There are many different cartwheel variations for beginners to advanced movers. This overview contains progressions and variations for absolute beginners and hardcore crazy people who will try anything. Use the ratings as a reference tool. They are very subjective and might not reflect your journey doing cartwheels.

Core Cartwheels

If you are a beginner, this is where you want to start. This is especially the case if you are afraid of cartwheels or feel that you don’t have the coordination to do a cartwheel correctly. The core cartwheels take you through the absolute fundamentals. More advanced people might be inclined to gloss over this section, but I highly suggest taking a look. There are tons of things to learn, by training the fundamentals

Beginner Cartwheel (Au de Iniciante)

Difficulty: ⭐


This lovely variation is incredibly useful for beginners, intermediate, and advanced practitioners. Don’t think that just because this is a beginner movement, that it’s for the noobs only. Everyone can benefit from making this foundational movement smooth and efficient. the beginner Au is very helpful in terms of building your proprioception. This is key for all variations on this list. Add some difficulty by prolonging the time you spend on a single hand.

“V” Cartwheel (Au de “V”)

Difficulty: ⭐


This variation allows us to start small and create a framework for how we can approach the majority of the variations below. Instead of doing the full cartwheel, we are going to move in a “V” shape. This gives us more control and decreases the mobility demands on our wrists, hamstrings, and shoulders.

If moving your legs over your body is still scary to you, I highly suggest hovering your feet slightly above the ground. We want to get comfortable moving laterally to make it easier to do more advanced variations. Over time, progress to a wider and wider “V”, until it is essentially straight. Start by hovering the feet over the ground and slowly progress by kicking the back leg at harder up to get your trunk above your hips.

Cartwheel (Au)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐

Two big limiting factors for doing a cartwheel is “tight” hamstrings and “tight” shoulders. Having more range of motion in these two areas will give a more aesthetic look. Our goal is to move along a straight line, while our torso moves over our hips.

You can measure your progress by placing a piece of tape on the floor. Try to get both hands and feet to land on that piece of tape.

Don’t let this cartwheel variation block you from doing any others on this list. If you can’t do a normal cartwheel, try others on this list. Most variations share the same or similar requirements, but one is not necessarily a progression for the other.

Closed Cartwheel (Au fechado)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

You can think of this Cartwheel variation as a drill in control.

The goal here is to perform the cartwheel while keeping the knees tucked into the chest. This is similar to a tuck handstand except we will be moving from one side to the other. Starting from standing or a squat. As soon as you take off, bring the knees in towards your chest. Practice landing with one leg and with as much control as possible.

Heavy Cartwheel (Au pesado)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐

Many beginners inadvertently do this variation when starting out. Landing your cartwheel with two legs looks like a beginner movement. The challenge is to slow the descent of your cartwheel as much as you can. Practice bringing your legs up as if you were doing a handstand. Then, slowly bring the two legs down together to the floor. Make sure to keep them glued together at the knees.

Combined Core Cartwheel (Au CDO)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The pinnacle of the core set of Cartwheels.

Au CDO is not a movement you’ll find anywhere else other than in Capoeira. You can think of this cartwheel as Au fechado, plus a normal cartwheel, plus Au Pessado.

The combination is a test of your ability to control the cartwheel through the entire movement. This movement pulls together many different types of cartwheels into one. If you’re having a hard time, then practice the part of the cartwheel that’s giving you difficulty before giving it another shot.

Core Cartwheel Variations

Almost all cartwheels can be made more difficult by changing the entry position. If you think you’re really good at cartwheels, then you might be interested to try some of these alternative starting positions. Changing your starting position changes a lot in terms of the muscles recruited and the coordination needed.

Cartwheel From Standing (Au)

The normal starting position for any cartwheel is standing. There are tons of videos showing how to do a cartwheel from this position. Note that in Capoeira, the chest does not face the direction of the cartwheel. This is different from gymnastics, where the chest faces the direction of the cartwheel. The latter is considered a Capoeira cartwheel, and the former, a gymnastics cartwheel.

In terms of difficulty, starting a cartwheel from standing is the easiest place to start.

Cartwheel from Squat (Au da Cocorinha)

For those interested in compact movement, doing your cartwheels from a squat position is one option. The main challenge here is that you have no momentum to rely on. You will need to rely on your ability to launch yourself into the cartwheel from a full squat.

In terms of difficulty, this is a variation you can spend a lot of time on.

Cartwheel from three points of support (Au da Negativa)

In this variation, we are essentially removing a leg from the equation. Your hands are nowhere near as strong as your legs, which is why this is one of the most challenging starting positions for any cartwheel.

The core cartwheels can be made very difficult by starting from this position. The main idea is to lift yourself up using the arms, hips, and one leg you have available to use to do the cartwheel.

Cartwheels with Direction (forwards and backwards)

The main difference between these cartwheels and the ones you see in the core set is the position of the hips. The flexibility requirements are also different. In a normal cartwheel, hamstring flexibility and hip mobility are very important. In a forwards or backward cartwheel, having the ability to extend the body is crucial.

The more you can extend at (but not limited to…) the chest, spine, and hip-flexors will greatly benefit your movement.

Forwards Cartwheel (Au de Frente)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

Doing a cartwheel forwards differs from normal cartwheels in that your hips need to face the direction you move in. In a forwards cartwheel, the hips face the direction you will move in. This change in starting position, make the landing a bit trickers. Most people having difficulty with their landing due to poor hip-flexor and thoracic extension. The more you are able to work on flexibility in these areas, the easier the landing will be.

Backwards Cartwheel (Macaco em pe)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

Moving backwards makes people feel very uncomfortable. While doing macaco em pe, you are not looking at your first hand reaching down towards the ground. Make sure you’re comfortable with this before attempting. The hardest part about this cartwheel is the beginning. However, once you feel comfortable bringing your legs over your body in a backwards direction, the landing is very simple.

Macaco

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

This movement is something of a mix of a back hand-spring and a backwards cartwheel. At the base of your squat, you want to explode up and back, similar to a back hands spring. From there, the first hand comes back and the other hand leads the legs up and over your shoulders. Macaco itself has many variations that make it a cool and interesting movement to learn.

Increase difficulty with one hand only

One way to increase the difficulty of the moves shown above is to try them with one hand. Make sure you feel fairly confident doing these movements before trying to do them one-handed. Using just one hand makes controlling the movement much harder.

Cartwheels with Rotations

If you’re looking for advanced cartwheels, then here is the section to look at. There are tons of awesome variations that you can push yourself with. Along with the need for basic coordination as required in the core set. Many of these cartwheels require rotational mobility in the spine in addition to the extension needed in the previous section.

This is where cartwheels start to get really interesting!

Inverted Cartwheel / Gumbi (Au de Coluna)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This cartwheel breaks all the rules of what a cartwheel should look like. In summary, we’re inverting a cartwheel without displacing. The cartwheel should start and end in about the same location. Some people do this cartwheel intentionally moving laterally, but this is pretty lame. At the highest level, your cartwheel should not move laterally at all. This depends greatly on your shoulder mobility, proprioception, and extend your body as seen in the previous section.

Au Trançado

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can think of this as the big brother to Au de Coluna. The principle is the same. Move, break all the rules of a normal cartwheel, and do so without displacing. The main difference between this movement and Au de Coluna is that the take-off is different. Other than that, the moves are very similar. Make sure you can do Au de Coluna before attempting this move!

You can think of this as the big brother to Au de Coluna. The principle is the same. Move, break all the rules of a normal cartwheel, and do so without displacing. The main difference between this movement and Au de Coluna is that the take-off is different. Other than that, the moves are very similar. Make sure you can do Au de Coluna before attempting this move!

Helicopter (Helicóptero)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another one of my favorites. Helicoptero benefits from rotating at the spine. For this reason, make sure that you are thoroughly warmed up. The movement gets its name from the movement of the legs, which mimic a helicopter.

A secret to this movement is that it’s a lot easier to do when you elevate your hands. Everyone gets stuck in the same place with this movement, and I’ve seen this small tip help many people out. Of course, the movement is not that easy and requires a good amount of practice to figure out.

Cartwheel with hand spin (Au com Piao de Mao)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

You can actually hand spin from a TON of different starting positions, but this is how a hand spin can fit into your cartwheel. The pisiform is the part of your hand you want to spin on. Most people are unable to spin because they keep most or all of their hand connected to the floor. The trick is to lift the hand so that only the pisiform is making contact with the floor. Once you can do this and keep yourself in the air for a few moments, you can start to rotate and spin on your hand. Easier said than done!

Acrobatic Cartwheels

Although technically spilling over into the world of tricking, acrobatic cartwheels bring an explosive element to cartwheels. Working on explosive leg movements is called plyometrics, and they are a way to work on our strength. Box jumps are an example of this. Doing the movements below builds strength while working on the specific cartwheel variation.

Butterfly Kick (Mariposa)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐

This is an excellent entry-level movement for cartwheels that don’t use the hands. If “acrobatic cartwheels” as a category was a tree, the butterfly kick would be the trunk. This movement is far less scary than many of the others on this list because the head stays up.

Beginners should start here and slowly work up until their movement is strong and they are able to jump high. The natural progression from this movement is the Aerial, or Au Sem Mão.

Aerial (Au sem Mão)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

Au sem mao or an “aerial” is a foundational skill in the world of gymnastics and tricking. In Capoeira, this movement is literally described as a cartwheel without hands. One leg jumps up, while the other kicks hard to the side, causing the body to rotate over itself. The arms play a vital role in creating power and rotational force. Make sure to punch hard over your head as you jump.

Raiz (Raíz)

Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Raiz is still in the realm of beginner tricking/acroatics. The main difference between Raiz and Au Sem Mao is that the legs go behind the body as they go up and over. The main difference is the “punch” mentioned earlier. Although you do want the same hand punching over your head, the other hand is the key. The free hand punches as if to do an uppercut, causing your chest to rotate up towards the sky.

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