Gymnastics - Cue for Keeping the Head Level in the Back Handspring

Gymnastics - Cue for Keeping the Head
Level in the Back Handspring

Dick Moss

A common error when performing the back handspring is to toss the head backwards. The reason this error is so common is that it's a natural response to a blind entry, in which you can't see where your hands will land until just before they make contact.

That's a frightening prospect and as a result, beginners tend to toss their head backwards in an attempt to see where they are going and to generate backward momentum.

Why the Backward Head Toss is an Error
However, tossing the head backwards places the body in a weak, unsafe posture that's imbalanced once the hands contact the floor. This posture is also unaesthetic.

In fact, the ideal head position is neutral, with the chin level. The chin should be neither tucked in excessively, or lifted upwards. This neutral head position applies from the backward leg push all the way throughout the technique to the final landing.

Coaching Cue for Ideal Head Position
Here's a coaching cue that will help you keep the head level during the back handspring: keep the arms against the ears.

You can get a feeling for this position while sitting in your chair. Lift your arms overhead, and with the thumbs almost touching, shift the head from side to side. If you can feel your ears touch your upper arms, your head is in the correct neutral position.

Initial Practice Tips
When first practicing the back handspring - which should be with a partner--avoid using the arm swing that normally precedes the handspring. Instead, start with the correct hands up, neutral head position.

Once the proper head position is established, you can start using the armswing to produce momentum.


1. Gerald S. George PhD, Championship Gymnastics: Biomechanical Techniques for Shaping Winners,
Designs for Wellness Press, 2014.

2. Coach Wayne. "Back-Handspring--Keeping the Head Neutral." Coach Wayne Website.


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