Introduction: How to Front Flip
Hello, this tutorial is meant for anyone looking to get into parkour/freefrunning or who just want to learn how to flip. I wouldn't call myself an "expert" in the field but I feel my experience in teaching myself and others will suffice.
Step 1: Pick a Practice Location
Picking a good practice location is one of the more important steps in learning to front flip. A good practice location can lead to better, and sometimes quicker, results if picked correctly. Some aspects of a good location include a safe environment to land with little to no distractions present. Locations like a local gymnastics center, mulch pit, and soft grass area are prime targets.
If you live near a local gymnastics center, you can check to see if they have an open gym period. This is not only the safest option but also the best. Most gyms have a foam pit to jump into and multiple mats to practice landing on. A gym also offers great progression since you can start out practicing in the foam pit, move on to the mats, then eventually practice on a cushioned carpet surface.
A mulch pit, though sometimes hard to come by, would be the next best option. I learned to front flip in this environment first, eventually moving onto a small hill covered in thick, soft grass. Not unlike a gymnastics center, a mulch pit can take most of the fear away when attempting a front flip. Since you feel a sense of safety knowing that your landing will be soft and painless.
An outdoors volleyball court that is covered in sand is also a prime location if a mulch pit is not available. You can easily move the sand into a pile about half a foot deep to provide extra comfort while landing.
If the other three options are not available, then a simple grass or playground area is the next best thing. Try to find a small hill or ledge to allow for more time in the air when flipping. Sometimes playgrounds are covered in rubber pieces or mulch which is an excellent area to practice. Just remember playgrounds are meant for small children so make sure to be respectful. If you plan on using a playground it's best to go later at night when all the kids are home.
Note: You can always just use an old mattress or foam to land on instead of the above locations. However, from by personal experience, those items don't really offer more "protection" compared to just grass and can be a hassle to move around.
Step 2: Learn the Technique
Compared to a back flip, a front flip requires more technique but is easier to overcome mentally. While there are many techniques available to choose from, I will describe the ones I am familiar with that have helped myself and multiple friends learn to flip.
To start, you want to give yourself a small running start. Mark a location on the ground where you want to jump from, then take four, above average, steps back. When running towards the mark you made, you want to take three running steps and be jumping with both feet on the fourth step.
When you jump you DO NOT want to put a lot of pressure into the ground. A good way to think about it is to pretend the ground you are jumping on is made of fragile glass. You want to jump but you don't want to put tremendous amounts of force into the ground to jump and end up breaking the glass.
When you jump, you must jump UP not forward. This is because you already have momentum moving forward from the running start. So all you need to do is jump UP.
Hand placement can help significantly as well. On your third step, the one right before your jump, you want to bring your hands in the air and put them in a position as if you are about to throw a basketball over your head. Once you've jumped UP into the air you want to tuck as hard as you can. Bring your head to your chest, pull down with your arms, and tuck with your core, all at the same time. While your upper body is tucking, you want to bend your legs so that your head can fit between them. You want to grab your knees when tucking and hold your tucked position while your flip.
Landing is arguably the most difficult part of front flipping. While spinning, as soon as you see the horizon, where the ground meets the sky, you need to untuck but keep your legs slightly bent. Having your legs bent will allow for an easier and safer landing.
This technique is the same as the first except for hand placement. There is no better technique, it all comes down to preference.
Instead of bringing your hands into the air before your jump, you want to keep your hands down until the jump. As you are jumping you want to pump your hands UP into the air. As soon as you reach peak height you want to tuck hard just like technique one.
I will explain some trouble shooting and tips in the next step.
Step 3: First Attempts
Your first attempts aren't going to be pretty by any means. The good thing is you'll probably run into the same problems that many others have.
One common mistake that people like to make is to look left or right while flipping. This may seem like a good idea since you'll be able to see everything while flipping, but it wont help you with your front flip. In fact, it will probably make it worse. Always try to tuck your head straight into your chest, never looking towards the side.
Another mistake people like to make is tucking to early. Obviously you want to tuck at the maximum height, but how do you know what height that is? The best way to know is to just practice jumping up in the air to get a feel and to better your air awareness. Once you have a good gauge on what it feels like to reach your apex while jumping straight up, you can transition that feeling to help you flip higher off the ground.
Here are some tips on landing.
You'll probably start landing on your bum or in a squatting position. That's great, you're on your way to landing a front flip. If you find that you're landing on your bum, try either jumping higher or tucking faster. Since landing on your bum probably means your either tucking to early, not jumping high enough, or you're tucking to slow. Experiment around to see what changes your results.
Step 4: How to Practice
I found that the best way to practice is to have your friends critique you. If you don't have friends...well...you can always record your front flip attempts and play them back in slow motion to visually see what is going on. I find watching videos of myself flipping through the air extremely helpful since it offers a different perspective on what I'm trying to accomplish.
It's better if your friends already know how to flip if they are going to critique you, but it's okay if they don't. You can always tell the person who is observing you what you're trying to accomplish, say tucking at your max height, and have them explain their observations to you. This is not only a great way to practice but to build a strong, ever-lasting friendship as well.
Step 5: The End Product
Once you feel that you can successfully front flip in your practice location, you can step up your game and move to a more challenging area. Say you learned on grass with a small slope. You can try finding places with ledges that drop off into grass and flip off of those. Even though you can't get a running start, your will have more air time to flip and land correctly.
The possibilities in parkour and freerunning are endless once you've mastered the basic front flip. The pictures above show variations of the front flip. The first is a side flip and the second is a corckscrew. Both were accomplished after learning how to front flip. Good Luck!