Brandon Burns has been practicing gymnastics since he was a child. As a result, by the time he was 20 years old, the athlete had perfected some astonishing skills. And Burns’ repertoire includes one fiendishly difficult trick that he can perform while sitting down.
Burns hails from Madison, Alabama. However, he now calls Ann Arbor, Michigan, home. That’s because he attends the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology, where he is studying body movement.
Alongside Burns’ scientific studies, he is also a member of the University of Michigan men’s gymnastics team. Prior to that, the student had been part of the Southern States Gymnastics Academy, where he no doubt honed his tumbling and floor skills.
“I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was ten years old,” Burns told Caters in March 2018. “I got started by taking some basic tumbling classes – then soon started in artistic gymnastics classes and progressed from there.”
Before joining the University of Michigan, Burns had proven himself to be a talented gymnast. He took part in the Junior Olympic Nationals from 2012 to 2015, and in 2015 he became the Alabama State All-Around Champion.
Yet, like many athletes, Burns has faced trials and tribulations. And after what was presumably a stint of bad form, in 2017 he found himself dropped from the Michigan Gymnastics team. However, the student refused to give up on his sport.
Instead, Burns hit the gym and began to push his body to further extremes than ever before. There was one complicated move in particular that the sportsman wanted to perfect. However, the trick was so demanding, that he knew of only a single person who could do it.
The move in question was a seated backflip, and the person who had perfected it was Dom Lewis. As luck would have it, Lewis just so happened to be a friend of Burns’. And as a result, the young gymnast was able to learn his skills from the very best.
Speaking about Lewis, Burns explained, “He taught me a seated back handspring (same thing but using your hands) a while back, so when I saw him do the flip from a seat drop I wanted to see if I could one-up him and decided to try it from a completely static, truly sitting position.”
In footage from one training session, Burns can be seen sitting on a crash mat with his legs out in front of him. As he prepares to flip his body over, he swings his arms to build some momentum before swiftly throwing his head and torso backwards. At the same time, he lifts his legs off the ground.
As Burns begins to flip, he grabs his knees to pull them into a tucked position. Now that his body is in a more aerodynamic shape, it quickly rotates until the gymnast’s feet reach the ground. Somehow he lands the move with only the slightest little jump forward.
After finally pulling off the notoriously difficult trick, Burns found that his Instagram channel took off in a big way. By June 2018 he boasted 13,000 followers and his seated backflip video alone had clocked up millions of views.
Speaking after he posted the footage, Burns revealed, “It took me about a week of really working on it to land it for the first time. After I released the video, I was talking to [Lewis], found out we were both working on it at around the same time, and we both landed it at around the same time. We’re the only two people in the world that have done it so far.”
Commenting on the difficulty involved in pulling off the backflip, Burns added, “They’ve come a long way since I did it the first time – they’re a lot easier now! A lot of that comes from just getting more confident rather than improving the technique. It is scary at first, but now it’s one of my favourite tricks to do.”
Explaining why the trick is so, well, tricky, Burns said, “I’ve spent ten years training my body to do crazy things, but I still find it pretty difficult to do. It takes a lot of hamstring and core strength, and it takes a lot of confidence to trust that you can actually do it and not land on your head.”
Following Burns’ social media success, he spent the next year perfecting his seated backflip. Then, exactly 12 months after first unveiling the move, he returned to Instagram to celebrate the incredible feat with his many followers.
In a stirring online post, Burns wrote, “One year ago today! So much has changed because of this one little video. I don’t know exactly how many views it has across all platforms, but I know it’s upward of five million.”
The gymnast continued, “This video made me realize I could use my talents as a way of getting attention and spreading the messages and ideas I believe in – all by simply videoing myself doing what I love to do on a daily basis. It’s the reason I started taking this whole Instagram thing seriously.”
Chronicling the turn of events that led him to push himself, Burns added, “If I hadn’t been cut from the Michigan Gymnastics team last year, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get in the gym over spring break and play with new ideas like this.”
Wrapping up his post, Burns then turned his attention to the future. “It means the world to me that I have the opportunity to share my life, knowledge and thoughts with all of you,” he said. “Let’s see what craziness I can come up with this year.”