And now for the 3rd and final part of Training a Front Handspring on floor.
THE BLOCK OFF THE HANDS: A lot of times, this action is under-appreciated and over-emphasized at the same time. I know that sounds confusing, but I will try to explain. In my opinion, in most situations, coaches try too hard to train their athletes to block a front handspring on floor (and even vault) when the athlete is not doing the things before this block to allow her to be able TO block. As stated before, if the lunge leg doesn’t do its job, the center of gravity will be too low, and the athlete must bend her arms. At this point, it is impossible to block off the floor, since the definition of blocking involves a “bounce” or “pop” type of action, and not a bending of the arms, where the energy is absorbed. So, stressing on blocking without the pre-requisites of the techniques before this action is a huge waste of time, in my opinion (doing drills for blocking while still getting the rest in order is fine — it’s the expectation of a block without this prior technique that is the problem).
It is also my opinion that this action of blocking will become semi-automatic for the gymnast that does all of the technique before the block correctly.
The “under-appreciation aspect of this action is in the fact that, a lot of times, we are so busy trying to figure out why a gymnast is having trouble with the subsequent skill out of the front handspring that we may not look at how important the block is in the success of that second skill. Many times, the failure of that second skill is due to the lack of angle out of the front handspring, because the gymnast did not block from their hands in the front handspring.
One of the drills for blocking that a lot of people use, that I am not such a big fan of is the handstand hop. I like this drill (and variations of it) for front handsprings on vault, but not so much for floor. It goes back to what I talked about earlier regarding the “kicking through” of the back leg. When performing this handstand hop, we are, in my opinion, strengthening the action of bringing the feet together way too soon. This is an action that is more natural in my experience than the other (kicking all the way through), so I personally, don’t want to do anything to make this action more dominant. I feel like the gymnast can separate this technique more successfully when doing the drill for vault, so we do it there, but not on floor. Call me paranoid, but it works for me.
One drill that I have them do for blocking involves doing the front handspring from a lunge going down to a resi, and then over-rotating to the belly on a couple of wedges. This could also be done on the floor from a hurdle. Here are some of our gymnasts doing these drills:
THE FINISH: This is another very important aspect of the front handspring, as the position of the body and the angle of the body is crucial to the success of the skill that will eventually come after the front handspring.
***A huge point about the landing of this skill is the risk to the back. I am a firm believer that the majority of back injuries in our sport comes from the landing of front handsprings and other forward rotating skills. The reality is that no matter how much work is done on these skills, gymnasts land many of them with their bodies considerably behind their feet. This landing creates a great amount of force which is focussed on the vertebra of the lower back. It is because of this fact that I believe we need to be very conservative with this skill. We should do the best we can to keep our athletes from doing this skill on the floor until we know that they are capable of doing all of the above techniques efficiently enough to rotate this skill to the point of landing their bodies in front of their feet when the feet contact the floor. It is also important to work with the athlete to get her to tighten her core, using a “bracing” system (tightening the lower abs, the glutes, etc.), so that the lower back is protected on impact.***
One of the drills that we do for this are included in this video (thanks to Tammy Biggs for another great drill):
So, there you go. The training of a front handspring. I have included a couple of videos to show the completed process. The first is a video of our level 7s performing front handspring flysprings, and the second is of Ginny, one of our level 9s at Westerns last year performing her floor routine. She does a very nice front hanspring in her second pass.
Thank you so much for your time in reading this series of articles! I hope that it helps. I look forward to any and all comments that you would like to make about any of this.