Coaching from the Heart: Handstands
LEVEL 1 TUMBLING
Definition: A straight body inverted position where the arms of the athlete are extended straight by the head and ears (as defined by USASF Glossary version 2015-2017). Handstands are considered the most important skill in tumbling and the handstand is the foundation for nearly every skill performed. Proper position and technique should be consistently reinforced.
Demo: See a demonstration of this skill here:
– Upper body strength- The cheerleader must be able to support his/her weight in an inverted position. This can be accomplished through a variety of drills to develop upper body strength including, but not limited to; elevated push-ups, inverted pike holds (mountain push-ups), spider handstands.
– Core strength and control- The cheerleader must be able to control their mid-section while in a handstand position. This can be accomplished through exercises such as plank holds, hollow body holds, hollow body rocks, v-sits.
– Spatial awareness- The cheerleader must understand where the vertical position is and how safely step down or roll out of the handstand position. Drills to develop spatial awareness include forward and backward rolls, log rolls, headstands, and ¾ handstands.
– Mastery of the lunge position, levers maintaining clean body line throughout from start to finish, pelvic tilt, hollow body position, extended shoulder position.
– Start in a lunge position, arms straight up by the ears and shoulders pre-elevated. Lever- Shift weight forward onto the front foot while lifting the back leg and reaching forward and down with the arms keeping the head neutral while maintaining a clean straight body line from hands to foot throughout. Needle kick up into the handstand bringing the legs together at vertical keeping the body straight and tight. Hold. Split legs and come down 1 foot at a time levering back to a starting lunge position.
– Hands should be shoulder width apart, palms flat on the floor, with open fingers that point forward. Arms straight.
– Head should remain neutral with eyes looking slightly down (look through your eye brows). An athlete may be able to see the heel of their hands, but if an athlete can see their fingers, then their head is out too far and not in a neutral position. Arms should be covering the ears.
– Shoulders should be fully extended in an open position.
– Core muscles tight! Pelvic tilt. Ribs in. Flatten/open hips. Squeeze glutes.
– Knees, legs and feet should be together and straight. Squeeze tight. Feet pointed.
How to Spot: Coaches should spot this skill initially to be sure the cheerleader has the strength necessary to support his/her body weight in the inverted position and to help him/her understand or “feel” the proper position. Help the athlete achieve the vertical position by lifting at his/her hips. To steady the cheerleader in the vertical position, coaches should hold at the knee or calf area on the leg (instead of on the ankles).
Video Drills and Education:
Video #1- This video has lots of great drills. It does say ‘drills for 6 yr olds’ but these can be used for ALL ages. Note- The girls in this video do not lever very well yet, but in the Fierce Connection video in the demo up above the lever is very noticeable and performed well.
Video #2- This video has some nice drills as well as good explanation of proper positions.
Cheer RX- Download the Cheer RX app for iPhone. Select Level 1. Select Handstand. There are 16 drills there for you to view.