Back Walkover Problem

Subject: Back Walk-over Problem

My daughter has been in gymnastics for four years. She has struggled with a correct back walk-over during the entire time. She has to go into a back bend and then kick over. Do you have any suggestions to get her to do it correctly and how I can help her. Thank you.

It seems fairly evident that your daughter’s problems stem from a lack of shoulder (and/or lower back) flexibility. This is all too common a problem and as you can see has inhibited your daughter’s progress on this skill and in the sport.

It has been proven time and time again that the best, most effective time efficient method of learning any skill, including back walkovers, is to be strong and flexible enough to do the skill before you try to learn it.

Without the proper strength and flexibility, it is difficult to impossible to learn a gymnastics skill. And repetitions of the skill with or without a spot are likely not the best way to improve flexibility and strength levels.

We are going to recommend a number of drills, skills and exercises that can and will increase your daughter’s flexibility level, but first we have some safety cautions. Doing too back walkover type skills and exercises without having sufficient shoulder flexibility can cause too much stress on the lower back. This can lead to any number of injuries including stress fractures and create short and/or long-term back pain.

The flexibility for back walkovers is a combination of shoulder flexibility and lower back flexibility. It would be wise to develop shoulder flexibility first in order to avoid over-stressing the lower back. Any lower back pain is an indication that sufficient shoulder flexibility has not been developed and the lower back is being overstressed.

Chances are that your daughter already has sufficient lower back flexibility (since she can do a backbend kickover). We recommend that you first work on partner shoulder stretches and when you have made significant progress in improving shoulder flexibility, you can work on some of the lower back stretching exercises.

Partner stretching allows the shoulders to be stretched farther than just working in a backbend can do and targets shoulder flexibility rather than back and lower back flexibility. Stretching should be done carefully and just to the point of pain, but it will not be uncommon for gymnasts doing partner stretching to experience some pain. Make sure you are communicating. Stretching for periods of time from a minimum of 10 – 60 second sets is desirable and effective.

The following is from one of our books:

Partner Stretches

Warning: Improper techniques in partner stretching may cause injury. Partner stretching may not be appropriate for very young, relatively untrained or relatively inexperienced gymnasts. Care must be taken to adequately explain, demonstrate and supervise all partner stretching done by gymnasts.

Over-Paining is Over-Training

Partner stretching may cause pain and decrease motivation in some gymnasts. It shouldn’t be used with those gymnasts. There are other methods to train flexibility.

Don’t Put Excess Stress on Joints

On all partner exercises where the partner is pushing or pulling on the arms, they should be holding the arm above the elbow to avoid excess pressure on the elbow joint.

Partner Shoulder Stretches

  • Partner shoulders – sit in pike, arms straight out behind. Partner lifts upper arms and picks gymnast up.
  • Partner Backbend (have one partner grab ankles of other, go up in backbend, partner pulls shoulders, lift lower back).
  • Front prone, arms by side and lift. Pull on upper arms and stretch shoulders.
  • Front prone, arms straight by ears and lift by pulling on upper arms to stretch shoulders.
  • Hands clasped behind head, pull elbows together.
  • Arms straight to side, pull together behind back.
  • Hands clasped behind back, pull elbows together.
  • Front prone shoulder stretch (arms by ears, lift arms above elbow).
  • Lift leg while in split (left, right, straddle).
  • Push on shoulders stretch (hands on medium or high beam).
  • Kneeling split stretch (left, right, straddle).
  • Partner shoulder stretch on stall bars or beam (gymnasts place hands side by side with head tucked under chin to the chest). Partner pushes down on the shoulders
  • Back to back – partners stand back to back, One partner grabs the upper arms of the other who is holding their arms straight up by their ears and lifts them off the ground by bending forward stretching their shoulders.

Another effective but not as quick a shoulder flexibility exercise utilizes a stick (like a cut-off broom stick). Gymnasts inlocate/dislocate (move stick over the head forward and back) holding the stick in all of the possible grips (regular grip, reverse grip, elgrip, invert grip) holding the stick with the hands as close as possible. Ideally gymnast will go straight over the top, but twisting the stick from side to side still will help.

Gymnasts may hang for a bar with their hands together and head forward chin on chest to stretch shoulders.

Once shoulder flexibility has been improved, the following variety of exercises can also be done.

Lower Back Flexibility

  • Pike forward, arch back.
  • Torso – circles (left and right).
  • Reach into backbend.
  • Back limber, front limber.
  • Backbend, lift legs and arms. (Right, Left.)
  • Backbend, drop hips.
  • Tick-tock (back kick over front kickover) (left and right leg).
  • Switch leg Tick-tock (left and right leg).
  • Switch leg back walkover (left and right leg).
  • Switch leg front walkover (left and right leg).
  • Backbend races.
  • Rocking backbends.
  • Set-ups (front and side).
  • Twisting set-ups.
  • Backbend, chest-roll down.
  • Back tinsica (Right, Left).
  • Front tinsica (Right, Left).
  • Walking tinsica.
  • Front chestroll to bridge.
  • Backbend, drop hips.
  • Backbend pushups on beam.
  • Leg Overs – (Back prone, 1-2 legs up, lift leg(s) and drop (Left and right).

Shoulder Flexibility

  • Bridge, push shoulders over and past hands.
  • Kneel, Front shoulder stretch, full extension.
  • Wall front shoulder stretches.
  • Shoulders at full extension.
  • Shoulders at full extension, leg lifts – bang shoulders (Tuck, pike and stalder).
  • Kip to backbend.
  • Kip through handstand to backbend.
  • Kip to handstand, front walkover out.
  • Valdez to backbend.
  • Backbend.
  • Shoulders at full extension.(Sit in pike, slide out straight arms as far behind as possible with hands together)
  • Inlocate, dislocates.
  • Russian lifts.
  • 1 arm front walkovers.
  • 1 arm back walkovers.
  • Elbow stand with foot (feet) on floor in front

Good luck and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

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