Updated: Mar 30, 2019
The handstand is the most important skill you will ever learn. The majority of cheer athletes who struggle with tumbling skills have one thing in common: their handstand game is too weak as a foundation to build anything on it. Learning to master it correctly will help you leaps and bounds (literally!) to master all your tumbling skills.
CORNERSTONE TO YOUR TUMBLING
Whenever we are trying to build something that we intend to be the very basis of our success in the future, we MUST ensure the foundation is sound; correct? Would you want to invest thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of time, and gallons of sweat into something that isn't dependable? Or consistent?
Coaches try to build athletes in a safe and fun environment. Athletes' tumbling is built upon a number of important factors such as conditioning, technique, and a great attitude. The most fundamental skill that they will use for the rest of their cheerleading and tumbling careers is the handstand. We can't say this enough: this vital skill is THE TURNKEY FACTOR to the rest of the athlete’s progress in tumbling!
The handstand itself, as well as the combinations of body positions passing in and out of a handstand (Hollow, straight, to slight arch); is the basis for the majority of your tumbling. So the next question is how do we do a perfect handstand?
ESSENTIAL CUES FOR YOUR HANDSTAND SUCCESS
Here are 8 checkpoints to ensure your handstand is on point:
Are you starting AND finishing with straight arms up by your ears in a deep lunge?
Are your eyes open and looking behind you with your head in a neutral position?
Are your legs straight and toes pointed squeezing together at the top?
Are you pushing away from the ground through your whole body making yourself as long as possible?
Are you squeezing the right muscles for correct posture?
Are you tucking your ribs and hips under?
Are you broadening your shoulders by squeezing your shoulder blades together and down towards your lower back?
Are you using your full hands and fingers to fully stabilize through contact with the floor?
One of the most common mistakes we see athletes and coaches make is diving into a skill immediately. Of course it's great to see enthusiasm and desire to get started; but the problem is there are so many things that precede the start of a handstand that the athlete has to understand for there to be any benefit.
1000 handstands done incorrectly have far less value to developing tumbling skills than 10 handstands done correctly. Muscle memory doesn't lie and it gets embedded in your movement FOR-EV-ER.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Do you have any experience with handstands? (No, the backyard doesn't count)
What is your goal?
How much time a week do you dedicate to your handstand?
What physical condition are you in?
What posture issues can you see that negatively affect a handstand?
As an athlete, understanding what a proper handstand looks like and being able to actually achieve it are very different! Coaches realize the importance in this skill and that it is the fundamental foundation for tumbling. Athletes will eventually pass through a handstand position in the majority of tumbling: whether we are talking handsprings, layouts, or round-offs athletes are using this muscle memory and technique to build off of for years to come. It's key that as an athlete, you understand why perfecting your handstand is such a big deal.
It's so important that as an athlete you understand the value of doing something, that has been instilled from the experts that coach them and guide them (including parents!). Most parents don't realize the effect their words have on their athlete. All too often we hear "why are they spending 20 minutes of their 30 minute private on handstands and drills?" in which explaining the importance of this skill, relative to their goal is key.
EYES ON THE PRIZE
So many times we see athletes tumble with their eyes closed! To some this may seem fine, but scientifically that is KILLING YOUR BODY'S ABILITY TO REACT as well as consistently interpret your surroundings. Something that seems kind of important while hurling yourself up to 20 miles an hour upside down across the ground..!
Vision is so important especially in handstands because you are closer to the target (the floor) than upright; which is why you should keep your eyes open looking roughly 2 inches in front of your hands to have perfect head positioning. A study done in 2007 shows that your eyes can dictate up to 50% of your balance compared to other balance systems! Let's repeat: 50%
Knowing this, would you want to do that same skill knowing you just lost 50% of your chances to be able to balance? Open your eyes, and train your brain to look, it could very well save your butt later on!
This article was brought to you by Justin Schneider from CheerConditioning.Academy - as a member of the academy you can access a number of resources to help bring your team's skills to the next level: not just in respect to your skills and conditioning, but also to help grow your leadership & team success!