If you are on a level one team and can’t wait until you reach level two, the number one way to get there is to practice your back handspring drills! Even the all star cheerleaders out there on level two could use some drills to strengthen technique and feel more confident when throwing their passes. Today, we are going to talk about some of our favorite drills that you can try both at the gym and at home!
But first of all…
What Makes a Good Back Handspring?
Four elements make up a good back handspring: the sit, the throw, the handstand, and the snapdown.
- Sit: Your sit should look like you are sitting in a chair with your chest up. This is crucial, as you need your chest to be straight in order to effectively go backwards. Those with their chests dropped will likely jump straight up and lack the necessary arch to land safely.
- Throw: Power is essential in a back handspring. The “throw” of a back handspring is the power of the arms travelling to the ears combined with the jump. Without a strong throw, athletes will likely not make it over or will hurt their wrists by cutting their jump too short.
- Handstand: While athletes pass through the handstand position quickly in a back handspring, it is always there. Shoulder strength, a tight core, and head in line with the spine are all needed for a solid handstand.
- Snapdown: Athletes must tighten their core to pull their legs down after passing through the handstand position. It helps for them to block through their shoulders as well while snapping down to ensure that they can get their chests up quick enough to land standing.
How Can You Practice These Skills?
The number one way to get your back handspring is to master these aspects and apply them to the back handspring. Here are some drills to keep your body in tip-top back handspring shape.
In our first drill, we recommend using a folded up panel mat. However, any raised, solid surface will do. For this example, we will refer to the raised surface as a panel mat. Place the panel mat behind the athlete about six inches away from the heels. Have the athlete swing their arms back, sit as if throwing a back handspring, and then throw their arms up by their ears as they jump backwards onto the mat. Once they make it up, make sure they are rebounding out of the initial jump!
Why this drill works: Athletes learn what power they need in order to get up onto the mat. They will need this much power (if not more) in order to successfully throw a back handspring. Also, some athletes become nervous at the idea of going backwards. This teaches them that feeling without forcing them to invert their bodies first. Finally, you can check their sit, swing, and throw in this position, ensuring that everything is in place.
This drill is all about arms. We recommend using a cheese mat for this drill. The arm placement during a back handspring is important. If they are not right beside the ears, it can lead to injury or a shortened back handspring that isn’t pleasant to watch (or throw!).
There are two parts to this drill:
- Have the athlete lay so that their shoulders are off the top of the cheese mat and the rest of the body is flat. Hold their feet in place so they do not fall off the edge while practicing their swing/throw. Start with the arms at the sides with the core engaged. Then, have the athlete swing their arms back behind their ears while creating a slight arch to reach for the ground, then snapping back up to the original plank position. Repeat three times.
- Next, move the athlete to the middle of the cheese mat. Start with arms at their sides and instruct them to throw their arms up over their heads (straight) until they hit the mat, then whip them back down to the mat. Have them do this quickly five times.
Repeat this drill three times.
Why this drill works: This drill forces your athlete to learn exactly where their arms need to be placed. It also gets them used to the speed and power of the arm swing when throwing a back handspring.
For this drill, have your athlete face the wall and stand about two feet away from it. Once they are ready, have them go up on their toes and hold this position. Keeping the arms straight, have them lean into the wall and push themselves away with the shoulders. It’s important that their elbows never bend! Once they push themselves away from the wall, have them quickly pull their straight arms up by their ears until they lean back into the wall to repeat the drill.
Why this drill works: Blocking is one of the most important parts of a back handspring, but many all star cheerleaders lack the shoulder and back strength they need to block effectively. This drill teaches the blocking motion while not yet putting them in an inverted position.
WSA Cheer Competitions!
Once you have perfected those back handsprings, make sure you get to show them off! At WSA Cheer, we want you to know that every all star cheerleader is welcome with us. Give your team the chance to shine bright and reach out to us today. We look forward to hosting an all star competition near you!