How To Do A Cartwheel: The Cornerstone Of Tumbling

The cartwheel is a fundamental skill in gymnastics that is built upon at various levels. Starting as early as Levels 1 and 2, gymnasts begin working on this skill and strive to master it over time. As they progress, they can develop it into a roundoff and incorporate it into almost every tumbling pass in the sport.
Needless to say, the cartwheel is a crucial skill in gymnastics that enhances many different aspects of a gymnast’s abilities, from vault entries to tumbling passes and much more. Now let’s dive into learning and improving your cartwheel.

What is a Cartwheel?

A cartwheel involves starting in a lunge position with your hands over your head and your body turned forward. Then lean forward, kicking your back leg up to shift your weight onto your hands. Using the momentum from your initial kick, drive yourself all the way over to the other side and land in a lunge facing the way you came. This is a cartwheel in its simplest form, but it can evolve into more advanced skills like a roundoff or aerial.

Prerequisites for a Cartwheel

A good cartwheel begins with a solid handstand and body control. This demonstrates that you have both the strength and balance needed for the skill. Cartwheels can be challenging to learn and even harder to master, so having these prerequisites in place ensures you’re ready to tackle the skill at your current level.

How to Start Learning a Cartwheel

One of the best ways to start learning a cartwheel is to practice baby cartwheels, which are a simpler version of the skill. Instead of kicking your legs fully over your head, you hop your legs around your hands to get familiar with the movement.

To do this, start in a lunge position as you would for a handstand or cartwheel. Place your hands in front of your feet as if on a line, with your hands facing perpendicular from that line. Kick your feet from one side of your hands to the other, trying to land on the same line. Try this a few times to get used to the movement, which might feel awkward at first.

cartwheel on high beam by gymnast

Improving Your Technique

Once you’re comfortable with the basic movement, the next step is to add more drive to your kick from your back leg. This will create the height needed for your legs to go over your body instead of around it. The more kick you add, the more your legs will flow over the top, making the skill easier.

Getting used to the rhythm of when to kick and how to add power might feel odd at first, but with practice, it will become more natural over time.

Cartwheel doing an aerial on the floor

Taking Your Skills to the Next Level

Once you have a solid cartwheel, you can start working on important variations such as the roundoff, one-handed cartwheel, and aerial. These skills are more challenging than the traditional cartwheel, so only attempt them when you feel very comfortable with the basic cartwheel.

The Roundoff:

This is probably the most common cartwheel variation in gymnastics. It is the entry to almost every backward tumbling pass and generates the power needed for more difficult skills. A poor cartwheel can hinder your roundoff, affecting your ability to generate the required power and interfering with many aspects of your tumbling.

One-Handed Cartwheel:

This skill is less common but still important for advancing your cartwheel technique and bridging the gap between traditional cartwheels and aerials. One-handed cartwheels can be performed with either the inner hand (closer to your lead leg) or the far hand. Typically, the inner hand is easier, while the far hand requires more effort as you have to hop over to it to perform the cartwheel.


An aerial is a cartwheel without using your hands, making it the most difficult variation listed here. To perform an aerial, you need good flexibility to reach your legs over your head quickly and an incredibly powerful drive from your back leg. In an aerial, your back leg provides all the drive to skip over your hands, so it is essential to have a strong kick leading into the skill.

Cartwheel on beam:

Another common application of the cartwheel that you will see done is on the high beam. This skill requires more balance and mastery of the skill over a cartwheel on the floor as your margin of error is much smaller.


We hope this guide helps you better understand the cartwheel and its importance in gymnastics. This is a beautiful skill that every gymnast should learn and perfect, as it lays the foundation for many other advanced moves. Mastering the cartwheel not only enhances your overall technique but also boosts your confidence in performing more complex skills. 

Remember, patience and consistent practice are key to making progress. Celebrate your small victories along the way and don’t get discouraged by setbacks—they’re just part of the learning process. We wish you the best of luck in your gymnastics journey and with your new skills. Train safely, stay dedicated, and most importantly, have fun!

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