There are few acrobatic skills as amazing as the backflip. Sure you have front flips, handsprings, aerials and many more, but there is just something about the backflip that puts it above all the other skills.
When I was a young boy I watched super heroes and ninjas on TV and movies. I was always awe struck by what they could do. One move that captured my imagination more than most was the back flip. I thought about just how cool it would be to easily pull off that move anywhere and any time. But it was just a wish at that point. I didn’t think it was actually possible. I wasn’t a gymnast. I wasn’t athletic. Hell, I couldn’t even do a pushup as I was a weak, scrawny and uncoordinated kid.
Fast forward about 10 years. I had gotten into strength training particularly bodyweight training. As I started to progress in this I knew I wanted to take it to higher levels so I joined an adult gymnastics class. Considering this class was full of ex-gymnasts I was quite out of my league but I was willing to work. It began with the most basic of moves like rolling, cartwheels and roundoffs but with time it became more complex and the skills got harder.
I began working on the backflip. For me it was a long hard road ahead. I couldn’t even go backwards on a trampoline for fear of hurting myself so I really had to go piece by piece.
But after a few months of work I had it down. I was effortlessly throwing back flips in class and soon outside. I had mastered a life long dream.
Just practicing the backflip outside at parks I’d frequently have kids, and even adults, exclaim how awesome it was and how they wish they could do it too. In this article I am going to share with you what it takes to pull off the backflip as well as how to work up to it.
Warning: It is not recommended to attempt any of this on your own. Performing backflips and other acrobatics is potentially injurious, even life threatening. Do not attempt without the proper facilities and under the supervision of a professional. If you really want to learn the backflip I recommend you enroll in a gymnastics class.
The Three Phases of How to do a Backflip
The backflip, also known as a back tuck, consists of three phases. The takeoff, the tuck, and the landing. And of course they are done in that order.
The takeoff is not just how high you jump, but more importantly, the trajectory you take. You do not need to be able to jump high in order to pull off this move. Yes, it can help, but if you do the rest right you won’t need much.
You want to take off at an angle that is just slightly behind straight up. Go forward and you are doing a gainer which is more difficult. Launch too far back and you are cutting your jump short, not giving you the space to complete the move.
In addition you want your hands and arms to be above your head at all times. In case, you botch the move they be there to protect you. Some people will tuck the arms back into the body as they near completion of the flip.
Once you jump at the correct angle and are fully extended, the next phase is to pull your legs in toward your chest to rotate over and complete the flipping action. All you do is pull as hard and fast using your abs to get the rotation. Do not think so much of leaning back (this tends to throw off your jumping angle if you do it early anyway). Just pull hard on the legs and you’ll flip.
The last part is landing the move. When you rotate you’ll be falling back toward the ground. At the right moment you stop your rotation and open back up. You land on your legs. If you do everything right you should end your backflip back in a standing position. If you do not pull off the best back flip you can still land hunched over or even with your hands on the ground in a frog position.
It is very helpful when you are practicing to get a video taken. This way you can see how you are jumping plus the rest of the move and what you need to do to improve. If you can’t do this, verbal cues from another person like, “Jump up more” can suffice.
Back Flip Videos
In the video below I’ll give you some extra pointers. This is actually not the best example of a backflip. The lesson here is even though my takeoff, tuck, and landing all are not perfect I can still pull it off.
You don’t need perfection, though you should strive for it, just good enough.
Here’s an updated video covering even more details on how to do backflip.
Of course you can take it even further once you have achieved the basic skill. Doing it onto raised platforms and going off of objects is one method. Adding weight is another. And here in this video is doing five backflips in a row.
Backflip layouts are another option though these generally take more height to pull it off. They can be done off objects as well as on a gymnastic floor after generating some extra momentum.
How to Spot a Backflip
Spotting a backflip is actually quite easy to do. You’ll want to have someone who has done this before if its the first time you’re going head over heels.
Step 1 – Stand to the side of the person doing the back flip.
Step 2 – Place one hand in the center of the lower back. This hand can even grab onto their shirt. The other hand is placed above the back of the knee joints on the underside of the thighs.
Step 3 – When the person jumps, the hand on the back is used to support while the hand on the legs is used to flip the person over.
Step 4 – The hands should only let go once the person is completely over.
My Step-By-Step Training to Achieve the Back Flip
I know that reading that is not going to help you complete the move. So here is my step-by-step plan in how I attained the backflip. Starting from ground zero.
1. Jump and fall back into raised padding. This gets you use to going backwards.
2. Do a backflip on a trampoline with a spot.
3. Do a backflip on a trampoline by yourself.
4. Do a backflip into a pad from a raised height (start at about 3 feet) with a spot.
5. Do a backflip into a pad from a raised height by yourself
6. Work down in height until you can do it without any extra height.
7. Do a backflip on the floor (no padded landing) with a spot
8. Do a backflip on the floor.
9. Take it outside, recommended to do it in the sand or grass. Start with a spot if needed.
If you work at it, you too can master the backflip. Do you want even more details. Check out my short and inexpensive book covering every detail I know about doing backflips.