July 01, 2006
If you ask beginner gymnasts what skill they most want to learn, the most common answer is “a back handspring.” It is a visually impressive skill and is frequently used in performance arts and in movies. It is a functionally powerful movement and helps develop strength, power, and agility. Learning to do a back handspring properly and safely also requires individuals to overcome fear and override many reflexive instincts. Overcoming these obstacles is a valuable skill in itself—one that carries into other aspects of training—and life.
Fear is a significant factor in learning a back handspring. The fear response is a good thing. Executed improperly or without appropriate progressions, an attempted back handspring can lead to serious injury. Follow all steps correctly and thoroughly. Ensure that you have the right equipment (including mats and pads) and spotting for each of the stages.
The first step in learning a back handspring is learning how to sit back properly. The main direction of the back handspring is backward, not upward. This is somewhat counterintuitive, and you must learn how to sit back properly so your jump travels backward. Find a stack of mats that is just below hip height. Stand facing away from the mats with your heels about two feet away from them. From this position, sit back and jump backward onto the mats. You should try to travel as far across the mat as possible leading with your hands. During the sit, your torso and lower leg should remain vertical. You must bend at the hip and the knee so that your hips track well behind your knees, and your knees stay directly above, or just behind your feet.