and then use it to push themselves forward.  This is in line with the points that Chris is trying to make with his two articles.  I was guilty for a long time of putting too much emphasis on getting on to the front leg in tumbling, and now I really try to stress to the athletes how important it is to keep that back leg underneath them, and then use it to propel them through the skill.  They have to basically “compress the spring” before the spring can be used.

THE LUNGE:  I talked a little about the lunge in my handstand article “Basics, Basics, Basics!!! The Training of a Handstand.”  There is some video of good lunges on there.  The important thing about the lunge in tumbling, to me, is the bending of the back leg.  As I said above, I always think of this as the “compression” of a spring.  If there is no bend of the back leg, then there is no way that the gymnast can push herself into the skill with that back leg.  This lack of push with the back leg is a big key to the failure of many gymnasts’ front handsprings.  There is a great drill for this that was done by Tammy Biggs using furniture movers.  We do this drill quite a bit.  Here is Tammy’s video:

Thanks to Tammy for another great idea!

And here are some of our girls doing front handspring step-outs with furniture movers: 

The second thing that is extremely important about the lunge for the front handspring is that the shoulders need to be completely extended.  The way I explain it to my gymnasts sometimes, is that their armpits should be completely open in the lunge and throughout the levering action.  A great principle to keep in mind about this is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If a gymnast closes her shoulders going into the front handspring, the resulting action is that the back leg will stay down, instead of kicking over the way it should.  One drill that we do to help solve that problem is to have the gymnast do a front handspring from a lunge while holding on to a stick that is held by a partner above her head.  This just re-enforces the open armpits in the lunge and through the lever.  Here is that drill:

Another drill to help with the lunge is to do a lot of front handspring step-outs from a lunge, rather than running, etc.  When a gymnast has to do the skill from a lunge, she has to really focus on the right technique, as she can’t “cover up” poor technique by using speed from the run and the hurdle.  This is not easy at first.  It takes time and patience.  One of the drills we do is a front handspring step-out from a lunge going down to a lower surface such as a resi, etc.  As you will see in the next video below, this is basically the same drill as above, just without the stick.  One of the reasons that I have included it is to demonstrate that, while my gymnasts don’t keep their shoulders completely open when using the stick, you can see how much less likely they are to keep them open when they don’t have the stick to remind them.  This (the open shoulder angle) is, to me, one of the more difficult and most important things involving the front handspring.  It is important that we do the work to help them overcome this challenge.  Here is the drill:

***You will notice that, in most of these videos, the weight in the lunge is placed mostly on the back foot at the beginning of the skill.  This is something that we have started doing a lot of  recently (in the last 3 months), as I really want the girls to start feeling more of that push from that back leg by doing a kind of “rocking” through the lunge.  We have found this very helpful, but I am interested in any feedback that any of you have about it.***

Stay tuned for Part II of this series, which will cover the “Lever Action” and the “Front Leg Push” in the Front Handspring on floor.

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10 Comments on “Basics, Basics, Basics!!! Training the Front Handspring on Floor – Part I”


  1. […] If you’ve got a comment, post it on the video or on New Millenium: Basics, Basics, Basics!!! Training the Front Handspring on Floor – Part I […]


  2. GREAT TOPIC.

    I have one question:

    Are you not worried about very flexible gymnasts doing too many “fast forward walkover” type handsprings early in the development phase? Flexible kids should be doing mostly tight flysprings, I feel.

    You must have seen gymnasts later in their careers that are not powerful. They’ve learned to rely on the flexibility of the shoulders.

    Personally I always wait until the flyspring on tramp is tight and excellent before doing any kind of handsprings, two-foot or one-foot.

    Comments?

    Shout out here:

    http://gymnasticscoaching.com/new/2010/01/teaching-forward-handspring/


  3. Excellent. Some really great stuff here. Thanks!


  4. I’d be curious to hear your opinion on the relative importance of front handsprings; the skill seems to have gone extinct on the men’s side, and is only seldom seen on the women’s side at the top levels.

  5. Chris Says:

    Rick:

    There are two more posts related to this topic forthcoming as far as discussing the blocking action, etc. Your question may be addressed in those posts. Stay Tuned. If not, then I’m sure that Troy will offer his perspective and I will offer mine. I think that the early leg closure is a greater concern in the developmental stages, personally.

    My next statement will be a response to Geoffrey’s question/concern…

    Geoffrey:

    The relative importance of the front handspring is its relationship to the round-off in addition to the fact that front tumbling combination passes typically offers easier opportunities for bonus in the women’s JO code. (I haven’t picked up the most recent JO Code lately, but I’m sure nothing has changed too drastically in this regard.)

    Anyway, developing a strong front handspring is vital to the development of a good round-off. The entry into the RO should mimic an entry into the front handspring with the 1/4 turn pretty much happening as the first hand contacts the ground and not before. Many of the RO issues are due to early turning, which is caused by numerous technical errors – doing a “1/2 on” into the RO, head sticking out, etc.

    In addition to doing a lot of cartwheel-related RO drills, I think that developing a strong FHS should be a pre-cursor to the RO, honestly. As I said, the entries should look almost identical with the turn occurring as late as possible and an extremely late leg closure.

    I can almost 99% of the time watch a front handspring and just about tell you how effective the gymnast’s RO is going to be just from observing the front handspring. For example, if the athlete “hops onto his/her hands” in a front handspring, I can almost guarantee the same thing is occurring during the round-off.

    So, that’s my answer.

  6. Troy Says:

    Actually, Rick, I am more concerned about inflexible kids doing too many front walkovers and front handsprings on the floor, rather than on more forgiving surfaces such as resis, etc. Gymnasts who are flexible in their shoulders are much more likely to be able to “turn over” this skill due to their flexibility, and therefore end up in front of their feet on the landing. The gymnasts that are tighter in their shoulders are less likely to rotate through and are therefore at a greater risk for landing behind their feet and compressing the vertebra in their lower backs. I do like the flyspring as a training drill as well.

    Now, if you are talking about gymnasts needing to learn to tighten their cores as they do this skill, I completely agree. But, I would say that this is a necessity for all athletes doing these skills. Many gymnasts land front handsprings with a relaxed core, and this can definitely lead to problems.

    I personally believe that the practice of bringing the feet together early in the front handspring is what causes a lot of the “behind the feet” landings, so I try to have the gymnasts do more step-outs to avoid this. I do think step-outs are safer, but I would love to hear others’ opinions on this.

    Thanks for the plug, by the way! We really appreciate it!

  7. Marie Says:

    Hi,

    I’ve always been taught that the front handspring with step out should be done with legs together in the handstand phase, rather than the ‘fast forward walkover’ version as shown in the videos, and I’ve actually found that when I’ve taught it this way, the gymnasts perform it better and score better in competition than those with the split legs.

    Not sure I’ve explained that very well, but here is a link to a video of a girl perfoming it how I was taught to teach it – it is at about 2:43 in the video.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  8. Troy Says:

    A lot of coaches taught the skill that way in the past. The problem, I believe, is that, while aesthetically beautiful, this technique is not conducive to tumbling out of the front handspring. It involves slowing down the leg that kicks over (the back leg) to be able to bring them together. This “slowing down” of the back leg is a huge problem, in my opinion, in the fact that a lot of athletes can’t get their bodies to an angle that is effective for the next skill out of the front handspring. It leads, I think, to a loss of momentum in the direction that you want the pass to travel.

    As I said in the post, it is similar to bringing the feet together at the top of a round-off. This action makes it very difficult for the athlete to get “snapped through” enough to get into the back handspring adequately.

    Again, these are just my opinions. The gymnast in that video does some really gorgeous stuff, by the way. I am curious, though, is that all compulsory or is some of it optional? It seems like there is a lot of arching–too much in my opinion. But, still, beautiful gymnastics. Talented girl.

  9. Marie Says:

    Hi, the skills are all compulsory but the dance is optional. She is a very talented young lady. Obviously v flexible so I guess her coaches really wanted to showcase it!

  10. Sarah Says:

    Great article, very informative and fun! I love doing gymnastics drills as part of my workouts! Thankyou :)


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