The narrow construction of the balance beam makes even simple maneuvers -- such as somersaults -- more challenging. Most beginning gymnasts begin on low beams surrounded by lots of padding, while working with the assistance of a spotter. Start with the easiest routines, progressing to more challenging routines only as you master easy ones.
Balancing on the Beam
The first step to mastering beam work is to become familiar and comfortable with the beam. Beginning gymnasts should regularly walk on the beam to learn its dimensions and how it interacts with body movements. Start with walking on two feet, then graduate to standing on one foot and then walking as you dip one foot off to the side. After you've mastered this on the low beam, move up to the same routine on the high beam.
Incorporating Dance Elements
Gymnastics relies heavily on basic dance routines, and dancing on the beam improves your balance and prepares you for more complex beam work. Start by turning 180 degrees on the beam, then work up to a 360-degree turn. Then work on basic ballet, standing on your toes on the beam. Next, try standing on the beam and lifting one leg straight out, balancing for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch legs and try again.
Jumps and Leaps
Jumping and leaping on the balance beam is fraught with danger, and complex leaps are not good for beginners. Jumping straight up and then landing back on the beam, however, helps you master the basics of precise footwork and straight jumps. After you've mastered this, try leaping on the beam, with both legs off of the beam and in the air. Try landing on two feet first, then graduating to catching yourself on one foot.
Tumbles are the most challenging and dangerous component of beam work, so ensure you always have a spotter. Start with a somersault, ensuring your spotter is there to guide you through the movement. As you gain skill, you can work up to handsprings, flips and similarly complex movements, then begin pairing multiple moves at once.