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biomechanics of Front flip , physics and human physiology of front flip

Understanding how to perform a Front Flip

First observations of Front Flip (Pros VS Newbs)

The Front Flip, the trick that everyone tries into a pool, into sponge pits, most likely the first “flip” any gymnast or tricker would start off with. It is not as scary as the back flip, you can gather momentum before you take off, and you are flipping forward where you can see where you are going.

Table of Contents:

How a great frontflip differs from an average one?

First observation of an average front flip would be the lack of height coupled with high velocity of rotation in their flip

A newbie frontflip

Why average?

This is caused by the athlete not setting their chest high, and not focusing on jumping to produce the height before they flip, fear could be one of the factor that cause the athlete to not jump up before flipping and instead jump at a more horizontal angle, they would also throw their head and arms down to generate a lot of rotation in their flip which may or may not help them land their Front Flip.

A pro Frontflip

How a good Frontflip looks like

In a good Front Flip, you would observe first a split second of a fully extended body during the take off, this ensures that the athlete is maximising their jumping power to their advantage, then followed by a strong tuck where the hip rises above the head level as they tuck their knees towards their chest to increase the velocity of flip, and as they almost complete a 360 rotation in the air, they would extend their body once again to spot for their landing catch themselves for a safe landing.

A thorough breakdown, and analysis of the front flip

The Take-Off, The Flip, and The Landing

The Take Off: how to maximise jump height for your front flip

The basic set-up for a Front Flip is a hurdle punch on the floor, or a 2 legged punch jump on the trampoline. When performing the punch jump,

  1. athletes should first focus on jumping upwards

  2. ensuring before jumping that the athlete’s feet are placed next to each other, knees and hips slightly flexed, ankles extended before performing the punch jump so as to generate elastic potential energy in the calf muscles to perform a higher jump,

  3. lastly a slightly flexed trunk to keep the core tight, because of the quick and explosive movement that is needed to perform the punch jump, a high amount of force is applied on the whole body,

  4. with a loose core the body will not be able to hold the whole body together to generate a good reaction force from the floor, to perform a good jump,

  5. and also the flexion of the trunk helps bring the athletes feet slight in front of the whole body, this is to help block the forward momentum created by any run up/ hurdle set up for the take-off.

What should your hands do when you take off?

At the moment of take-off, the arms should be above the head punching up and forward pulling the shoulders up which pulls the rest of the body with it.

{insert gif of pulling shoulders up}

Why do you do that?

This makes the jump easier because of the extra upward momentum generated also generating angular momentum for the flip. Make sure at the moment of take off, the upper body should be upright and extended while staying behind the ankles so as to block momentum, and set the shoulders high for a high jump and flip.

Technical breakdown:

  • The reason we mentioned bringing the feet in front of the entire body is because of one particular reason, it's called “blocking”, to block means to convert horizontal momentum into vertical momentum by creating a braking force with the legs at the moment the athlete wants to jump, to reduce the forward momentum in a hurdle-punch technique, the athlete has to bring the feet in front of the entire body, by flexing at the hip flexor, and also the trunk, hence the athlete would create a sturdy C shape with their upper body, at the same time also allowing their lower body to stick out in front of them creating an angle with their legs that would reduce the forward momentum by apply a force in the opposite direction and also upwards to get the maximum height they can achieve from their jump.

  • Punching the arms up and forward, at the same time shrugging the shoulders in the same direction helps to create a hollow position at the abdominal muscles which helps athletes to ensure they are setting upwards and slightly flexing the trunk to have a more extended body position right before the flip, as compared to crunching their chest towards the floor to create a quicker spin and much lesser height.

  • Another important point together with the arms and shoulder shrug, is the forceful hip and knee extension to help get the athlete’s body upright, tall and in the best position to gain height from their jump.

The Flip: how to set, and flip for the front flip

The moment right after the athlete fully jumped off the ground their arms will start to reach forward, shoulders being pulled along creating an arch in the back (Trunk flexion), at this point the athlete would also be thinking of bringing their hips over their head to perform the front flip, how they would do that is with the help of the trunk flexion, and the hip flexion that would bring their hips to a level that is over their head and also generating angular momentum for the body to rotate in the air, and also to lead the flip tucking their chins to their chest is also important to generate the flip. As the athlete is rotating in the air after performing the hip and trunk flexion, the athlete would tuck their heels to their hip, and chest down towards their knees, making a ball like position with their body to reduce the moment of inertia hence increasing the velocity of flip helping the athlete complete most of the flip at a higher point so that when they come down for the landing it would be much easier and safer.

The Landing: Safe way to land your front flip

It is known that the front flip is almost the complete opposite of a back flip in terms of the difficulties in each category. (The Take Off, The Flip, and The Landing) For the front flip, the Take Off is easier than the Landing, while for the back flip, the Take Off is harder than the Landing, the reason is because for the front flip, athletes can hardly spot for the landing until the last second, hence it is a little based on experience and intuition to get the perfect landing, as for the back flip the landing is much easier because as athletes come half way through the flip, they should already be able to spot for their landing the whole way down till they touch the ground hence it is much easier to land a backflip as compared to the front flip.

As athletes complete their rotation in the air for the front flip, the head level starts to rise above the hip level, that is when the athletes should start seeing whatever is in front of them, with that little information of where their body is at the athlete should roughly know that it is time to land, and at this point the athlete would start to extend their hips and knees out to reach for the ground on underneath them, but making sure that the joints are not fully extended, this is to ensure safer landing and not accidentally landing with the joints all locked out, this will prevent the athlete from catching themselves when they land and the joints would suffer high amounts of pressure.

Strength and conditioning

The front flip requires some explosive power from the legs, and of course good core strength to pull the lower limbs and upper limbs together while performing a rotation at a higher velocity in mid air, hence core and leg workouts would be implemented.

  1. Sit ups: the sit ups first trains the hip flexors and the abdominal muscles, both that are muscles that perform the hip flexion and trunk flexion that generates the torque for the front flip, hence it could be implemented to athlete who are having trouble creating explosive or strong movements with those muscles to perform the front flip. (Possible progressions: V-ups, legs elevated sit ups, hanging knee raises)

  2. Hollow holds: This exercise is an isometric exercise, it trains the body specifically for the position that they will be in during the punch of the punch jump, being able to hold that position when the core does not collapse when faced with a huge amount of force can improve the jumping ability of the athlete which can lead to better performance for their tricks. (Possible progressions: placing weighted objects at feet and hands, small pumping movements to add stress to the care)

  3. Front Flip on Trampoline: Drilling a bunch of front flips on the trampoline not only helps condition the body but at a more gradual rate, it also can help improve the athlete’s awareness in the air, help them feel comfortable and have more control over their body when in the air which can lead to progression into more difficult tricks.

  4. Calf jumps: The calf jump is a very applicable exercise to improve an athlete’s punch jump because in a punch jump, there is limited movements in the hip, and the knees, and majority of the force comes from the calf muscles, hence calf jump can be implemented to improve explosiveness at the calves with limited range of motion.

Important muscle groups used in a Frontflip

  1. Quadriceps, consisting of vastus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and vastus lateralis, these are the muscles that aid in a strong and powerful knee extension to perform an explosive jump. These muscles are also the stabilising muscles of the knees which greatly support the knee when landing after performing a trick.

  2. Calves,consisting of the gastrocnemius, and soleus, an important muscle group for protecting the ankle joint, but also mainly composed of fast-twitch muscle fibers, so the calves can execute quick explosive movements, like jumping.

  3. Abdominal muscles, consisting of the transversus abdominus, rectus abdominis, external oblique muscles, and internal oblique muscles: These muscles are activated to flex the trunk in the front flip, and it also plays a big part in supporting the body to keep in a strong position when performing the punch jump, this way it can be propelled upwards and not being negated by limited resistance.

  4. Gluteus maximus, Gluteus medius, Gluteus minimus. The Glutes is also one of the larger muscle groups that is important for jumping power. Having strong glutes, also means having good single leg stance, good pelvic alignment which will prevent injuries, and it also aids in protecting the knee joints while performing physical activities involving the legs.

Practical Tips/ Summary:

Take Off

  • Run up punch jump:

    1. Ensuring head shoulders and hips are stacked on top of each other as you enter the punch jump

    2. Flexing at the hips slightly to bring the feet in front of you to block the forward momentum, converting into vertical momentum both feet punching the floor together.

  • Set Shoulders up:

    1. Setting the shoulders upright, and performing the shoulder shrug upwards to increase the height of the pivot point of the flip

    2. AND shoulder shrug forward to initiate the flip rotation.

The Flip

  • Hip Drive over shoulders:

    1. After take off, as your body rotates from the shoulder shrug, you want to contract your abdominal muscles (trunk flexion) bringing your shoulders down towards your knees and your hips over your shoulders, (like the position before performing a front roll)

    2. You also want to flex at the hip to bring the knees closer to the chest, also increase rotation velocity.

  • Rotation:

    1. As you are upside down, your knee are close to your chest, you want to perform a forward head tilt encouraging the trunk flexion

    2. Flexing at the knee as much as you can and using the arms to pull at the shins to keep the legs as close to the trunk as possible holding a small and round position in order to increase the speed of the flip.

The Landing

  • Spot for landmark to land: Spotting for walls, ceiling or objects, before landing, because you cannot see the floor as you land the front flip

  • Land with both feet:

    1. After spotting for a landmark, you want to release your arms from the tuck, extending your hips and knees to reach for the ground to land, but keeping the joints slightly flexed to cushion the landing

    2. Trunk (abs) to be strong, and slightly flexed, to avoid pressure on the spine.

    3. Keeping the toes pointed in order to land on the balls of the feet first to decrease the impact acting on the knees and the hips.

How we roll with classes for frontflip

Your journey in Frontflip starts at [LVL1], where we'll guide you through the pre-requisites of frontflip, allowing you to bypass the various traps of "bad" technique. [LVL1] will end in 1 lesson and by the end of the lesson you should already be starting on the first few parts of [LVL2].

[LVL 1] Frontflip class

In [LVL2], you'll be acquainted with the muscle memories that make up a good frontflip, as highlighted in the article. If you're a fast learner, this can be done within 1 lesson. However, it's more likely that you'd take around 4 lessons to get to a stage where you can attempt a frontflip comfortably. You are expected to complete 100 repetitions of the Dolphin Drill, to

ensure that the correct muscle memories are ingrained in your body.

[LVL 2] Frontflip Class

In [LVL3], you are expected to complete 100 repetitions/attempts of a frontflip to ensure you will not forget, before you embark on [LVL4] to learn different variations of frontflip and set ups into it.

Webster Frontflip
Webster , [LVL 4] Frontflip

Come join us at an outlet at City Square Mall (Farrer Park Mrt) to become stronger with FrontFlips!


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