Learning how to do a front handspring is important, since you can do one on vault, floor and even on beam. However, a front handspring has many different variations which makes it a tricky skill to master. The mechanics of a front handspring will change slightly if you are doing a front handspring step-out, a front handspring to two feet, a front handspring step-out that you are connecting to another skill, or a front handspring to two feet that you are connecting to another skill.
For example, if you are doing a front handspring step-out that you are connecting to another skill, you will want to land your front handspring with your first leg slightly behind you, and your front leg bent in a lunge position to immediately kick up into the next skill. If you are doing a front handspring to two feet you will want to land with your legs slightly in front of you so that you can rebound upwards.
Before you start learning a front handspring, you should have mastered a regular handstand, and be able to hold one in a tight body position.
To do a front handspring you should start from a hurdle. Then drive your arms and upper body down to the floor in order to block quickly through your shoulders. At the same time your heels should be driving over your head, so that you can land on your feet. Throughout the front handspring your eyes should be on your hands and your arms squeezed next to your head.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion
Newton’s third law of motion is an important physics concept that you should know in order to understand the mechanics behind a front handspring. His law says that when one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object simultaneously exerts an equal and opposite force onto the first object. The reason that this is important in a front handspring is because you need to exert a force onto the floor with your body, in order to block off the floor to propel you forwards.
Muscles You need for a Front Handspring
Arms: You need strong arms and shoulders in order to push, or block off the floor in your front handspring.
Legs: You need strong leg muscles to push hard off the ground and drive your heels in the beginning of the front handspring, in order to give your body forwards momentum.
Core: You need strong core muscles to pull your legs over your head and to hold your body tight throughout.
Exercises You Can Do at Home
Handstand Hold: Handstand holds are a great exercise for strengthening your arms and shoulder muscles. It’s a vertical pushing exercise, which is what you will be doing in the middle of your front handspring as you push off the ground to land on your feet. You can practice holding a handstand against the wall, or with a handstand homework mat. Start with trying to hold your handstand for 10 seconds, and slowly increase until you can hold one for a minute.
Lunges: When you hurdle into your front handspring, you will be doing a similar motion to a lunge. So lunges are a great exercise to strengthen your leg muscles and improve your front handspring. To do a lunge, stand with your legs together and your hands on your hips (or if you are using weights with your arms beside you). Your back should be straight and you should be looking in front of you. Step one foot forward and bend both legs until your back leg is almost touching the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Make sure your front knee is above your ankle, and that your back knee doesn’t touch the floor. Stand up and repeat with the other leg.
Hip Lift: Hip lifts strengthen your glutes which you need to push off the ground for your front handspring. You also use these muscles to control your landing in your front handspring. To do hip lifts lay on your back with your knees bent, your arms at your side and your feet on the ground. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, hold for a second and then lower your hips back to the floor to finish the repetition. Make sure you are keeping your back flat and squeezing your butt.
Planks: Planks are a great exercise for strengthening your core muscles. You need strong stomach muscles to hold your body tight during your front handspring. You can do a plank exercise from either your wrists or your elbows. When you are in the plank position you want to be squeezing your legs, butt and core. Your shoulders should be over your elbows, and your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet. As you are squeezing all your muscles and maintaining a straight-body positions, make sure to breathe!
Front Handspring Drills
Hurdles: You can practice hurdles like in the video, or at home in your background. In the video the gymnast hurdles onto a wedge mat against the wall. In your backyard you can practice hurdles by taking a few steps (step-step-hurdle) and hurdling into another skill, like a dive cartwheel.
Handstand Fall to High Bridge: In the handstand fall to high bridge you are practicing the beginning motion of a front handspring. You will do a handstand and then with control fall into a bridge with your legs landing on top of a block.
Front Handspring Over Barrel: One drill for learning a front handspring is to do it over a barrel. You can either do a front handspring step-out, or a front handspring landing with two feet. If you are doing a front handspring step-out you might want to do a cartwheel out of it, to practice connecting it to another skill. To do this drill, mark your steps first. So then you can run, hurdle and front handspring over the barrel. You will want to have your coach spot you at first.
Front Handspring Off of Folded Panel Mat: Once you can do a front handspring over a barrel, you can move onto doing front handsprings off of a folded panel mat. Make sure your coach spots you for this drill until you can do it by yourself. For this drill you can either practice front handsprings to two feet, or front handspring step-outs. If you are practicing step-outs you might want to follow it with a cartwheel, to practice connecting it to other skills.
Front Handsprings on Tumble Track with Bands: Another drill for making sure you are learning your front handsprings with your legs and arms squeezed together is to do front handsprings on tumble track with exercise bands. You can see the drill in the video above.
Tools for Learning a Front Handspring
Panel Mat: You can use a panel mat to practice front handsprings at home, or to do front handsprings off of when it is folded up.
Exercise Bands: You can use exercise bands to do the drill in the video above, where you do front handsprings on a tumble track with a band around your arms or legs.
Barrel: A barrel is great for doing front handsprings over, when you are first learning.
Light Weights: You can use light weights as resistance during lunges.
The drills and exercises above should help you learn how to do a front handspring. A front handspring is an important skill since it’s done on three of the four events. Taking time now to learn how to modify your front handspring and connect skills to your front handspring will pay off as you progress as a gymnast.