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What Is a Back Handspring in Gymnastics? Learn How to Perform Simone Biles’s Back Handspring Drills

Written by MasterClass

Sep 6, 2019 • 4 min read

A well-rounded gymnast must be able to perform a wide array of athletic maneuvers, including lunges, cartwheels, somersaults, saltos, back tucks, and more. Among the most important gymnastics skills—one that is the foundation for many other maneuvers—is the back handspring.

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What Is a Back Handspring?

A back handspring is a gymnastics maneuver that involves flipping backward, with hands touching the ground midway through the maneuver.

To successfully perform a back handspring, a gymnast must have excellent upper body strength, precise handstand position and body position, and propulsive motion from the back leg, which allows the back of the body to lead the front. The back handspring is a staple of the floor exercise in gymnastics.

How to Perform a Back Handspring in 3 Steps

Performing a back handspring consists of three elements: a beginning, a middle, and an end.

  1. The beginning can start in a neutral standing position, but it’s typically part of a larger routine and may come out of a roundoff, whipback, salto element, or another back handspring.
  2. The middle part is the movement itself, which consists of a backflip in which the hands touch the ground.
  3. The end of the maneuver has the gymnast in an upright position with arms raised above the head (pressed against the ears).

In most cases, the back handspring provides gymnasts with backward and upward momentum, which serves to propel them into their next maneuver.

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Variations On the Back Handspring

The most common way to add variations to a back handspring is to combine it with other maneuvers coming directly before and directly after it. These include:

One standalone maneuver that is derived from a back handspring is the back handspring stepout, where the gymnast spreads their legs after jumping and then lands on one leg, followed by the other—as opposed to a standard back handspring where the legs stay together throughout.

A front handspring stepout is a similar variation on the core maneuver of a front handspring, which looks like a back handspring oriented in the opposite direction.

3 Important Back Handspring Terms to Know

When discussing a back handspring and its variations, it’s important to keep in mind three important terms:

  1. Block. This is the way you bounce or pop off of your hands after they touch down after a handspring, for example.
  2. Flic-Flac. This is another term for a handspring.
  3. Yurchenko. A vault (and vault family) that begins with a roundoff entry onto the springboard and is followed by a back handspring onto the vaulting table and a flip off the table. A twist may be added on the way off or between the springboard and the table. Learn more about the Yurchenko here.

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Simone Biles’s Back Handspring Drill

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Gold-winning Olympic gymnast Simone Biles teaches her training techniques—from beginner to advanced—so you can practice like a champion.

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Both elite and junior gymnasts master complex skills by drilling the same movements over and over again until they are committed to “muscle memory.” Simone Biles’s drills for the back handspring will help you improve your handspring skills. Be sure to use plenty of gymnastics mats to land safely.

  1. Position stacked panel mats parallel to one another—the number of mats you need will vary depending on the height of the gymnast. Make sure there’s enough space between the mats so you’ll be able to stand. Place another set of stacked panel mats at one end, connecting the parallel mats and creating a U-shape. Place a circular mat on top of the two parallel mats, like a bridge.
  2. Sit in chair pose with your back to the circular mat.
  3. Jump up and back, emphasizing turning over your hips.
  4. Place your hands down on the other side of the mat.
  5. Pike your legs down with straight knees. Bring your hands up to finish.

Simone Biles’s Back Handspring Wedge Mat Drill

This exercise will help you with the first part of a back handspring. Be sure to use a spot when trying this drill for the first time.

  1. With your back facing the wedge, sit into your normal chair position.
  2. Jump up and back, turning your hips over. Instead of completing the back handspring, pause once your hands touch the ground and your hips are extended.
  3. Roll out.

Simone Biles’s Back Handspring Eight-Inch Mat Drill

Use an eight-inch mat for this one instead of the wedge.

  1. Place an eight-inch mat on the floor.
  2. Stand on the mat, and sit in chair pose.
  3. Jump up and back, turning over your hips.
  4. Pass through the handstand. Extend through your shoulders.
  5. Land in a tight, hollow-body position.

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Editors Pick

Whether you’re just starting out on the floor or dreaming big about going professional, gymnastics is as challenging as it is rewarding. At 22, Simone Biles is already a gymnastics legend. With 14 medals, including 10 gold, Simone is the most decorated World Championship American gymnast of all time. In her MasterClass on gymnastics fundamentals, Simone breaks down her techniques for the vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. Learn how to perform under pressure, practice like a champion, and claim your competitive edge.

Want to become a better athlete? From training regimens to mental preparedness, learn everything you need to enhance your athletic abilities with the MasterClass All-Access Pass. Gain exclusive access to video lessons taught by world champions, including Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, World No. 1-ranking tennis player Serena Williams, and six-time NBA All-Star Stephen Curry.

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