Ending Gymnast (and Coach) Confusion Between Whip Backs and Layouts

Ask The Coach
Subject: Learning Cartwheels
Sex: female
Age: 9
Gymnastics Level: 7
My daughter has a tumbling problem and I am curious how common this might be and what could be done to help fix the problem. I am confident that her coaches know what is going on, but I am curious for myself. My daughter has not been in gymnastics for very long, and she has progressed quickly.

The problem is that she confuses whip backs and layouts. Instead of RO BHS layout that she is supposed to do, she often does a RO BHS whip instead. Is this a common problem? What is going on and what can she do to fix the problem.

First of all, yes, this is a common problem if, indeed it can be called a problem. A round-off whip is actually the most natural tumbling progression to follow round-off back handsprings. Whips are much more similar to back handsprings than they are to tuck or layout somersaults in terms of take-off angle, arch-hollow action and ideal skill height. Your daughter is just doing the next natural step in back tumbling progression. As she learns to further refine her back tumbling, alter her take-off angle, increase her lift and lock her body in a hollow position during the somersault, she will be able to perform both whips and layouts on command.

Not Teaching Whips Early in Tumbling Progressions = Coaching Error

However, many coaches do not even teach whips until much later in gymnasts’ careers primarily because whips are not in the compulsories or required at Level 7 like layouts are. They use compulsory and beginning optional skills as their training program, instead of natural skill training progressions. Such inexperienced coaches are looking only at short term low level gymnastics progress and success and do not fully realize how important it is to teach all gymnastics skills in its real natural progression.

The Best Tumblers Learn Whips

Some coaches never teach whips at all, which leaves out a whole variety of potential high level tumbling combinations. Passes such as whip, whip FF double back and whip triple full are done much more easily if whips are learned early in a gymnast’s career. World class T&T (Tumbling and Trampoline) long tumblers (who do the biggest tumbling skill on the planet) use whip backs in virtually every pass and usually learn whips right after back handsprings.

Watch, Understand and Practice

So your daughter is progression on her own naturally through tumbling progressions (most gymnasts do exactly the same thing even if their coaches do not directly teach whips at this stage). To accomplish the learning process for layouts the fastest, she needs to understand the proper takeoff angle, the proper lift, how to hold a hollow body throughout the whole skill and to learn not to throw her head (the most common somersaulting technical error). Watching video of layouts being performed correctly can be a big benefit.

Good luck to you and your daughter.

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