More Full Twist Problems

Subject: More Full Problems

Dear Coach,

I was just reading your article on a girl losing her full twists and thought I’d write. My daughter is learning full as well. She is very strong, but for some reason cannot tumble very well. She tends to bend her knees and elbows slightly and therefore losing power. I don’t think she has very good body awareness in the air and tends to arch slightly…. just not a great layout. She has started 1/2 twists and they are OK, but struggling to do a full. She is twisting late and making 3/4 and falling on her side or back. They never really get spotted, just do it in the pit, tramp or floor. It is painfully slow learning compared to everyone else in her group. The problem is I’m an old gymnast and floor was my best event. I don’t get how she can’t figure this out.

All this to ask…..can you suggest anything for getting her knees and elbows tight and let the floor do the work? Secondly, is it just repetition of fulls on tramp etc. till she gets them?


This is another one of those situations where it is difficult to give advice without seeing the gymnast in action. This is what coaches are for. They are there and can see what needs to be done. So our first response is to count on your daughter’s coaches to teach her the skill. We are firm believers in close coaching, which we define as coaches carefully watching each skill that gymnasts do and providing them with feedback on what they are doing correctly and what they need to concentrate on in the next attempt.

That said, let’s discuss why your daughter’s situation is not uncommon and why you should not be that worried.

Strength is a great benefit in gymnastics and this is especially true in tumbling. It is also a common source of a problem in tumbling. Powerful gymnasts and tumblers often have more power than they can control early in their tumbling experience and it is not uncommon for some of your most potentially powerful tumblers to bend their arms and legs to slow down their tumbling to a pace they feel comfortable handling.

This is especially true if gymnasts have had a number of experiences where they went at full speed and had a fall or two. Their natural inclination is to slow down to stay in control and they do that by bending their arms and/or legs. Eventually this can and may become an ingrained tumbling habit.

Compulsory tumbling passes which limit the number of steps into tumbling passes can also be responsible for gymnasts being unaccustomed to tumbling fast. We have all our gymnasts at every level work three types of tumbling passes. We do standing power tumbling passes. We do normal floor diagonal tumbling with a fast run to a hurdle and round-off (or front handspring) in about the middle of the tumbling diagonal .

We also regularly do (and even compete) long tumbling on a regulation power tumbling floor with a long (say about the length of a vault runway) full speed run into tumbling passes. It is virtually impossible to both run full speed into a tumbling pass and then tumble with bent arms and legs. When you tumble fast, you must stretch your body and your tumbling.

Our favorite cure for any problems with air awareness (and consistency) is the frequent (daily) use of trampoline. Daily repetition of somersaults and twisting progressions on trampoline is the most efficient method of learning body awareness in the air.

Your comment about your daughter’s current lack of mastery of a layout may be at least one key to her problems. Twisting only effectively occurs when the body is in a straight position. A “layout” that arches will most likely pike down. With the early arching and the piking down, the body is not straight for very long. This could well be the reason why she is not completing her twists. Often the cause of the arching action is “throwing” the head, the most common error in all back somersaults. The answer, of course, is to master a hollow body layout done with a neutral head.

In the same way it is necessary to master a layout ½. We usually check mastery of tumbling skills by having our gymnasts tumbling out of them. Out of a back layout, we have our gymnasts able to do, standing back handsprings, immediate back handspring, and whips. Out of any back with a ½ we have our gymnasts master front walkover, front handspring and punch front out.

There always seems to be a great deal of confusion regarding learning speed in gymnastics. We do not want our gymnasts learning too fast. We want sustainable daily progress. Typically, fast learners who progress more than our one step a day maximum will also be the ones who are going to have to at some point back up in the progression and relearn some things

A slow learning is irrelevant to long term gymnastics success. Continual progress is more important than fast progress. We feel that slow steady progress provides a better base for future learning of more difficult skills (our real goal).

In a like manner, comparisons between gymnasts and their learning rates or parents past successes are also irrelevant. Gymnasts learn at their own rate. It is only important that they are learning and progression. This is and should be the only measure of a gymnast’s success – progress.

We also primarily use a no spotting teaching method for teaching tumbling. With equipment progressions like pits, trampolines and tumble trampolines, spotting is unnecessary and actually usually a slower teaching method. We are not in favor of painful learning. We are not particularly fond of our gymnasts falling out of control while learning skills so we would not have them doing skills on floor and trampoline until they could already do the skill consistently into the pit.

Finally, as to expectations of how fast or not your daughter is learning twisting, we try to de-emphasize gymnast and parent expectations. We plan on having our gymnasts do 1,000 (10 a day for three months) fulls, 2,000 double fulls and 3,000 (10 a day for a year) triple fulls during the learning and mastery process. We wouldn’t even begin to worry about a gymnast’s progress until they have done at least that many.

We hope we have given you some perspective, hope and tips that will help you your daughter.

Good luck to your daughter in her gymnastics career and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

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