If you want to improve your tumbling skills, these tips on back handsprings will help you perfect the exercise and enable you to move on to more difficult sequences. Remember that every new skill has prerequisites that allow you to build on your talent. Take the time to perfect the prerequisites for back handsprings in order to make learning the back handspring easier.
Before you try a back handspring, it's important that you can adequately perform the following:
- Handstand: The handstand requires significant upper body strength. It also requires you to become familiar with squaring your shoulders, hips, and ankles while keeping your body straight and tight. These skills all play into a perfect back handspring
- Back roll to handstand: The back roll to handstand requires upper body strength and tight form. It also teaches you to sit back to perform a tumbling/gymnastic skill, rather than leaning your body forward - a key element of the back handspring.
- Bridge: The bridge teaches you to support your body with your arms and shoulders while looking backward. It also improves back flexibility. Try the bridge different ways to improve strength and flexibility. For instance, you could extend your knees and place more of your body's weight on your arms. You could also practice shrugging your shoulders and bending your elbows, thus doing "push ups" while in the bridge.
Five Tips on Back Handsprings
- Work with a coach. Even if you and your friends think you know a lot about back handsprings, chances are you don't have the breadth of knowledge and experience that your coach has. A coach has significant training and experience working with athletes and will be able to dissect your form with more accuracy than you or your friends. If you're having trouble with your landing or your elbows keep buckling, he'll be able to tell you exactly how to change your approach or form to perfect the skill. Coaches can also spot you correctly, helping prevent unnecessary injury.
- Practice your sit back. It can be so tempting to bend your knees, lean forward, and jump up to start the back handspring. However, initiating the exercise like this actually counteracts your momentum and will throw off your movement. You need to become familiar with sitting back to perform the handspring. You can do this by practicing your back roll or practicing your sit back against a wall. When practicing the sit back against a wall, stand several feet away from a solid wall with your back facing the wall. Bend your knees while keeping your torso upright so that your lower legs stay in place. As you sit back, you may feel like you're going to fall, but when your knees form roughly a 90-degree angle, your back will meet the wall and it will "catch" you. During an actual handspring, it's from this "sit back" position that you'll jump backward to perform the skill. Keep practicing the sit back until it feels natural.
- Practice on a wedge mat. When you practice the back handspring on a wedge mat, the decline of the wedge will assist your body's momentum and help you perform the skill correctly.
- Keep your torso relatively straight. You may think that the back handspring requires a significant amount of backward bending, but that's actually not true. You do need to bend your back slightly as you reach behind you to the floor, but your powerful jump should generate most of the movement to help your arms spring toward the floor, enabling your back and torso to remain relatively straight.
- Use video recordings. Ask your coach or your parents to record your back handspring practice, then compare your recordings to videos of professional cheerleaders or gymnasts. When you see the proper form over and over again, and watch your own form over and over again, you'll be able to identify small ways to change your form to match that of the pros.
Adding it Together
After working with your coach and applying the tips on back handsprings to your practices, you'll be ready to add the new skills to your tumbling routine. For instance, your coach might want you to perform a round-off/back handspring/tuck. When you get to start stringing skills together, you'll be floored by how much fun tumbling can be and you'll be glad you put in the work to learn the back handspring correctly.