December 01, 2005
The cartwheel is a foundational movement critical for gymnastics development. For non-gymnasts as well, practicing cartwheels develops kinesthetic awareness and flexibility, as well as strength and stability in hand support. Learning a cartwheel can be difficult for some, but the progressions below can be used by anyone, including the young and the not so young, to work toward a cartwheel.
A "right" cartwheel begins with the right leg forward, with the right hand the first to contact the ground. A "left" cartwheel leads with left the foot, with the left hand contacting the ground first. (Note that a "right" cartwheel is a left-twisting skill. A left twist is one in which the left shoulder travels backward relative to the body in motion.)
This drill teaches the basic movement of a cartwheel and helps mitigate many common beginners' mistakes. Place a folded panel mat or other stable object in the tumbling area. Stand in a straddle at the end of the panel mat and place both hands on the panel mat. Jump from one foot to the other, keeping weight on your hands. As you feel more comfortable, kick the jump higher and pass through a straddled handstand. Ensure that your shoulders remain open and your head stays neutral throughout this exercise.