gymnast-bad-dayEveryone has days where their tumbling just isn’t going as planned.

Your back handsprings feel slow and sluggish. Your tucks and layouts are lower than usual. And your fulls and doubles just aren’t twisting fast enough – no matter how hard you try!

So what’s the solution most athletes default to?

They try even harder!

Now I’m not against trying hard and pushing yourself to the edge. Heck, as a coach I’d love it if every athlete would simply default to “trying harder” when things weren’t working.

But that’s a very primitive way to go about it. To me, a “bad” tumbling day shares more similarities with mental blocks than it does with physical limitations.

Sure you can be sore, tired and have some nagging aches and pains. But I know a good majority of athletes who’ve been in those states and still had a fun, productive tumbling session.

I’ve been in similar situations as well, and today I’m going to share some of my best strategies that you can use to turn a bad tumbling day into something fun and productive.

1. Take A Second To Recognize Your Mistakes

trainer-using-tabletWhen you really think about it, a bad tumbling day is simply the result of multiple mistakes that end up together in a short period of time.

I mean, when you’re having a good day and only a single thing goes wrong, do you simply assume that your whole day is ruined?

Of course not. You look at it as a mistake that you need to fix.

But sometimes athletes end up making a whole series of mistakes; their round off is crooked, their back handsprings are slow, they get no block during the set, and so on.

And a series of mistakes are more challenging to correct because a tumbling pass only lasts a few seconds. And thinking about five different things can get pretty overwhelming when you’re upside down.

So what should you do?

Start recording all of your passes, and look for two KEY mistakes you’re making (that you don’t usually make). If you’re unsure, ask for assistance from your coach – they know you better than you think.

A good example would be to look at your round off: is the approach as straight, fast and powerful as it usually is? If not, then it could be throwing off the rest of your tumbling pass. This means fixing the round off can take care of a whole bunch of other errors.

The important thing is to catch the errors, pay attention to them and actively work on fixing them instead of just tossing them aside because you’re “having a bad day.”

Studies have been done where they scanned the brains of people performing technical tasks. What they found was that 0.25 seconds after a mistake was made, those who paid attention to these mistake and recognized it, learned a lot more about what to do, and improved their skill set significantly over those that simply chose to ignore their errors.

2. Put Yourself In A No-Fail Situation

workout-flowchartThere is nothing quite like the feeling of confidence to uplift your mood. So why not use this while tumbling? Sometimes the root cause of a “bad” tumbling day is overthinking – even if you don’t believe you’re doing so.

So take a mental break, and get back to basic skills that you can do really well.

For example, if your fulls are feeling weird, go back to tucks and layouts. Try making marginal improvements such as setting higher for the basic skills, and it will transfer over to your harder skills when you go back to them.

Unless you’re a total beginner, there will always be a basic variation of the skill (or skills) you’re having trouble with. You can also throw drills into the mix that boost your confidence.

Let me share a personal example. A couple years back, for some weird reason, the sets for my doubles were completely off. My back was bent, the arms didn’t go up, my block was… well, non existent. However, my twist was (and always has been) solid. It’s one of my strengths, so that’s what I focused on. I brought out the mini tramp and set up a station where I’d have to do a handstand snapdown to layout double twist.

And you know what? It worked. In fact, I was able to set up the tramp at a distance so that blocking was basically mandatory – it was a no fail situation.

The training session following went better than normal, as I not only managed to get the sets for my doubles back, but I managed a 2.5!

Bonus Tip

If your gym happens to follow my Tumbling Progression System, then another great option is to revert back to the tier before. So if you’re currently working on skills in Tier 8 (say, the RO BHS Layout) and things aren’t going well, try something from Tier 7 such as the RO BHS Pike or take a day off layouts and do whips on trampoline!

3. Find Your LCD Surface

LCD stands for “Lowest Common Denominator.” If you’re one of the 500,000 people that read about my mental block formula, than this term should be familiar to you.

But if not, let me explain: While this is a math term, it’s often used to describe “the most basic” option out of all available options. Something that fits for everyone. In tumbling, I used it to explain the bare minimum surface that you can be competent on.

So as an example, 99% of the population, even if they’re highly unskilled can be pretty competent on a trampoline. Hence making the tramp the LCD surface of choice.

But for a trained tumbler who’s just having a bad day on sprung floor, a LCD surface could be the rod floor, since it offers more bounce. Or maybe the Air Trak. If you’re still not feeling it, there’s always the Tumble Trak.

The important thing to note, is that the surface itself doesn’t matter. Don’t feel bad if you have to drag yourself back to the trampoline. What matters is that you find the one that works for you.

4. Drills Pay The Bills

pac_manSometimes, you’ll just naturally be making too many technical errors in your pass and you’ll need to stop. Your body will just not respond to what the brain is telling it to do.

Whether it’s because you’re too tired, had a stressful exam the day prior, are in a fight with your best friend, or something else entirely – it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you recognize this and go right back to building your basics and strengthening your foundation. Focus on 3-5 drills (they don’t all have to be related to the skills in your pass) and simply work on perfecting them till you’re in the groove.

If you’re already perfected them, perfect them further. There is always room for improvement.

It’s sort of like dusting; no one wants to do it since it’s an annoying chore. But after 10 minutes you get into the flow and forget that you’re dusting all together. It just becomes a motion that you’re doing. You might even start to hum or whistle.

We humans do this all the time with simple tasks that we’re good at. Think painting, vacuuming, washing dishes, laundry, mowing the lawn etc. Mundane tasks allow our brain to escape, and we occupy that mental vacuum with other tasks to keep us from getting bored.

Your drills should feel the same way, and you should default to them when you’re having a “bad” tumbling day.

5. Help Others (If Possible)

Tumbling Clinic Coach SahilI put this at the end because while it’s a powerful method, you need to make sure you’re in a position to help.

So if you’re not a coach, a coach in training, team captain or someone with years of tumbling experience, then you have no business giving advice to other athletes or fellow teammates.

Your heart might be in the right place, but if you don’t have the knowledge to back it up, you could be doing more harm than good.

Having said that, if you are allowed to help, then go for it.

Personally speaking, I can say that one of the most beneficial things that happened to me was that my coaching career overlapped with my time as a competitive power tumbler. And when you are forced to coach a skill by having to explain and break it down to someone who’s new, you end up understand it better yourself.

So if you’re having a bad tumbling day, and you have the chops, take a break and spend 30 minutes just going around and helping your fellow teammates and athletes. Ask them if you can offer corrections, help set up stations, or help film their passes which you guys can break down together.

Just because your body isn’t responding the way you want it to doesn’t mean your mind won’t!

Every Obstacle Is An Opportunity To Grow

Remember, a “bad” tumbling day doesn’t have to be a death sentence to your training. It’s an obstacle that you have to overcome, just like all the others I’m sure you’ve already faced.

And if you start using some of these time-tested strategies that I listed above, I can pretty much guarantee that every time you step inside that gym, you’ll tumbling game will improve.

I’ve given you the tools, now it’s up to you to put in the work... and share this article with your friends and fellow coaches 🙂

As always, train hard, eat well, stay fierce!

© Coach Sahil M. This article was originally published on and has been updated and revised.

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