Learn How to Do Basic Gymnastics Skills

Use this as a refresher for your gymnastics classes taught by a qualified coach

Learn how to do basic gymnastics skills with these step-by-step guides.

Click on the title of each skill for a link to our how-to slideshow. 

Remember: Don't try anything without a qualified coach and the right equipment. Use this guide as a refresher for running through basic gymnastics skills that you are likely to learn in a class taught by a coach.

Young Gymnast Doing Splits
Kevin Dodge / Getty Images

A front split is one of those moves that is really easy for some people and much harder for others. This really comes down to your individual anatomy. Some people will never be able to do the splits, no matter how hard they work at it, due to bone structure that cannot be changed.

Still, many people can master a split. Even if you start out tight, certain stretches can help you learn how to relax your muscles, lengthen your hamstrings and open your hips. 

Some other tips to help you achieve the splits:

  • Warm up your muscles before you start stretching.
  • Practice every day, if possible. Consistency will help. 
  • Use props, such as yoga blocks, to help support you, if needed. 
  • Stop if you feel any pain.
  • Try to relax into the position and focus on your breath. That can help you go deeper. 
  • Use other stretches to help loosen up your hamstrings and hips before going into the split position. Touch your toes, do the "butterfly" stretch and open up your lower back, too. Your whole body is connected, and while the splits mainly enlist hamstrings and hips, a tightness elsewhere can get in your way.
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Coach with two girls doing gymnastics exercise on floor
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Learning a center split is traditionally just as essential as a front split to gymnastics. You’ll use a center split in straddle jumps, side leaps, press to handstands, stalders, flairs on pommel horse and scales.

Follow our guide for how to get a great center split, with stretches for all the different muscles you’ll use. 

Tip: Try practicing your stretches with a partner. Let them gently and slowly press you down deeper into your stretch, but make sure you pay attention to your limits and communicate clearly. More »

Gymnasts in a row doing handstands
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Mastering a handstand is one of the most important steps to becoming a gymnast.

Start out on a wall, until you build up the strength and mental courage to practice in the middle of the room. A great way to improve strength is to hold your handstand longer and longer over time. 

Sooner or later, you'll be doing a handstand on just about every event and learning a solid one will help you improve quickly in the gym. More »

Gymnast performing a bridge.
David Handley / Getty Images

In gymnastics, you will need to know how to do a bridge—the cornerstone of front and back walkovers and much more. A good bridge will also help you improve your shoulder flexibility, a valuable asset for any gymnast.

This is a position you can practice regularly at home. The proper bridge (with straight arms and legs) takes time to work up to, so consistency and commitment to the pose is key. Always listen to your body's limitations and steer clear of pain.  More »

How to do a back walkover
Paula Tribble

Once you can do a bridge, it's time to start learning a back walkover. Here's your step-by-step guide to the drills and stretches.

There are several helpful pieces of equipment and partner drills to incorporate into your back walkover training.  More »

Backflip Sequence
The sequence of a back flip. Paula Tribble

A backflip is considered a basic skill in gymnastics, but only because it is a building block to many other skills. It's not a simple move to learn, but once you do, you've achieved one of the biggest milestones of the sport. You can build difficulty from there. 

It is especially important to practice this with a partner and with proper equipment, such as a gymnastics mat to protect your head and neck.  More »