The handstand; a skill that captivated and drew me into the bodyweight and flexibility practice from day one. It’s an incredible skill to learn for many reasons, it’s fun, has endless variations and progressions but most importantly it is about mastering something previously impossible. Additionally, during this time of lockdown and quarantine, it’s a practice that requires zero equipment other than some floor space.
This post is made to collate the large amount of content scattered over my YouTube channel into one succinct video and post for you to reference and use to achieve your first handstand or take your current handstand practice to the next level. For more specific guidance, there are curated handstand programs from absolute beginner to balance and beyond available in my app Trybe.
For more specific advice and routines try Trybe!
Step 1: Capacity
Capacity is essential for any physical skill. You must develop the foundational level of strength and conditioning to build the base for the end skill to be built upon. Much of this will be developed in conjunction with doing the handstand itself but there are a few basics we need to consider first.
The wrists are the base in which the balance originates and often the more commonly injured body part during the learning of the handstand. For this reason, we want to make it a priority to strengthen and condition them from the beginning. I recommend performing this wrist routine as a warm up and cool down to your sessions.
Shoulders are the most important element of the handstand. Getting into a proper shoulder position requires good levels of strength, flexibility and stability built from a combination of strengthening the traps and stretching the restricting muscles. I recommend performing this routine 2x per week at the end of handstand sessions if your shoulders are tight. You can test your flexibility using this video.
Along with conditioning the wrists, we need to strengthen the fingers and introduce the concept of balancing on the hands. The frog stand is a great beginner variation as the centre of mass is low to the ground and easier to balance. I recommend holding for time and working up to 60s alongside the other conditioning in this capacity section.
The handstands require placing your entire bodyweight through the shoulders so it is sensible to assume they need to get stronger and more stable. The main handstand specific drills we can use are:
I recommend holding for time and working up to 60s alongside the other conditioning in this capacity section. Alongside these, it might be beneficial to work on general scapula strengthening like those demoed in this video.
Step 2: Confidence
Confidence is an issue that doesn’t always affect everyone doing handstands but if it does, it can really hold back progress. Fear of falling is a rational fear when first learning but something that can be effectively managed by learning to fall. Taking 10-15 minutes each session to expose yourself to the handstand and practice bailing out of it will help reinforce and understand how to no hurt yourself when practicing. This combined with the capacity work will build confidence for the next steps.
Step 3: Balance
The most important element of learning to handstand but a step many get wrong. Time is the most crucial variable when it comes to learning to handstand. We need exposure to the skill frequently and with enough time to learn how to balance. The more exposure we get, the faster we can learn. In this instance, the wall is your friend. The wall provides a set point to allow us to work specifically the balance with minimal disruption. Not using the wall won’t allow enough time early on to efficiently learn how to balance and not using the wall correctly will create bad habits that will keep you there.
Just getting on the wall and trying to hold a handstand without conscious thought won’t result in balance either. We need to understand how to create balance, not randomly find it and hope to stay there. I recommend trying to accumulate a certain amount of time (30, 60, 120s etc) of balance in a session broken into as many sets as you can manage. These can be done in a mixture of chest to wall (developing balance) and back to wall (improving overbalance).
Step 4: Entry
Once we begin to see the glimpses of balance and start getting 5s holds on the wall, it is worth beginning to consider how to enter the handstand when the wall is not a factor. Entry to handstand is a skill in and of itself with the simplest option being the kick up but you can also jump or press into it. These is an element of trial and error in figuring technique for yourself but, like the balance, the wall can provide a shortcut. I recommend adding 10-15 minutes at the end of handstand sessions to explore this.
For those interested in the press to handstand, I will leave all the relevant videos I’ve made for that skill below.
Step 5: Applying It
“Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.” – Abu Bakr
We need to get doing and start training, but where to start? There is no one right answer here and it’s often down to an individual to find what works for them but there are some core principles I can recommend to begin to figure it out. For those that really just want to do, I recommend giving my follow along handstand routine ago. It’s short and sweet but covers all the concepts we’ve covered above.
The general principles we can consider are as follows:
- Train frequently – 4-6x per week
- Build a base – 30s chest to wall handstand
- Accumulate balance – set a time goal, not sets
- Learn the entry – basic kick up
- Develop more skills
For those at the point where they have a 20s consistent handstand then here are some more videos on where you can go next.
Given enough time and using the principles written above, I believe most people can develop a handstand. It is a frustrating practice but ultimately very fun and rewarding. Don’t expect to learn to handstand in 30 days, that’s bullsh*t. People will progress at different rates but expect to be working on this for 3, 6 or maybe even 12 months before you get a consistent handstand. Hopefully this guide will shorten that time for you and get you to that handstand goal. I wish you the best of luck with your training 🙂
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If you’re still struggling to find a plan, why not try my app. There are 8 different handstand levels to work through beginner to intermediate alongside a variety of others working on strength, skills and flexibility.