Coaching the Backflip

By Carl Paoli with Jason Khalipa

In Coaching, Gymnastics/Tumbling, Videos

December 19, 2010

Video Article

“It’s just amazing how CrossFit teaches you this foundation that you could develop into different sports, gymnastics included,” Jason Khalipa says.

Join the 2009 Games champion and coach Carl Paoli, a trainer at San Francisco CrossFit and owner of Naka Athletics, for another look at the backflip. In the video Jason Khalipa Learns the Backflip, Paoli coached Khalipa through his first backflip. Today, Paoli breaks down the movement into progressions:

1. Jump
2. Jump on box
3. Knees through elbows
4. Harness (or shoulder roll)

After the progressions, they discuss how to improve Khalipa’s backflip for power and efficiency. Paoli identifies the Olympic lifts as the most relevant to the backflip. More than “raw strength” lifts like the deadlift and back squat, Olympic lifts translate directly because they are more about speed generated by moving through a full range of motion.

The hollow-body position is crucial.

“I feel like I’m catching a big sandbag, and that’s really hard for me to control,” Paoli says when spotting an athlete without a well-developed hollow position. “Where this improves is during warm-up.”

Paoli continues with progressions on the mats for gyms without the specialized gymnastics equipment, and he demonstrates how to spot an athlete in each progression. Khalipa then uses Paoli’s instruction to coach his own athlete through the progressions.

26min 02sec

Additional reading: The Russian’s Gymnastics Warm-Up by Leo Soubbotine, published Nov. 21, 2009.

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12 Comments on “Coaching the Backflip ”


wrote …

Must be Sevan behind the camera. Laughed out loud at the end despite myself. Timing and delivery is everything. Great piece otherwise, too.


wrote …

Any profanity in this? My daughter wants to learn to backflip and would like to know before I watch this with her. Thanks in advance.


wrote …

This is all very entertaining stuff and Carl is a very knowledgeable coach but I think it should be stressed that learning flips of any sort can be extremely dangerous. Especially if you have enthusiasts who are inexperienced at spotting and start hucking athletes through back flips without spotting belts or adequate matting.

I hate to be a buzz kill but I coached competitive gymnastics and collegiate cheerleaders for over a decade and in that time witnessed numerous broken arms, dislocated elbows and patellas, fractured ankles and countless head crashes. All it takes is for an athlete to lose concentration and freak in mid air and go into sprawl mode. An inexperience spotter will more than likely get clocked by a flailing elbow and let the athlete land on their head.

Better to take your enthusiasm to a gymnastics gym like Carl's to learn that stuff from professionals who teach it for a living and have the tools to ensure you don't miss the AM wod.


wrote …

I agree with David. A back flip should be done in the right environment and under the right supervision. Don't be a knucklehead and try to go out and hurt yourself!
The purpose of these videos is to showcase a fun and exciting side of gymnastics and to really bring to the table how remarkable Crossfit's SKILL TRANSFER to sport, overall athleticism and daily living can be.


wrote …

Jason, complete the package. Buy a motorcycle. I have one for sale...
These videos make me want to backflip.
Carl, you should put together a Ninja Level 1 cert.


wrote …

The shoulder roll spot looks pretty safe to me. Thanks a lot Carl.


Daniel Schmieding wrote …


The shoulder roll spot has been home to some of the most disasterous scenes I've seen as a gymnastics coach! Imagine the flipper's arm slamming into the spotter's face, both go toppling down, with one athlete upside down.

That being said, I use it every week for my students!

I mirror the comments above; flipping can be quite dangerous. It's also a ton of fun. Learn it responsibly, with far more mats around thatn you think you need!


wrote …

Connely, I think there's one F word, but it's really fast and not really noticeable. Then, maybe the last 30 seconds isn't all the great for kids... but it was funny.


wrote …

Sevan, you ask some great questions. I like how you probe deeper to reveal the hard-won nuggets of knowledge that are hinted at by experienced coaches like Carl. Your questions about the hollow position and perfect pushup were really helpful and elicited some great information. Thank you.

And Jason, you have a great attitude. Keep smiling. You always look like you're having a great time. Yeah, and I agree that part of CF's reason for existence is to get better at sport. It's easy to get sucked into just getting better at CF and avoid doing anything else athletically, but I think the real reward of CF is in how much it helps you perform in other sports. Plus, I think some aspects of coordination can only be learned on the fast and chaotic environment outside the controlled parameters of a weightlifting or gymnastics movement.


replied to comment from Carl Paoli

Awesome job Carl... just saw you on the MWOD doing a muscle up today as well, one word "envy". Any sort of mobility drills for doing that back flip that you'd recommend?


This looks like a ton of fun...makes me want to learn the backflip. Need to find some good mats!


wrote …

I found this video really good, Carl is an awesome teacher and everything was explained in a manner that we all can understand. Gymnastics are not easy to start as an adult, but a lot of the "Mystique" around the beautiful moves starts to evaporate when they are broken down in such a fashion. After seeing this I am sure we all want to back flip, but I remember cutting my head a pool edge a long time ago, doing this without any coaching, so a good video for old die hards as myself...Thanks for the upload, recently passed my level 1 and really loved this video...

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