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The 3 body positions every cheerleader should know about

Understanding body positions in tumbling is crucial. To help our athletes, we decided to go through the three body positions that we believe are in almost every tumbling skill and explain what you should be doing in each of them.


To simplify tumbling, we explain every skill through these three body positions. Of course, they change with different skills; angles open or close, but most of the skills can be explain through them. Once the athlete is taught the three body positions, we then make athletes use them repeatedly in different sequences, but with their bodies at different angles in relation to the floor.


Open position


Open position is usually the first position we want to be in when we enter a back-flipping skill (back handspring, set for a tuck, layout, full, set for a one arm rewind, etc.) It is very important to open our body when entering back-flipping skills; it helps us create flipping rotation.


We will explain this body position through angles in joints. When the joint is extended we will call it open and when the joint is in a flexed position we will call it closed. We will start at the bottom and go all the way up.


Ankles – open (fully extended, if in the air, toes are pointed and if on the ground, our weight is on the balls of our feet)

Knees – open (fully extended and locked)

Hips – open (fully extended and tight)

Core – closed (lower back section is tight, and all ab muscles are flexed)

Chest – open (upper back section is as open as possible; all back muscles are activated)

Shoulders – open (arms are pulled as far back as possible and rotated medially (towards the middle line). At the same time our chin is pushed forward and up to create a full effect of open shoulders).

Elbows – open (full extension and rotated medially; towards the center. Fingers should be facing toward the center and not towards the sides)

This body position is the most important one when it comes to creating a flipping rotation. If you look at gymnasts doing a double layout (we chose a double layout because you need A LOT of flipping rotation, if you want to flip twice with your legs and hips extended), they will leave the ground in this body position (their chest will be open all the way) and not transition to a hollow position until they are half way through the second layout. Leaving the ground in an open position and having your hips in front of your shoulders, moving them in the direction of the rotation, with your core tight, will create the most flipping rotation. Adding the angular velocity of your arms, that represent about 10% of your body weight, in a backward arm swing, will make you flip even faster.


Straight body position


A straight position or a perfect handstand is a position in which we create a straight line with our body, especially our spine. In this position we try to extend our body as much as we can, we use it in a vertical jump, jump into a standing tuck, we use it in a handstand, we pass through this position in a round off, handspring, layout, etc. Being completely extended will keep our center of mass high off the ground and it will also allow the body to withstand the ground force acting on it at the moment it makes contact with the floor


Ankles – open (fully extended, if in the air, toes are pointed and if on the ground, our weight is on the balls of our feet)

Knees – open (fully extended and locked)

Hips – open (fully extended and tight)

Core – closed (lower back section is tight, and all ab muscles are flexed)

Chest – neutral (upper back section is in a neutral position trying to keep our back in a straight line; all back muscles are activated to keep it tight)

Shoulders – open (arms are pulled as far back as possible and rotated medially (towards the middle line). At the same time our chin is pushed forward and up to create a full effect of open shoulders).

Elbows – open (full extension and rotated medially; towards the center. Fingers should be facing toward the center and towards the sides)


The only difference, if you noticed is just the upper back position, core stays closed, and hips stay open.


Closed – hollow body position


This is the position we should try to get in in the end of every backward flipping skill; snap down out of a round off, snap down out of a hand spring, hollow position in a layout, landing on your bases hands when doing a rewind or any other flipping stunt, etc.


Ankles – open (fully extended, if in the air, toes are pointed and if on the ground, our weight is on the balls of our feet)

Knees – open (fully extended and locked)

Hips – open (fully extended and tight)

Core – closed (lower back section is tight, and all ab muscles are flexed)

Chest – closed (upper back section is in a closed position trying to push our back out to the back creating a rounded shape)

Shoulders – open (arms are still behind our ears and rotated medially (towards the middle line). At the same time our chin is pushed forward and up to create a full effect of open shoulders).

Elbows – open (full extension and rotated medially; towards the center. Fingers should be facing toward the center and towards the sides)


If you understand these three body positions and know when to use them, your tumbling will become a lot easier. For example, a standing handspring is nothing but moving through these three body positions. Here is a picture of the part of a handspring where we land on our hands and leave the ground. If we did it correctly and if we are only doing one back handspring we should look like this:


These body positions are the most basic body positions we use in tumbling. Different skills will require them to change a little; if you look at Gabby Douglas and her handspring before her triple full, she would look a lot different than this picture. Her chest and core would be in a more open position and she would stay in that position a lot longer, delaying the snap down part, which would position her feet further behind her center of mass to create a more powerful set, but this is a topic for another post.


With more posts to come we felt the need to explain the most basic positions first. Next week we will go through a standing handspring technique and understanding these three body positions, will make it a lot easier to follow with the technique we will be explaining in the future.

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