The backward roll is a basic skill to start learning about backward rotation.
The backward roll uses the same technique describe in the exercise “Backward Roll with Wedge”. The only real difference is the wedge helps with the backwards momentum and on the floor the gymnast has to do more work to create the momentum.
Learn about basic backward rotation.
Learn about to push off with their hands, so they do not roll on their head.
Always start this drill in the stand tall position with arms straight above your head.
The gymnast then squats into the tuck position and leans backward at the same time. As soon as the gymnasts butt touches the floor then they should extend their legs into the straight position over their head. The gymnast’s weight then shifts from their lower back to upper back and then to their shoulders. As soon as the gymnasts weight is at their shoulders they should have both hands next to their ears with thumbs pointing inwards and palms facing upwards.
The gymnast now needs to roll onto their hands (not their head!), this is very difficult and for some gymnasts will take much longer then others. When the gymnast has their legs over their head and all their weight on their arms/hands then they should push away from the floor and stand tall with arms straight above their head.
Stage 1 – Setup
Stand tall with arms straight and above your head
Look straight ahead
Stage 2 – Fall Back Part I
Slowly go into the tuck position as you lean backward.
Bring your chin to your chest as you lean backward.
Note: Make sure that the gymnast’s knees are never in front of their feet.
Stage 3 – Fall Back Part II
When you start to roll on to your back then you should start to push your hips upwards and backward.
Start bringing your hands closer to your ears with thumbs pointing towards your ears.
Start to extend and straighten your legs
Stage 4 – Roll
When you start rolling at your shoulders then bring your hands with palms face down on the floor.
Push hard away from the floor
Note: The gymnast should keep their legs straight as possible for as long as possible when doing the actual roll.
Stage 5 – Extend and Push Off
As you roll out you should try to keep your legs straight at all times
Keep pushing with your hands until you are up right
New gymnasts will usually roll out in the tuck position. This is acceptable when starting to learn the backwards roll. As soon as you can see that the gymnast has good control then you should work on rolling out with straight legs.
Stage 6 – Finishing
Finish the drill just like you started
Stand tall with arms straight and above your head
Look straight ahead
It is important to remember a couple things when spotting:
The coach should only spot, meaning they should not actually do the drill for the gymnast. Let the gymnast do as much as the drill as possible and do not help with more than what is needed.
Spotting should be avoided. Only spot when gymnasts are learning new skills or for safety reasons. If a gymnast is having difficulty executing the drill then the coach should consider new drills that help the gymnast improve the area they have difficulties with.
Spotting can turn into a bad habit for gymnasts. If gymnasts are being spotted all the time they will be dependent on a spotter and have a very hard time doing the skill when their is not a spotter (this is true for all skills and very common)
Spotting Method 1 – Hip Lift
Spotting Method 2 – Knee Blocking
Coaches teach gymnasts how to do skills correctly, but most gymnasts learns how to perform the skill correctly when coaches corrects their mistakes. This is not wrong, this is actually how gymnasts learn. This being said, it is very important that coaches corrects mistakes all the time. If a gymnast continues doing the same mistake over and over then they will be good at doing that drill with that mistake and have a difficult time later correcting it.
Always correct mistakes
Correct the first mistake you see the gymnast do (even if it is before the actually drill, i.e. the gymnast forgets to stand tall with arms over their head)
Correct only one thing (sometimes two if they are related)
Mistake 1 – Neck Twist
There are two main reasons why a gymnast will twist their head to help them complete a backward roll.
The gymnast cannot complete the roll, because they have too little momentum.
The gymnast does not have enough strength to push away from the ground when doing the last part of the roll.
In either case, we do not want the gymnast to twist their head. This will only lead to a bad habit which can take a long time to get rid of.
To help the gymnast increase momentum (problem #1), use a wedge (incline). See article “Backward Roll with Wedge”.
To help the gymnast increase strength (problem #2), work on push ups. See article “Push ups”.
Mistake 2 – No Roll
The gymnast rolls back but cannot complete the roll. This is usually because of lack of momentum. The following should help increase momentum:
When going into the tuck position fall backwards a little further.
Try if possible to get the gymnast to go into an even more tight tuck position.
Add a wedge to the exercise (see article “Backward Roll with Wedge”).
Mistake 3 – Bent Legs
When the gymnast is in the roll position, their legs should be fully extended. We want the gymnast to go from bent legs to straight legs as fast as possible.
Having bent legs is acceptable for all new gymnasts learning to do the backward roll, but as soon as they are capable of doing the roll they should move onto straight legs.
The roll is actually easier with straight legs, because more of the gymnasts weight will be over their head when rolling. The difficult part is when the gymnast needs to stand tall without bending their legs, this will require a lot more pushing with their hands.
Mistake 4 – Not Falling Back
When a gymnast does not get enough fallback then you will most likely see that their knees move in front of their feet. When doing a backwards roll you do not want this to happen, the knees need to fall backward with the roll. At no point in this exercise should knees come in front of the feet.
Use a wall to help the gymnast learn to fallback, see article “Backward Roll with Wall”
Mistake 5 – Landing on Knees
The gymnast should never land on their knees; make sure that the gymnast lands on their feet.
If the gymnast does the backwards roll with straight legs when rolling then the gymnast will land on their feet. If you are executing this skill with a tuck position when rolling then you need to instruct the gymnast to land with their feet as close as possible to their hands.
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