A roundoff is one of the most important gymnastics skills a gymnast will learn. A roundoff gives power to floor tumbling passes, the most basic of those being a roundoff back handspring. It also gives power to Yurchenko vaults. You will never learn how to do very high level tumbling skills, like a double back, without learning how to do a perfect, powerful roundoff.
If you’ve already mastered a roundoff, you can download a Roundoff Club Certificate. Click Here to Download
I’m going to let you know what muscles you need to strengthen along with exercises and drills you can do to learn how to do a roundoff.
If you are doing a roundoff into a tumbling pass, your roundoff will start with a hurdle. Start with trying to do a straight leg hurdle, but if you need to you can bend your front leg slightly. You will start with your arms next to your side and as you hurdle bring your arms straight up over your head next to your ears.
After the hurdle, you will bend your front leg like you are doing a lunge, or mountain climber. Then your back leg will come up straight behind you, like it does in a needle kick. Your arms will be in front of you reaching for the ground. As you land your first hand like you would in a cartwheel with it turned to the side, your first foot comes off the ground. Your second hand will make a 3/4 turn, and land with your fingers pointing towards your other hand, like a “T.” As your second hand lands on the ground, your second foot comes up behind you. Then you will snap your legs down, like you do in a handstand snap-down. If you’ve done it correctly, your roundoff will have so much power you will naturally rebound. You want to keep your body tight and squeezed during your rebound.
Muscles You Need for a Roundoff
Arms: You need strong arms to push, or block off the floor during your roundoff.
Legs: You need strong legs to lunge and push off the floor in the beginning of your roundoff.
Core: You need strong core muscles to hold your body tight during your roundoff and the rebound.
Exercises You Can Do at Home:
Handstand Hold: Practicing holding a handstand is great for strengthening your arm muscles. It’s a vertical pushing exercise. In the middle of your roundoff you will be doing a vertical push when you push off the ground to land on your feet. You can practice holding a handstand against the wall, or with a handstand homework mat.
Lunges: When you step into your roundoff, the step should be a lunging (mountain climb) step. So lunges are a great exercise to practice to improve your roundoff. To do a lunge, stand with your legs together and your hands on your hips (or if you are using weights with your arms beside you). Your back should be straight and you should be looking in front of you. Step one foot forward and bend both legs until your back leg is almost touching the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Make sure your front knee is above your ankle, and that your back knee doesn’t touch the floor. Stand up and repeat with the other leg.
Goblet Squat: A goblet squat is another exercise that will help you strengthen the leg muscles you need to do a powerful roundoff. A goblet squat is a variation of a basic squat. The goblet squat is a squat while holding a kettlebell, dumbbell or medicine ball in between your legs. To do one, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight and your core squeezed, lower yourself with your weight on your heels. As you lower yourself, keep the weight in the middle of your body and let your elbows go between your knees. The goal will be for your thighs to become perpendicular to your calves, but only go as far as you can while controlling the movement. With the weight of your body in your heels, push against the floor and raise yourself back to a standing position in order to complete the repetition.
Planks: Planks are a great exercise for strengthening your core muscles. You need strong stomach muscles to hold your body tight during your roundoff. You can do a plank exercise from either your wrists or your elbows. When you are in the plank position you want to be squeezing your legs, butt and core. Your shoulders should be over your elbows, and your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet. As you are squeezing all your muscles and maintaining a straight-body position, make sure to breathe!
Drills for Learning a Roundoff:
Mountain Climb Needle Kick: Practicing mountain climb needle kicks is helpful because they mimic the motion in the beginning of the roundoff. To do a mountain climb needle kick, start standing with your legs together. Then step your dominant leg forward and bend it until your knee is perpendicular to your shin. Lift your back leg up straight, with the goal of getting it directly vertical over your body. Return to a stand with your feet together to repeat the repetition. You can see this drill in the video above.
Needle Kicks with Therabands: You should not attempt needle kicks with therabands until you have mastered needle kicks without them. To do this drill tie one end of a theraband to each of your feet. Stand with your feet together. Then kick your dominant leg up while leaning your chest down and touching the floor. The goal is for the leg that is kicking to get completely vertical while you keep both legs straight.
Handstand Snap-Down: The handstand snap down drill is an important drill for learning a roundoff because it is the second half of the skill. To do this drill, do a handstand on the edge of a panel mat. Then bring our legs down together fast while pulling your chest up. The goal is to quickly get your legs down at the same time you are pulling your chest up.
Hurdle Practice: Start practicing a hurdle doing it with straight legs, and then if you need to you can bend your front leg a little. This is demonstrated by the gymnasts in the above video.
Hurdle Arm Swings with Light Weights: You can practice hurdle arm swings with light weights after you have mastered hurdle arm swings without them.
Roundoff on a Line: Practice your roundoff on a line to make sure you have a nice, straight roundoff. This will be useful later for when you want to do Yurchenko vaults, or a roundoff on beam.
Roundoff over a Barrel: Practicing your roundoffs over a barrel helps to make sure you are blocking off your hands, since that’s the only way you will make it over the barrel. Pushing off your hands is part of what gives your roundoff power.
Tools for Learning a Roundoff:
Tammy Biggs Video: This Tammy Biggs video is great for learning how to do perfect, powerful roundoffs on floor, beam and vault. Doing roundoffs for Yurchenko vaults is slightly different than doing roundoffs on floor, and roundoffs on floor are slightly different than roundoffs on beam. This video has great drills and information to teach you how to master a roundoff on each event.
Panel Mat: A panel mat is helpful for doing several roundoff drills, including handstand snap-downs.
Handstand Homework Mat: A handstand homework mat is useful for practicing holding a handstand at home, without having to do it against a hard wall.
Theraband: Therabands are great for doing needle kick drills.
Light Weights: You can use light weights when practicing your hurdle arm swings, or for resistance when doing lunges.
Barrel: A barrel is a helpful tool for making sure your gymnast is pushing off the ground in her roundoff, by doing the roundoff over a barrel drill.
Kettlebell: You can use kettlebells for resistance when you do goblet squats.
The drills and exercises above should help you learn how to do a roundoff. But once you learn the mechanics of a roundoff, you should spend time mastering the skill. A powerful roundoff is an important part of advanced tumbling passes, and it makes it easier to learn advanced tumbling skills.