The back hip circle is so much fun to learn! It is also known as a free hip circle and is one of the most popular moves in both men and women’s gymnastics.
If you are working towards your USAG level 2 in gymnastics then I’m going to give you some advice that will help you learn the back hip circle.
This gymnastics skill is usually performed on the gymnastics bars but sometimes on the balance beam, in more advanced gymnastics routines.
Many beginner gymnasts learn how to do a back hip circle but most people agree that it is a challenging skill for beginners to learn and coaches often find it difficult to teach.
The back hip circle is first taught in level 2 of women’s gymnastics. Some advanced skills, the Yurchenko loop and Teza on the beam, also end with the back hip circle skill.
When performed on bars, a cast is often used to perform a back hip circle. There is a basic version of the move as well as a more advanced one, which is known as the clear hip.
A simple, free hip circle or back hip circle should be learnt first. Essentially, the gymnast has to pull themselves up over the bar, then swing the body under it and using motion, bring the body back up in a way that they completely rotate over the bar.
It does sound tough and confusing and it does seem this way at the start which is why coaches always keep saying you must perform conditioning and shaping drills first. Don’t jump straight onto the bars and try to do a back hip circle, read this advice, listen to your coach and take your time.
How to do a Back Hip Circle?
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To do a back hip circle you should first practice conditioning and shaping skills including cast holds and see-saw drills to help you get used to the back hip circle shape. Be sure to learn under the supervision of a gymnastics coach.
The following steps will help give you an idea of how you can do a back hip circle. These steps should only be used as a reference and you should always learn under a gymnastics coaches supervision.
Step 1. Start by placing thick mats behind the bar and underneath it. In case you drop down, a thick mat should be there to cushion and protect you from facing any injury.
Ideally, two mats should be placed. One should be directly underneath the bar. And the second mat, right next to it, should extend at least six feet behind the bar for ample protection.
Thickness wise, the mat should be at least 12 inches or 30cm, to provide adequate support.
Step 2. Now stand right in front of the bar, placing yourself in the middle, and then hold it tightly with your hands. You should stand slightly behind it so you can jump up to the bar. Using both hands, grasp the bar and have a firm grip on it.
It is important to remember that you need enough strength and stamina to successfully perform the back hip circle. Weight lifting can help you in building the right amount of upper body strength needed to lift your body up from the bar.
Step 3. Now jump right up towards the bar while using your arms to help you get your body up simultaneously. Keep your arms straight while rising over the bar in a front support position.
Be sure to keep your thighs pressing against the bar. A coach or gymnastics teacher should assist you in keeping your form and posture correct.
Step 4. Start swinging your legs to and fro in a way that it generates momentum, this is known as a cast. Once you’ve got enough momentum, push your body while swinging your legs into the air behind the bar.
Now you need to create a push-up posture, keeping your body parallel with the ground in a position similar to the pike. During this step you should feel like you are leaning your body back, but not tilting your head. Keep your eyes looking down towards your hands.
Step 5. Now while leaning back with the shoulders, start swinging under the bar. Grip the bar tight, keep arms straight and body tense. You will need to have enough momentum and force to swing the body underneath and then over the bar.
The sensation of swinging backwards this way is strange at first but if you’ve practised lots of the see-saw and casting drills below it will feel more natural.
Step 6. Keep your head straight and neutral throughout. Finally, you have to push against the bar and return to your starting, vertical position.
Let go of your grip on the bar at the same time and allow your body to drop safely on to the mat. Remember to land directly on your feet. Finish the back hip circle with your arms over your head.
Back Hip circle drills for beginners
When it comes to learning the free hip circle you can’t jump straight into swinging yourself around the bar otherwise you’ll end up piking, tucking and throwing your head back and end up in an uncomfortable body shape and a points deduction.
Back hip circle Conditioning drills ( to help gymnasts get the right shape )
Being confident enough to attempt a back hip circle usually means you’ll have practised a lot of conditioning drills. With Hip circle conditioning drills you’ll learn what it feels like to move into the different positions and shapes you’ll need when you come to practice the hip circle itself.
You’ll need your coach or parent to help you practice the see saw drills. The see saw drill is where you hold onto a bar ( not the gymnastics bar itself, just a pole of some kind first) with your arms extended down and palms facing your body gripping the bar which should rest against your thighs.
You should look down towards the bar and your coach will gently push you back and forward in a see-saw motion, letting you feel the correct shape and position you’ll need when you cast and perform the hip circle on a real bar.
You can practice this drill on the gymnastics bar to become more comfortable leaning over the bar but it requires more strength and endurance to hold the position for long enough to really feel what it’s like.
Practising see saw drills on the floor first is great for gymnasts afraid of rotating backwards on the bar. After getting comfortable with this drill on the floor, move up to the bar so you can get used to pressing your hips against the bar and leaning back while supported by a coach who will be able to stop you fully rotating over the bar or falling off.
This removes any fears you might have and helps you get used to the sensation of this rotation.
Candlestick / Cast position drill
Lie on your back in a cast position and place your feet on a raised surface. It’s best to use a yoga block first and move up to using a gym ball. Push your hips upwards with your legs straight and toes pointed forward.your hand should be parallel to your legs with your palms facing your legs.
This position can help build core strength, hip strength and the overall strength required to hold this position comfortably with correct form during the back hip circle rotation.
You can easily practice the cast hold at home. Use a couch or even your bed and place the top of your feet and toes on the surface. Next place your hands on the floor in a position similar to the position you do a push up or plank in. Your shoulders should be placed above your hands.
Keep your elbows in and make sure you don’t bend out of position, keep your body straight. Holding this position helps you learn to cast and also builds up strength.
Back hip circle tips
The back hip circle is a level 2 gymnastics skill, but even so, it takes some practice to master and you have to overcome the fear of rotating backwards on a gymnastics bar.
Tip 1 – It is possible to do a back hip circle without casting first. Some gyms might teach you to do a baby giant and then a back hip circle. This isn’t as common as using a cast to build the momentum needed to complete the hip circle but some coaches may ask you to learn the skill this way.
Tip 2 – One of the best tips I ever got when learning the back hip circle was to keep my hips close to the bar and lean back. When i concentrated on this feeling it really helped me to focus on making sure I keep good form.
Now you’ve learnt the back hip circle why not perfect your cartwheel skills.