How to Do an Aerial in Gymnastics

Silhouette of acrobatic teen gymnast balancing

Aerials in gymnastics are stunts performed without placing the hands on the floor. When gymnasts mention an "aerial," they usually are referring to a no-handed cartwheel, although aerials can be performed as walk-overs as well. The aerial cartwheel is one of the first airborne stunts gymnasts learn as they progress in their skills. It looks similar to the traditional cartwheel but the mechanics are different.

Stand at the end of the mat and run toward the middle, similar to doing a running round-off.

Hurdle by skipping on one leg while bringing the opposite leg forward in preparation for the aerial. As you perform the hurdle, reach both arms up. Aim for height, not distance, on your hurdle.

As your lead leg lands from the hurdle, push off hard as you swing your arms down and back. At the same time, twist your body to the side, as you do during a cartwheel. Again, think about lifting up, not covering distance as in a traditional cartwheel.

Kick the opposite leg up hard and fast. Follow it quickly with your lead leg. Your body will cartwheel, with the legs rotating over your upper body. The legs need to move quickly to rotate through the aerial and reach the floor without using your hands.

As your legs come over your body, twist the lower part of your body so that you land, one foot at a time, facing the direction you came from, just as you do in a round-off.


As you improve you'll be able to do the aerial without running.


Before attempting an aerial, master the traditional, one-handed and dive cartwheels.

Always have a spotter on hand for safety.

Never tie your hands behind your back. You need to be able to put your hand(s) on the floor if something goes wrong with the stunt.