Breaking down the session
After stretching and warming up, we quickly went over the mechanics of a backflip, which are pretty straightforward:
Step 1. Jump straight into the air using your legs and arms.
Step 2. Tuck your knees hard to your chest to create rotational momentum backwards.
Step 3. Spot the ground, extend your feet, and land.
I then worked through a series of exercises to progressively introduce each of these components.
I started by practicing “The Set”, which is the entry into the backflip and Step 1 from above. For this exercise, I focused on propelling my jump with well-coordinated, full-extended arms.
After completing the drill ten times, I felt that I had the necessary muscle memory to continue. Importantly, this muscle memory emphasizes jumping straight up, rather than backwards, which is a common mistake.
Once I was comfortable with “The Set”, I introduced Step 2 of the backflip: “The Tuck”.
For this drill, I again jumped straight up, but at my peak, I tucked into a backwards roll.
In the video, you’ll notice that I’m not jumping completely vertically. This is something that I worked on correcting in subsequent attempts before moving on to the next phase.
I completed “The Tuck” drill about eight times, until I felt comfortable with the movement.
Once I was properly coordinating “The Set” and “The Tuck”, I was ready to harness myself into the pulley, and practice spotting the ground and landing on my feet (Step 3 from above).
In the video, you’ll notice that I’m still whipping my head backwards on take-off, which is something I’ll need to address in future sessions.
Also, in the video, you’ll notice that my coach Elijah is tugging minimally on the rope. He’s not trying to assist, but rather, keep the harness fairly taut, so if I do panic in the air, he can pull hard and save me before I land on my head.
After filming a few attempts, Elijah recommended that I shoot an attempt in slow motion, so I can better analyze my form. Here’s a few things we noticed:
- I’m still whipping my head back
- I’m not fully extending my arms, which means I’m sacrificing some amount of power
- My tuck is pretty good, but could be a bit tighter
- I’m spotting the floor pretty well, but can probably start looking for it a little earlier (to ensure consistent landing)
In my next session, I’ll focus on addressing these technical problems.
During this attempt, it does look like Elijah gives me a little extra tug. As a result, I stick the landing. I’m curious to know how much this assistance is helping me…
At the end of the session Elijah said “If you weren’t so tired right now, you could easily land a backflip on the floor”. So, while the assistance helps, according to Elijah, I guess it isn’t necessary for me to succeed.
The Foam Pit
After around 12 backflips on the pulley, I moved to the foam pit, so I could get a sense for what an unassisted backflip feels like.
Unfortunately, in an attempt to avoid the edge of the tumble track, I put most of my jumping energy backwards, not upwards, so I lose the vertical height I need to land on my feet.
With that said, even in this case, I land on my knees, which means, if I continue to practice in this same way, I’m pretty far from landing on my head and hurting myself. Of course, I’ll continue to take precautions, but considering that backflipping is largely a mental feat, it’s a good thing to realize.
At the end of the 45 minutes, I was insanely sweaty, even though I didn’t feel like I was working hard during the session (I obviously was). I guess my adrenaline was compensating.
We’ll see how sore I feel tomorrow when I wake up.
Overall, though, it was a great first session. I definitely feel confident in my abilities to pull this off.
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