Knees bent in back handspring

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Jun 11, 2008
Region 1
I'm looking for suggestions on improving my daughter's standing back handspring at home. When spotted (and I'm barely touching her), She has perfect form. However, when she does them alone, her knees are always bent and sometimes legs far apart. She can remember to keep her legs together while holding a bean bag between her knees but the knees are still bent. My fear is developing bad habits. Should she only do BHS correctly while spotted and skip doing them solo until she can keep her legs straight? What are some tips for keeping them straight? She is 5 years old and pre-team.
Good question!!

My daughter is 7, still hasn't quite got a standing BHS either and does the same thing. I have decided, for safety reasons to not let her do them at home anymore. I guess i'm just nervous she will develope bad habits, like you mentioned. Also, I am just not sure I can catch her, if she goes wacky on me!! I will be curious to see what some others think about this!!

It's pretty common. I wouldn't have her work on them at home. Instead she may want to work on some boady awareness and strength exercises. If she lays on the ground and squeezes her body and someone lifts her legs up and holds them up, she wants to work on squeezing to keep a straight line through the torso rather than piking at the hips. Also if she has her legs together and someone tries to pull them apart (like scissors) she should be able to resist. She can work on resisting for a longer time, or a harder pull. I'm basically just coaching tumbling now and one thing I'll have them do is fall back or jump back to their back (I don't recommend this should be done anywhere at home as it requires a very soft and thick resi pit mat) but what I will see is that some girls jump or fall correctly to the nice tight hollow position without piking but there's one problem - their legs are slightly apart. This tends to become exaggerated through the rotation and it is my cue that they need to do some more body awareness and lower body strength work.
All beginner BHS's look like that. ;) They definitely will improve over time and with more practice.

It is better for gymnasts to work out in the gym with a coach who can analyze where they need to change or improve and correct them in a hands on way. The problem with doing the BHS at home with Mom is that they keep repeating the mistake which will help their body learn that the wrong way is the only way.

If she wants to work on gymnastics at home, why don't you give her a straddle to handstand challenge or encourage working on her splits, something that is hard to go wrong with.

Patience is the key word in gymnastics, there is always another skill waiting around the corner to learn, so it is our job as parents to enjoy the marathon and try not to turn it into a sprint. :D

This is of course just my opinion, check with your coach if you are not sure how to help, I am sure they can advise.
If she really wants to work on something at home, doing a handstand facing out with her hands away from the wall (forces her into a tight arch shape as in a back handspring) and holding it for 10 to 20 seconds will give her more strength and confidence in that position, but doing back handsprings at home is probably a bad idea.

The good thing is that you are aware that bending knees now is reinforcing a horrible habit, and it needs to be addressed by her coaches now.
An update

Thanks to all who had great exercise suggestions. We are using them. Just an update to say, PROBLEM FIXED! Her coaches were very impressed today. In addition to the suggestions given, I had her jump back into handstand then fall into a tight push up position and did not allow her to do any BHS solo for the past few days.

Looks like your problem isn't a problem anymore, but I figured I'd still add my opinion. Yes, most beginners have bent legs in a BHS. There's a strange sort of fear that comes with jumping backwards so most beginners will hold back just a bit even when they know they can do it perfectly with a spot. Holding back usually just results in not sitting back enough and bending the legs. As she gains confidence, I expect this problem will gradually go away - I don't do much about it with my kids.

Creating "safe" places to work a BHS can help. Try the tumble trak or doing them down a wedge. This will eliminate most of the fear and allow the kid to really focus on proper technique and any corrections her coach may give her. A BHS is one of those skills you just have to do over and over and over to get it just right.
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