How to Do a Backflip: How I Learned (And So Can You) to Do a Backflip in Less Than 20-Minutes
by Jordan Syatt February 10, 2015
I always wanted to learn how to do a backflip.
Ever since I was a little shit munchkin I thought learning to do a backflip would pretty much be the coolest thing in the entire world.
Me during my little shit munchkin phase, practicing backflips with my idol, Barney.
But I think it’s safe to assume everyone would love to learn how to do a backflip.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to randomly bust out a sweet backflip whenever you felt like rendering every man and woman within a 3-block radius sexually attracted to the very essence of your being?
In the remainder of this article I’m going to show you exactly how I learned the backflip and why I was able to learn it in such a short period of time.
By the end of this piece you will have a much better understanding of the backflip and exactly what steps you need to take in order to learn it as quickly as possible.
My First Backflip
Before I get into specifics, here’s a video of me doing my first backflip alongside a ridiculously strong and sexy girl (who also happens to be my girlfriend), Garrett.
Garrett’s a gymnast. Like…a really, really good gymnast.
And when I found out she could do a backflip, well, let’s just say I got pretty jealous.
Fortunately, she’s a great coach and promised she’d teach me how to do it.
So one Sunday Garrett and I were headed to the facility I coach at (AMP Fitness) when she mentioned she could start teaching me how to backflip before we started training.
“Awesome! But I’ll be able to learn it in one day” I told her with a smug grin spreading across my face.
“I like your excitement…but you might want to be a little more realistic” she said. “You probably won’t be able to do it on the first day.” Challenge Accepted.
“Wanna bet?” I asked as we walked into AMP.
“Sure,” she laughed. “What’s the bet?”
I scanned the gym looking for something, anything, when my eyes landed on a big, old, dirty powerlifting singlet hanging from the wall. Garrett hates singlets
“If I can do a flip before we leave you need to put that singlet on,” I said.
I’ve never seen a more disgusted look on her face.
“Fine,” she replied with a tone of finality I’d never heard her use. “Let’s get started.”
I did the backflip. She put on the singlet. And I swore I’d delete the pictures of her wearing it.
…Eventually. Moving on…
How Did I Learn to Backflip in 20-Minutes?
There are a number of reasons why I was able to learn the backflip so quickly, not least of which includes having a good teacher.
But in this article I want to discuss the non-specific components.
The aspects of the backflip that anyone can develop with simple, basic, and effective strength training.
1) How to Do a Backflip: Get Strong(er)
Q: What’s the scariest part of the backflip?
A: Thinking you’ll only make it halfway around before landing directly on your head.
Q: How do you prevent this from happening?
A: Aside from improving self efficacy (discussed later) you need to get stronger.
The stronger you are the more force you’ll be able to put into the ground. More force leads to a higher jump and a higher jump gives you more time to complete the flip.
How do you get stronger?
First: Deadlifts make you more attractive. Seriously. It’s proven by #Science.
Second: Deadlifting is one of the simplest and most efficient methods to improve strength and force output. Learn all of the benefits of deadlifting in my article, Debunking the Deadlift.
Third: Deadlifts are very similar to jumps.
Check it out… Here’s a picture of me demonstrating the conventional deadlift.
And here’s a picture of me right before I initiated the jump into my backflip.
Do you see what I see?
With the exception of my arms and chin, my entire body is set up in nearly the exact same position.
See what I’m getting at?
Getting stronger in this specific movement pattern will allow you to develop more force and subsequently increase the height of your jump.
The higher you jump the more time you have to spin and the less you need to worry about landing on your head.
How Else Do You Get Stronger?
Direct abdominal work.
Specifically, exercises like the hanging leg raise are perfect for learning the backflip as you need to tuck your knees in towards your chest mid-flip in order to spin all the way around.
Take a look…
Halfway through the flip you can see my hips and knees are bent to 90-degrees.
While this may appear easy, it requires a truly extraordinary amount of abdominal strength to tuck your knees aggressively towards your chest while spinning through the air.
I didn’t even realize how taxing this was until the following day when I could barely roll out of bed because my abs were so sore.
Want to work on your abdominal strength?
Skim through my article on The Hanging Leg Raise for instructional video tutorials and my personal favorite exercise progressions to get your abs as strong as possible.
2)How to Do a Backflip: Get Fast(er)
In the previous section I explained how a greater force output can lead to a higher jump.
And while that still holds true…it doesn’t tell the whole story.
See, jumping isn’t just about strength; it’s also dependent on speed.
More specifically, a high jump requires you to develop a lot of force in a very short period of time.
This is known as Rate of Force Development (RFD) which is a major predictor of athletic performance.
Without getting too geeky, RFD explains not only how much force you can generate but how much force you can generate in a certain amount of time.
And as you can probably infer…. More force in less time = A high RFD which = A higher jump
So within your training it’s not only important to work on developing strength, it’s also essential to spend time improving speed and how quickly you can display your strength.
How Do You Get Faster?
Why? First: Like I said earlier, Deadlifiting makes you more attractive as proven by #Science.
Second: Power development is plane-specific. And seeing as deadlifts and jumps not only occur in the same plane but also largely mimic one another, teaching your body to get faster with speed deadlifts can drastically improve your vertical leap.
Third: Deadlifts are relatively easy to learn especially compared to more complex movements like the Olympic lifts. And while the Olympic lifts are phenomenal drills to improve speed and RFD, they have a much greater learning curve, require far more attention to detail, and don’t provide anymore benefit than speed deadlifts.
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How Else Do You Get Faster?
Jump! If you want to get better at jumping…jump more!
I like to practice jumps in every way imaginable.
Standard box jumps, high jumps, and squat jumps are some of your best options as they’re highly specific to the flip.
That being said, I’m also a huge fan of kneeling jump variations to improve speed and explosive hip power.
Regardless of the variations you choose, jumping on a regular basis while emphasizing the speed at which you push off the floor will drastically enhance your vertical leap.
Remember, speed is a skill and in order to improve your speed you need to consciously focus on moving as fast as possible.
You can jump all day, every day but if you don’t make an effort to move ask quickly as you possibly can your effort will be for naught.
3) How to Do a Backflip: Believe in Yourself
“Hey! Just trust yourself and know that you aren’t gonna land on your head and snap your neck.”
Pretty much the most useless thing anyone could ever say, right?
It’s easy to say the words “I believe in myself” but truly believing in your ability to succeed is a much more difficult task.
Fortunately, there are ways to fix that.
Self efficacy is a topic I’ve written about before (read HERE and HERE) and essentially describes how confident you are (or aren’t) in your own ability to succeed at a given task.
And while it may seem like an arbitrary measure, self efficacy is actually one of the most accurate predictors of success in a variety of endeavors including weight loss, athletic performance, and even smoking cessation.
From my personal experience working with countless successful clients, I can confirm without a shadow of a doubt that a high level of self efficacy is unquestionably one of the most important factors contributing to your success.
How Does This Relate to the Backflip?
If you think you won’t make it all the way around before landing on your head —> you’ll land on your head.
If you fully believe you can make it all the way around —> you’re much more likely to land it.
Granted, a high level of self efficacy won’t guarantee anything (just because you believe in yourself doesn’t mean you actually have the physical capacity to do a backflip) but, assuming you can physically do it, a high level of self efficacy will drastically increase your chances of success.
How Do You Increase Self Efficacy?
1) Social Modeling: Watching others succeed at the task which you are trying to accomplish can be extremely effective at improving self efficacy. I was fortunate enough to watch Garrett do flips over and over again. If you don’t have a similar situation, watching instructional videos on YouTube is a great way to learn and model your own flip off of those who have already been successful in this skill set.
2) Remember Your Success: As you prepare to backflip it’s important to remember all the progress you’ve made leading up to this point. Remember the strength you’ve gained in your deadlift. Remember the improvements you’ve made in your vertical leap. Remember how much easier it’s become to do strict hanging leg raises. By focusing on these positive successes you’ll increase your self efficacy and the chances of your own success.
3) Picture Your Success: Imagine yourself doing the flip. Close your eyes and literally feel yourself going through the motion, jumping as high as possible, tucking your knees in towards your chest, and completing the backflip while landing on your feet. Through this imagery process you will let go of any negative or doubtful thoughts and subsequently increase your self efficacy.
4) Stop Thinking: Seriously. Stop it. The best athletes and performers are the best, not only because of their physical abilities, but also because of their mental capacity to turn off their mental noise. The more you can relax and have fun with the process the more your confidence will increase and the greater your chances of success becomes.
You Know What’s Helped Me?
It might seem weird, but one of the ways I’ve been able to improve my own self efficacy is by first doing something I know I’m good at (Deadlifting) followed by a backflip. In this way I’ve been able to remember my success and stop thinking, both of which have helped to improve my backflip performance.
My 3x Bodyweight Deadlift + Backflip
4) How to Do a Backflip: A Step-by-Step Backflip Tutorial
Step 1: Picture Your Success
Before you initiate the backflip, picture your success as described in the self efficacy section above. Let all fear and worry leave your mind as you focus on the steps and skills you’ve developed to master the backflip. Step 2: Fast Counter Movement
From the standing position, quickly hinge backwards while throwing your arms and hips towards the wall behind you. This should be a fast counter movement in order to get the most out of your stretch shortening cycle (SSC). Step 3: Throw Your Arms Up & Drive Through the Balls of Your Feet
Once you reach the terminal range of motion in the counter movement, throw your arms forward, transfer your weight towards the balls of your feet, and press through the floor (i.e. jump!) as hard and fast as you possibly can. Step 4: Propel Yourself Backwards with Shoulder Flexion and Triple Extension
As you jump, throw your arms up and backwards towards the wall behind you. At the same time, continue to drive through the floor as hard as you possibly can. If you do this properly, in a freeze frame you’ll see your arms by your ears and triple extension through the ankles, knees, and hips. Step 5: Tuck Your Knees in Towards Your Chest
As your feet leave the floor, throw your head backwards to propel your body into the flip. At the same time, pull your knees towards your chest. Complete these two movements as quickly and powerfully as you can for a seamless flip. Step 6: Pull Your Legs In!
As you tuck your knees towards your chest make sure to grab the backside of each leg (your hamstrings) and continue to pull them towards your face. This extra pull will allow you to spin faster and land safely on your feet. Step 7: Land Upright (not like this)
My landing was awful as demonstrated by my torso being parallel with the floor and a generally uneven foot position. What you want to do is land in more of an upright position (torso nearly perpendicular to the floor) and imagine landing as softly as possible…like a ninja. Step 8: Brofist
Now that you’ve completed the backflip, it’s important to brofist your training partner as a celebratory gesture. If you don’t have a training partner or someone whose worthy of a brofist, give yourself a brofist and then go deadlift.
Because deadlifts make you more attractive.
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