If there is one fundamental skill in gymnastics and tumbling that requires more attention than most others, it is the Round-Off. This skill is not only one of the most complex skills at the beginning stages of development, but one that must be learned with great technique and precision. In this discussion, I will go over the basics of this skill and some guidelines to follow (many coaches have their own methods and means to instruct this skill – this post describes the methods that have worked well in my program) (The Technique Controversy). To explain every detail of development, technique, and most of all, the drills and problem areas would take too much space for this post. I am in the process of writing training manuals and videos that will explain details of such skills.
People often ask why this skill is so important. It is a major skill in the development of connecting additional skills and the prerequisite of back tumbling, which is the most common performed type of tumbling in all sports. Sports such as cheerleading and dance, in many cases, do not put a large emphasis in the development of the round-off. In these industries, the major focus is on the development of skills relating specifically to their sport. Tumbling skills are becoming more of a requirement so the emphasis on developing proper technique is crucial.
What is the purpose of the round-off? It is a method of changing forward momentum into backward momentum. Since backward tumbling is the most widely used type of tumbling, the round-off is required in all disciplines. It is used in preparation for the back handsprings and back flipping skills. If the round-off is not performed correctly, the following skills will suffer.
We have often seen students perform a round-off back handspring where the student fails on the back handspring. The reason, in most cases, is the performance of a poor executed round-off prior to the back handspring. If the round-off is not performed correctly, it will not place the athlete in the proper position to perform a successful back handspring. This scenario is not only non-productive but dangerous as well.
Following are the major points we focus on when training the round-off for the beginner student:
First and foremost, the student must have a correct run and hurdle step. For the beginner student, the run should be upright with long strides. A common problem is the student taking very small or “baby” steps on the run. The hurdle step should also be more upright with the arms lifted straight above the head. The hurdle or “hop” within the skill should be as long as possible. It is very common to see a very small hop in the hurdle. This may cause the student to “trip” while attempting the skill.
One drill that we use to enhance the hopping action is to have the students stand on their opposite leg from the lead leg and see how far they can hop forward on that leg. In most cases, they can hop much further from a static position than they do within the hurdle step.
Note: as the student becomes more advanced and aggressive with their skills, the run and hurdle step will take more of a forward lean on the approach.
We begin to train the round-off from a lunge position. The arms should be straight above the head and remain in this position throughout the skill. It is important that the hips and torso are facing forward. As the student reaches out for the floor, the hips and torso should remain facing forward until just before the hands make contact with the floor.
A common mistake is that the students turn the body too early in the process which will create greater difficulty in getting the legs together and complete the 1/2 turn (when turning too early, the skill will require almost a 3/4 turn to complete the skill instead of a 1/2 turn). When you see students struggle with getting their legs together upon landing the skill, this may be the problem.
As the arms reach the floor, ensure the first arm remains close to the head and reaches out in front of the lead leg. Many students will want to reach down and place the first hand close to the lead leg. The second arm is the most important arm in this skill. It is considered the “blocking” arm. It should remain straight to create a bouncing effect off the floor.
When teaching from the lunge position, we begin to train the students to turn their second hand so fingers are facing toward the first hand. This is important for the student to push or “block” off the floor. It is very common that students will have their second hand placed in the opposite direction. Not only is it almost impossible to push off the floor, it may create wrist discomfort and problems. We often use hand props or chalk prints on the floor as a visual for the student to make the proper hand placement. In addition, we have the students place their hands in a linear position. Practicing on a line helps with this motion. Many students will place their second hand across the first hand. In many cases, this may cause the student to tumble off line.
Just prior to the hands making contact with the floor, the body should make a 1/4 turn. Immediately following the handstand position within the skill, the body should complete another 1/4 turn as the legs snap together for the landing position.
The landing position should be legs together, arms straight above the head and facing square in the opposite direction of where they started. For the beginner student, we have them land in an upright position with the legs slightly bent. This is the same position when initiating a connecting back handspring. When the round-off finishes with a forward lean and the hands still close to the floor, the results of a connecting skill will be negative. Most common is the “under cut” motion which prevents the student from jumping into the back handspring or other connecting skill (a bad habit that takes time to correct).
Many coaches teach a rebound after the round-off. A rebound is an action used for connecting skills like the back somersault. This is a more advanced action which we introduce when the student is at the level to begin training the back tucks and more.
As with many skills, the round-off is a skill that develops and enhances as the student becomes more advanced. Athletes at the advanced levels of tumbling can perform the round-off successfully running at faster speeds. This is usually not possible for the beginner or even intermediate level athletes. Just as in early childhood, they must learn to walk before learning to run.
As I mentioned earlier, this skill is a very complex skill that involves many physical attributes and dynamics. Some athletes catch on quickly while others take longer. Consistency, drill training, and following progressive training elements are the keys to learning this skill properly (Basics of Tumbling – From the Beginning).
I will be developing training videos on this skill and many others that will be useful in training these elements. I will keep you posted on that progress. In addition, if you would like a personal training session with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org