Add Cartwheels to Your Training

You used to do cartwheels. They were a part of school recess fun. You’d do cartwheels in PE class just to pass the time between bouts of tug of war. … They’re a fun and youthful demonstration of joy, but cartwheels are also a good way to develop balance, flexibility and strength and a great way to test yourself in these capacities. Best of all, cartwheels can be done nearly anywhere and you need no special equipment.

Firstly, let’s not forget that the seemingly modest cartwheel is ultimately a gymnastics maneuver. Most anyone can do at least a limited version. Some folks can kick their feet halfway above their head and then come to rest on all fours, while others can make it up to a decent handstand yet end up landing on their knees. These demonstrations are not a disgrace, simply a lack of grace. A well performed cartwheel is beautiful in its seemingly effortless simplicity. To do a good one you need to employ a modicum of balance, flexibility and strength plus a good supply of confidence. And confidence comes with practice. 

Miss Marilyn gleefully showing off her imperfect form

Miss Marilyn gleefully showing off her imperfect form

Performing a perfect cartwheel does mean being able to achieve a pretty good handstand, but before that you need to get things started right. Work on a forgiving surface and perhaps find a spotter to help you correct form and keep from executing a faceplant landing. Take your time and don’t get discouraged. 

The basic maneuver and some tips:

  1. To start, you want to be facing the direction you want to go with your hips square and your lead leg bent slightly in front of the other.
  2. Hands straight up in the air with arms right by your head, your body should be angled forward
  3. Lunge forward and plant your lead hand out in front of you while keeping your following hand high in the air
  4. Bring down your second hand, while your back leg follows, keeping in a straight line
  5. As you transfer weight to your second hand, use the momentum to bring both legs up into a V directly above your shoulders - don’t swing your legs too much as this will propel you to a hard landing
  6. Keep your head straight, tucked slightly, don’t arch
  7. As you come out of the handstand, push off with your lead hand as your second leg comes down
  8. Transfer your weight to your second hand and planted leg as your lead leg comes around the “wheel”
  9. Feet planted together, arms straight up in victory pose!

There’s a million videos showing how to do a good cartwheel and it’s not a bad idea shoot video of yourself to help you see where you need to improve. The cartwheel is a tough move to master so expect to practice, practice, practice.

Until you’ve nearly mastered the movement you may want to work on your cartwheels in private to avoid possible public humiliation! If you don’t have a spotter who won’t judge you, you can employ a wall to help keep you in a vertical plane (this way you only have to keep from flopping in one direction!). You can also work on just perfecting your form halfway through to a handstand. Once you’ve got this much down pat then you can focus on your dismount.

The mighty cartwheel may not seem like the most functional exercise for a fighter, but it really does incorporate vital physical foundations required by any athlete - balance, flexibility, strength. Add in some cartwheels to your training to mix it up a little. Then, when your next fight win is announced, rather than simply jumping up on the rope turnbuckles, you can do a nice celebratory cartwheel!

Posted on March 31, 2015 .