10 Basic Gymnastics Skills You Need to Know

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Just like with anything else, learning gymnastics is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. However, with diligence and a willingness to learn and master the basics, you can be on your way to becoming formidable in the sport.

This article will cover the 10 basic gymnastics skills you need to know as a gymnast. Did you know that something as simple as the forward roll is a basic gymnastics skill that you need to master because it builds on many other advanced skills? 

It also helps you learn how to recover as safely as possible if you fall during practice or a routine. 

Learn from the master: Simone Biles Teaches Gymnastics Fundamentals

(We get commision on this, learn more.)

Continue reading to discover other essential skills to aid you in reaching your personal goals. 

1. Forward Roll

You may have heard of the roly-poly, which is formally called the forward roll. The forward roll is one of the most basic and essential moves in gymnastics.

The number one thing to remember when performing this move is to keep your head tucked. Keep it tucked as if you were trying to press your chin on your chest. 

Executing this technique is critical for the safety of the neck. Ensuring that you have a tucked head and the legs are together are the two most essential steps to doing the forward roll correctly and safely.

Beginning in a standing position, crouch down, placing your hands on the mat shoulder-width apart. Afterward, tuck your head and lean forward onto your toes and lift your hips to begin rolling.

Next, roll onto your shoulders and upper back, follow through to the seated position. Your feet should remain close to your behind, enabling you to continue to roll forward. 

You’ll transition from sitting onto your feet to a rising and standing position with arms extended over your head.

Forward Roll Illustration. Source: www.gymnastics4hire.edu.au
How to Forward Roll Video Tutorial

2. Handstand

The handstand is perhaps the most significant skill and position to learn in gymnastics. Of all the basic gymnastics moves, handstands are at the top for all essential skills involved in each of the four events. 

Practice doing handstands at home by doing Spiderman against your wall. To perform this move against your wall, stand with your back against a wall in your home. Place your hands on the floor directly in front of you. Then, put your feet up, one at a time, onto the wall.

Next, walk your hands closer to the wall as you simultaneously walk your feet up the walls. Continue doing this until your stomach touches the wall and you’re firmly in a handstand position. 

As you’re in the handstand, focus on tightening up all your muscles. Picture pulling your feet up to the ceiling of your home. This move is an awesome practice tool to perfect your form because the wall braces your body, causing it to be completely straight.

3. Cast

The cast is a basic skill on the uneven bars specific to artistic gymnastics. While letting your knee touch the bar from a front hang pike,  slide your body upwards to a handstand position. 

Some gymnasts execute this move with the straddled leg technique. We call the body’s position/shape in this move, hollow.

Your back should be round and your stomach pulled in the direction of your spine.

The eventual goal is to cast into a handstand. That means the more height you achieve when you do the cast with a solid tight body, the better position you’ll be in to conquer this technique. 

Furthermore, make sure that your legs are straight and together. Your eyes should be focused on the bar.

How to do (cast gymnastics) video guide

4. Splits

Performing the splits is a result of great flexibility. Completing a split takes time to train so that you can become flexible enough to execute the splits. Moreover, flexibility is a great skill to hone in gymnastics because it’s essential to perform virtually every gymnastic skill perfectly.

The split is a physical position where your legs are in line with one another; however, they get extended in opposite directions from one another.

This positioning can be side to side or front to back. There are many stretching exercises that you can employ to achieve the ability to perform a split.

Splits are basic gymnastics moves that you have to do perfectly to do other techniques correctly. 

5. Handspring on Vault

Performing a front handspring on a vault is essential in the sport of gymnastics. This is mainly because many gymnasts have to do the skill starting from level 4 going on 

through level 8.

The first stage of the front handspring vault begins with the run. You must run fast enough to generate enough power to perform the front handspring correctly.

After running, you will approach the springboard. Then, you will hurdle and jump onto it. Be sure that your hurdle step is indeed a low step. 

You must be moving horizontally as opposed to traveling vertically. Be mindful that you will bounce from the springboard and be in the air before your hands touch the vault table.

Your body form and shape must be perfect as you are landing on the springboard. That ensures that your body rebounds quickly into the air as it travels to the vault table. 

Make sure that your legs are slightly bent, your bottom tucked under, and you’re squeezing the core muscles.

As you are in the handstand position, you will block shoulder and arm muscles off the vault table. This stage of the vault will happen very quickly. 

The goal is to hit the vault with a straight and solid body position and rebound immediately from the table. 

The post-flight phase takes place after you block off the table in the handstand position until your feet touch the ground. 

You will want your vault to have a lot of power. You can check this by landing a good distance from the vault table. For beginner gymnastics skills, this one can be tricky. 

6. Back Handspring

One of the biggest milestones that a gymnast can achieve is the back handspring. As progression occurs, you get better and better at performing this essential skill. 

It seems hard to learn at first, but when you get the hang of it, it opens up a world of opportunities for other basic and even more advanced skills. 

(Always be sure to have supervision when performing these skills) This is the best way to practice, to avoid any serious injuries:

You’ll start by using leg strength to push yourself up and off the floor. 

Next, you’ll use your arms to propel yourself off of the floor, and you want to be sure to keep your core engaged throughout these movements. 

Once you push yourself into the air, quickly pull your legs above your head. Your body will look like a rainbow in this position, tightly arched. 

As you’re in the air you’re going to slowly start coming down, and you’ll disengage from the tight arch to more of a high hollow position. 

Do your best to keep your legs together so that you land with your feet positioned directly beneath your hips. This is the finishing stance if you’re doing a standing back handspring. If you were going into a connection your feet would be slightly in front of your hips.

Back handsprings video tutorial

7. Roundoff

The roundoff is another crucial skill to master before you start trying to move up in levels. It improves your floor tumbling passes, and names your handsprings more pronounced. 

This technique names your jump higher by transforming horizontal speed into vertical speed. You also use roundoffs to create backward momentum (from forwarding momentum running) which leads to power and speed for moves like somersaults and flips. 

The roundoff is very similar to a cartwheel, with the exception that a gymnast will land with their two feet together when they hit the ground, as opposed to one at a time. They also face the direction that they arrived.

You can do this by turning the shoulders and hands as they touch the ground. If you put your hands down one at a time, with the first hand slightly twisted at a 90-degree angle and the other 180 degrees, you create the handstand position. 

It comes from the opposite direction that you started in, so when you snap your hips down abruptly, you force a backward momentum. 

Surprisingly, this is one of the beginner gymnastics moves that kids learn early playing around in the backyard, without even noticing.

Gymnastics roundoff video tutorial

8. Turn on One Foot 

A turn is a pretty simple skill that gets used across many artistic forms of movement from gymnastics to ballet, and other forms of dance. 

The gymnast rotates their body counterclockwise or clockwise with one foot, while the other leg gets extended in the proper position. 

There are a few variations to this move that make it more challenging to others. It’s best to start with the easiest turn that you can perform before adding in the more challenging nuances. This gradual progression helps to keep your form crisp and clean. 

Even though this seems like the easiest skill to master, it can ruin certain routines because the ball of the foot is the only thing keeping the body-centered. 

A slight wobble can cause a dangerous fall from the balance beam or cause point deductions if the turn is not executed perfectly. 

9. Split Leap

The split leap, not to get confused with the split jump, is an integral part of beam and floor routines. 

If you learn how to do a split jump beforehand, it will help you out when focusing on just the leaps. The split jump is what your body looks like once you’re in the air after a split leap. 

The difference between the two is that you do a split jump off of two feet at the same time, doing a split in the air. The split leap requires you to leap from one foot to do the split mid-air. 

It may sound funny, but you have to sort of leap into a split leap. So if you tend to take a few steps before you do your split leap, make sure your last step is low to the ground and elongated. 

This is your punching step, which gives you lower to leap high from the ground. Your goal is to push off from this step as hard as you can to get the space beneath you to land on your opposite foot. 

You must do the split position as you’re transitioning through the air before you land on your other foot. 

Remember that a gymnast has to keep the hips squared and the legs at least 180 degrees or a little more if possible. 

Gymnastics split leap video guide

10. Tap Swing on Bars

Known as one of the building blocks of basic gymnastics skills, the tap swing on bars is necessary at every level of gymnastics. Of course, you can make the tap swing more complicated as you move up, but you’re going to need it to move up in rank. 

The gymnast swings on the bars like normal, and at the back end of the swing, there’s a regrip. So, your hands temporarily come off of the bars before you grab them again. 

When you’re at the back of the bar, you have to keep your body in a hollowed position. Once you get beneath the bar, you’ll transition into an arched position, tapping your feet higher in front of the bar. 

So, your feet come forward to make your body hollow-looking again. This technique became beneficial to avoid going to the low bar when trying to do large swings. 

You can change your body’s position quickly and gain some extra speed to power your swing and dismounts.

Tap swings on bar video guide

Conclusion

Did you enjoy our list of 10 basic moves every gymnast needs to know? 

Hopefully, with the addition of the video aids, you’ll be well on your way to getting these skills down in no time. They truly are crucial to your growth and development as a gymnast, and they help you move to the more advanced moves that you’ll eventually need to master. 

If you found this article informative, please share it with family and friends! Anyone interested in learning a little more about the art of gymnastics might be able to pick up basic gymnastics moves from the list. 

And as always, please share your thoughts with us below! Is there anything we missed? 

We’d love to hear from you!

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