Performing the Skill
A cartwheel is probably the most basic tumbling skill in gymnastics. If you do not know anything about tumbling, this is where you should begin. Cartwheels are also very fun to do. To do a cartwheel you need to first pick your lead foot. This is usually the foot that feels most comfortable to put in front of you at the start of a race. Most people have one foot that naturally feels better starting with; this is probably also your stronger leg. If you do not know which foot should be your lead foot, you can try each. You will quickly start to see which foot you are most comfortable starting with. (For most people, their lead foot is opposite their dominant hand. The lead foot for a right handed person is normally their left foot).
Place your lead foot in front of you and raise your arms high above your head. Put your weight on your back foot and point your toes on your lead foot. Rock back on your back leg; then lunge forward into your front foot. Your front leg will bend, but your body should form a straight line with your back leg, body, and arms.
Keeping your body in line with your back leg, move your arms toward the ground and twist your body so that you are looking sideways. Your hands will hit the ground at slightly different times. The first hand you should place on the ground is the one closest to your lead foot, or the foot that is furthest forward.
With your hands on the ground, arms fully extended, use your lead leg to push off the ground and propel your body upward. Your legs will be spread like a V in the air, and your body should be perpendicular to the ground.
The end of the cartwheel should be a mirror image of the beginning. What was once your back foot will land first on the ground, and your lead foot will land behind it. You should be looking the opposite direction you were looking when you started, and your arms should be raised in the air.
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Your body should travel in a straight line. It may help to draw a line on the ground with a piece of chalk. Start with your lead foot on one side of the line and your other foot on the other side. You should end with one foot on each side of the center line. This will help your cartwheel look more graceful and will be important in helping you do future tumbling skills.
When your body is in the air, your arms and legs should be completely extended. Video tape your cartwheels so you can see where you need to improve. Keep control of your body throughout the cartwheel. It will not be easy to add additional tumbling skills later if you end your elementary tumbling skills off balance.