Note: This article is for educational & literature purposes only. Please seek professional council in order to learn any type of gymnastics or acrobatic maneuver. Never attempt to practice any gymnastics without the supervision or approval of a certified professional.
Dissecting the Ballout / Barani-Ballout
The ballout can simply be defined as a backdrop followed by a front somersault to a footed landing. A barani-ballout is defined as a backdrop followed by a barani somersault to a footed landing. Ballout is an important skill for gymnasts to master. So fundamental is this skill in the repertoire of a well-rounded gymnast, USA Gymnastics has deemed it important enough to make it a requirement in the Level 7 routine, and it’s cousin, the barani-ballout, exists in the current Level 8 routine as judged skills during competition. Ballouts exist as single-skills in their own right, but they also serve as stepping stones and progressions towards more advanced skills.
(1) A good back drop on the trampoline is a prerequisite to learning a proper ballout somersault. Backdrop should be sufficiently high and in control. The pupil should be able to perform the backdrop with straight legs throughout the maneuver. The pupil should also be comfortable performing the backdrop slightly behind the center of the trampoline prior to learning this skill. (2) Another prerequisite is a controlled porpoise, preferably with a kick-out or open. (3) Yet another prerequisite is the Front Tuck somersault, and also the Doggie Drop to Front-Tuck.
The Skill Itself
Advanced concepts such as kick-outs or line-outs should not be introduced to the beginner. Instead, emphasis should be focused on motor skills such as the details of the tuck timing, the height and control, position of the arms, position of the head, where the athlete should spot, and how to reach up towards the ceiling, etc. Usually the most difficult part of a ballout is learning the proper timing of the reaching towards the ceiling, and snapping the tuck closed. This will require a stringent eye from the coach in order to provide necessary feedback to the athlete. But before the athlete is ready to attempt the skill, progressions and lead-ups should be used to work up to the ballout and barani-ballout. Below we present one system of progressions for learning the ballout and barani-ballout.
- Step 1) Porpoise, Porpoise
- Optional Step 1a) 3/4 Front, Porpoise
- Optional Step 1b) Front Tuck, Front Tuck
- Optional Step 1c) 1.25 Front Tuck
- Step 2) Backdrop, Hands & Knees Drop, Front Tuck
- Step 3) Backdrop, to Feet, Front Tuck
- Step 4) Porpoise to Seat-Drop
- Step 5) Ballout
- Optional Step 1a: Backdrop, Hands & Knees Drop, Barani
- Optional Step 1b: Ballout, to Feet, Front Drop
- Optional Step 1c: Ballout to Front-Drop (ie. “1.25 Ballout”)
- Optional Step 1d: 1.25 Ballout with 1/2 twist to back
- Step 1: Ballout, Jump 1/2 Turn
- Step 2: Ballout, Barani
- Step 3: Barani-Ballout
Barani-Ballout Progressions #2:
- Step 1: Porpoise to Corpse Drop
- Step 2: Porpoise to Corpse Drop, half turn to front-drop
- Step 3: Porpoise with a half twist to front-drop in the air
- Step 3: Barani-Ballout
*On a side note, perhaps it is a mistake in nomenclature that people call the “Barani Ballout” a “Barani Ballout”. In this manner, the twist is emphasized before the flip, when in actuality the somersault should be emphasized before the twist. It may be more prudent to call the “Barani Ballout” a “Ballout Barani“, in order to aid the pupil in learning the skill. However, it is also understandable why the name Barani-Ballout was chosen, as reversing the order may add a lot of confusion during Routine Building. For instance, if a Barani-Ballout had originally been named a Ballout-Barani as we have just suggested, and a routine was listed as such: 3/4 Front, Ballout Barani, Tuck Jump. When a coach calls out this routine to her athlete during a practice, the athlete might end up doing: 3/4 Front, Ballout, Barani, Tuck Jump, and the athlete would be justified in doing so. So perhaps there is no great way of naming this move afterall, besides calling it a “half-twisting ballout”.
A common fault is for the athlete to perform a bent-legged backdrop, as seen in Figure 3. By doing this, the athlete will reduce their potential rotation significantly. Similar to the case in the chapter: Back Tucks, “bent elbows during takeoff reduces the degree of change in moment of inertia during the tucking motion.” Similarly, legs should be straight when gymnasts are performing a back-drop. During the tuck phase, gymnasts should then go from straight-legged to bent-legged suddenly to ignite a rotation. However, if a gymnast’s legs are already bent drastically, then she must go from bent legs to even more bent legs in order to produce rotation, which is much more difficult to do. Hence, a bent-legged set will generally produce a far slower somersault.
Another common fault is for the performer be too low. The gymnast’s fear of bouncing high can inhibit the successful learning of this skill from the beginning. Generally, coaches should tell the pupil that they need to perform a back-drop that is much higher than their front-tuck height, since this move is considered a back-drop into a front-tuck. The pupil’s altitude should not be lower than their front-tuck altitude. The third most common error is in trying to snap the tuck too soon. The athlete must learn to reach up towards the ceiling prior to snapping the heels back. If performed too early, the feet may make contact with the trampoline bed as seen in Figure 4, effectively killing all rotation. Coaches should emphasize that the timing is not different from a porpoise, the difference being the level of effort of the tuck is increased, not the reach.
The fourth most common error is the off-balanced backdrop. This result can be a number of different problems, two of which are illustrated in Figure 5. It shows a backdrop that was performed too far in front of the trampoline center, and another illustration which the gymnast landed on their tailbone. Neither of these are conducive for learning a ballout.
Lastly, the fifth most common error is not having the arms back enough during the backdrop, as seen in Figure 6. The arms and head should be in line, and impact the trampoline bed at the same time. The reasoning is two-fold, (1) the open shoulders encourages the gymnast to reach up for longer to increase her height off the rebound, (2) it increases her moment of inertia from the side-profile axis, which increase the potential “snap” she shall have during the tuck phase.
Life after the Ballout
As mentioned earlier, ballouts can be used to progress towards more difficult skills. Mastery of both the ballout & the barani ballout can move the pupil to more demanding moves such as:
- Rudi Ballout
- 1&3 Front
- Double Porpoise
- Double Front Tuck
For instance, let’s take the 1&3 Front for example. The full name of this move is actually 1 3/4 Front, but trampolinists abbreviate it to a “1&3 Front“. It is defined by an overrated front-tuck into a back-drop landing. How can the athlete go about learning this move in a relatively safe manner? By using the smart progressions, one of which involves ballouts. In a 1&3 Front, the athlete is somersaulting forwards exactly by 1.75 Rotations. A ballout already has 1.25 rotations by definition. This is not quite the 1.75 that we require, as we have another 0.5 rotations to go before we are putting in the same amount of effort. However, we can still make good use of this move. If the coach teaches the athlete how to perform a Ballout to Front-Drop, then they are now completing exactly 1.5 rotations. The math is as such:
Ballout + Front Drop = 1.25 rotations + 0.25 rotations = 1.5 rotations
We are almost there. But how to we get to the 1.75 rotations without doing the full move? The short answer is, we cannot. Not from a back-drop, because 1.75 rotations forward from a back-drop would put the athlete precisely on their head. However, there exists a clever trick to circumvent the problem here. Coaches will now ask the athlete to perform the same move, Ballout to Front-Drop, but in a Piked position instead of a Tucked position. Somersaulting in a Pike position takes considerable more effort than a Tuck position due to the increase in moment of inertia. This will closely imitate the amount of power needed to perform a successful 1&3 Front. At this point, the athlete has learnt how much level of effort is required to rotate for the 1&3 Front attempt. Of course, there exists numerous other 1&3 front drills and progressions before the athlete should attempt the maneuver at all, but we will not be discussing those here. Our example just serves to demonstrate how the Ballout and Barani-Ballout are stepping stones for more advanced maneuvers in the future. So the all athletes should spend ample time perfecting the Ballout early in their career. It will pay off in the long run.