If there’s one thing that will slow down your ability to tumble at a high level, it’s a round-off that goes anywhere but straight.

Honestly, if I had to make a list of the top ten mistakes most beginner/intermediate tumblers suffer from, this one would definitely be in the top three.

Personally speaking, if an athlete comes to me with the ability to do a level 4 tumbling pass for example (or any level for that matter), but has a round-off that changes lanes like it’s on a eight-lane highway, I won’t let them move on until the issue is fixed.

Why?

Because when you’re a competitive cheerleader you need to tumble awfully close to each other, and if you can’t keep your pass straight, you’ll most likely end up colliding into someone.

Cheerleading is dangerous enough as it is – I certainly don’t want one of my athletes to be responsible for train wreck on the competition floor. So it should be quite obvious that taking a step back, and fixing the issue sooner rather than later is a good idea.

glass_ceilingYou’ll have to swallow your pride and take one step back now, so that you can take two steps forward later.

Otherwise, you’ll be living with a glass ceiling above your head.

Now don’t worry, there’s some good news as well – the fix isn’t hard. I’ve found the four most common mistakes that cheerleaders make in their round-offs and fixing them just requires a few key drills, along with lots of repetition until you don’t have to think about it any more. (Remember the concept of unconscious competence? If not, I suggest you read up on it.)

Identify The Problem

Since I’m obviously not there to look at your tumbling, we have to use the process of elimination to figure out why your round-off is going in a direction you don’t want it to.

Below are the most common errors that cheerleaders (and gymnasts) make during the round-off. I encourage you to take a video of yourself, and see how many of them apply because sometimes your tumbling may feel right, when it’s actually very wrong.

Once you know what’s wrong, then it’s just a matter of making the appropriate corrections listed below until a straight round off becomes second nature.

To make things easier to understand, I’ve used my humble assistant called Kenny. Kenny is an old toy figure I found lying around a few years back, and he comes in quite handy when I’m trying to explain body positions to athletes. Today is no exception.

Problem #1: Short Lunge

When you have a short lunge, a whole bunch of things you don’t want to happen, tend to happen:

  • Your arms drop down too fast instead of reaching forward
  • Your hips are loose and can turn in any direction (usually in the unwanted direction!)
  • It makes doing the needle kick harder
  • You lose power in your tumbling and don’t have enough juice to pull off a spectacular end skill

Look at the two pictures below and notice how in the good lunge, Kenny’s body alignment is completely straight . Everything from his feet, all the way to his hands create a straight line (if Kenny had plastic ears, you can bet your cheer bow he’d be covering them).

Roundoff_Lunge

The fix:

Start at the top of a cheese wedge mat in a passe position (this is when the front knee in the round off leg is brought up, and you’re standing on the supporting leg) with your hands by your ears. Now let gravity do the work, and fall into a lunge position while holding it for 3 seconds.

If you’ve been doing short lunges for a majority of your tumbling career, this will feel rather awkward and exaggerated – but that’s a good thing. Remember that you’re re-training your brain circuits to adapt to the correct position.

Once this feels natural, do the same thing but this time, as soon as you do a deep lunge, turn that into a cartwheel. Then once the cartwheel feels natural, do the exact same thing and turn it into a round-off. See the video below of one of my younger athletes pulling this off. (Video Link Here)

To take it that extra mile, I even have my advanced athletes do the passe round off into a back handspring, and I highly suggest you try it. Just make sure you have a fast needle kick when you attempt this progression (see Problem 4)

Problem #2: Toe Position In Lunge

This little error seems very minor, but the implications of it are huge – especially since so many tumblers don’t even know they’re making it. Take a look at Kenny for a second…

Toe In Round off

Notice the angle of his right foot?

When your toes are turned inwards like that, you end up closing off that portion of your hip. And if your hips are half closed, your round off will go in the direction where there is an opening, which is the other half.

In Kenny’s case, his round off will end up going to the left more than Beyonce ever could. Or, if he’s a powerhouse and manages to muscle himself over, it’ll land in the complete opposite direction.

Either way, it’s no good. The only way to know if you have an incorrect toe position is to have an experienced coach watch you, or if you can get it on camera.

The Fix:

While the obvious fix may be to just straighten your toes, it’s not that simple. If you’ve been turning your toes in for a long time, it has now become a habit, which means it probably feels normal for you.

So instead, practice some round-offs while exaggerating the toes in the complete opposite direction for about 20-30 reps.

Will this feel awkward?

Absolutely. And it should.

After exaggerating your toe position, feel free to try a regular tumbling line. You’ll notice your toes are now much straighter, or if not, there will at least be some sort of improvement.

Keep doing this until your toes become straight without you having to think about ’em. Because as science has shown, thinking can be down right dangerous for competitive cheerleaders.

Problem #3: Hand Placement

If there is one thing that bugs me, it’s incorrect hand placement in the round off.

Just ask any of my junior athletes – they’ll quickly tell you the importance I place on proper hand placement, and the consequences of not correcting them soon enough. I’m picky about this for good reason; incorrect hands place your wrist in a compromising angle, which will eventually lead to wrist injuries.

And a broken tumbler, is a useless tumbler, so it pays to do things with safety and technique in mind (tweet this).

A good round off shouldn’t place much stress on your wrists at all. Below are the most common (note: incorrect) hand placements for someone who round-offs with their left leg. For those of you who use your right leg, just mirror these hand placements.

roundoff_hands

The Fix:

To easily remember the proper placement of your hands, think of an upside down ‘ T ‘ letter. It doesn’t matter which way you round off, the very first hand is your supporting hand – its job is to mainly support your bodyweight and keep you stable.

The next hand is the direction hand, and it allows you to do the half turn which the round-off needs and helps you push off the floor. Why’s this important? Because the faster you push off the floor, the faster your chest comes up, which means the faster you can get on with the next connected skill.

Take a look at the image below to see proper hand placement for tumblers who are both lefty or righty (can you spot the upside down letter T?).

Note: Your hands don’t have to be this close together – this is just an illustration. What’s important is the direction the fingers are facing. If your hand placement is wrong, spend an entire hour just working them as many times as possible. Trust me when I say that the boredom will be worth it in the end.

roundoff_hands2

Problem #4: Weak Needle Kick

This is usually an issue with athletes that haven’t spent the proper amount of time working one of their 3 fundamentals – the handstand. When you learn proper handstands, a good needle kick become second nature.

The problem arises when an athlete wants to progress too early, or when impatient coaches want their athletes to take short cuts and start tumbling before they’re ready.

Why is a strong needle kick important? Because it gives you momentum that you can carry into your tumbling line.

A strong needle kick can literally make the difference between a slow tumbling pass, and a fierce tumbling pass. (tweet this)

And honestly, who doesn’t want a fierce tumbling pass?

Also, as you’ve probably guessed by now, a wimpy needle kick will make you stay upside down longer than you have to, and the longer you’re upside down, the greater  your chance of landing sideways.

In fact, just try it as an experiment – do a super slow round off and notice how much harder it is to keep straight than a fast snappy round off. The difference is night and day. Take a look at the picture of Kenny below to see what a strong needle kick and a wimpy needle kick looks like… needle_kick Also note how a strong kick results in a straight body position, where the wimpy kick completely breaks it.

The Fix:

The very first thing you should do is put a block down on the floor with a crash mat on the other side and do some handstand flat backs. Because you’re starting on the floor and your hands have to go on the block, it will really require you to kick like a mule.

Once you get used to generating lots of power, now try doing a round off the same way – by putting your correct hand placement on the block and kicking over.

You’ll notice that this is quite hard to do, but don’t worry, just keep at it. What you’re doing is basically going up hill and over compensating. It’s sort of like jumping with ankle weights if you’re a weak jumper, then taking them off and watching yourself fly.

Let’s Round This Off

There you have it, four of the most common mistakes cheerleaders make in their round offs and how you can fix them.

Try them out, and let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Can You Do Me A Small Favour?

If you know anyone that tumbles off-centre and is trying to get it straight, please share this article with them. You’ll not only help them, but prevent potential injuries by making sure they don’t collide into someone in the near future. As always, train hard and never give up!

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