Pit tumbling is so important to learning high level tumbling skills and every gymnast needs to learn how to do it, preferably very early in their training. Certain tumbling skills are extremely difficult or impossible to spot consistently, like full outs, and so pits are the only real way to learn them.
Two Ways To Figure Out How to Tumble into Pit
There are basically two ways to figure out where to start or how to tumble into a pit.
- Start at the edge of the pit and tumble back the other way to measure starting point.
- Figure out where your hand placement for round-off (or front handspring) is and mark the spot.
Use the Same Strategy to Tumble Up onto Mats
Another important tumbling training strategy is to tumble up onto 3′ to 5′ high stacked mats. The skill and method for learning to tumble up onto mats is virtually identical to learning to tumble into the pit. Tumbling up onto mats helps teach gymnasts to tumble higher.
Problems with Starting to Measure Tumbling at Edge of Pit
I have a number of problems with the first method of trying to figure out where to start tumbling. Gymnasts almost never tumble at the same speed and intensity when they are just trying to mark their spot as they do when they are doing a difficult tumbling pass. There are two aspects to this for which the speed and intensity can be wrong – the approach run and the actual tumbling pass. That means that the measurement of where to start is almost always going to be wrong. When you measure starting at the edge of the pit, the error is usually on the side of starting too close. Thus, when the gymnast goes full speed to do a difficult tumbling pass, they tend to fall in the pit on the landing of the back handspring.
Figuring Out Hand Placement is Faster and More Efficient to Learn
There are a number of ways to measure hand placement for tumbling into the pit. I prefer to do it away from the pit first, so the measured tumbling pass is their natural tumbling speed, done without worry or nervousness about the pit. If you have them do one of their more difficult tumbling passes at their natural tumbling speed, you will get a measurement that is very accurate.
Measure the Distance
You can literally measure with a measuring tape or do the pass on roll-fold mats with 2 foot wide panels and measure that way. You are measuring the distance from the hand placement in the round-off to the landing place of the feet in the back handspring (assuming the tumbling pass you are working on is a round-off, back handspring back somersault variation).
Mark Hand Placement
When you transfer the measurement to the tumbling run into the pit, you will mark the distance from where the back handspring will land ( about 18″ – 24″ from the edge of the pit). I like to use a piece of pit foam to mark the hand placement. Since you are only marking the actual tumbling pass and not the run, the measurement tends to be more accurate. You can use chalk on the hands and feet to mark the floor during a tumbling pass and then measure between the hands and feet.
Using Rainbow Mats
Another method of marking hand placement is to use rainbow roll-fold mats going into the pit. When each panel is a different color, gymnasts can easily remember which color panel to put their hands on in the round-off. You don’t have to mark hand placement with foam and all gymnasts will know where to put their hands. This is my preferred method of marking tumbling hand placement. The best part abut using rainbow mats is that it automatically marks the hand placement for every gymnast to tumble into the pit.
If Hands Start in Correct Place, You Will Land in Pit Correctly
The part I like the most about this system of marking tumbling into the pit is that as soon as gymnasts know (and they can see) that their hands are in the right place for the round-off, they know they are going to land in the pit correctly. They don’t have to wonder each time all through the tumbling pass, if they are going to land in the pit. They know right away they are going to, when they place their hands correctly, and can then concentrate on the skill they are doing into the pit.
Use the Same System for Marking Other Tumbling Passes
You can use the same system, whichever one you choose to mark out other tumbling passes, including front tumbling passes. You can also use the same system to mark and measure hand placement for tumbling up onto mats.
Regardless of System, Learn to Tumble into Pit
It is such an essential necessity for learning high level tumbling to master tumbling into the pit and to tumble up onto mats, that gymnasts should master this skill soon after they first learn round-off, back handspring, back tucks.