Handstands. While you may have fond memories of easily handstanding as a child, age & size definitely changes things. This post aims to provide the stepping stones & drills to work you up to a full, freestanding handstand.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for additional handstand videos & resources!
Cody’s Ultimate Guide to Handstands
There are two main components to handstands: Balance and Strength. There are three handstand drills for both components included in this post.
Build Handstand Strength:
The strength component comes first- if you cannot bear your own bodyweight on your hands, then you cannot begin to balance in that position. Think about it this way; if you cannot hold a weight equal to your own bodyweight overhead, with your arms completely locked out, then you do not have the strength for a handstand- yet.
1) Wall walks
Benefit: This drill prepares your arms & shoulders for bearing your bodyweight when inverted in a handstand, as well as training your body to stay rigid, stable, and in a straight line at any level or inversion.
How to: Face away from the wall, place your heels at the base of the wall, and get into a plank. Slowly walk your feet up the wall, walking your hands in as you move up. Try to get as close to the wall as possible, then reverse the movement and walk your hands out from the wall, and your feet back down to the ground. Repeat this drill of walking yourself up and down the wall, from plank to handstand and back.
Benefit: The L-Stand is a good way to practice getting comfortable with a full inversion (you are completely upside-down), while still using the wall. Additionally, the L-stand improves shoulder strength and allows you to experiment with bearing more or less weight depending on foot/leg position.
How to: Begin in a ‘downward dog’ position with your heels against the wall and your palms flat on the floor. Keep your hands planted, and walk your feet up the wall until your legs are parallel with the ground. Hold this position, or practice picking one leg off the wall at a time and extending it upward.
3) Handstand Facing Wall
Benefit: Practicing handstands facing the wall mimics the lines & center of gravity of a freestanding handstand, while giving you an accurate representation of how difficult it is to bear your bodyweight entirely on your hands. While it may be tempting to do a handstand facing away from the wall, that position makes it easy for your back to curve inwards unnaturally – something that you do not want to practice.
How to: There are a few options for entering a wall-facing handstand. The first is similar to the L-stand, with the addition of walking the hands into the wall. The second is doing a toe-touch with the backs of your legs against the wall, planting the hands, and then lifting one leg at a time. The third option is using the “wall walk” drill (#1 on this list) to get fully inverted.
Build Handstand Balance:
The balance component follows & compliments strength development. Center of gravity is central to any balancing exercise (whether it be on your hands, or your feet). When you are in a compact position (for example legs tucked in, rather than stretched out), or lower to the ground, your center of gravity is lower, making it easier to balance. When your limbs are outstretched, or you are further away from the ground, your center of gravity shifts to a more difficult position. Practicing balancing drills using different centers of gravity trains your balance for handstands.
Benefit: This is a great beginner handstand because you are holding all of your bodyweight on your arms, but it is much easier to balance in this compact position.
How to: Place your palms flat on the floor and tuck your knees into your armpits. Your thighs should be pressed against your torso, and your shins resting against the back of your arms. Slowly begin to “tip” yourself forward, lifting your feet off the ground and easing your weight onto your hands. Try to reach a stable frog stand.
Benefit: Handstand tucks will help you find your balance and work your stabilizing muscles, without the help of a wall.
How to: Stand and place your palms flat on the floor, about a foot in front of your toes. Bend your knees and push off the ground, bringing your hips up and your knees in a “tuck” position. Practice these small tuck-up hops, attempt to hold the top of the tuck and balance.
3) Elbow stand
Benefit: The elbow stand will train your core muscles to balance & stabilize the body with your legs fully extended, but provides a more stable base to experiment on.
How to: Begin in an elbow plank, then walk your feet inwards, letting your hips rise up, keeping your legs straight, and letting your weight shift forward. When you can’t walk your feet in any further, lift one leg upwards, and then the other. Practice getting both of your legs up off the ground, and holding elbow stand without wobbling.