“Stop Throwing Your Head!!”

I hear this comment so often in many gyms.  Then, I watch the kid(s) in question as they tumble across the floor and quickly recognize how they’re taking off the floor for their salto.  Many times they are not landing their back handspring properly.  Their bottom is sticking out (piked), the chest is down/forward, and their body is segmented as they prepare to take-off (i.e. “set”).  So, I ask you this – “What other choice do they have?”  To make the required rotation, they must ‘throw their head’ or somehow fling their upper torso into the salto. 

So, what’s the point of this post?  Well, it’s really two-fold.  First of all, analyze your athlete’s take-off position a little more closely and observe the position that they are landing in out of the back handspring.  Secondly, spend more time drilling the take-off and the back handspring finishing position.  Drills like RO-BHS up to stack mats and BHS to a hollow, open-shoulder “push-up” position are a couple of good drills to use.

Now, there are definitely gymnasts who do legitimately “throw their head” back.  I’m not suggesting that the latter is all-inclusive.  But, I think that coaches need to look more for the disease versus just highlighting the symptom.

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