How to Do a Back-Walkover Without Hurting Your Spine

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Back pain in gymnastics is a very real thing; according to USA Gymnastics, about 80 percent of all gymnasts will experience some type of low-back pain. Doing gymnastics skills safely and effectively, including skills such as the back walkover, takes practice and a good deal of strength. While some injuries and pain are a result of overtraining, those problems can also be the result of not warming up or using improper technique.

  • Warm up your muscles by doing light cardio for five to 10 minutes, which might include walking, jogging or cycling. This increases blood flow and gets your body ready for the work ahead.

  • Perform a stretching routine that includes stretches for the back, such as the cat-cow sequence in which you get down on your hands and knees and alternate between arching and curling your spine. Sit with your feet out in front of you and do the torso twist, bending one knee and wrapping the opposite elbow around the outside of that knee to create a twist in the spine. Then extend your legs back out in front of you and lightly grab the back of your head, falling forward slightly to stretch the upper back and neck. Also perform ankle and wrist circles. During each exercise, breathe deeply and hold each stretch as you inhale and exhale for several breaths.

  • Stand with your weight on one foot and keep your abdominals and buttocks very tight, forcing your pelvis to tilt. This tilt will help prevent lower-back injuries and pain, advises gymnastics coach Karen Goeller. Place your leading leg slightly forward of the other leg, as if you're about to kick with it.

  • Reach back toward the floor as far as you can go. As you reach back to place your hands on the floor behind you, do not allow the leading leg to slide forward any more, since that can cause your lower back and hips to fall forward, putting you at risk of injury. As your hands approach the floor, kick your leading leg toward the ceiling. Most of the work here is being done through the shoulders and upper back, not the lower back.

  • Push off the floor with your hands and keep your abdominals tight as you kick the second leg over. When your second leg touches the floor, move your hands up above your head to act as a counterweight.

Tips & Warnings

  • In order to do a back walkover, you need to have a certain amount of upper-body strength. If you can't hold a handstand or a backbend for three to five seconds, you're likely not strong enough to do a back walkover successfully, reminds the Cheerleading Zone website. You should also have significant flexibility and strength in your shoulders, so be sure to add shoulder stretches -- particularly partner stretches -- as well as shoulder-strengthening exercises to your regular routine.
  • If you are already experiencing back pain, talk to a doctor about the problem, and do not do any more back bend exercises until you get her OK.

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  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
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