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Be sure to visit the blue links in each section.
They include more valuable tips, pictures, and videos that can help you
learn these skills. And don't forget to warm up and stretch out
before doing your drills.
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HandstandsDon't forget to use a trained spotter when learning this skill!
Good handstands increase your chances of having attractive higher level tumbling skills, so work hard to perfect these.
Tighten all the muscles in your body. A floppy body leads to a
sloppy handstand, and a sloppy handstand leads to sloppy tumbling, so squeeze your
arms, legs and bum tight and suck in that tummy. Don't forget to
point your toes! (In fact, curl them under a little bit.) A good
drill for testing out how tight you are can be found
"Glue" your arms to your ears and lock them out. Your ears should not show
behind or in front of your arms but be hidden by them. Your hands
should be very close together, with your fingers spread apart. You
can have someone test whether or not your arms are locked out by
putting their palms against yours and pushing down hard. If your
elbows bend you were not locked out, and had you been in a handstand
you probably would have been dumped on your head. Keep practicing
the lock out drill until you are sure you can stay locked out in the
Using your favored leg (right if you are a righty)
lunge forward, stretch into a
lever position (Your torso and hands are straight out ahead and
parallel to the floor and your back leg is straight out behind you,
also parallel to the floor.) and kick up to the handstand position. Beginners,
do this against a wall or incline mat to keep you from falling over onto your back
and to help encourage correct alignment. You can kick up and just
put your back against the wall. Alternatively, you can face away
from the wall, put your hands on the ground, and walk your feet up
and hands in until you hit the handstand position with your stomach
against the wall. But be careful if you do them this way, because
you can fall onto your back on the ground. Work with a spotter to
learn how to roll out of this inward-facing wall handstand. If you
are having trouble kicking all the
way up to the handstand position, your
hands and supporting foot may be too far away from each other. Try planting them
closer and see if that helps.
Stretch yourself as tall as you can, tightening your abdominal
muscles and squeezing your legs together.
Keep your shoulders open and don't forget to shrug your
them to your ears, and use your fingers to help you keep your
Step back down onto your supporting foot, the one you stepped off
of to get into the handstand, and return to the lunge position.
If you aren't ready to do a full handstand you can do
handstand kicks& taps. (At about 1:10 into the video) You
can also do some
exercises to help strengthen your upper body. If you feel almost
ready to give up the wall, but not quite ready to try free-standing
handstands in the middle of the floor try this: Plant your hands a
few inches away from the place where the floor and wall meet and
kick up to a handstand. You will have a slight arch because your
body isn't pressed up against the wall. Carefully bring your feet
away from the wall into a free-standing handstand,
as demonstrated here.
When you do handstands freestanding without the wall, make sure
your eyes are on your hands but that you are also able to see your toes if you look
upwards. This will tell you if your alignment is good. A head that
is tucked in too far will cause you to
roll out of the handstand (video), and a head that is thrown back will
force your back into an arch. You will not be able to check for your
toes in that position. If you are having trouble controlling your
core or finding the right alignment, try doing
handstand arch/hollow drills.
Don't arch your head back because it causes your back to arch,
which ruins the cartwheel. Your feet won't get up in the air high
enough and you might even go off course as you travel. If you try to
do a cartwheel of this type down a piece of tape, you will "fall
off" for sure.
If you are right handed, you will need to turn your body so that
your right side is facing the direction you want to go. Eventually
you will do cartwheels facing head on with your hands and feet all
travelling down the same line, but for now face right if you
are a righty. Lift your right leg up and have both hands high over
head, arms glued to your ears. The process will be right foot, right hand, left hand, left
foot. Don't even worry about getting up into the air, per se, just
get your body used to putting your hands and feet down in that
order. (Or left foot, left hand, right hand, right foot if you are a
lefty.) If your cartwheels are ending with your arm twisted
awkwardly under you or you keep getting mixed up on which
hand or foot to put down next, spend some time on the cartwheel mat to make
sure your hand placement is correct. If you can't afford a
cartwheel mat, just put tape down as follows: (The marks for
your hands should be shoulder-width apart)
Make sure you are keeping your body very tight and using a good
of lever Must sign in to see) as you go into the cartwheel. That means that as you
step forward on your first foot to go into the cartwheel, your torso
and hands are straight out ahead and parallel to the floor and your
back leg is straight out behind you. Basically, you look like
superman flying through the air but balancing on one leg. When you
place hand number one down your extended leg should be up in the air
overhead. Your body should be in a straight line from the hand on
the floor to the extended leg's toes. Later, as you place your foot
down to finish the cartwheel, everything from the beginning is
reversed. Again, the leg that is in the air should be in a straight
line from hand to foot. Keep those toes pointed as you go.
If your foot isn't getting very high in the
lever, work on your front
splits for flexibility and
arabesque lifts and kicks for strength to lift the leg. You can
also do drills where you practice lunging into your lever, as well
as the 1/4 turn action for doing cartwheels that
face head on instead of sideways like beginners do. That just means
you step forward to do your lunge and lever, but as your hands
approach the ground instead of planting them straight on as you
would in a handstand, you turn your torso slightly to the side so
that your hands will go down in succession instead of together,
which is what causes you to travel sideways in your cartwheel.
After a while try to get your legs up in that straddle, with
your legs, hips, and hands all in line. Doing
straddles while you
are in a handstand against the wall is a great drill for cleaning up
your cartwheel. If your straddle
isn't very open, work on center
splits to gain more flexibility.
If your cartwheels are ending in a squat, focus on keeping
your legs straight and pushing off hard with your second hand. A great drill is to
do a cartwheel over or off
stacked panel mat. That extra time before you hit the ground
gives you a chance to straighten your legs and land cleanly.
Alternatively, you can
do them up an incline mat, which not only gives you the extra
time to get that landing right, but is also a great drill for forcing you to work harder at pushing
off when entering the cartwheel.
If you enter the cartwheel correctly but find you are twisting
at the end and exiting it more like a front
walkover or handspring, you are probably twisting your legs
and arching your back on your way out of the straddle. Try tucking
your head in a little more and not kicking your feet up quite as
high. Warm up on the cartwheel pattern mat before throwing them on
the floor. This might remind your muscles of what to do during the
Having trouble with "fanning" and getting your legs all
the way up in the cartwheel so that you pass through the
handstand position? Try doing them through a
tunnel of mats. Having a very narrow amount of space to execute
the cartwheel forces you to get your legs up.
It may take
1000 cartwheels to get them as pretty as you want them to be, but
the only way to get them to be pretty is to practice over and over.
It takes time to teach your body what to do, when to do it, and how
to do it all in one try without hesitating at any point in the
skill, which is a major culprit of poorly executed cartwheels.
Variations of the cartwheel:
aerial cartwheel (Never try to teach yourself this on your own.)
Round-offsDon't forget to use a trained spotter when learning this skill!
Most people assume that a round-off is just a
cartwheel with the feet together, but that's not quite right.
The hands are different. In the round-off the first hand goes
down just like in a cartwheel, but the second hand goes down almost
perpendicular to the first, like this: Lefty: | -- going this way
-----> or <----- going that way -- | :Righty If you look at
them, the forefingers and thumbs of the two hands together should
make a triangle-shaped space between them, or the hands themselves
make a sideways T. (video
with hand position shown) A good drill is to practice the
1/4 turn action with your hands in the
You know to snap your legs together as they just pass the midway
(handstand) point of the round-off. If you snap together too soon,
you will lose momentum and have a very weak round-off
with almost no rebound. So think "1 o'clock" when you snap your legs
instead of "high noon." If you have a tumbler who can do a cartwheel
but who is not getting the round-off because she
can't get her legs together, have a spotter do
cartwheel "clicks" with her. She needs to enter the cartwheel with
round--off hands, and just past the top of the cartwheel the spotter
needs to catch the first leg and stop it, which causes the second
leg to click against the first one. You may need a second spotter
the first few times to make sure the stopping motion doesn't cause
the tumbler to crumple to the floor headfirst. (If she does, make
sure she's locking her arms out by her ears.)
If you are doing a round-off from standing, you need to have a good lunge
and reach into it. Make sure you have a strong
lever and keep your body tight through the entire skill.
For a running round-off make sure you have a good hurdle run into
the pass. (That's a one or two bent legged skip into the skill. You
can see it in slow motion 20 seconds into
this video.) Momentum helps get it over.
As you launch into the pass, keep your head in a bit. Heads
that are thrown back will put an arch in your back and wobble your
Many people also make the mistake
of piking or tucking their legs and letting their feet touch the
ground even as their hands are still on it. Push off hard with your
hands, keeping your body banana shaped or
"hollowed out" (video
of how to hollow out) with feet before your hips, before your feet hit
Snap down drills are good for working on speeding up
your turn over. Do a handstand on stacked mats and throw your feet
to the ground, pushing off hard with your hands. Also work on
round-offs over a mailbox type of mat to help force you to push
off and up.
Make sure you land with some give in your knees and your hands
overhead with your arms by your ears. Take a big rebound jump after
you finish the round-off. This is to train you for the day you add a
back handspring or back tuck to the round-off.