How to Do A Backflip Anywhere

Beach Backflip

PART OF BEING AWESOME is being able to do things most people can’t.  What’s more awesome than being able to do a backflip anywhere?  Not much.  Right now, you might be thinking: “No way can I ever do a backflip.  Not a chance.  Nope.”  You’re probably wrong. 

I’ve taught tons of people how to do a backflip (or “Standing Back Tuck” or “Back Tuck”)–people ranging from sedentary computer gamers to football linemen.  I’ve seen all kinds of people who can do one: huge Olympic powerlifters, tiny girls, “older” folks, skinny, wide–you name it.  If you have some free time, search around online for videos of people flipping.  You’ll be amazed.

Can anyone do one?  Nah, not every single person on earth.  But a lot more people are capable of doing one than they realize.  Here’s a checklist to figure out if you can or not:

  1. Can you jump straight up into the air at all?  Not even NBA-caliber leaping ability; I mean, can you jump, period?
  2. Are you in at least moderate shape?  If you’ve been losing weight and getting strong, this answer better be “yes.”
  3. Do you think doing one would be Awesome?

If you answered in the affirmative to these questions, odds are you can do one–probably more easily than you’d think.  If you answered any of those questions as “no”, then figure out what you need to do to make that answer turn into a “yes”.  Now let’s get started.

SAFETY

Obviously, learning a skill like a backflip carries a certain element of danger along with it.  I hope it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: landing on your head is no bueno.  That’s Spanish for “ouchie.”  But you shouldn’t be scared of doing one–just progress at a pace that’s comfortable to you, and before long you’ll be snagging pictures of you doing flips in cool places, like Chichen Itza,

Mexico '09 436

or a tropical beach,

Mexico '09 508

or even at a mountain lake next to trashcans capable of withstanding bear attacks.

4th of July '09 129

To learn safely, I recommend finding a qualified instructor near you who has a lot of experience training people on how to flip.  Check out your local gymnastics or cheerleading gyms, or martial arts studios.  Ask around, and let them know what your goals are.  You can probably find a program that will let you hop into an affordable basic class or private instruction.  And seriously, learning one doesn’t take that long–I’ve seen people go from zero to safely flipping in 30 minutes.

That being said, lots and lots of people teach themselves how to flip.  No matter whether you’re getting help or flying solo, here’s how to learn.

Basic Concepts

Things you need to know:

  1. All flips go UP.  People tend to think that because they’re doing a backflip, they need to go backwards.  Nope; if you want to flip your whole body over in the air, you need height more than anything else.  A standing back tuck should land in the same spot it begins.  Practice jumping straight up in the air as high as you can, stretching your body up.
  2. Arms up.  Head still.  It’s a natural instinct to throw your arms and head backwards when you’re trying to flip over.  Don’t do it.  As soon as you stat leaning your body backwards, you stop gaining the height you need.  For real; height is the most important thing here.  You should be reaching up, with your eyes focused somewhere in front of you.  Pick something to look at to ensure you’re not throwing your head backwards during the flip.  Keep your stomach tight to avoid arching your back and losing precious height.  Did I mention you’re trying to get as much height as possible?
  3. Your stomach makes you flip.  Your body will naturally begin to rotate backwards as you swing your arms up during your jump; contracting your stomach muscles and pulling your knees up to your chest will finish the rotation.
  4. Commit!  You absolutely have to fully commit when you start a standing back tuck.  If you go 100% and don’t quite make it, you’ll at least land on your hands and knees–no big deal.  If you bail out halfway, you’ll land on your head.  Repeat after me: “Landing on my head is bad.”  So jump up as high as you can, get your knees up, and stay in your tuck until you’re all the way over.
  5. Land strong.  Combining your height and rotation, landing a back tuck puts about the same amount of stress on your legs as jumping off of a five foot-high box.  Be prepared for this and don’t let your legs collapse.  Stand up with authority as you’re landing, with your legs squeezing together and your muscles tight.

How to Train

If you don’t have much of a background in awesome acrobatic maneuvers, there are a few quick and easy drills you can do to get your body comfortable with the concept of flipping and to train yourself the positions you’ll need.

  1. Get comfortable rolling.  Do forward rolls and backward rolls, down an incline mat or something similar if you need to, until your body is used to being upside down and you gain awareness of what your body is doing in space.  Make sure your rolling is going straight over, not off to the side at all.  Training handstands can also be good to get used to being upside down.
  2. Jump onto stuff.  Find a box, or high bed, or counter, or whatever that is at least a little higher than your hips.  Stand with your back against it, and jump up to a sitting position on top of it.  Keep your arms up and your spine straight.  Add height as you get comfortable.  From there you can roll backwards to a tuck position, making sure your knees are up towards your chest and that you can look down your shins and see your toes.
  3. Grab a bar.  Use a chinup bar that’s up about as high as you can jump straight up and grab.  Once you’ve grabbed it, pull your legs up into a tuck and roll your body backwards (keeping your head from going backwards).  If you want, you can roll all the way through and drop back down to your feet.  This is known as a “skin the cat” on playgrounds everywhere.  Remember to stand up tall as you land.
  4. Hit a tramp.  No, a trampoline, smarty.  Find a good facility and instructor that has a trampoline, and learn to flip there.  Please stay away from backyard trampolines; those things are dangerous.  Get comfortable flipping while bouncing, then start bouncing less and less until you are comfortable with a standing back tuck on a trampoline.  At this point, it’s probably time to do some standing back tucks on the ground.

Flippin’ For Real

You can learn to flip anywhere, but it’s smart to use a surface with a little bit of give, and to have a person qualified to spot you if something goes wrong.  Remember, you’re jumping up, keeping your head from throwing backwards, and using your abs to pull the rest of your body over.  Once you’ve done a few, you should be much more comfortable and should start making great progress.  Before you know it you’ll be flipping wherever you want, which is Awesome.

Video Tutorial

Here’s a quick video I made about flipping on a trampoline and on the ground.

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One Response to How to Do A Backflip Anywhere

  1. Pingback: Doing a Flip at 30+? | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

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