How to Perform a Back Handspring
A back handspring is a classic gymnastics trick that's always a crowd-pleaser. And believe it or not, it's relatively simple to do! The key is to maintain the proper body position and control your fall so that you can land safely. Read on to learn the basics of a back handspring and how to perform this fun trick.
The Anatomy of the Back Handspring
A back handspring may look difficult, but it's all about controlling your fall as you launch yourself backward. You are essentially sitting, leaning back, then falling — but you land on your hands rather than your behind. This happens because your arms will meet the ground first as long as you keep them straight.
You will need to engage your quads and calves to launch yourself off the ground, your glutes to "sit" then arch backward, your latissimus dorsi and deltoids to bring your arms overhead, and your trapezius to adduct your scapulae and engage your shoulders. You should feel like you're doing a squat, then pressing the air upward as you extend your body backward.
The back handspring Step-by-Step
- Begin by planting your feet and starting to sit on an invisible chair.
- Lean back a bit. As soon as you feel that sensation of falling, push off the floor and swing your arms upward to bring them straight by your head.
- Keep your arms as straight and as close to your ears as possible. Don't bow your head or tip it backward: keep it in line with your arms.
- Land on your hands, pushing away from your body as though you are doing a very short handstand.
- Contract your abs and engage your quads to bring your legs over.
- With this pike, bring your feet down, whether together or one at a time. This movement should be a "snapping" motion — you must get your feet down before gravity does it for you!
- With momentum, you'll usually end with a final jump so you can finish standing up.
This is a skill where you must commit. If you change your mind halfway through the trick, you could get injured. So, it’s important to overcome your fear of falling backward as you train your body position.
You can have someone assist and spot your handspring to train your body awareness and practice proper engagement. Your spotter should stand by your side with one hand at your mid-back and one behind your knees. As you sit, lean back, and spring backward, the spotter provides support at those two points. This way, you can get used to the sensation of falling backward.
Your spotter should NOT touch your arms. Work on keeping them straight with your shoulder blades together so you can have a nice strong handstand position in the middle of the trick. Once your hands are on the floor, bring your feet down to the floor. Continue practicing until you can execute the skill with less direct support and with the all-important "snap down" at the end.
Don't have a spotter? If your gym has an octagonal support device aka a "rolly," you can practice that backward movement with it. Stand in front of the rolly, sit, lean back, extend backward over the rolly, and snap your feet down.
I hope that helps! Feel free to follow me on social media and YouTube for video demonstrations. I also travel around the world, so keep in touch to learn when and where I may be able to train and spot you myself!