Gymnastics: Roll Upward for Beginners' Somersaults

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

An Uphill Somersault
An Uphill Somersault
When you're teaching somersaults, your students will have greater success if they roll up an incline.

This is the opposite of what most people would think. For example, your students, if given a choice, would probably attempt to roll down, not up.

An Elevated Somersault
An Elevated Somersault

Why Uphill is Easier
However, when rolling upward, the head need not rotate as much, and the hips don't have as far to fall to meet the ground. Also, it's easier for your students to stand up at the end of the roll since they're already in a semi-erect position.

Once your students have mastered the upward roll, have them practice on a ground-level mat. You could also have them try a surface that is elevated, but level. This gives the feeling of performing an aerial somersault, since your students begin the movement in a standing position, perform the somersault, then return to a standing position.

Tumbling tables or incline mats are ideal for performing uphill somersaults.

However, if you don't have this specialized equipment, try placing a mat onto other folding mats to produce an uphill grade. You might even be able to use the top portion of a box horse, and prop it up on one side. Be sure you use two spotters, however, because the surface is very narrow.

1. Garland O'Quinn Jr., Teaching Developmental Gymnastics, U. of Texas Press, 1990.
2. USA Gymnastics, Coaching Youth Gymnastics, Human Kinetics 2011.

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© 2011, Physical Education Update,

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