8 Tips For Great Back Handsprings on Beam

Subject: Flic flacs on beam

I am working on my flic flac step-out on beam. I can do it, but my coach says my form is going to get bent leg deductions. I can do them, but when I do them, I think my legs are straight, but my coach tells me they are bent. I can’t tell at all when they are bent or straight. My coach also tells me that I split my legs way too late. I split when I am in the handstand and my coach wants me to split right after I jump. What can I do to fix it?


Back handsprings on beam are a major skill progression in a gymnasts life. They are the first flight skill gymnasts usually learn and are used for back tumbling flight series combinations throughout a gymnast’s career. So this is a skill you really need and want to get right, because you will be using this skill a lot during your career. (OK, OK, you really want to get every skill right, especially on beam).

1. “I can do them.”

This statement of yours seems to indicate, that while you are able to make some back handsprings on beam, you have not really mastered them. You have skipped some of the back handspring progressions that would allow you to have mastered them, not just be able to do them. Skills should be mastered before they are put on the beam. You shouldn’t be up on a high beam trying to figure out how to change and do the skill correctly. In general, it is a common coaching and learning error for gymnasts to be put up on the beam too soon before it has been mastered sufficiently.

2. Master All the Variations First

To be ready to get up on a beam, I teach all these variations on the floor and a foam floor beam first:

  • Two-foot back handspring
  • Two-foot back handspring (arms by ears throughout)
  • Back handspring step-out to lunge landing (feet together, step-out style)
  • Back handspring step-out to lunge landing (early split step-out style)
  • Back handspring step-out to lunge landing (arms by ears throughout)
  • High back handspring step-out (jump and do a back handspring as high as you can)
  • Back handspring step-out series timer (step-down with second foot close to first, chest up)
  • Two-foot back handspring, jump series timer
  • Back handspring step-out, jump series timer
  • 1-arm back handspring
  • Back handspring step-out series on floor
  • Low back handspring step-out, high back handspring step-out series (low to high FF series)
  • Two-foot back handspring, back handspring step-out series on floor

When you have mastered all of these styles of back handsprings, with correct form and style, it will be no problem for you to do them on the beam in whatever style you and your coach choose.

3. Most Common Problem

The most common problem in doing back handsprings on beam is that too many gymnasts concentrate on what their upper body is doing and not on jumping with their legs. Many gymnasts tend to throw their head and upper body back and DOWN into the beam, making themselves hit the beam way harder than they should. Gymnasts should be jumping up and over, not back and down.

4. Back Handsprings are a Leg Skill

Back handsprings can be done without throwing the arms and upper body at all. Gymnasts should learn to do this style of back handspring (start learning it on trampoline and/or tumble tramp first) so they know and understand that they need to jump back handsprings over, not throw them down. Throw up, not down. (OK, bad thing to say to a gymnast). There is nothing wrong with doing the traditional arm swing in back handsprings for timing as long as gymnasts are jumping sufficiently.

5. Over Jump Your Back Handsprings

When you are on beam, you want all of your landings to be light and under total control. Slamming onto your hands with your head only inches away is not a good thing. You do not want the weight of your body coming down toward your head at any speed, especially not really fast. When you are mastering back handsprings for beam on the floor and foam floor beam, you want to master landing at the correct landing angle.

6. Jump Past Vertical

You want to over jump your back handspring, so that when your hands actually touch the beam, the weight of your body is already coming off your hands, since your body weight has already passed vertical. So when you block off your hands (you know, handSPRING), you are blocking your chest up, not saving yourself from crashing or collapsing on your head. When you do this on beam, as opposed to throwing yourself down onto your hands, you will feel how light a landing you have on your hands. This is the real back handspring style we are going for on beam – a very light landing on the hands and the skill completely under control.

7. Strong Complete Jump = Straight Legs

When gymnasts throw their head and body over in a back handspring, their focus tends to be on the upper body and not on their legs, so the legs often bend. Not only does this not look good and get a deduction in competition, but when you are trying to jump over and your legs bend, your legs are going the wrong way in the skill and act like you just threw out an anchor. They slow the skill down and, again, you tend to land heavily on your hands. A strong jump done correctly extends the legs completely straight in the jump and pushes off pointed toes – the exact perfect form you want.

8. Step Down in Close (Long – Short)

A common back handspring error on beam and in regular tumbling is that gymnasts do not land their first landing leg in close to where their hands landed. Anything farther than 6 inches away is too far. Landing with the feet close to the hands enables gymnasts to bring their chests up easily out of the skill. This is especially important when doing back handspring series on floor or on the beam later on. Correct technique in a back handspring is that the jump from the feet to the hands should be long (up to almost a gymnast’s body length) and the distance from the hands to the landing of the feet should be short (6 inches or less ideally). For control purposes on beam, a full body length is probably too much, at least on one back handspring.

You Still Have to Do the Work – Now or Later

If this seems like a lot of extra work (and I bet it is compared to what you have probably done so far), you can be sure that to progress on in beam tumbling, you will need to do all this work at some point anyway. If you do it correctly now, you can avoid building in bad habits, which can take so much longer to break than it takes to learn it right in the first place. Do it right now! Go back and master back handsprings and you will find you can do them with the correct form, the way your coach wants you to do them and will be ready to learn a back handspring series much more quickly in the future.

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