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.