Nailed It! How to Do a Perfect Back Handspring

One of the most iconic and fundamental movements for cheerleaders and gymnasts is a back handspring. A back handspring can wow fans alone, but can also be the foundation to more complex and extended movements. Learning a back handspring can be intimidating, especially without the proper guidance. Read through this article to learn how to quickly yet safely learn a back handspring without fear!

Back handspring for beginners

As with anything physical, it’s important to take a mindful approach to learning a new cheerleading movement. That’s certainly the case with a back handspring. By properly developing your body and technique, you give yourself the best chance to not only do a back handspring without a spotter but do a back handspring without fear. Negative experiences early on as a result of hurried efforts to perform the perfect back handspring can create mental blocks that impact your ability to perform back handsprings moving forward.

Prerequisite skills for a back handspring are a handstand (1), back roll to handstand (2) and bridge (3).

Take your time developing your back handspring, utilize the assistance of equipment, spotters and coaches to ensure proper form and technique. If you come in with this understanding, you can even learn a back handspring in a day!

Back handspring with a barrel

Utilizing a barrel when first learning how to do a back handspring is the perfect tool to ensure proper form and safety. Using a spotter and falling back onto a barrel and using its support and momentum to complete the movement will help your body form the proper muscle memory and confidence to perform a back handspring. Once you’re confident using a barrel, you may want to transition to doing a back handspring on a trampoline.

Back handspring on a trampoline

Trampolines not only provide a supportive cushion for practicing new movements, but they also have a helpful bounce that can assist beginning cheerleaders or gymnasts perform moves as their muscles develop the strength to do the moves without assistance. Pay close attention to the extra bounce you get from the trampoline. Launching up can result in a back flip instead of a back handspring and launching with too much force may cause you to land off of the trampoline.

Warm-up

  • Step 1: Stretch – Always stretch your legs, wrists, arms, shoulders and back before attempting a back handspring. Here’s a tool that can help.
  • Step 2: Fall backwards – Falling on to your back and popping up onto your feet can prepare you physically and mentally for a back handspring. As you fall on to your back, work your way towards popping into a handstand from a fall to further prepare for a full back handspring.
  • Step 3: Handstand – Prepare your wrists, arms and shoulders to support your body weight and balance you through this motion. Use this to make your wrists stronger.
  • Step 4: Standing back bend- Dropping down in to a back bend can warm your body up to the full back bending motion of a back handspring at a slower, more comfortable speed.

Movement

  • Step 1: Squat- Put yourself in a proper squatting position with your arms back.
  • Step 2: Push launch – Pushing through your toes, focus on pushing back and not up to start your back handspring. Start to swing your arms through.  
  • Step 3: Keep your arms tight and straight – To maintain a balanced and captivating back handspring, you’ll need to keep your arms in close to your body and straight. This will keep your body on track throughout the motion and ensure contact with the trampoline as you snap through.
  • Step 4: Don’t over arch your back – One of the most common mistakes made while performing a back handspring on a trampoline is treating it like a back flip and over arching the back. This can pull the flip short and not allow the arms to reach the ground to complete the movement.
  • Step 5: Stick your hands – As you swing your arms, make contact with trampoline on your way through your back handspring. Keep in mind that on a trampoline you don’t need to push off with your hands like on a court, turf, field or even a springed floor.
  • Step 6: Snap your legs through – You’re almost there! Complete your back handspring by confidently snapping your legs through after your hands touch. You’ll want to keep your legs nearly straight throughout your back handspring.
  • Step 7: Stick the landing – If you’ve maintained straight limbs and proper form, you should be in an even plain and balanced. Perfect alignment will keep your body balanced and prepared to stick the landing. Neutralize your momentum with a final bounce up and bring yourself to a standing position.

Tips to improve back handspring

The back handspring is a staple in any cheerleader’s or gymnast’s arsenal. However, just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s an easy move to master. Flipping backwards can be very intimidating. It requires a great deal of flexibility, strength, technique and confidence.

Exercises to help with a back handsprings

  • Hollow holds
  • Planks
  • Wall sits
  • Squats
  • Sumo squats
  • Arch/hollows on a pull-up bar
  • Pull-ups
  • Back handspring on a trampoline
  • Back handspring over a barrel
  • Handstand snap-down drill
  • Handstand against a wall
  • Bridge 

How to teach a back handspring

Developing a perfect back handspring can be greatly accelerated with the help of a gymnastics coach. Quality coaching can ensure proper form and safety. Coaches will also be able to identify strengths and weaknesses and can focus on drills, exercises and stretches that will best suit your needs.

As a coach, it is your responsibility to balance both progress and safety for your pupils. You need to motivate your students to work hard and develop their muscles and skills sufficiently while maintaining proper form. Pay attention to each girl’s age, body, strength, technique, comfort and mindset. If you know a particular student is less patient than others, pay extra attention to their training. Likewise, you will want to work on the confidence of students that are less eager to attempt a back handspring.

Spot students as needed to ensure safe rotations and landings. Even girls that have landed thousands of back handsprings can have an off attempt and secure spotting will help limit any injuries or awkward landings from a practice back handspring.

Record your students to show them exactly what you see. If girls are visual learners, this is the best way to make minor adjustments that can ensure better technique.

No matter your skill level, with the right approach and enough hard work, you can learn how to do the perfect back handspring.

Willis is the founder and inventor of Stunt Stand. When he was a collegiate cheerleader, he noticed that some of his teammates were practicing with unsafe methods. Since then, he has been passionately working to help the cheer industry by creating products that help athletes train effectively and safely.

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