Every once in a while, we have the athletes train both back and front somersaults with the arms held up during the entire skill. We like to use this stick method, you can see an example of this in the following video. We like to have the athletes train this drill in order to force them to have their arms “free” during a somersault, in preparation for learning how to twist mid-rotation. Athletes can get so used to bringing their hands to their sides (layouts), knees (tucks), and toes (pikes), that they may inadvertently bring their arms down the same way when attempting to twist. For back-fulls especially, your arms must be free prior to the twist, in order to initiate a turn. If your arms are already occupied, it will be difficult to to initiate a twist.
There are some drawbacks to this drill however. The drill encourages the athlete to “whip” the layout around during the take-off phase, which is incorrect. Because the moment of inertia is greater when holding the stick over the head, the athlete will need to compensate by leaning aggressively backwards, which also causes the tummy to stick out, which is not how we want a layout to be. This creates a fast and whip-like somersault, instead of a slow & floaty somersault. It is therefore imperative that the pupil understand that this drill is only to train strong & high arms, and not for the takeoff of the somersault. Coaches must inform their athletes that in actuality, the somersault *should not* feel this whippy or fast, so that their athletes are not memorizing the wrong mechanics!