6 Backward Roll Variations (step by step guide)

A backward roll is one of the basic floor skills in gymnastics. Most gymnasts will start with a tucked shape backward roll but after that has been mastered there are plenty of other ways to perform a backward roll.

Here are my favorite 6 variations with a step-by-step guide on how to perform them.

Let’s get into this!

Tucked Backward Roll

Table of Contents

DisclaimerGymnastics carries an inherent level of risk. Information contained in this article does not replace the need for professional coaching in a recognized gymnastics facility.

Backward Roll to Handstand

Backward Roll to Handstand is also known as Back Extension Roll and as the names suggest, involves the gymnast hitting the Handstand shape halfway through the roll.

An advanced gymnast will be able to hold the Handstand shape, whilst younger ones may pass through the Handstand shape without actually stopping in the Handstand.

  1. The starting position is standing straight with the arms above the head, however the hands should be turned with the palms faced upwards. Some gymnasts interlock their fingers, others will just place their hands so they slightly overlap each other.
  2. As the Backward Roll starts to move backwards the arms should stay straight so that the whole arm contacts with the floor. The hands shoould also make contact with the floor, but as they are turned upwards it will be the side of the hands and the little fingers that first contact the floor.
  3. With the arms staying straight throughout, the gymnast then turns their hands out as they contact the floor and the body is updside down. This is the handstand phase of the roll.
  4. As with any other Handstand, the legs should be straight, toes pointed and head stays neutral in between the arms.
  5. Finish the handstand by stepping backwards one foot before the other.

Timing is key to mastering this skill. If you try and press into the Handstand too early, the back tends to over arch and kill the rotation but if you press too late, you miss the point at which you can hold a handstand in balance.

Backward Roll to Press Up Position

This version of the Backward Roll requires a good amount of upper body and core strength. The press-up position is also known as the Front Support position.

  1. Start in a standing position. Some gymnasts will crouch down into tuck next wheras others will keep the legs straight as they pike down. The advantage of keeping the legs straight at the start is that the finish position is also legs straight. It looks more aesthetically pleasing as well.
  2. Arms can either be bent so the hands are next to the shoulders or they can be kept straight as in a backwards roll to handstand.
  3. As the body rolls over it will extend (no need to hit handstand) and finish with straight arms and straight legs in the press-up position.

Backward Straddle Roll

The Backward Straddle Roll can be slightly easier for beginner gymnasts as the explosive separation of the feet is a good timer for pushing through the arms and hands on the floor.

  1. The starting position is usually in standing stretched but you could also start in piked standing or even start in straddle stand.
  2. The most aesthetically pleasing technique is to keep the legs straight on the entry into the roll but a gymnast could bend and crouch down as they start to roll.
  3. As the hands contact the floor, legs and feet seperate into a straddle shape.
  4. Land in a standing straddle shape. Encourage the gymnast to show control by pausing with the back flat before standing up straight.

Backward Roll to Pike Stand

The Backward Roll to Pike Stand is a popular drill for young tumblers as it emphasizes the need to keep the shoulders and chest low and the back rounded as the feet contact the floor.

  1. Start position is standing stretched but I also like gymnasts to start in standing pike.
  2. As the gymnast starts to roll back it is tempting for them to put their hands behind their legs to cushion the impact but try to avoid this as it can cause loss of pike shape during the roll.
  3. Keep the legs straight throughout.
  4. Finish in standing pike with eyes looking down.

Shoulder Roll

The back shoulder roll is common in Rhythmic Gymnastics but is used less often in other disciplines.

All of the other starting and finish positions from other variations can be used however the shoulder roll only goes over one shoulder rather than two.

It looks pleasing when Rhythmic gymnasts use it in their choreography as it can link other skills and catches and creates a nice flow to the routines. However, in any other type of floor routine, it would usually be penalized!

Backward Roll on Beam

The Backward Roll on the beam is similar to the shoulder roll used in Rhythmic Gymnastics as it is not performed perfectly straight. It’s a pretty awkward skill and will take a while to master.

  1. Start in a sitting position on the beam.
  2. Lay back wih knees bent and arms reaching back over your head.
  3. Grab the underneath of the beam with both hands and put your head to one side of the beam.
  4. Bring your knees over your head.
  5. Land one leg on the beam and the other along the side of the beam.

Key points in a backward roll

For all variations of the Backward Roll there are some key points that should always be remembered:

  • Use an incline (cheese) mat when first starting to backward roll.
  • Keep the chin tucked down to prevent injury
  • Push and press through the hands as they contact the floor. This will also prevent injury and help increase momentum to completely turn over.
  • Use feet and legs to create a jump or push from the floor and increase momentum
  • Point your toes!
  • Once a gymnast can perform a backward roll down an incline, they are ready to try it on a flat, panel mat.

A Backward Roll is considered a basic gymnastics move but it can still cause injury if performed with bad technique. Professional coaching is always safer and more effective than self-taught gymnastics.

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