Subject: Cartwheels

Dear Coach,

Hi, I have been trying to do a cartwheel for more than three months now and I haven’t succeeded in doing so yet. I practice basically everyday and I still can’t do one. I keep in a straight line but then I can’t swing my legs over. I started taking gymnastics classes and my coach just told me to practice more and I did but I still can’t do one. Please help me, you are one of my last hopes! (I am thirteen by the way.)

As with every skill you want to learn, the first thing to do is make sure you are strong enough and flexible enough to do the skill. If you are not strong enough to hold yourself up in a strong handstand, then a cartwheel is going to be virtually impossible to learn.

Next, almost every skill can be broken down into parts. When you master all of the parts, then you will b able to do the skill.

First work on your handstand strength. Pick a number (depending on how dedicated you plan to be) and do that number of handstands every day – 25, 50 or 100 will make sure you make progress. You can do handstands against a wall, handstand step-downs, handstand pike-downs, straddle handstands, walking handstands, handstand hops, handstand pirouettes (walk in a circle), handstand forward rolls and any other handstand variations.

Cartwheel and every other tumbling skill need to be done in a straight line (hands and feet all go in a straight line). So if you practice on a line, you will learn to tumble straight.

This is one of the first skills where watching and seeing what you are doing is very important. You literally want to watch your hands go down and watch your first foot land, so you can see what you are doing.

There are many cartwheel variations, but you want to do a cartwheel like is done on beam where you start facing one direction and finish facing in the other direction. This is almost certainly the easiest to learn and most useful later on.

Many gymnasts when they first start to learn cartwheels do not reach out far enough with their hands when stretching into their cartwheel.

Here are some parts of the cartwheel, drills and progressions you can work on mastering which will speed your learning process.

  • Fast cartwheel into pit (hands on edge of pit, step-down into pit)
  • ½ a cartwheel to a handstand
  • ½ a cartwheel to a straddle handstand
  • ½ a cartwheel to a handstand, step-down
  • ½ a cartwheel to a handstand, pike-down
  • Slow Motion Cartwheel
  • Reach into straddle handstand, step-down
  • Cartwheel down wedge mat
  • Cartwheel off roll-fold mat

Make sure as you reach into the cartwheel you lunge (bend) your front leg so you can straighten and push strong with the leg into the cartwheel.

Good luck and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

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