Inadvertent Full and Lost Back Tuck

Subject: Lost Back Tuck

Dear Coach,

We moved our 11 year old daughter to a new gym in January and she has really blossomed. She is now working on 7 & 8 skills and even landed a Yurchenko vault. She has a lot of potential according to the coaches and works very hard. However, since landing a full she cannot do a layout without twisting. She has also lost her round off back tuck. She still can do a standing back tuck, though. The coaches have tried several drills and exercises with no luck. We hope that this won’t hold her back when things have really started to go well….. do you have any advice or suggestions? Please let us know.

First of all, congratulations to you and your daughter on her success and on finding a gym where she is flourishing.

Let’s talk about the inadvertent full first. This is not uncommon situation and is especially common with gymnasts who primarily learned fulls by being spotted, who learned fulls without learning ½ twists first (who just went from layouts to fulls), gymnasts who twist very early and/or gymnasts who do the skill entirely by feel instead of being visual throughout.

It is highly likely that even with nothing other than just continued spotting of fulls for a period of time that this problem will disappear as she becomes more accustomed to doing it and aware of herself and what she is doing in the air.

We do recommend that if she is doing this skill on the floor during the period of time that she is working this out that she be spotted (or have the coach stand there ready to safety spot) to ensure that she doesn’t get lost (more lost) in mid-air and fall and perhaps become fearful.

Working on any or all of the factors above that are true about your daughter will help her overcome this minor problem situation even more quickly.

If she learned the skill primarily or totally by being spotted, then working on the twisting into the pit on her own is advisable and/or work on late twisting progressions on the trampoline. Gymnasts who twist when they didn’t really intend to almost always twist very early (too early).

When gymnasts twist too early, twisting is often more of a reflex action than a controlled action. When gymnasts learn or relearn twisting with a late twisting progression, they usually don’t have problems like this.

Late twisting is done for halves and fulls by completing the layout, spotting the floor and then initiating the twist action (doing the twist late to very late). As long as they rotate the layout, it is not that important how much of the actual twist they complete since they are always going to land on their feet. Gymnasts set and rotate their layout and then wrap their arms and turn head. Concentrating on rotating the layout before twisting may help them gain more control over their twisting.

Usually we tell the gymnasts not to attempt any twist at all until they know they are going to land the layout on their feet. When they know they are going to land the layout or spot the landing, then they can consciously initiate the twist.

Gymnasts who did not learn layout 1/2 twists (who just went from layouts to fulls) as part of their progression to fulls often are “lost” in the air and twist early by reflex (since they are thinking twist.

We suggest spending a few minutes each day on trampoline and/or tumbling into the pit doing the following twisting progressions:

  1. Layout
  2. Layout, jump 1/2 turn (bounce into jump turns after landing layout)
  3. Layout jump full turn
  4. Layout 1/2 twist
  5. Layout 1/2 twist, jump 1/2 turn
  6. Layout 1/2 twist, jump full turn
  7. Layout Full.

This should help her sort out where she is in the air and give her more control over her twisting. Trampoline twisting work can be done in relatively short period of practice time. It is the most time efficient method to practice tumbling skills.

Gymnastics and especially tumbling should be very visual for gymnasts. They should see where they are and where they are going. Gymnasts who twist without planning to are almost always kinesthetic gymnasts (they do skills by feel instead of watching (seeing) what they are doing).

The solution, therefore, may also be as simple as having the gymnast intently concentrate on spotting the floor and the correct wall for layouts and fulls and spotting the opposite wall for layout 1/2s. Being very visual and always looking and seeing where you are in the air, is a good, even necessary quality later on for more difficult tumbling like twisting double somersaults. We teach our gymnasts to be visual and spot on all tumbling (and all other gymnastics) skills from the beginning (like even round-offs).

The round-off back tuck problem may be related to the inadvertent twisting or may not be related. There could be a small (and legitimate) fear that she might accidentally twist in the air and become lost. Or this could be an unrelated situation.

Either way, our suggestions for a solution are standard to both. First, we recommend backing up in the equipment progression of the skill. This means going back and doing the skill on the trampoline and/or tumble tramp (with spot, if necessary, for confidence). When the skill is done by herself and confidently on the trampoline, then take it to the tumble tramp, then move it to the rod floor and only then back to the regular floor again. In the meantime, the coaches could continue to spot her on the skill on floor.

Another often useful way around a block like this is to change the way they are doing the skill. She could try doing the skill in pike, or in an open tuck or cowboy (cowgirl?) tuck position instead of the way she usually does it or she could change for a while to round-off back handspring tuck. Even very minor changes in the way the skill is done can sometimes get the gymnasts back on track.

Finally, all gymnastics tumbling passes exist as neural pathways in the brain. The more they are done the more pronounced and established the neural pathway is. Repetitions of round-off (stop), standing back tuck can help rebuild that neural pathway and may speed the relearning process. For safety, make sure she is careful not to halfway stop and then go for the back without sufficient punch.

This should give you a number of things your daughter can do to fix these problems that should work as viable solutions. It is possible that solving the inadvertent twisting could virtually fix the round-off back tuck situation as well. If you have limited time or equipment choose to work first on the situations that apply to your daughter:

Did she primarily learn fulls by being spotted? (Then use the pit).

Did she learned fulls without learning � twists first (just went from layouts to fulls)? (Then go back through the progressions and learn � twists and then fulls again)

Does she twist very early? (Then work on late twisting).

Does she do the skill entirely by feel instead of being visual throughout. (Then have her look hard to spot (see) the ground and the proper wall and be very visual when doing her twisting so she knows where she is).

Good luck and if we can help any further please feel free to contact us.

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