How to Master the YoYo Basics

My kids and I have been having fun trying to learn how to do yoyo tricks. There are lots of videos which make yoyo tricks look easy, but we quickly discovered that it's quite a challenge to master these tricks.

When you're a beginner, all of the yoyo moves feel awkward and sometimes frustrating. But if you work on mastering these basics, it will be a lot easier for you to learn how to do all kinds of cool tricks!

Different Types of Yoyos

There are different types of yoyos, and this video from demonstrates what you can do with various types of yoyos:

The basic moves that we'll be describing mostly apply to the "1A" style of tricks (i.e. using a sleeping yoyo) and the "5A" style of tricks (i.e. using a counterweight) in the above video.

Which Yoyo Is Best?

The first thing we wanted to find out is what's the best yoyo to buy, but we discovered that there's really no such thing as a "best" yoyo. For example, here are a couple of discussions about different yoyos that various people prefer (the links will open up in a new browser window):

What's your favorite YoYoJam yoyo?

What's your favorite yoyo?

The Bearing

Most yoyos today have a bearing inside of them which allows the yoyo to "sleep" for a nice long time. This means that when you throw the yoyo down, it can spin at the bottom of the string for a nice long time.

The following picture shows two halves of a ProtoStar yoyo, and the bearing is the round metal piece on top of the half on the left:

Here's a good description of how to clean your bearing (the link will open up in a new browser window): Cleaning a Bearing

Traditional yoyos can sleep (i.e. spin at the bottom of the string) for a short time, and they return to your hand when you tug on the string. These are referred to as "responsive" yoyos because they respond when you tug on the string. Yoyos with bearings in them are mostly "unresponsive" because they don't want to return to your hand. In a moment we'll show you how to make an unresponsive yoyo return to your hand.

The String

To put a string on the yoyo, gently unscrew the two halves of the yoyo until they come apart (as in the above picture). At one end of the string there should be a loop (see the picture below). Take the other end of the string and unwind it a bit so that you can place the end of the string around the bearing as in the above picture. When you screw the two halves of the yoyo together, be gentle so that you can feel when it wants to stop turning. If you try to tighten it after it wants to stop turning then you can damage the yoyo.

When the yoyo is touching the ground, the string should come up to your belly button. That's often considered to be a good length for the string.

At one end of the string there's a loop:

If you cut the string to make it shorter, then simply tie your own loop at the end of the string.

Take the main part of the string (shown on the left in the first picture below) and push it through the original loop to create a self-tightening loop for putting your finger through:

Whichever arm is your strongest throwing arm, put your middle finger through the loop which you created. Many yoyo players tighten the string around the middle of their middle finger like this:

The hand with the string on it is called your "throwing hand." The other hand is your "free hand."

Winding the Yoyo

Before you wind the yoyo, it's important to get rid of the twist in the string:

An easy way to do this is to hold the yoyo and your throwing hand apart from each other, then slowly bring them toward each other and notice which way the string starts twisting. If the string wants to twist in a clockwise direction, for example, then simply spin the yoyo in a clockwise direction:

By spinning the yoyo in the direction that the string wants to turn, this will remove all of the twist in the string:

To wind the string, first bring the string around a finger on your free hand and then wind the string around the "gap" in the yoyo:

This leaves a loop of string sticking out of the yoyo, which is normal.

Throwing the Yoyo

To hold the yoyo, make sure that the string travels flat along your finger from the loop on your finger all the way to the bottom part of the yoyo:

If the string travels up at an angle and goes up to the top part of the yoyo then you won't be able to throw the yoyo properly:

Here's a good video from which explains how to throw a yoyo to get a nice long sleep time:

When you throw the yoyo straight down in front of you (i.e. the "normal" way to throw a yoyo, as demonstrated in the above video), this is called a "front throw." In a moment we'll see another type of throw called a "breakaway."

When you throw the yoyo, you want it to be stable and vertical as it spins, like this:

You don't want the yoyo to be wobbly as it spins, and you don't want it to spin at an angle like this:

If it's wobbling or spinning at an angle then the string will rub against the yoyo, making the yoyo stop spinning sooner.

Many yoyo tricks require a nice long sleep time, so throwing a good sleeper is one of the first things to master. To practice your throw, hold the yoyo near your ear and then snap your arm and wrist downwards like in the above video. Wind up the yoyo and try again. And again. And again. Try holding the yoyo near your ear, then move it a little farther from your ear to change the angle of your throw. Keep trying different angles until you can get a nice stable spin most of the time. Remember to get rid of the twist in the string before you wind the string, because that can affect the yoyo's spin.

A good way to work on increasing your sleep time is to have someone time your throws. Throw a sleeper and see how long you can make it spin. If you can make it spin at the bottom of the string for 15 seconds then try for 30 seconds, then 45 seconds, and so on. With a cleaned and lubricated KonKave bearing I can make our ProtoStar yoyo sleep for about a minute. Experienced yoyo players say that the throwing technique is more important than the type of yoyo, so I'm trying to figure out how to improve my technique. Some yoyos can spin for 4 or 5 minutes with a good throwing technique. Many tricks only take a few seconds to complete, so if you can make the yoyo sleep for 30 seconds then that's plenty of time for beginning to learn tricks.

The "Bind Return"

Another important thing to learn is how to get the yoyo to come back up to your hand by doing a "bind return." There are many videos which show different kinds of bind returns, but they're not easy for beginners to do because you need to be fairly comfortable with swinging the yoyo and catching it on the string. Here's an easy way to do a bind return.

While the yoyo is spinning at the bottom of the string, put your free hand (the one that's not holding the string) on the side of the string which is farthest from your body, then stick out your index finger:

Now bring your throw hand to the far side of your free hand, then bring it down so that the string goes over your index finger:

Bring your throw hand down underneath the yoyo, then bring it up between the yoyo and your body so that the string goes into the yoyo's gap. Now your free hand is holding a loop of string:

Bring the loop of string toward your body, and at the same time lift up the yoyo with your throw hand:

If you do it right, then the loop of string will bind (i.e. get caught) inside the yoyo, and the yoyo will return to your hand. This is why it's called a "bind return." The bind return will feel awkward at first, but with practice you'll be able to do it easily.

When you're comfortable with the bind return, try doing it this way. Throw a good sleeper, then put the finger of your free hand down near the yoyo:

Swing the yoyo so that it swings up and around your finger and lands on the string. This is called an "Over Mount." It takes practice, but when you land the yoyo on the string then the finger of your free hand is holding a loop so that you can do a bind return:

Here's a video from which shows how to do the bind return:

The "Breakaway"

In addition to the front throw which we've been talking about, another basic move is a sideways throw (called a "Breakaway"). Instead of throwing the yoyo in front of you, throw it out to the side so that it spins sideways:

If your right hand is your throw hand, then do a breakaway by throwing the yoyo to your right. Otherwise, throw the yoyo to your left.

When you're able to get a strong, stable spin from your breakaway, then try doing the "Man on the Flying Trapeze" trick. Throw a breakaway and swing the yoyo toward your free hand. Put the finger of your free hand near the yoyo and swing the yoyo over your finger and catch it on the string:

Here's a video which shows how to do a breakaway and a trapeze at


When you're doing string tricks, you'll often have several sections of string in the yoyo's gap at the same time. For example, here's the first part of an intermediate trick called "Brain Twister":

It's important to make sure that all sections of the string are in line with each other so that they stay in the yoyo's gap without touching the yoyo's sides, if possible (as in the above picture). If part of the string rubs against the sides of the yoyo then it will slow down the yoyo.


  • Keep practicing until you can consistently get a strong and stable front throw.

  • Keep trying to increase the length of time that the yoyo sleeps at the bottom of the string.

  • Practice the bind return.

  • Keep practicing until you can consistently get a strong and stable breakaway.

  • Practice the trapeze trick.

When you've mastered these basics then it will be a lot easier for you to learn how to do all kinds of cool yoyo tricks!

Websites for Learning Yoyo Tricks

Here are a couple of yoyo websites to get you started learning cool tricks:

"How to Master the YoYo Basics"

Modification History
08/19/2010: New website.

Dave Root

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