For Coaches Teaching backhandsprings

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Hello everyone! My name is Nicole and I'm new to the Chalk Bucket. I joined mainly to get some opinions about how to teach backhandsprings. I was a level 10 gymnast years and years ago and I always learned them with a full arm swing -- up, down past your bottom, and back up again. But the assistant head coach corrected my coaching today while I was teaching a preteam girl a standing backhandspring. She told me that they will allow them to start with their arms straight out in front and they may not swing. They actually prefer them to start with their arms up by their ears and keep them up the whole time. I was just wondering if anyone else thought this was a good idea. I'm having a hard time understanding how the gymnast will get any momentum, particularly when they're just learning. Any opinions??


Welcome to the chalk bucket! I am a sort of new coach too, I have been coaching for a few months now but used to coach in high school.

I have heard both ways with backhandsprings.
Swinging the arms can teach bad habits and teach a gymnasts they need to throw their arms back to get them going, which isnt true. I noticed kids who swing their arms tend to bend their arms more, where as if they start with arms squeezing their ears their arms are much tighter and less likely to bend or collapse.

I like teaching them on a trampoline, tumble track, down a wedge mat, and then on the floor. This allows more power to be built up and proper form to be learned under easier conditions.

Oct 27, 2008
Colby, Kansas
We teach them the same way. Our reasoning is because when kids swing thier arms they generally throw their heads back first not their arms. This is super bad form. If they turtle their heads out really bad I make them start with their arms squeezing their heads so that they learn with good form. It is easier to teach them right the first time than to try and correct these mistakes later. This is just the method behind our maddness. Good luck!


Proud Parent
Jun 26, 2008
The coach that I have coached with and who is my dd's coach believes that it is better to teach starting with the arms up for the same reasons as stated above. She also says that it helps with the can't swing your arms between the RO and handspring, your arms have to already be up.;)


I prefer teaching with their arms up, as well, until they can do it nearly by themselves. This way they're thinking about the backhandspring (not the swing), they keep correct alignment, and they keep their arms in line and straight--some kids swing pretty wide. It also is less likely to screw up their backwalkovers.


Jul 5, 2007
It the situation you describe, I teach arms up.

For older girls who are just learning tumbling, that's not necessarily practical. However that case develops a lot more lead up and requires more drills on just the first part to jump back.

With smaller, relatively talented kids, I usually make them "hold" (not forever, just show it) the initial position (correct degree of leg bend, hollow through the upper body, head neutral, arms by the ears). Then I spot it back to HS and stop them in HS. Otherwise there seems to be a tendency to want to pull in the shoulders and pike. When they can hit a tight arch/open position through vertical, then I find it easier to put the whole thing together (work some snap downs simulataneously).


One more thing on arms swings...they can be dangerous for the coach too!

I took over a group from another coach she didnt have the best coaching skills and taught them to throw their arms and heads back.
The first kid I spotted swung her arms like there was no tomorrow and they were wide I took an arm to the nose and ended up with a bloody nose. That class learned quick not to swing their arms anymore! Too bad the other coach didnt learn how to teach!
Oct 12, 2008
As it seems this perspective has not been covered I will put in my 2 cents :). I teach standing BHS with an arm swing. It's much easier, both on me and the child, as it gives them a noticable amount of momentum. To keep kiddos from throwing their head back I tell them to watch their thumbs. As to being dangerous to the coaches, it is just a normal hazard of the job, I have been smacked many times and I am sure I will be many more times. Girls in a tumbling class or on pre-team who do that once usually learn really quickly to keep their arms in so they don't hit Mr.Eric, and that's something I don't mind doing.

I agree it's easier to teach correct form first, but a RO-BHS is nigh impossible to do without keeping the arms up by the ears. More than likely, with close coaching and supervision, the transition between a standing BHS and a RO-BHS should not be too difficult.

However, if that's how your head coach/owner wants BHS to be taught, you should teach it. If you wish to change a technique or style of BHS taught, you need to discuss it with the head coach first.
Either way that the BHS is taught can be good, as long as it is taught correctly. The head tumbling coach at the gym I work for wants it to be taught arms up, and that's how I teach it anyway. However, not everyone at the gym does. Another tumbling coach teaches it differently and incorrectly (although he has been spoken to) and that causes problems with the kids. Kids don't know who to believe when they hear different ways they "need" to do a skill. You also get the kids who say "Well Coach so-and-so makes me do them this way" etc.

The problem at my gym is that the other coach, as he says, "focuses on upper body in tumbling" which is not the big focus for most tumbling. Some girls were taught that your arm swing is the only thing that will get you all the way over to your hands in a BHS, and that is just wrong.

Sorry about the ranting, my two cents are... I like the arms to start up. The end.


Coach & Mom
Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Feb 5, 2006
I have always taught BHS with an arm swing, but work a lot on each part of the BHS including the proper position they should be when they sit where the arms should be. Once they are working the BHS consistently we usually work the no arm swing on Trampoline. I do not think one certain way works for every coach and every gymnast it is good to know how to teach both so you can adjust if one isn't working for your gymnast.
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