What Is A Round Off In Gymnastics? (guide)

Gymnastics involves acrobatic skills, flips, twists, and somersaults, all performed with precision and artistry. Among the various tumbling skills used in gymnastics, the round off holds a significant place. In this article, we will delve into the details of what a round off in gymnastics is, its execution and its importance.

Table of Contents


Gymnastics has evolved over centuries, combining elements of acrobatics and tumbling. Exactly when or where the round off was first used is impossible to say but it’s definitely among one of the oldest gymnastics tricks known. It would have been common for medieval court jesters to tumble and round off hundreds of years ago long before gymnastics became an organized sport.

Understanding Tumbling in Gymnastics

Before diving into the intricacies of a round off, let’s first familiarize ourselves with some basic gymnastics terminology. Gymnasts often perform movements such as flips, handsprings, twists, and somersaults. When they are linked together this is known as Tumbling.

Tumbling is part of multiple gymnastics disciplines including artistic, acrobatic and rhythmic.

Power Tumbling is also a gymnastics discipline in itself and uses a 25-meter tumble track to perform up to eight skills linked together.

A Round Off is an essential skill when it comes to tumbling no matter which discipline is being trained.

What is a Round Off in Gymnastics?

A round off is a foundational tumbling skill in gymnastics that involves a combination of forward and backward movements. It serves as a precursor to more advanced skills and is often used to set for skills like back handsprings or back somersaults.

It is one of the few moves that involves both a forward and backward movement.

Many people describe it as a cartwheel-like action but with the feet landing together. This is actually incorrect as a cartwheel is a sideways movement and doesn’t create the same power that a Round off can.

A Round Off is more like a Front Handspring action but with a half turn of the shoulders and hands before they place on the floor. Some coaches teach a Cartwheel quarter turn-in as part of the progression for Round Off as it helps gymnasts learn the correct hand placing for Round Off.

Technique and Execution of a Round Off

Although a round off is not a dangerous skill it is essential to learn great technique otherwise it will prevent a gymnast from developing more advanced backward tumbling passes.

The Basic Steps

To perform a round off effectively, gymnasts follow a step-by-step process:

  1. Entry: The gymnast usually begins with a short sprint, gaining momentum before executing a hurdle step.
  2. Hand Placement: The gymnast reaches forwards and toward the floor starting a half turn at the same time as placing their hands.
  3. Handstand: The gymnast should pass through the handstand shape as they turn over. They then snap the feet down keeping them extended.
  4. Landing: The round off should create a rebound or ‘bounce’ as the feet hit the floor.

Proper Body Positioning

Maintaining the correct body position throughout the round off is crucial for successful execution. The gymnast should strive for the following:

  • Straight Arms: The arms should be extended throughout the skill, providing stability and control.
  • Tight Core: Engaging the core muscles helps maintain body control and allows for better balance.
  • Open Hips: The hips should be open during takeoff and landing, promoting proper alignment and reducing the risk of injury.

Full Round Off Tutorial

Mechanics and Key Movements

The mechanics of a round off involve a combination of rotation and power. Key movements to focus on include:

  • Shoulder Turn: As the gymnast takes off, they initiate a quick turn of the shoulders in the direction of the round off. This rotation helps generate momentum and sets the stage for a smooth transition.
  • Leg Drive: The gymnast pushes off the ground forcefully with the takeoff leg, propelling themselves into the aerial phase. This leg drive contributes to the power and height of the skill.
  • Arm Swing: A coordinated swing of the arms helps maintain balance and aids in the rotation. The arms should swing upward and forward, following the natural movement of the round off.

Round Off Variations and Combinations

The round off serves as a foundation for various advanced skills and combinations. There are no real variations other than adapting the technique for different tumbles.

The important factor to remember is where the feet will place at the end of the snap down as this will change depending on what the gymnast plans to do after the round off. Let’s explore some common examples:

  • Round Off Back Handspring: After completing a round off, the gymnast transitions into a back handspring. In order to do this the gymnast has to finish with their feet and hips pulled under meaning they are off-balance and ready to extend into the back handspring.
  • Round Off Back Tuck: In this variation, the gymnast jumps immediately into a back somersault (also called a salto). For this the feet should snap down earlier so they contact the floor behind the hips and the gymnast can convert the energy created from the floor upwards rather than backward.
  • Round Off into Twist: For gymnasts seeking an even greater challenge, a round off can be incorporated into a twisting somersault, usually in a layout (straight) shape. This is quiet tricky as the gymnast is performing a twist in the round off and a twist in the somersault. For this reason, gymnasts often perform a back handspring before the twisting somersault.

These variations require extensive training, mastery of foundational skills, and a strong understanding of body mechanics.

Common Mistakes and Tips for Improvement

While learning and perfecting a round off, gymnasts may encounter common mistakes. Some of these include:

  • Legs Not Passing Through Handstand: If the legs pull round the side or are bent it prevents the gymnast from snapping down with real power. And it doesn’t look great either!
  • Bent Legs on Landing: A sloppy landing will kill the rebound or ‘bounce’ that a round off should produce.
  • Inconsistent Arm Swing: Inadequate arm swing can disrupt the rhythm and rotation of the round off. Practicing arm swing coordination and timing is essential for a smooth execution.

To enhance round off skills, gymnasts can follow these tips:

  • Strengthen Core Muscles: A strong core contributes to stability and control throughout the skill. Incorporate exercises that target the abdominal and back muscles into training routines.
  • Drill Progressions: Breaking down the round off into smaller progressions and practicing each component individually can help develop muscle memory and improve overall execution.
  • Seek Professional Coaching: Working with a qualified gymnastics coach or instructor can provide valuable guidance, feedback, and corrections to refine round off technique.

Benefits of Learning a Round Off

The round off offers several benefits for gymnasts, both in training and competition:

  • Skill Progression: Mastering the round off opens the door to learning more advanced skills and combinations, laying the foundation for a gymnast’s progression in the sport.
  • Power and Height Development: The explosive leg drive and arm swing required for a round off contribute to overall power and height capabilities, essential for executing complex aerial maneuvers.
  • Body Control and Spatial Awareness: Performing a round off demands precise body control, coordination, and awareness of body positioning in the air, enhancing spatial awareness skills.
  • Improved Tumbling Passes: Incorporating round offs into tumbling passes increases the fluidity, speed, and difficulty level of a routine, impressing judges and earning higher scores.

Safety Considerations and Precautions

While gymnastics is an exhilarating sport, it’s important to prioritize safety. When practicing round offs or any other gymnastics skills, keep the following precautions in mind:

  • Qualified Supervision: Always train under the guidance of a qualified gymnastics coach or instructor who can provide proper technique instruction and ensure a safe training environment.
  • Proper Equipment: Ensure that the practice area is equipped with appropriate safety mats and landing surfaces to minimize the risk of injury.
  • Progression and Conditioning: Gradually progress to more advanced skills and combinations, focusing on building strength, flexibility, and technique along the way. Conditioning exercises can help prepare the body for the demands of gymnastics.
  • Warm-up and Stretching: Prioritize a thorough warm-up routine before each training session to increase blood flow and flexibility. Follow it up with stretching exercises to reduce the risk of muscle strains or sprains.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any discomfort, pain, or signs of fatigue. If necessary, take breaks, and consult with a healthcare professional or coach if persistent issues arise.
  • Spotting and Assistance: When attempting new or challenging round off variations, use spotters or trained assistants to provide guidance and support.

By prioritizing safety and taking necessary precautions, gymnasts can minimize the risk of injuries during round off training and enhance their overall performance.


The round off is a fundamental and essential skill in gymnastics that opens the doors to a world of possibilities for tumbling passes. It combines power, precision, and control, serving as a stepping stone to more advanced combinations. With proper technique, training, and dedication, even beginner gymnasts can eventually master the round off.

Learn how gymnasts master a round off here.

Incorporating the round off into training routines not only improves athleticism but also enhances body awareness, spatial coordination, and skill progression. However, it’s crucial to prioritize safety, seek professional guidance, and gradually advance through proper progressions.

So, whether you’re a budding gymnast or an enthusiast seeking to understand the intricacies of gymnastics, the round off is a captivating skill that epitomizes the artistry and athleticism of this remarkable sport.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can anyone learn to perform a round off in gymnastics? Absolutely! With proper training, guidance, and consistent practice, individuals of various ages and skill levels can learn and improve their round off technique.

2. Is the round off essential for competitive gymnastics? Yes, the round off is considered a foundational skill in gymnastics and is often required in routines, particularly in tumbling passes and combinations.

3. Are there any prerequisites for learning the round off? It’s beneficial to have a basic understanding of gymnastics fundamentals, including body positions, strength, and flexibility. However, with proper coaching and training, beginners can start learning the round off.

4. How long does it take to master the round off? The time it takes to master the round off varies from person to person. It depends on factors such as individual aptitude, training frequency, and consistency. With dedicated practice, progress can be made over weeks to months.

5. Can I incorporate round offs into other sports or fitness activities? Certainly! The round off is a dynamic skill that can be adapted and incorporated into various activities, including cheerleading, acrobatics, parkour, and even dance routines.