Basic tumbling is used across a range of sports, even those you don't expect. The most obvious are gymnastics, acrobatics and cheerleading, but skills learned in tumbling can also assist athletes in diving, trampolining and dancing. Tumbling combines strength, power, agility and coordination that, when performed properly, results in an exciting and dynamic sport.
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It is essential that a person has some level of general fitness to be able to tumble safely. As with all sports, a person should get the all-clear from a doctor before starting to tumble, especially if she has had an injury in the past. Even if she has played with tumbling in the garden or the park, a beginner should make sure she is fully prepared to take part in the sport.
Local gymnastics, cheerleading or tumble clubs usually run tumbling classes for beginners. It is best to learn the basics under the guidance of a qualified coach to avoid injuries, as some tumbling can become dangerous if someone learns the wrong technique. Some schools and colleges have tumbling clubs attached to their gymnastics or cheer teams.
Tumbling can be learned safely in any area with matting, usually in a gymnasium. Competitive tumbling takes place on a sophisticated 25-meter sprung track, which assists the athletes with the high level dynamic skills they perform. Coaches use lots of additional landing mats when beginners start to progress to harder skills to ensure a safe landing. Trampolines and springboards are also used to teach and practice aerial skills before they skills are performed on the floor.
Tumblers start out preparing their bodies by taking time to learn basic flexibility and strength exercises, which help prepare and protect the body during routines. Building up the muscles in the back, arms and legs gives them the strength and power to complete the moves. Flexibility in the back and shoulders is also essential to allow the body to create the shapes needed in tumbling moves. This is improved by completing basic stretching exercises regularly.
One of the most basic tumbling skills is the forward roll, followed by the backward roll and cartwheel. Once a person masters these basic skills, he can move on to learning one of the most-used skills in the sport: the round-off. The round-off is similar to a cartwheel, but the feet join in the air and snap down to the floor, turning the forward force from the run-up, into a force that drives the body backward, usually into a back handspring. Once the round-off has been mastered, the back-handspring and a variety of somersaults can be added. These include the tuck, pike, straight and twisting somersaults. Front tumbling basics include front handsprings, where the body remains in straight shape, passing through the handstand position, pushing off the floor with the hands and landing on the feet. Progressions from the front handspring include the front handspring walkout and a front handspring punch front sequence. Aerial cartwheels and the aerial round-off (barani) are also tumbling moves.
As tumblers become confident in the basics of tumbling, they can progress to more advanced skills. Elite tumblers perform at international competitions and compete for world titles. They often perform double somersaults with multiple twists, with five or more skills in a run. As they progress as a tumbler, the amount of twists and somersaults included in the run increases, and the more exciting the sport becomes.
As fun as tumbling can be, it can also be dangerous if not taken seriously. Basics should be performed correctly before throwing advanced skills into the mix without care. Taking part in tumbling inside a matted gymnasium with the guidance of qualified coaches is one of the best ways to learn. It is also essential to warm up before taking part in tumbling, and a cool-down or stretch out at the end of a session is advised.