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How to Do a Roundoff Back Handspring in Gymnastics

Whether you’re a cheerleader or a gymnast, the roundoff back handspring is a crucial foundation for tumbling. From the combined power of these two skills, you’ll be able to learn how to do multiple back handsprings, back flips, backward twisting, and more. Before attempting a roundoff back handspring, though, you should have a strong roundoff and experience with the back handspring. Read on to learn about the roundoff back handspring form and technique.

Round Up Your Power

If you thought a roundoff was just a cartwheel with your feet landing together, think again: It’s a skill that converts forward power into backwards power. As the lead-in skill to the back handspring, it can also dictate how well your back handspring will go.

You’ll hurdle into the roundoff, passing through the lunge position. As your hands reach ahead of you, your heels will drive over your head.

Hot Tip: Straighten Up

It’s not unusual for gymnasts to do lovely roundoff back handsprings with pointed toes and straight legs — and nearly tumble into the wall because they’re crooked. Examine your roundoff. You should:

Cover your ears with your arms. Reach your hands straight ahead of you for as long as possible, turning at the last instant. Maintain a strong “T” position — keeping your hands in line with your back leg — to ensure that your legs go over your head, not around the side

Snap to It

As your feet come together over your head, you’ll push off of the ground and forcefully snap your feet toward the floor. To achieve a strong snap-down, you’ll need to push through your shoulders and round your body into a hollow position. By the time your feet land, your arms should be above your head.

To perfect the snap-down, kick up into a handstand with your hands on a mat or springboard. Arch your back slightly, and then snap your feet over your head. As soon as your feet hit the floor, you should be able to rebound immediately, keeping your body hollow — back rounded, with arms covering your ears and your toes slightly in front of you.

Get the Scoop

When you land the snap-down, your feet should be in front of your body. Think of this motion as “scooping the toes.” By doing so, you’ll be able to transition into the back handspring without interruption. Otherwise, you may run into trouble:

Undercuts

You jump into the air, arch, and land your back handspring where your feet started. This is called undercutting.

If you’re scooping properly, you’ll have no choice but to rebound backwards, run backwards, or back handspring out of your roundoff. If you can land your roundoff without moving backwards to regain your balance — or if you have to step forward — then you need more scoop.

Undercutting can occur if you finish your roundoff in a piked position with your chest down. If you’re undercutting your roundoff back handspring, there’s a good chance that you need to scoop your toes, keeping the rest of your body hollow.

To practice the scoop:

  1. Place an incline mat on the floor, with the tall end furthest away from you.
  2. Perform a roundoff, putting your hands on the floor in front of the mat’s low end.
  3. Push off with your hands and scoop your toes so that your feet miss the ground, landing on your legs or back in hollow body.

Make Connections

With a strong snap-down and scoop of the toes, you should be able to rebound immediately into the back handspring. You’ll push through your shoulders in the handspring, finishing upright with your feet underneath you.

Many athletes get nervous at this point, stopping after the roundoff and re-swinging their arms for the back handspring. Remember, if you’re scooping properly, you shouldn’t be able to stop your roundoff. Your arms should remain over your head as you land the snap-down, and from this position reach to the floor.

Once you’ve become comfortable with connecting the roundoff back handspring, your coach may have you add multiple back handsprings to the series. To do so, you’ll need to land each back handspring the way you finish the roundoff: With the snap-down and scoop of the toes.

Connection Drills

If you’re having trouble connecting the two skills, your coach may set up the following drills:

  • Roundoff back handspring down an inclined mat.
  • Initiating the roundoff from an elevated surface, such as a mat, landing the feet on the floor. Using a mat gives you more time to achieve the scoop position.

Tumble On

You’ll want your coach’s supervision and spotting while you’re working on this skill. Remember that the roundoff needs a strong snap-down and scoop for a successful back handspring. With a strong roundoff back handspring, you’ll be able to learn how to connect skills such as multiple back handsprings, back tucks, and backwards twisting.

This guide breaks down the proper technique for one of gymnastics most important combinations: The roundoff back handspring.
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