Tumbling Stunts in Gymnastics Explained

By: Jimmy Cox

Instruction in tumbling is considered basic to all work in gymnastics. It should be undertaken rather extensively by all who participate in gymnastics, prior to any apparatus work. From the standpoint of class instruction, tumbling can be conducted efficiently with the entire class; whereas, on the apparatus, instruction must be given more on a squad basis in order to provide reasonable opportunities for participation.

Most students will be reasonably successful in accomplishing the stunts presented in the tumbling section. Spots and assists should be used without fail until the execution of a given stunt is consistent and of acceptable quality.

Description of Activities

Stunt (1): forward roll prerequisites: None

Description: Simply put the head down and roll straight over to a sitting position.

Major cues: Duck the head! Shoulders to the mat! Drag those feet!

Teaching Procedures: The forward roll is learned best by placing the feet wide apart and the hands on the mat; the hands are placed just inside and in front of the feet. The knees are practically straight and the head down.

A position of balance can be maintained at this point. As the pupil begins to execute the roll itself, his head must be ducked, and the arms bent at the elbows (this action, of course, causes the hips to be forced over the head). The head should not touch the mat; contact should be made with the shoulders first. The feet should be kept in contact with the mat as long as possible; thus they tend to drag across the participant's face as the roll is executed.

Frequent Errors: Bending the knees too much, and putting the head in contact with the mat. A third mistake is forcing the feet over the head so that the hips land with force on the mat. Dragging the feet, of course, tends to round the back, and the roll may be executed smoothly.

Safety Precautions: The participant should be warned to be sure to duck the head so the head will not touch the mat as the roll is executed. Occasionally a little assistance may be given to participants. There are two special precautions which should be observed. Emphasize the point that the shoulder should be the initial point of contact of the upper torso; secondly, be sure the feet drag across the face, otherwise the feet may be thrown over and occasionally a rough landing will occur.

Progressions or Combinations: The transfer applications of the forward roll are almost innumerable. It will be used later on the Parallel Bars; and after that in learning front flips on the mats, trampoline, and rings. The movement is basic to all forward rolling stunts.

Advanced Progressions Following the Forward Roll

Once the simple forward roll has been learned, it is desirable to place the hands farther from the feet, the first time about eighteen inches executing the roll in the same manner as discussed above, then gradually placing the hands farther and farther away from the feet. This requires the individual to bend the knees and spring by extending the legs vigorously to get enough forward momentum to actually execute the forward roll.

This may be continued until the individual is in the regular push-up position, at which time he may execute a push-up, then flex the knees to a full squat position without moving the hands; then by springing and extending the legs duck the head and execute a smooth forward roll. When all participants can execute a forward roll smoothly in this manner it is desirable to begin the progression again from a standing position; that is, stand and place the hands quickly on the mat and execute the roll.

First the hands should be placed close to the feet and then gradually move them farther and farther away. This will of course lead to learning the dive and roll since the dive for height and distance do not make any significant contribution to the development of a gymnast, they are therefore not recommended.

The forward roll is the first tumble which all gymnasts should learn to do well.

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