What is Tumbling? (And the Difference vs Gymnastics)

What is Tumbling? (And the Difference vs Gymnastics)

What is Tumbling?


Tumbling is a discipline related to gymnastics, often seen in cheerleading and certain gymnastic routines. It is a series of passes, i.e. roundoff back handspring, back tuck, etc. It has become an increasingly popular subset of gymnastics. It shows off your skills and technique in different passes and you are scored on those pass sets. The skills often learned in tumbling are used in many other sports such as; dance, martial arts, parkour, and more. 

Other common questions we get about tumbling are how do you start? What is the best equipment? What is the difference between tumbling vs gymnastics? We will tackle all of those questions in this article and take an overall view into several sports that incorporate tumbling.

Tumbling vs. Gymnastics – What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between tumbling vs. gymnastics? Tumbling refers strictly to acrobatic passes and learning to have perfect technique while doing so. You may remember watching the Olympics and seeing Olympic athletes work through their floor routine, connecting numerous passes along a spring raised floor with dance-like movements. That discipline is tumbling, and when incorporated into gymnastics training, it is often referred to as ‘tumbling gymnastics’. Gymnastics involves more than acrobatic movement, incorporating skills developed in the use of bars, beam, vault, rings and more. At a competitive level, tumbling gymnastics compete on a 40×40 foot spring floor, while competitive tumbling uses an 82 foot long surface that athletes tumble on when combining passes.  Both disciplines share similarities and common roots, but will differentiate more and more as one specializes in one over the other. 

What is Tumbling in Cheerleading?

Tumbling in cheerleading adds a “wow” factor to the routine, giving cheerleaders a hand up in competition. Being able to add a few tumbling tricks to a routine not only makes it more fun and interesting to watch, it makes your cheerleading team more advanced. 

Let’s look at some basic tumbling tricks in cheerleading; 

● Roundoff

          ● This is often what leads into many passes as it gives you the momentum needed to connect them. 

● Back handspring 

          ● This fun skill is the gateway into learning harder tricks such as back tucks and layouts.

● Back Tuck 

          ● Although it is a more challenging move to learn, the back tuck adds an advanced look to your routine. To learn how to do a back tuck visit How to do a Flip

● Layout

          ● A flip done while keeping your upper body and legs straight. Incorporating layouts is a great way to introduce spectacle into a cheer routine. 

● Handstand 

          ● A simple but good trick to have, especially when you can do a pirouette, walk on your hands or hold for extensive amounts of time. Handstands show strength and control.

● Front walkover 

          ● A front walkover mimics a cartwheel rolling forward. This move is a great transition that prepares you for harder skills.

● Back walkover 

          ● Exactly like a front walkover but going backwards! Similar to the front walkover, it is a great transition while also preparing you for harder tricks.

● Aerial 

          ● An aerial is a no-handed cartwheel. Aerials are impressive and flashy, making them great additions to any floor routine. 

● Front Tuck

          ● Similar to a back tuck but performed in a forward motion, front tucks elevate a routine immensely. To learn how to do a front tuck visit How to do a Flip 


While all of these moves are great additions to any cheerleader’s skills, it is important to learn them in a safe environment with a professional who can help teach you the correct technique to avoid injury. Proper equipment is important as well; always ensure you have a mat to help break any falls that may occur when practicing skills. Yoga mats, crash mats and AirTracks are great options that provide a nice training surface. 

Although these moves are not an absolute requirement for cheerleading (some squads don’t even incorporate tumbling into their routines), having the ability to perform them will definitely make you stand out in the sport. Tumbling is becoming increasingly popular in cheerleading, giving tumbling cheerleaders a wider variety of moves they can perform out on the floor. 

 Which is Better – Gymnastics or Tumbling?

When deciding to choose between gymnastics and tumbling, athletes should take into account their overall goals. Both are great options for anyone, but choosing the right one for you will depend on personal preference and comfortability. 

To recap, gymnastics introduces a wider variety of activities to learn such as beam, bar and vault, while keeping tumbling as a major part of the sport. If you are someone who is only interested in learning to flip and connect passes together, tumbling might be the better route to choose. If other rhythmic sports such as cheerleading, dance, parkour, martial arts are part of your day to day, tumbling will introduce a strong set of skills that incorporate the other sports. Still undecided? Joining a local gym and getting first-hand knowledge from expert trainers is a good way to try both and decide which is best for you! We hope you now know what tumbling is!

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