How to Do a Cartwheel

The cartwheel is a basic gymnastics skill that will strengthen your upper body and help you work your way up to more advanced moves. There are two basic types: the front-to-back and the side-to-side cartwheel. With the side-to-side cartwheel, you’ll start and end in the same direction. Performing the front-to-back cartwheel will land you facing the opposite direction in which you began. The front-to-back is the most common type of cartwheel. To learn either type you’ll need to find a safe environment in which you can practice placing your hands and feet in a way that’ll propel you forward and upside down.


EditCartwheeling Front-to-Back

  1. Point your body in the direction you’d like to go. Decide whether you want to go left or right and then turn your body in this direction.
    Do a Cartwheel Step 5 Version 7.jpg
    • If you’re not sure what direction is best, try one out. If it doesn’t feel right, try the other way next time.
  2. Lunge by placing your strongest leg in the direction you chose. To get into a lunge, place your strongest leg in front of you in the direction you intend to cartwheel. Bend your strongest leg slightly and keep your back leg straight. Raise your arms straight above your head.[1]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 13 Version 7.jpg
    • Place your strongest foot in front, usually the one with which you would kick a ball. This will help you propel yourself.[2]
  3. Picture an imaginary line going straight out in front of you. You’ll want to perform the cartwheel along a straight line, so imagining this line will help guide your hands and feet.
    Do a Cartwheel Step 14 Version 7.jpg
  4. Place your strongest hand on the ground and lift up your leg. Bend over and shift your weight onto the strongest leg. Then place your strongest hand, on the same side of your body as the strongest leg, on the ground along your imaginary line. Your back leg should rise into the air as your hand hits the ground.[3]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 15 Version 7.jpg
    • Your first hand placed on the ground should be the one that matches your strongest leg. For example, if you put your left leg forward in your lunge, your left hand should first land on the ground.[4]
  5. Kick your other leg in the air as you place down your other hand. Your other hand should come down to the ground at the same as time you kick up your leg that remains on the ground.
    Do a Cartwheel Step 16 Version 7.jpg
    • Your hands will now be side by side and spread about shoulder width apart.
    • You can think about this as if you’re going into a handstand.[5]
  6. Straddle your legs in the air in a v-shape. Once both hands are planted, you’ll be balancing your weight on your arms, using your shoulders and core for support, and your legs will be in the air in a v-shape.[6]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 17 Version 7.jpg
    • Remember that you won’t actually have to hold this position. This is the form your legs should take while in the air as you’re fluidly performing the cartwheel.
    • Make sure to keep your legs straight.
  7. Step down with your strongest leg and hand. To get out of the cartwheel, bring down your feet in a split leg method. Your strongest leg lands on the ground first at the same time as your strongest hand.[7]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 18 Version 7.jpg
  8. Step down with your other leg and hand. Your back leg lands after the strongest leg. Your other hand lands at the same time as this leg.
    Do a Cartwheel Step 12 Version 7.jpg
  9. Land in a lunge. You’ll land as you begun, just facing in the other direction. Now your back leg will be forward and slightly bent with your strongest leg behind and straight.[8]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 19 Version 7.jpg

EditCartwheeling Side-to-Side

  1. Spread your legs shoulder length apart. Assume a standing straddle position with your legs spread shoulder length apart. Your hips and shoulders are in line with the direction in which you intend to cartwheel.[9]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 4 Version 6.jpg
    • Whether you’re performing the cartwheel towards your left or right depends on whatever you’re most comfortable with. Try out both ways, if you’re unsure.
  2. Keep your arms straight out and level with your shoulders. Stretch your arms out to your sides, keeping them level with your arms.[10]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 15 Version 8.jpg
  3. Point your lead foot in the direction you’ll be going. Point your lead food toward the direction you’ll be going while turning the other foot slightly outward for better balance.
    Do a Cartwheel Step 6 Version 6.jpg
  4. Plant your lead hand on the ground with your opposite leg following. Plant your lead hand on the ground and then your other leg should follow it up in the air.[11]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 8 Version 6.jpg
    • If your left hand was your lead, your right leg should lift up.
  5. Plant your other hand and push off with your lead leg. Plant your other hand down in line with your lead hand and your remaining leg will follow in the air.[12]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 18 Version 8.jpg
  6. Straddle your legs in the air while both hands are planted. Balance your weight on your arms, using your shoulders and core for support, like a handstand. Your legs in the air should assume a v-shape.[13]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 9 Version 6.jpg
    • Both hands should be in line with each other.
    • Stack your hips over your shoulders, keeping your body straight.
  7. Land on your lead hand and non-lead leg. To get yourself out of the cartwheel, you’ll land on your lead hand with your non-lead leg following.[14]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 10 Version 6.jpg
    • If your left hand was your lead, you’ll land on your left hand with your right leg following in a line.
  8. Land in the same position you started in. With the side-to-side cartwheel, you’ll land in the same position in which you started with your legs in straddle and your hands in the air.
    Do a Cartwheel Step 21 Version 2.jpg

EditPreparing for the Cartwheel

  1. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Make sure you put on loose fitting, comfortable clothing that’ll allow you some flexibility when moving. You don’t want to split your jeans while doing a cartwheel![15]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 1 Version 8.jpg
    • Gym clothes will work great.
  2. Find an open environment with a soft surface. Find a space that is free of furniture or other objects. It’s best to practice on a soft surface, such as carpet, a lawn, or a gymnastics mat.[16]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 2 Version 7.jpg
    • If outside, make sure the area you’ve chosen is level.
  3. Find a partner to oversee your cartwheel. A spotting partner is a good idea for those new to cartwheels. This way you’ll have someone to help guide your movements and be there to help you if you lose your balance.[17]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 3 Version 8.jpg
    • It’ll be easiest to learn a cartwheel at your gym under the supervision of a coach if you’re apprehensive about doing a cartwheel.
  4. Stretch out your wrists and hamstrings. Stretching your body before you begin will help you avoid injury while doing the cartwheel. You can stretch by bending your wrists back and forth gently. Stretch out your hamstrings by sitting in a straddle, with your legs spread wide, and bend your torso forward towards the ground.[18]
    Do a Cartwheel Step 4 Version 7.jpg

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