How to do a backbend kickover and why this is one of the most important skills in tumbling.
Teaches us how to enter into backward-flipping skills leading with our arms not head
Teaches us how to stay tall in back walkovers and handsprings
Teaches us the fundamentals of a snap down technique
Makes us obtain the strength and flexibility needed to flip our bodies over in walkovers and handsprings
*Failing to do this correctly or moving to other skills before mastering this skill will affect athletes’ ability to gain every backwards flipping skill after this one.
One of the most truthful posts I have seen lately was from a tumbling instructor Shane Montgomery who said: “When someone asks how to fix their full or double, they’re really asking how to fix every shape and angle in their roundoff handspring and they don’t even know it”.
In 16 years of coaching, I’ve seen many athletes that got stuck at a certain skill. Most of the time that is due to the lack of proper technique in their level 1 skills. It comes from their very first tumbling lesson where they threw their head out going backwards in a backbend. That habit carries into a back walkover, a handspring, a tuck, a layout and a full where most of the athletes continue with that bad habit and cannot move forward to higher skills.
In this blog post we will break down the technique of a backbend kickover and explain why every part is important and how it will be used in the skills that follow.
Part 1 - Going backwards
Execution: when an athlete moves backwards it is important to do so with an open chest, open shoulders, and tight core. Pushing the chin forward and up will help with opening chest and shoulders. We should be looking up into the direction of our hands, but by pushing our chin forward and up and pulling our arms back, we should not be able to see our hands.
Importance: when going into a backbend, the position of our upper body is the same as it would be entering any backwards flipping skill in tumbling (handspring, set for a tuck, layout, full, whip, etc). The most important part here is entering the skill leading with our arms and not our head. If we develop the bad habit of leading with our head going into a backbend, we will carry this habit into all backwards flipping skills. This will make the next skill very difficult to learn, causing the athlete to get stuck at that one skill.
Part 2 - Bridge
Execution: Once our hands are on the floor, we should push our shoulders on top our wrists and continue pushing them in that direction by opening our chest and shoulders. Opening our shoulders allows our bodies to move the weight of our body in the right direction as well as carrying more weight.
Importance: When landing on our hands in back walkover and a handspring, our bodies will experience a certain degree of impact. If we want to be able to withstand that impact and keep our bodies in an optimal position to continue with a skill and execute it in a way where it is safe and technically correct, we will need to keep our chests and shoulders open throughout the first and second part. Closing shoulders at any point during the first 2 parts will result in bending arms, throwing our head out, arching, and bending our legs.
Part 3 - Handstand in a split
Execution: After lifting the leg up and pushing with the other leg off the ground, we will transition through a handstand with our legs apart in a split. This is the part where our chest moves from an open position to a neutral position. Our shoulders stay in an open position and our head is still in the same position it was from the very beginning (chin pushed forward and up). While upside down our shoulders should be lifting our body up, away from the ground and our core should be engaged, to where we can see a straight line going through wrists, elbows, shoulders, ribs and hips.
Importance: Understanding a tall body position in this part is crucial for back walkovers and handsprings. In the middle of a handspring we want to hit a straight line before we transition into a hollow position in a snap down. Hitting a straight line will allow us to push off the ground at the right time which will allow us to land with our chests up. Not being able to hit a straight line in a kick over will result in arching in a handspring which will result in a piked body position when landing out of a handspring (chest down, hands and feet on the ground at the same time).
Part 4 - Coming out
Execution: In this part we will continue lifting our core off the ground. The first leg will come down relatively close to our hands. Our back should be in a rounded shape and our belly button should be pulled in to help with pushing our lower back out, pulling it in will also lift the center of our body higher off the ground. Shoulders should stay open; positioned behind our ears, and our hips should be pushed forward, maintaining a straight line in a hip joint (looking at ribs, hips and knee of the second leg coming over). When landing we want to land with feet together in a hollow position.
Importance: if we only focus on the second leg coming down and the rest of the body, we can see the same exact body position we use in a snap down from a round off and a handspring. By doing it correctly (arms behind ears, hollow body position, hips pushed forward, landing with arms up and chest over our feet), we are creating a muscle memory that will help us when we learn those other skills.
If we teach kids to use this technique and not allow them to progress to the next skill until they master this one, they will never be develop bad habits that would have to be fixed later. This way of teaching might take longer from the beginning because it takes time to develop enough strength and flexibility, but once they master it, they will progress fast, they will stay safe, and they will never have to go back to fix anything.