There are many key elements to make a back handspring successful: stretched shoulders, fast feet over, open-to-closed hips, a neutral head position — and the list goes on. There is no silver-bullet solution on how to achieve a back handspring. All of these elements are necessary to accomplish the skill, but through my experience as a tumble instructor, I believe there’s one element tumblers struggle with the most: the jump.
I was taught to teach tumbling with progressions, which is having a tumbler perfect simpler versions of a more advanced skill. For example, an instructor will teach the backward roll and the handstand as two separate components before teaching a back extension roll. The jump — which is pushing through the toes and bending-to-straightening knees to remove feet quickly and evenly off the ground — is a critical progression step from the back walkover to the back handspring.
The back walkover is a slow shift of body weight from the feet to shoulders/hands in a hip-over-head flip. This shift is achieved through a rocking motion performed in the middle of the skill, known as the backbend or arch. The back handspring requires a fast transfer of body weight from feet to shoulders/hands through jumping, properly positioning the feet and hips in line with the upper body to easily whip over for the landing.
The jump is vital to mastering the correct technique in a back handspring. For instance, the jump gives the arms ample time to get the shoulders stretched above the head before the body impacts the floor in an arch. The jump also forces the body to elongate then tighten before hitting the inverted position, resulting in a decrease of longstanding, serious injuries on the back and wrists.
I have observed many tumblers learning the back handspring achieve the skill much quicker when the importance of the jump is stressed with the other elements mentioned in the beginning of this blog — everything just clicks!