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by sorin ciovica on May 27, 2024

The aerial cartwheel, also known as a side aerial or no-handed cartwheel, is an advanced gymnastics skill that demands strength, flexibility, and precise technique. While seemingly effortless when executed flawlessly, mastering the aerial cartwheel requires dedication, patience, and a systematic approach to training. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deeper into the nuances of this dynamic skill and provide valuable insights and drills to help you progress towards mastery.


Understanding the Aerial Cartwheel

What is an Aerial Cartwheel?

An aerial cartwheel is a variation of the traditional cartwheel where the gymnast performs the skill without using their hands for support. This requires the gymnast to generate significant power and momentum to propel their body through the air while maintaining proper form and control.

Aerial Cartwheel

Why Master the Aerial Cartwheel?

Mastering the aerial cartwheel not only demonstrates technical proficiency but also showcases athleticism, grace, and creativity. It is often incorporated into gymnastics routines, dance performances, and acrobatic displays, making it a valuable skill for gymnasts and performers alike.


Steps to Perform an Aerial Cartwheel

Step 1: Perfect the Fundamentals

Aerial Cartwheel

Before attempting the aerial cartwheel, ensure that your basic cartwheel technique is solid. Focus on maintaining a straight line with your body, from hands to feet, and practice landing with precision and control. Pay attention to your hand and foot placement, aiming for consistency and alignment.

Step 2: Develop Strength and Flexibility

Aerial Cartwheel

The aerial cartwheel requires strength and flexibility in various muscle groups, including the core, shoulders, and legs. Incorporate exercises such as lunges, squats, and leg lifts to build strength, while stretching exercises like splits and bridges will improve flexibility.

Step 3: Master the Lunge and Kick

Aerial Cartwheel

The initial lunge and kick are critical components of the aerial cartwheel. Focus on generating power from your legs, driving your back leg forcefully over your head while maintaining control and balance. Practice lunging and kicking in isolation to develop muscle memory and technique.

Step 4: Incorporate Arm Movement

Aerial Cartwheel

Effective arm movement is essential for generating momentum and maintaining balance during the aerial cartwheel. As you lunge and kick, initiate a backward arm circle to propel your body upwards and forwards. Keep your arms extended and your movements fluid to maximize power and control.

Step 5: Land with Confidence

Aerial Cartwheel

A successful aerial cartwheel culminates in a smooth and controlled landing. Focus on spotting the ground as you rotate through the air, preparing yourself for the landing on the opposite side. Aim to land with one foot in front of the other, maintaining a deep lunge position to absorb the impact and maintain balance.

Step 6: Practice Consistently

Consistent practice is key to mastering the aerial cartwheel. Start by breaking down the skill into its individual components and practicing them separately. Gradually progress to performing the full aerial cartwheel, focusing on technique, form, and execution with each attempt. Use safety equipment such as AirTrack Mats or spotting belts to build confidence and mitigate the risk of injury.


Advanced Drills and Progressions

Needle Kick Progression

The needle kick is an excellent drill for developing flexibility and control in the legs. Start by standing upright and lifting one leg as high as possible, reaching towards the ceiling with your toes. Hold the position briefly before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg, gradually increasing the height and duration of the hold.

One-Handed Cartwheel Variation

The one-handed cartwheel is a challenging variation that can help improve balance, coordination, and body awareness. Begin by performing a standard cartwheel, but remove one hand from the ground midway through the skill. Focus on maintaining stability and control as you execute the movement with one hand.

Roundoff Progression

The roundoff is a fundamental skill in gymnastics that shares similarities with the aerial cartwheel. Practice roundoffs to improve your tumbling technique, develop spatial awareness, and build momentum for advanced acrobatics. Focus on maintaining a tight body position and generating power from your legs as you execute the skill.

Tips for Success

  • Stay Focused: Concentrate on each step of the aerial cartwheel, from the initial lunge to the final landing. Visualize yourself performing the skill successfully before attempting it.
  • Seek Feedback: Ask for feedback from coaches, teammates, or experienced gymnasts to identify areas for improvement and refine your technique.
  • Stay Safe: Prioritize safety at all times during training. Use proper equipment, such as AirTrack Mats and spotting belts, and avoid pushing yourself beyond your limits.
  • Celebrate Progress: Celebrate each milestone and improvement along your journey to mastering the aerial cartwheel. Recognize the hard work and dedication required to achieve your goals.

Common Mistakes When Learning an Aerial Cartwheel

Incomplete Rotation: One of the most common mistakes is not rotating the body fully during the aerial cartwheel, resulting in an incomplete rotation and a landing on the back or side instead of on the feet.

Lack of Height: Failing to generate enough height off the ground can make it challenging to complete the aerial cartwheel. This often occurs due to insufficient power from the legs or an improper mountain climb – needle kick movement.

Overrotation: On the other end of the spectrum, some gymnasts may overrotate during the aerial cartwheel, leading to a landing with too much momentum or even rolling over onto the back.

Incorrect Body Position: Maintaining proper body alignment throughout the aerial cartwheel is crucial. Common mistakes include bending at the waist, dropping the chest, or letting the legs splay apart, which can affect balance and control. Judges will also take deductions if gymnasts perform aerials with bent legs or non-pointed feet in the air.

Landing with Bent Legs: Landing with bent knees or legs can compromise stability and increase the risk of injury upon impact. It’s essential to focus on landing with straight legs and absorbing the landing with bent knees to protect the joints.

Insufficient Momentum: Aerial cartwheels require momentum to carry the body through the rotation. Failing to generate enough momentum from the run-up or initial push-off can result in a stalled or incomplete aerial.

Fear or Hesitation: Fear or hesitation can hinder the execution of an aerial cartwheel, causing the gymnast to hold back or abort the skill mid-air. Overcoming fear and committing fully to the movement are essential for successful execution.

Poor Timing of Arm Movements: Coordination of arm movements is vital in the aerial cartwheel. Mistakes such as swinging the arms too early or too late can disrupt the rhythm of the skill and affect balance and momentum.

Lack of Preparation: Attempting an aerial cartwheel without adequate preparation in terms of strength, flexibility, and skill progression can increase the likelihood of mistakes and frustration. It’s important to build a solid foundation of basic skills and conditioning before attempting more advanced maneuvers like the aerial cartwheel.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an aerial cartwheel?

A: An aerial cartwheel, also known as a side aerial or side somersault, is a gymnastics move where the body rotates sideways in the air while executing a cartwheel motion without hands touching the ground.

Q: Can anyone learn to do an aerial cartwheel, or does it require prior gymnastics experience?

A: While prior gymnastics experience can be helpful, anyone with a good level of fitness, flexibility, and dedication can learn to do an aerial cartwheel with proper guidance and practice.

Q: How do I prepare my body for learning an aerial cartwheel?

A: It’s important to work on flexibility, strength, and coordination. Stretch regularly to improve flexibility, focus on core and upper body strength exercises, and practice basic cartwheels to build coordination.

Q: What are the basic steps involved in performing an aerial cartwheel?

A: The basic steps include running into the cartwheel, kicking off one leg while swinging the other leg up and over, rotating sideways in the air, and landing on the opposite foot.

Q: How can I overcome fear or hesitation when trying an aerial cartwheel?

A: Start by practicing on a soft surface like a gymnastics Air Track Mat or grass. Break down the movement into smaller steps and gradually increase height and speed as you gain confidence.

Q: Are there any specific drills or exercises to help improve aerial cartwheel technique?

A: Yes, drills such as handstand hops, split jumps, and fast cartwheels can help improve technique and build strength and coordination.

Q: What should I do if I keep falling or failing to execute an aerial cartwheel?

A: Analyze what might be going wrong, seek feedback from a coach or experienced gymnast, and continue practicing drills and progressions to improve technique and confidence. It also doesn’t hurt to work on your leg strength so you can push harder off your front leg!

Q: How long does it typically take to learn how to do an aerial cartwheel?

A: The time it takes to learn varies for each individual, but consistent practice and dedication can lead to progress over weeks or months.

Q: Are there any safety tips I should keep in mind while practicing aerial cartwheels?

A: Always warm up properly before practicing, use proper spotting techniques with a coach when learning, and ensure you have enough space and a suitable surface to practice on to minimize the risk of injury. You should always have an adult coach supervise your practice.

Q: Can I practice an aerial cartwheel at home, or do I need specialized equipment or supervision?

A: You can practice aerial cartwheels at home, but it’s important to have proper guidance and supervision, especially when starting out. A soft surface like a gymnastics AirtTrack mat or grass can help reduce the risk of injury.

Q: Can adults learn to do aerial cartwheels, or is it mainly for children and teenagers?

A: Adults can absolutely learn to do aerial cartwheels with dedication and practice. Age is not a barrier to learning new skills in gymnastics or other physical activities.

Q: How can I incorporate an aerial cartwheel into a dance routine or gymnastics performance?

A: You can incorporate an aerial cartwheel into a dance routine or gymnastics performance by choreographing it to fit the music and seamlessly blending it with other movements and skills. Practice transitions and timing to create a polished performance.



Mastering the aerial cartwheel is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor that requires dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence. By following the steps outlined in this guide, practicing consistently, and maintaining a positive mindset, you’ll be well on your way to achieving aerial mastery. Embrace the journey, celebrate your progress, and enjoy the thrill of soaring through the air with grace and confidence.