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Rolling Skills


Technique & Drills


Forward roll in tuck

To start the roll the gymnast needs to squat with knees together and place both hands flat on the floor in front. The gymnast should then tuck his/her head to the chest while pushing with the legs.  The back of the gymnast’s head or even shoulders should make contact with the mat – never the top of the head, as that can hurt the neck!  S/he should be sure to keep some weight supported on the arms. Gymnasts should be encouraged to stand up without pushing on the floor with their hands


·         Roll down wedge mat

·         Roll on level mat

·         Roll on floor

·         Gymnast performs rock & roll to squat position, hands reaching forward

·         Gymnast performs rock & roll to stand, reaching up & forward

Stand to the side of the gymnast.  With 1 hand, gently push the head down so the chin is close to the chest.  With the other hand, gently push the back of the gymnast’s legs up & over the shoulders.  At this point, it is better to get both hands by the hips because some beginners will roll to the side if they’re afraid of being upside down.

Straddle forward roll

Stand in straddle position.  Reach down, tucking chin, legs straight and straddled.  Tip hips over while keeping chin on chest, rounding back.  Push off floor with hands, then quickly reach forward between straddled legs to grasp floor once the hips have rolled over the body.  Complete roll by leaning shoulders forward and pushing off floor, keeping legs in straddle.  Have the gymnast think of lifting the toes in the straddle.


·         Gymnasts can rock on their backs with their legs straddled and reaching forward to get the feel for this roll.

·         Roll down wedge, then progress to a level mat, then to the floor.

Stand behind the gymnast so you don’t get kicked.  Once the gymnast has tucked his/her chin to chest, push the upper thighs forward to initiate the roll.  Once the gymnast is right side up again, grasp the waist from behind & help push the weight forward.

Tucked backward roll


Stand straight & tall, hands in “pizza” position, chin tucked to chest.  Squat down, keeping shoulders close to knees.  Roll back, keeping shoulders and knees close, and reach back with hands to “squash pizzas.”  Push off the floor while kicking feet over to land on the feet and finish in a straight stand.  The backwards roll is all about pushing with the arms.


·         Candlestick:  From sit with “pizza hands,” roll back onto back while licking legs forcefully up to ceiling.  The hands will reach back over the shoulders to mash onto the floor.  Legs lift as high as they can so that body attains straight hollow with open hips and the body’s weight rests on the shoulders.  Legs straight during candlestick, arms beside ears throughout.

·         Down a wedge from sit:  Sit on the high end of a wedge, hands in “pizza” position, chin to chest.  Roll back, reach for mat (keeping hands close to shoulders), while kicking toes over the nose.  Land on feet & stand up.

·         Down a wedge from stand/squat:  See above, with the only change being start position.

·         On the floor from stand/squat

Stand to the side of the gymnast.  Place 1 hand on the back behind the shoulders – this pre vents gymnasts from throwing their shoulders back & down into the floor.  It also helps remind them to keep their shoulders close to the knees.  Once the gymnast’s shoulders touch the mat, grasp the hips & lift up & over the head.  It’s important to lift because to prevent injuring the gymnast’s neck, in case s/he doesn’t push down hard enough with the arms.

Straddle backward roll


Stand in straddle stand, hands up, chin tucked to chest.  Reach down and through legs while pushing hips backward.  Once bottom touches floor, hands quickly move to “pizza” position & push off floor next to shoulders while straddled legs kick up & over the head.  Finish in a straddle stand.  Keep legs straddled throughout.  Again, it’s all about the push through the arms.


·         Roll down a wedge from a straddle sit.

·         Roll down a wedge from a straddle stand.

Stand in front of the gymnast so you are facing each other.  As the gymnast rolls back & starts kicking over, grasp his/her hips & lift them up & over the shoulders. It’s important to lift because to prevent injuring the gymnast’s neck, in case s/he doesn’t push down hard enough with the arms.

Backward roll to pike


Begin in straight stand, arms up.  Lean hips back, while chest lowers to legs and arms reach back to behind knees to break the fall, chin lowering to chest.  Once the hips contact floor, the hands move to “pizza” position to push off floor next to shoulders while straight legs kick over head to resume pike position.  Finish in straight stand.


·         Roll down wedge mat from pike sit.

·         Roll down wedge mat from stand.

See spotting backward roll.

Backward roll to push-up position


Begin in a straight stand, squat and roll backwards.  Once the hands push off the floor, kick the legs up and back over the head to finish in a push-up position.


-     Straight arm backward roll off panel mat: Lie on back on panel mat with edge at shoulders, arms by ears, hands turned in.  Push arms back behind ears while lifting both legs up & over body.  Once arms contact floor, pike at the hips and land in straight arm piked position.

·         Backward roll on the floor.

·         Roll down a wedge mat.

See spotting backward roll.

Kneel beside gymnast.  Help him/her lift the hips up & over as well as the finish.

Back extension roll


Begin in straight stand, arms up and hands turned toward each other.  Squat and push back to do a backward roll, passing through candlestick position, reaching back with straight arms.  Kick forcefully up to a handstand as soon as the feet are in view, keeping the shoulders open.  Step out and finish in a lunge.  A back extension roll should be performed with the head in, looking toward the toes.  It helps to have the gymnast hook his/her fingers together with palms facing the ceiling.  The initiation portion of this skill is important. Most gymnasts tend to lean forward or reach for the ground as they go into the roll. The hands should be kept up and the torso should be vertical. The gymnast should sit back bending knees slightly, and shortly before the bottom contacts the ground aggressively push backward for momentum. From here the legs should be kept straight and directed toward the ceiling.  Once in a handstand, the gymnast steps down and finishes in a lunge.


·         Sitting candlestick: Sit in a pike position, straight arms above ears, hands turned in to point to each other, fingers linked together.  Roll back onto the shoulders, arms reaching hard over head so the entire arm rests on floor and the palms push off the floor.  Kick up to candlestick, then resume pike position.  Continue to kick up harder & harder until reaching a handstand.  The arms should remain straight during this drill.

-     Straight arm backward roll to push up position on floor.

-     Straight arm backward roll to feet landing on 12" mat.  Finish in hollow position.

-     Back extension in hollow position to 3/4 handstand with feet hitting mat leaned up against a wall.

·         Back extension down a wedge mat.

Stand next to the gymnast.  As s/he pushes up & back into the handstand portion of the back extension, reach for the nearest leg or hips & assist the gymnast in licking up toward the ceiling.  Continue to assist the gymnast as s/he steps out into a lunge to finish the skill.

Dive forward roll


Take a few steps, punch forward off both feet to hands, chest hollow, chin tucked to the chest as the hands contact the floor.  The body is in flight before hands contact the floor.  Complete as a regular forward roll.


·         Standing roll with springboard & 8” mat: Stand on springboard facing 8” mat.  Jump off springboard to do a forward roll on mat without flight. 

·         Standing roll with springboard & 8” mat: Slightly jump to hands, reaching forward and execute a forward roll.  Place a small barrel on 8” mat to encourage reaching forward & pushing off legs.

·         Dive roll with springboard & 8” mat:  Run & punch off springboard from both feet.  Place small or large barrel on 8” mat to encourage push, stretch, and reach – depends on ability and level of gymnasts.  Execute dive forward roll.

·         Dive forward roll on Tumble Track:  See “dive roll with springboard & 8” mat” drill above.  Add 4” skill cushion on Tumble Track.

Kneel on 8” mat next to where the gymnast will roll.  As s/he reaches for the mat to perform the roll, help him/her tuck the chin to the chest.  Some gymnasts, so intent on the punch & reach, forget to tuck their chins at first.

Punch front tuck


Take a few running steps, then hurdle onto 2 feet, forcefully pulling arms overhead.  Punch hard off the floor, tuck knees to chest, rounded back, pulling hips up & over, while grabbing knees and driving heels.  Make sure to tuck at the top of the jump, keeping chest up to get enough air to perform the salto.  Spot a point in front, and open to land once that point is spotted during completion of salto.  The legs should “cowboy” a bit to prevent hitting the face during the tuck.


·         Punches across the floor. Starting on one side of the floor, with a straight body and arms above the head, bounce across the floor, pushing through the toes. Heels should never contact the floor. (Good for overall punching ability).

·         Standing front tuck off Tumble Track into pit.

·         Front tuck on trampoline in spotting belt.

·         Front tuck on trampoline without spotting belt.

·         Front tuck off Tumble Track into pit with a short run & punch off feet.

·         Punch front into pit off springboard, then punching off floor.

·         Punch front on 8” mat from springboard.

Stand slightly to the side of where the gymnast should punch off his/her feet.  Your near arm will reach for the gymnast’s stomach & help him/her lift into the air while your far arm will reach for the gymnast’s back once rotation starts.  Keep both hands on the gymnast to help control the landing until s/he lands.

Standing back tuck

The gymnast starts from a standing position, belly & chest sucked into a hollow position.  She forcefully swings her arms up & back behind her ears, keeping her head in a neutral position, while lifting her shoulders, then hips, then knees to flip backward.  She needs to push hard through her toes & lift her knees quickly.  The tighter she tucks into a ball, the faster she will flip through the air.  If she drops her shoulders down/back, her rotation will be too low & she will have a mire difficult time getting her knees to her chest.


·         Lie on floor in layout position.  Practice stretching the body, then lifting the hips & knees to a tucked candlestick.

·         Have the gymnast practice setting from a stand onto the coach’s shoulder, first in hollow position with shoulders leading back.  Once straight hollow is mastered, work on setting & tucking onto the coach’s shoulder, so the gymnast makes it through the first ½ of the skill safely.

Standing back tucks off folded panel mat, balancing on toes, heels over edge of mat.


Spotting the set:

·         Stand directly behind the gymnast with 1 foot slightly in front to catch your balance.  The gymnast will jump up & back onto the same side shoulder that you have placed 1 foot forward.  Both of your hands will be on the gymnast’s waist.  As she jumps up & back, you will help guide the direction of her jump at the same time as you support her weight in the jump.  Hold on until the gymnast’s feet are again on the floor.


Spotting the tuck:

Stand next to the gymnast (whichever side is more comfortable) & place your nearer hand behind the gymnast’s knees while your farther hand is placed in the middle of the back.  The hand on the back will push up a little during the spot, while the hand on the knees will facilitate the tuck. The hand on the back will rotate a little during the spot so that your hand is constantly on the gymnast.

Round-off back handspring back tuck


See individual skills (ie. Round0off, back handspring, & back tuck).  Make sure to connect the skills without dropping the arms down in front, but reaching up/back directly into the following skill.  Also be sure that the gymnast has a good “set” into the tuck.  Without a good “set,” the gymnast will end up doing a whip-back or falling on his/her head.


·         Standing back tuck

·         Round-off 2 continuous back handsprings

·         Round-off back handspring set on coach’s shoulder

·         Round-off back handspring set onto resi plus  8”

·         Back handspring back tuck on trampoline with spotting belt

·         Round-off back handspring back tuck on Tumble Track with spot

Stand on the floor close to where you anticipate the gymnast will set for the tuck, but be prepared to run forward or backward, just in case the gymnast takes fewer or more steps than normal. 


Spotting the set:

·         See above instructions about where to stand.  As the gymnast finishes the back handspring & jumps up & back, catch the gymnast in mid-air.  You can stand either directly behind the gymnast & push off his/her shoulders, or you can stand just to the side & catch him/her with 1 arm & push away the shoulders.


Spotting the tuck:

·         Similar to spotting the set.  Your far arm will catch the gymnast’s back & push up while your near arm will push the legs up & over.  As the gymnast rotates, shift your hand/arm position so you always have an arm behind the gymnast to prevent him/her falling backward.