A back walkover is a skill that usually a gymnast learns twice, once on floor and once on beam. On both floor and beam it can be a scary skill, because it’s usually the first time a gymnast is doing a skill backwards.
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Before learning a back walkover on floor, you should know how to do a bridge kickover. The idea of the skill is very similar, but the mechanics are different.
Before attempting to learn a back walkover on beam, you should have mastered a back walkover on a line on the floor, and then on a low beam.
Muscles You Need for a Back Walkover
Core: Your stomach muscles do most of the work in a back walkover. Your stomach muscles help control your body on the way back to your hands, and they are what help pull your legs over your head.
Arms: You need to have strong enough arm muscles that they can hold you up while you are inverted.
Exercises You Can Do at Home
Handstand Holds: You can practice holding a handstand to strengthen your arms, for when they have to support you during your back walkover. If you can’t hold a handstand very long without support, you can practice them against a wall with a handstand homework mat. You can either do a handstand with your stomach facing the wall, or your stomach facing away from the wall. Make sure to squeeze your core, butt and legs.
Planks: Planks will help you develop the core muscles you need for a back walkover. Start by trying to hold them for 10 seconds at a time, working up to 60 seconds. 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 position, make sure to breathe!
V-Ups: V-ups are a harder core exercise, but are great for strengthening the muscles you need for a back walkover. The action of lifting your legs off the ground mimics the action of your leg coming off the ground in the beginning of a back walkover. To do a V-up, start lying flat on the floor with your arms over your head and your legs straight and squeezed together. Using your core, pull your legs up at the same time as you pull your upper-body off the floor, making sure to not arch your back. You want your hands to touch your feet. Lower both your upper-body and your legs back to the floor to complete the repetition.
Drills for Learning a Back Walkover
Before you attempt a back walkover, you should be able do a bridge kickover. Check out how to do a bridge kickover for more drill ideas.
Walk Your Hands Down the Wall to a Bridge: Stand between a foot and two feet from the wall, the distance depends how tall you are. Do a back bend by leaning back and walking your hands down the wall. You should end in a bridge with your hands on the floor.
Drills for Learning a Back Walkover on the Beam
Bridge on the Beam: Lie on your back and push up into a bridge on first a low beam, and then a high beam. You should be able to push up into a bridge on the beam before attempting a back walkover.
Handstand on the Beam: Doing a handstand on the beam and landing in a lunge is basically the second half of the back walkover. So you should be able to do a handstand on the beam perfectly before ever attempting a back walkover.
Back Walkover on a Line: Make a line with duct tape on a panel mat. You can practice doing a back walkover on that duct tape line. Make sure your hands are on the duct tape as well as your feet.
Back Walkover on the Low Beam: The next progression for learning a back walkover on the high beam is to be able to do one on the low beam. Make sure you have figured out how to get your hands together on the beam. Some people put their thumbs together in the center of the beam, and use the rest of their hands to grip the beam, while others put the edge of one hand between the thumb and index finger of the other hand.
Tools for Learning a Back Walkover
Here are some tools and equipment mentioned above for helping you learn a back walkover on both the floor and beam.
Low Beam: A low beam is important for learning how to do a back walkover on the high beam. It’s an important skill progression.
Handstand Homework Mat: A handstand homework mat is helpful for practicing handstands at home without having to do them against a hard wall. Since the middle of the back walkover is basically a handstand in a split position, it’s important to practice and have mastered handstands.
If you strengthen the muscles you need for a back walkover, and practice the drills listed above, I have confidence that you will soon learn how to do a back walkover. Once you have mastered a back walkover on floor, it just takes a couple of tweaks and lots more practice before you can learn a back walkover on beam.