Standing Tucks are Simple
No offense to everyone out there paying $30/hour for private lessons on their standing tucks, but standing tucks are simple. In fact, they are the simplest tumbling skill in cheerleading, other than a forward roll.
But what’s that you say? Standing tucks are hard? Yes, you are very right. A standing tuck is BOTH hard, and simple. Here’s what I mean. The technique involved in performing a standing tuck is not very complicated at all, making it more simple than other tricks. However, a standing tuck requires exceptional athleticism, so it is still very hard. As you probably guessed, this article is going to discuss the mechanics of a standing tuck. But first, here are a few examples to illustrate my remark about the simplicity of tucks compared to “easier” tricks.
A cartwheel is much more complicated than a tuck. It requires changing directions (from forward to backward) while inverted. A back tuck has no such complication. A back handspring is WAY more complicated than a back tuck. You have to sit just right, jump at the exact right time, look at the right place, etc. A front tuck is almost as simple as a back tuck. The big difference is that a front tuck involves a blind landing. After you invert, you do not see the ground again until after to you on your feet (or your seat, depending on how well you did). With a back tuck, you should be able to see the ground about 2/3rd of the way around, with plenty of time to spot and stick your landing.
One final example to show how simple a back tuck is comes from watching guys tumble. I have heard a million girls complain how a football player can walk into cheer practice and be throwing a back tuck in 15 minutes. How is that possible? Simply because they are very strong and athletic which more than makes up for a lack of experience because tuck technique is so basic. However, guys always seem to have messed up, crooked goofy-looking back handsprings and round offs. That is because those tricks take much more technique (and practice) to perfect. You only need to be able to jump a few inches and be able to support your body weight with you arms to throw a handspring. A tuck takes a lot more jumping strength and core strength to rotate.
So here are the basics of a back tuck. First, you have to jump and reach as high as you can. I tell people to NOT over-think the jump. When people are thinking about a tuck, they start all kind of bad habit like jumping flat-footed (not pushing off their toes) and throwing their heads back which cut off their jumps and reduce their height. When they just jump straight up, they don’t do any of those things. Of course the reason for that is the most complicated part of a tuck, which is fear. If you’re afraid of falling you might try to start your rotation early so you will at least get around to your knees, and that can cause you to cut off your jump.
The next part is really still part of the jump. I call it the lift. Really all I’m talking about is lifting your arms above your head and keeping your eyes looking straight ahead instead of back behind you. This puts you in a stretched out position, and you are ready to rotate.
Tucking is what comes next. Some people think tucking is all about grabbing your legs. This is not true. In fact, some people perform standing tucks without grabbing anything at all. What needs to happen to tuck is you need to lift your hips up and over your shoulders. It is just like doing a backward roll, only you are at the top of your jump, in mid-air. The main muscles used to rotate are your hip flexors. These are the muscles that attach your quads to your hips. You also use them to lift your legs in a toe touch. If you sit in a chair and keep your knee bent at a right angle and pick your foot 2 inches off the ground, that muscle you feel at the top of your leg is your hip flexor.
Back to tucking. Using your hip flexor, you lift your knees up towards your hands (which should still be extended fully above your head). You may note that I mentioned earlier that your hips rotate you, not your legs. While this is true, your legs are attached to your hips, so where your legs go, your hips should follow. Make sense? Also, it is key that your feet come up in front of you as you lift your knees in stead of dragging up behind or underneath you. It can help to flex your feet after you jump. Failing to do so can cause your hips to drag behind and reduce your rotation.
Once your hips are rotating over your shoulders, you can grab under your legs, in front of your knees, or not at all. Personally I recommend in front of the knees. But whatever you do, you should not drop your arms down to your legs. Instead, always bring your legs up to your hands. Remember, that is what will lift your hips up and cause you to rotate.
Lastly, keep your eyes open, spot the floor and land.
In summary, you need to jump, stretch up, lift your knees, keep your eyes open and land. The technique for a standing tuck is simple. What makes it hard is overcoming fear, and developing the strength to jump hard enough and rotate your hips fast enough to execute the trick. If you’re close but not quite landing, all you might need is some extra conditioning to get you the rest of the way around.
And that is why a standing back tuck is both simple and hard. 🙂