What is a Handspring?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A handspring is a gymnastics move in which someone starts in a standing position, flips onto his or her hands, and then propels the body up, landing in a standing position again. Handsprings can be done backward or forwards, as part of gymnastics, cheering, dancing, or acrobatics routine. Talented athletes can perform multiple handsprings, creating a great deal of momentum along the way as they propel themselves down the mat.

Cheerleaders may perform handsprings in their routines.
Cheerleaders may perform handsprings in their routines.

Learning to perform a handspring does require some practice, and existing acrobatic skill. It helps to be reasonably limber, strong, and in shape, and most people prefer to practice on mats so that if they fall, they are not injured. To perform a front handspring, the athlete moves forward from a standing position into a handstand, allowing the body to pop up in a straight line, and then he or she uses the arms as springs to push the body back up, bringing the legs around to flip into a standing position. Back handsprings are performed backward, and usually require more practice because the athlete has to move blind, essentially falling backward into a handstand.

When learning this acrobatics technique, many people like to use a spotter, someone who keeps an eye on their form and movement to make sure that they are safe. Spotters can also help by catching acrobats if they appear to be in danger of falling. Coaches and instructors may act as spotters in the early learning stages, helping people to master the basics of the handspring so that they can practice safely and with confidence.

If you've ever watched gymnastics or cheering competitions, you've probably seen an assortment of handsprings on display, with some of the athletes almost appearing to fly as they gain momentum. Handsprings are often incorporated into floor routines, with athletes going through a series of acrobatics moves including front and back handsprings as they move down the mat.

If you're in the mood to do some handsprings and you lack access to a padded gym, you should practice outdoors on soft grass with lots of room. It will sting if you fall down, but not nearly as much as if you crash into something indoors. Use a spotter if you can, and resist the temptation to bend your legs during the handstand part of the handspring, as this will make you unstable, causing you to land on your bottom rather than your feet.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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