Welcome to the very first post of the Event Introduction series where I explain the basic stepping stones of gymnastics for beginners. In this post I will be covering the floor event to talk about a couple things you’ll need to know before starting, things I wish more parents and gymnast knew before taking their first tumbling for beginners class.
Much of this information can actually help put you ahead instead of starting out as a novice.
For starters, it’s cost effective to read this introduction course otherwise you could be paying several hundred dollars worth of gymnastics classes that give the same information.
Secondly, it starts you at a higher skill level.
Coaches do trial classes for new gymnasts to find out how much knowledge and familiarity with the sport they have. This helps coaches determine the skill level, therefor they can assess what class level they should be taking.
Now, enough chit chat. Let’s get down to business.
The floor exercise is a 39′ X 39′ padded springy surface that both women and men use. Both use skills that feature a combination of acrobatic elements of strength, balance, flexibility, and handstands.
A routine for floor needs to have one or more elements from each group of elements. Dismounts may only be from elements ii and iii.
- i. Non-acrobatic
- ii. Forward acrobatic element
- iii. Backward acrobatic element & Arabian element
Even though a lot of the same skills are shared between men and women’s floor event, the way they perform these skills is entirely different.
Men’s Floor Exercise – A series of skills must be done in a 70 second time frame over multiple passes.
Women’s Floor Exercise – A series of skills must be performed while touching each corner of the mat in a 90 second time frame, all while doing the routine to a song.
So, as you see, they are slightly different.
I’m going to explain how to do these floor skills easily, but before I can do that the proper training must be done.
Essentially the best thing to do for preparing the body to handle tumbling and other floor skills is by doing conditioning exercises.
First step toward avoiding injury should always begin with a warm-up. The warm-up is to get the body loose and ready for the many positions it will be in. It will consist of quite a bit of stretching.
It’s important to go by a list of stretches that compliment the movements the gymnasts will be in, mainly ones that suggest positions the body is preparing to be in.
Each skill that your child is learning needs to be taken seriously. While tumbling for beginners is fun especially for young children, they do need to pay attention to bad habits that could cause an accident. Even the most basic of skills needs to be performed correctly to prevent injury.
This is the salt to a very important recipe that makes floor skills easy to do. By practicing these specific conditioning exercises you will be equipped to do all beginner tumbling skills.
The following exercises are going to be targeting and focusing on improving endurance, positioning, and overall tumbling strength.
So similarly how basketball players do drills to improve jumping and shooting accuracy, we will need to train with these set of drills to straighten out the learning curve on gymnastics for beginners.
Conditioning drills for tumbling
To perform beginner tumbling skills, it helps tremendously to have some muscle. I am not talking about “The Rock” type of muscle or anything close to that. To get your child to perform the basics, you can prepare them by having them do simple yet effective exercises which help build strength.
One of the cool aspects of tumble practice is that it uses a lot of simple drills that are AFFECTIVE if done regularly. The basics matter so don’t try to cut corners otherwise you could very well end up paying for it later in some way.
Balance & Endurance
- Handstand/handstand walks: It’s best to start getting used to being upside down! If you do not have your handstand yet, I would recommend doing a handstand up against a wall for 3 sets of 20-30 second intervals with a 15 second rest in between sets. For handstand walks try walking on your hands the length of the gymnastics floor (39ft) 3 times. If you have tumbling mats for sale at home then that works perfect as well.
- Scales: I remember during my gymnastics classes our coach actually used the scale skill itself as an exercise to do during our floor warm-up. We would hold a scale for 10 seconds, 3 or 4 times each and rest for 5 seconds in between sets. To do a scale stand up straight with arms to your side. Slowly bend your torso forward while lifting either your left or right leg the opposite direction, make sure to extend your arms out to either side for better balance.
Strength & Flexibility
- V-Ups: Core conditioning is an important component for every apparatus in gymnastics for beginners. A simple way to work the core is by laying face up on the ground with arms extended over the head. Bring both the tip of your toes and the tip of your fingers together in the air. To get your feet to touch your fingertips you’ll be forced to use your abdominal muscles. When both tips touch, your back should be off the ground, once they touch, return to the beginning position.
- Long Jumps: This exercise targets the quads and helps develop stronger punches and leg strength. Simply stand in a spot with plenty of open space in front of you and jump with both feet as far as you can. Try to only rest for 2 seconds between each jump and jump 6 times, this is one set. Do 3 sets during warm up to get the most out of this exercise with 15 second breaks in between sets.
- Handstand Snap Down: This drill teaches one of the most important elements of tumbling for beginners: rebounding. I find it much easier to do this exercise with a mat that raises from 4″-6″ off the ground. Stand in front of it and do a handstand on it, do a reverse hollow body to create enough momentum to snap your legs down toward the ground and rebound off the floor.
There’s a certain threshold tumbling mats need to meet that determines the level of quality.
This quality is directly related to the safety it provides, how long it will last, storability, and if it can be used at home. There is plenty of specialty equipment used to teach different floor skills, however, we suggest starting off with any 3 of these gymnastics mats for sale before jumping past the basics.
Here are a couple examples of what you should be using at home:
Cheese mats like these are used for lower to intermediate level tumbling skills (like backwards rolls, forward rolls, round-offs, etc.), but I’d like to focus on how it can be applied to the floor exercise for now.
It may not look it, but these cheese mats can single handedly help you get through all level 1 skills for floor.
How it is used
By standing at the top of the cheese mat (which is located in the position the children are at in the picture to the left) you’ll have more momentum for a skill if you perform it going down the mat (sort of works like a downward ramp).
We recommend using the We Sell Mats cheese mat for sale because of the variety of sizes they offer and because it seriously helps the process of learning a new tumbling skill for beginners.
How is this helpful?
One of the biggest issues with tumbling for beginners is being able to create that momentum themselves.
Could be a lack of endurance or it could be a lack of body strength and control. I find it’s always best to tackle weaknesses head on, you’ll have to sooner or later.
These folding tumbling mats for sale are used for every aspect of tumbling. From the start of a routine all the way to the dismount.
There are sizes that range from 6 – 8 feet in length and 1.5 – 2 inches in height with quality crosslink polyethylene foam cover in heavy industry standard vinyl.
Something I was very relieved to find out about these tumbling mats for home is that the vinyl it is covered in is non-absorbent, fire, puncture, and mildew resistant. That certainly takes away all concerns away about being delicate with it, and more focus on learning gymnastics skills.
How it is used
Using the mat longways will give you more room for tumbling, and even more so if you connect more than one gymnastics mat for tumbling.
Be mindful of the ground it is on, that last thing you want is that bad boy to slide under you while you’re performing a pass.
How is this helpful?
Other than providing a safe padded to prevent injuries while tumbling, it is probably the single most overlooked tool to actually learning tumbling skills.
Trial and error are what you’ll need to break through to learn a skill, it never happens right off the bat.
There’s some skills even I have to try several times before getting it right, sort of, and I’ve been a gymnast for 10 years!
How To Tumble for Beginners
In this section I will be talking about tumbling skills for beginners as well as HOW to start tumbling as a first timer. It’s not an easy road to walk, but it is rewarding and very satisfying.
Tumbling, in my opinion, is the funnest and scariest gymnastics event of them all. It’s not everyday you get to feel like Spider-Man, unless you’re good at floor skills.
But even the web slinger had to crawl before making a leap, and mastering the basics is the first stepping stone for floor.
Gymnast need to build hand eye coordination starting from a basic level, during this time frame there are plenty of developmental tools which are used for keeping athletes safe, preventing bad habits, and gaining the ability to apply other consecutive skills.
Basic Developmental skills:
- Rebound: Learning how to punch the floor with your feet is a MUST. Without learning how to rebound, you may never be able to progress to the cooler tumbling skills. Any skill you can dismount from you can replace with a rebound, and even can be used to begin a skill!
- Locked elbows: A common theme in gymnastics is keep limbs straight, and the most important part of the body you’ll need to keep locked are the elbows. When doing a tumbling skill like a round-off, in order to support your body weight when inverted your elbows MUST BE STRAIGHT, otherwise the whole skill is going to be faulty.
- Legs straight & toes pointed: If you’ve ever been in a gymnastics gym for more then 10 minutes you’ve probably heard the coach nagging to gymnasts about pointing their toes and keeping legs straight. I don’t blame them, it serves a purpose! Try to get used to how it feels to straighten your legs out and apply that to when you are performing your passes.
- Arms by your ears: If you aren’t doing this already then please make your life a whole lot easier by doing this. Tumbling for beginners is hard enough with all the basics to memorize. By squeezing your arms by your ears during your pass you will instantly feel a natural flow.
Beginner tumbling skills
Gymnastics education and movement comprehension is very important for anyone interested in becoming a gymnast. Even though level 1 exercises are basic tumbling skills and probably easy to pick up on, they still hold a big part in developing good habits.
Go ahead and run over to Level 1 Gymnastics Skills and scroll down to the “Floor” section, there you will find a list of skills to practice. Here is a short description for a couple of them and areas of focus during this developmental stage.
The forward roll is something you probably learned as a kid. The difference now is that it requires straight legs and pointed toes (except while rolling), and when you stand up try not to use your hands. This is where coordination comes in, as well as the strength in your legs to get yourself back up without using your hands.
The backward roll is the same thing as the forward roll just backwards; however, the wrists are bent backwards and you push on the ground with your hands to stand up.
Both forward and backward rolls are much easier to do on the cheese mats I had talked about earlier in this post under “Equipment”. For forward rolls, start by standing at the top of the mat like the girl is doing in the picture below, place hands down in front of you, tuck your head between the legs and roll forward onto your back while using tat momentum to get back on your feet.
For the backward roll, simply sit on the edge of the cheese mat at the top so that you’re facing the opposite way. Push off the ground with your feet to gain some momentum to do the backward roll all in one motion. Roll onto your back and place your hands flat on the cheese mat next to your ears to prepare to push off the ground and land on your feet.
A cartwheel is another basic skill. The most important part to learn on this one is getting both legs over and onto the opposite side from where hands are placed, this will help tremendously with an effective kickoff for a round off later down the road.
Practicing a cartwheel develops flexibility, strength, and stability in hand support. Beginners will most likely use a panel mat with hand and feet markers indicating where to place their hands and feet.
These 3 are the foundations of tumbling, so they should be practiced frequently. Once they are mastered, that is when more skills are incorporated, such as the round-off.
The round off is like a cartwheel, but when your hands hit the floor your hip rotates and you land with your legs closed facing the opposite direction you started from with a nice rebound.
Once these skills are mastered, you will begin learning back handsprings, and a variety of somersaults. Further advancement will become more complex because multiple twists are incorporated on top of intense conditioning.
How to improve your tumbling skills
This part of the tumbling for beginners introduction is dedicated to those that feel they have a good grasp on the basics, but are having difficulty executing skills efficiently.
So if those basics haven’t become second nature yet, then keep practicing!
Tumbling tips for beginners
Tumbling for beginners is not an easy road. A times it may feel like there is a glass ceiling preventing you from reaching your goals.
I’m here to assure you: That glass ceiling CAN be broken.
With consistency, perseverance, and these important tumbling tips for beginners you will be able to break through any obstacle that stands in front of you.
– Having a hard time transitioning between skills? It could be because of your body positioning on your rebound.
For example: Say you are attempting to do a round-off, back-handspring. How do you think your body should land after the round-off?
With your feet slightly in front of you is the correct answer. (Feet behind you if you a forward tumbling)
When tumbling, you want to create an easy transition and the way to go about that is to always land with your feet in front of you that way your rebound will spring you backwards, into your next skill.
– Struggling to get enough power in your passes?
If your hurdle isn’t the problem then try pushing off the ground during your pass. I don’t mean completely bend your elbows to push off the ground, but a firm push from slightly bending your elbows and shrugging the shoulders should do it.
To practice this try going up to a wall and place both hands on it. Put your weight into the wall and let your shoulders shrug backwards and slightly bend your elbows then EXPLODE off the wall with all your strength.
You’ll know you’re doing it right if you lose balance.
– Practice snap-down rebounds religiously. This aspect of tumbling can make or break your ability to perform a skill.
How long does it take to learn how to tumble?
This is like asking “how long does it take to learn how to cook”, well not very long, but to do it well requires more attention and understanding.
Although tumbling heavily relies on trial and error, I have a couple pointers that only coaches tell gymnasts to instantly improve their tumbling skills. Honestly, it’s something that would’ve helped me tremendously earlier on in my gymnastics career.