5 essential drills to help you achieve your BHS
I often feel like the BHS is the holy grail of cheerleading. It’s the skill I get asked to teach the most and it’s the skill that athletes feel the greatest satisfaction from when they can perform it. In many ways it’s a gateway skill. While it looks great in isolation at level 2 for example, it’s also the skill that athletes exit from to learn and perform higher level tumbles. Therefore it’s really important to get it right. If athletes get it wrong, bad technique becomes muscle memory- and we all know how hard that is to correct.
With this in mind, the focus of this month’s blog will be the 5 essential drills you need to achieve your BHS.
You don’t just start learning a BHS though. It’s important you have mastered some prerequisites to increase your chances of success.
- Handstand for three seconds. Three seconds is a minimum really. The purpose of this skill is to ensure the athlete can safely support their body weight. It’s also a really good way of troubleshooting the athletes form. The hand stand should be nice and hollow with the athlete extending their body to its full height. If the handstand is arched then the athlete is not engaging their core, squeezing tight, or pushing through their shoulders.
- Back walkover. Ideally, I’d want the athlete to perform all elements of level 1, but the back walkover is essential. It means the athlete is capable of going backwards, can hold their body weight, and should have good flexibility in their shoulders and legs. If this isn’t the case you’ll probably take a technical hit on your score sheet! Another reason a back walkover is useful is because you can drill minimum head movement. The less the better! Unless the athlete’s arms are pinned to their ears in the walkover, don’t rush to the BHS- it’s why so many end up collapsing!
- Strong hollow and arch conditioning. The BHS is made up of three shapes: hollow and arch. Athletes shouldn’t be learning one unless they’re well-conditioned in these areas. It builds up a strong core capable of the power required to safely perform the skill!
- Blocking ability. Hand stand hops, bridge hops, round off blocks are all relevant here. While performing the BHS the athlete will need to block from an arching shape to a hollow- hence the strong core. If they can’t do this they won’t be able to stand up after and connecting anything to it will be impossible.
The Rule of Five!
- Swing jump to dish. This drill is important because it means you can put the emphasis on getting the athlete to go the direction you want them to- backwards! Athletes start in a standing position then sit, while swinging their arms back to a position where their hips, are behind their knees, which are behind their feet. Essentially, the athlete wants to sit into a position that is off balance. This forces the athlete to jump long rather than high.
- Sit + Snap. The sit and snap uses similar ideas to the previous drill but focuses more on body shape than direction. The athlete will sit into a hollow shape before snapping into an arch shape (minimal head movement as always).
- Snap Down. This can be done using a mat, or a wedge, pushed up against the wall. The athlete will lunge up to a leaning handstand- so their arms shouldn’t be too close to the wall. Then, keeping their head neutral, the athlete will open their armpits as much as they can before snapping down to front support. This should help troubleshoot athletes doing too much with their hips!
- Bridge block to front support. A good one for should blocking exercises. The athlete will drop to bridge and, rather than bringing one leg over as in a traditional kick over, will bring both legs up to a handstand. Then block to front support. I do this one to help train athletes NOT to bend their arms when performing the skill.
- Simulated BHS. Athletes sit in a pike position then, from a high to a low, open out into an arch shape and snap to front support. This drill, combined with the others and prerequisites, is where I’ve found the most success when teaching athletes to BHS. It encourages a hands off approach that allows the athlete to feel how a skill should be performed, rather than getting comfortable with a spot.
Then… Transitional Spotting.
Spotting is still important, but only really as a transition. If after 3 spots the athlete isn’t ready/ able to perform the skill on their own, it’s back to drills!
A final point.
BHS’s are one of those frustrating skills that can take a very long time to achieve. In my experience this is usually down to a lack of conditioning the athlete has done, which is why I place so much emphasis on the prerequisites. If the athlete can perform them successfully, you know you’re working with a well-conditioned athlete ready to take the next step. If not, you’ll end up playing the long game with no guarantees of success.