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Biomechanics of the Back Handspring

First Back Handspring (BHS) observations (Pros vs. Newbies)

How to improve your BHS:

Jumping too high: The BHS is a trick that can be done consecutively (multiple times in quick succession), and in order to do that, the transition between each BHS has to be smooth and efficient. Often times when the landing is inefficient for a BHS it could mean that the landing is too hard, and the athlete lacks the ability to control the move, or the athlete lands the BHS too upright in order to reset for the next BHS. Drills to help athletes stay patient in a low squat, and falling backward before taking off into the BHS will help with this issue a lot.

Example: - Falling back-slams - Macacaos

Three stages of the Back Handspring The Take Off, The Flip, and The Landing

The Take Off: Sitting low before performing your jump into a “bridge”

  • From a standing position, you would squat back into your hips almost like you are trying to sit back onto a chair, this would make you “fall backward”

  • As you rock backward, you want to enter a bridge-like position with your entire body

  • To perform the “bridge” for the BHS: - Performing your hip thrust and squeezing your glutes, this is the main power generator for your take-off. - Then swing your arms in front of you, and up over your head, while arching your back as much as you can like in a bridge so that you get the maximum range needed to reach backward for the ground. - IMPORTANT NOTE: eyes should be following the hands, tilting the head back can help with the range of movement of the spine and arms.

  • Note that, you are not trying to gain a lot of height for the take-off, instead you are trying to travel slightly backward, hence you let yourself fall back before jumping.

Drills like the “Falling back slap” is important to build awareness and confidence of how far you should fall before pushing off into your bridge position.

The Flip: Hand positioning, core engagement, and toe drive:

  • Once your hands have successfully come in contact with the ground after take off, you will be in a back-arched position.

  • To carry your momentum over your head to complete the BHS, you will perform a toe drive, flexing at the hip, this will drive your hips even further backward to complete the rotation.

  • Then from the back arched position you want to transit into a rounded position (plate hold), by flexing at the trunk (crunching the stomach), this is to ensure a strong body position in order to land on your feet, recover quickly, and rebound off the ground for other tricks.

  • Landing in a back arch can injure your lower back, hence we do a drill to ensure the core is engaged after take off.

The Landing: Arm push-off, and core position:

  • When coming into contact with the ground, your arms should be always above your head, maintaining a straight line from your torso to your wrist, this is to ensure control in your shoulders.

  • While you drive your toes towards to ground for landing, your arms should be pushing off the ground, this is to help your upper body get upright quicker, increasing the rotation of the BHS.

  • In your plate hold position, you want to land the balls of your feet, and arms overhead/ in front of your face (depending on what trick you plan to do after)

How to Strengthen Your Back Handspring

  1. Reverse Plank Hip Extensions: Starting with your shoulders, lower back, hips, and thighs aligned, push your hips into the sky, working the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, all the muscles used in the BHS jump.

  2. Elevated lying leg raises: Lying on a box jump block with your legs hanging off the platform and arms above your head anchored to something or a partner, imitating the position you would be in after taking off your BHS, back hyperextended, and hips extended, you want to lift your leg up to about 45 degrees, at the same time lifting your lower back off the platform, working on your hip flexors and abdominal muscles, which are needed to pull yourself into the handstand position during the BHS.

  3. Handstand holds: To condition the shoulders and arms to maintain the weight of the body for the BHS, as well as because the shoulders are most vulnerable in the handstand position, it is vital to improve basic strength in the shoulders to avoid injuries. Shoulder push ups can also be done to strengthen the shoulders and arms.


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