Back Handspring Progress

In Bodyweight Mastery by admin8 Comments

The back handspring is one of the staple moves of gymnastics. It is a great move in and of itself, but its also used as a move to set up, and gain momentum for even bigger moves.

It is also one of the tougher of the basic tumbling moves. In my opinion it is harder to do then a back tuck. While accomplishing it is not too difficult, get it to work smoothly and correctly is a bit harder.

And, as it is back tumbling, its not something most people can jump into. While many people could easily work up to a front handspring with a little practice, going backwards over your head can be much trickier, mentally.

The basics of the move is to jump up and back. You need to hit the right amount of both or else you can miss your hands entirely (jumping too high) or not give yourself enough room (jumping not high enough).

When you jump your arms are thrown overhead, preferably locked out and in line with the ears. For those less flexible the arms aren’t always kept straight or in line. While the move can be accomplished this way you won’t have as much speed and momentum useful for going into any other move.

You transition through a sort of handstand position (obviously not pausing at all) and then come to your feet, preferably in an upright position. You want to avoid being bent over or in a squat.

You’ll notice I mentioned ‘preferably’ several times. This is the difference in doing the move and doing it well. When you’re starting out its great to just get through the move, but as you progress you tighten up your form, making the move not only better but easier to do.

I’ve been doing the back handsprings for awhile. Always working on improving my form, but my primary goal has been to string these moves together. My weakness thus far has been in doing just that, going from one move to another seamlessly.

For a couple weeks I’ve been practicing doing roundoff back handsprings as well as double back handsprings all on the mats.

I’m happy to report as of last week I’ve been able to do these on the floor. You’ll notice many of the points discussed above are not shown here. 🙂 Not perfect but a big step in the right direction.

There are some who say if you can’t do something perfectly don’t do it. I say first accomplish the move. Then work on making it better. Yes, you can set in bad habits, but if you constantly work towards improvement these won’t stay a problem.

Good Luck and Good Tumbling,
Logan Christopher

P.S. For tons of tumbling fun be sure to get a copy of Tumbling Illustrated.


  1. Good job. Thanks for posting that. They are tricky aren’t they. I’m all over the place with mine too. I’d love to hear some feedback about how to improve it. I don’t think it’s as simple as locking the elbows. I agree with your idea of practicing it even if it’s crap, there is that idea that practice makes permanent but if you don’t practice then you are going nowhere aren’t you. I guess ideally you practice with a spotter for some sets to help you get more relaxed and more technically correct but you still need to practice on your own to get comfortable with just doing it and to be able to see that it isn’t quite right yet. From the video I can see that your arms need to stay near your ears more instead of your chest coming so far through but I tend to do the same and just knowing how it should be doesn’t always convert to getting it. What I think about just going for it over and over again is that at least you are building strength and sometimes the crappier it is the more effort it takes so the stronger you get. I’ve got a growing theory that at least for me it’s about the timing of the jump with everything else, arms and extension and every now and then I seem to crack it but come back the next day and it’s gone again.

    Keep it up, Pip.

    1. @Pip: I guess I didn’t really mention this idea. While in the video I do a roundoff back handspring and triple back handspring those moves are new to me. Thus, they are a lot sloppier than if I focus on a single back handspring.

      I can do a single BHS much better than any of the moves shown in the video. But with the other moves I’m more focused on accomplishing the goal then getting it right. Also going back and doing them on a padded mat can help out my form too.

      In order to improve its good to work easier and harder versions of the skill.

  2. Lots of problems are solved in the beginning.

    Sit back like you are going to plop down into a chair. In the vid it looks like you are more balanced like a squat. Sitting back starts your momentum going backward. Drill- stand back to a wall and a distance approximating your thigh length away from said wall. Sit/fall back as you were going to as described above for BHS. Allow your hips and flat back hit the wall at the same time. You will try to replicate that feeling of falling back when you initiate your BHS.

    note: arms swing straight, the best practice is to go no lower than horizontal b/c 1. it sets up fast recovery to prep for the next BHS. 2. Power and backward momentum is created by the sit-fall- jump. less so by the arm swing.

    Once you feel yourself falling back jump (feels like) straight up but, will be a the right angle as long as you don’t try to correct the sit/fall into a squat. Drill- strong partner hands on your base of neck and hips go through sit-fall-jump(half power). As you jump your partner supports you at the mentioned points and allows you to swing back down. This should let you feel your rhythm and check your positioning. note when you jump focus on a long extended position, stretching out making your self as tall as possible. Drill2- Sitback-fall-jump “tall” into a big fat crash pad (the 2-3′ thick ones that are super cushy) Timing should be fairly natural and then focus on the feeling of the fall, then the tall stretched out feeling. So jump tall= arms straight reaching up as far as you can, legs together, knee extended, and of course pointy toes. Like you are trying to jump to reach something high as you can (e.g. basketball rim or vertical leap test.)

    optional drill kick to handstand then snap your feet down punching your feet into that lovely gymnastics floor. So kick up- handstand- arch as you tip back towards your feet(in effect like the way a catapault stores energy then releases it)-snap feet down. Essentially you will find yourself in or short transitioning into your BHS start position. (note your arms will be going from in front of you to overhead)

    That hop at the end is usually what people do to practice the spring/punch in setting up for learning a move to follow. It is not necessarily how you finish a BHS. I see people jumping at the end of a BHS having seen gymnasts do it not knowing the purpose. The reason why I say spring/punch is that the move basically uses the elastic nature of tendons(I’m mostly sure about this part) and the springy floor for almost instantaneous energy return to explode into the next move.

    If it helps Mas Watenabe would describe the flow of momentum/energy/center of mass(gravity) to be like a slinky. Conserving momentum using it to flow from skill to skill.

    You probably have good help at the gym but, just incase these are things you can try.

    good luck! I’m jealous. I haven’t tumbled in years.

  3. Hi Logan,

    I love your blog. My coach is getting me to work a lot more on my handstands at the moment so I can do piroutettes at the top of my bar routine. Your website has really cool ideas on handstands and I cannot wait to do one handed handstands.

    Your videos are great and I loved the Indian Pole Gymnastics. It is something I had never heard of before. I can do Round Off, Back Handspring and Layouts but signgle Back Handsprings still scare me for some silly reason.

    Thanks for all the incredible writing and research you do,

    Lots of love,


  4. Thanks Dave, I feel like your comments have helped me to improve my BHS.

    I know what you mean Logan, the skill shouldn’t change too much just because you are doing three in a row but it’s the old confidence thing and I’m still not quite ready to go for more than one without a spotter. Hope you are still having fun with it.


  5. Hey man, I really dig all the info you’re always sending out. I’ve only made 1 purchase from your site (Dennis Rogers DVD series when they were on closeout special), but largely because my training is highly focused on advanced calisthenics; ring skills and, to a lesser extent, hand balancing skills. I already have plenty of great information from other sources regarding those modalities, but I enjoy watching the video lecture segments that you and Bud Jeffries post. I like getting info on other kinds of training, if for no other reason than to just have that knowledge, and as you know like 99% of the info out there is very common, mainstream, and unexciting – standard weight lifting exercises, basic bodyweight progressions, etc. It’s great that you guys are making such a huge amount of phenomenal, yet pretty much totally unknown, training info available, since a lot of it would otherwise be basically impossible to find…perhaps if I ventured into the wilderness I could find a mountain man or martial arts master with similar knowledge, haha.

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