A Guide to Handstanding

Written By : Sondre Berg 

Get Comfortable


Getting comfortable upside-down is the first step to doing handstands. The first step is simply getting used to being inverted. This can be done by learning a headstand. The headstand is far less intimidating than the handstand and is a nice way of getting used to the upside-down world. The easiest way to get comfortable here is by getting into position with head in front of your hands (creating a stable triangle). Then tuck your knees to your chest and slightly lift your feet of the ground. Just stay here and get comfy. Once this is easy you elevate your feet slightly more and then more and so on. The further up your feet goes, the higher your center of gravity moves and the harder it is to balance. The goal here is to eventually straighten your legs.  

Being scared or afraid of falling is very natural, but also very counter effective when trying to learn. We've all familiar with exposure therapy, and as with everything else, exposing yourself to what you're afraid of is a very effective way of getting over your fear. Just throwing yourself into it however, could yield the opposite result because your action could potentially lead into feeding your fear. That is why it is absolutely essential to learn how to fall. If you teach your body that falling will not cause any harm, then you will quickly get rid of your fear of falling. The video shows 3 ways of falling safely. the first is into a bridge. This required a fair amount of flexibility and is not recommended for just anyone. The second involves falling into a roll. This is technically challenging and can only be recommended to those with a background in gymnastics or something similar. The third way is simply falling into a cartwheel. This is done by simply lifting one of your hands and your body will automatically twist and turn into a cartwheel. This is the simplest way of falling safely in a handstand.

Getting Strong Enough 

Getting strong enough to hold the handstand position effortlessly will make your life as a hand balancer much easier. All of the exercises shown in this video can be performed in parallel with your handstand training and need not be considered as a prerequisite. Many of the exercises is also perfect for warm up if you have already gotten comfortable doing them. 
The first exercise is called scapula push-ups and works your scapular control. The point is to have straight arms and protract and retract your scapula. Think squeezing your shoulder blades together, followed by pushing out a Quasimodo back. The next exercise is simply shifting your weight from one hand to the other in a push-up position always pushing out your shoulders for stability. After this comes the one arm scapula pushups which is like exercise 1, only with one arm. Remember to have a wide and stable stance with any of the one arm exercises. After this comes the real handstand strength tests. Walking face to wall up to a wall supported handstand is great strength training. In the beginning, only walk as far as you're comfy with, for example to the height of your hips. As you get stronger and more comfortable, you can walk into the full wall supported handstand position. These two exercises can also be done for reps by walking up and down for handstand specific conditioning.

Learning How to Balance 

This is perhaps where most people fall of and get stuck. This is mostly do to the fact that they do not know how to balance and with what body parts to do the corrections. You will save a lot of time learning this early in your handstand training. A lot of people make the mistake of starting to walk on their hands. This will inhibit you from teaching your brain to react in the correct manner which is by using your hands and fingers to adjust. Your palms and fingers are the true secret. If your center of gravity moves over your head, you should move it back by pushing your finger into the ground. If your center of gravity moves the other way you need to push the lowest part of your palm into the ground (this is the most difficult part.
A nice way of getting the sensation of using your hands to balance is by entering a crow (the first exercise in the video) and rock back and forth in this position only using your hands to generate the force. This is exactly what you want to do in a handstand as well. Doing the same exercise (rocking back and forth using your hands only) can be done in a wall supported handstand both back to wall and face to wall. This is perhaps the most efficient way of learning how to hand balance.

Shoulder and Wrist Mobility 

Shoulder mobility is important in order for your body to be physically able to enter an efficient handstand where all of your joints are stacked directly on top of each other. This may take months or years to achieve depending on your body, current level of flexibility and of course how much time you spend working on it. Not \being able to have a straight line should however never stop your from doing handstands, but it is nice to have this as a goal. Having flexible and strong wrists is also very important in order to prevent wrist injuries. Wrist injuries are very common among beginners and also intermediate hand balancers and can out off your training for months. It is therefore important to start sooner than later with wrist conditioning, preventing this from happening. Wrist push-ups like the three type of push-ups shown first in the video is a strong tool to get strong wrists. It can be used as a warm up for handstands as well. To make easier simply put down your knees and to make it even easier walk further forwards with your knees. Shoulder dislocations can be performed with an elastic band, any kind of bar or a towel etc. It is a great way of working on your shoulder mobility. As you get more flexible use a closer grip. Learning how to do thoracic bridges is also an excellent way of getting healthy and mobile shoulders and back. Elevating your feet makes it easier (you may have to put your feet on something really high in the beginning). the more flexible and mobile you get, the lower you can pout your feet. Chest to wall handstands is also a great way of attaining the required shoulder mobility for handstands. Focus on pushing your shoulders to your ears and getting your hands as close to the wall as possible. This that your wrist, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should be in a straight line optimally and get an idea of how this feels.

Learn to Kick Up 

Learn to kick up into a handstand by using a wall as a safety net. Fist kick to a wall supported handstand. Then you can try and kick up with only one leg touching. After this you can try and not touch the wall at all, but have it there in case you need it. Lastly you can kick up anywhere when comfortable. A couple of key points here is to start by having your hands in the ground in order to eliminate unnecessary variables. Also, your kicking leg comes first, the other leg waits until balance is gained, do not rush it.

 Common Questions and Pitfalls

The video text in this video explains it all. These are the most common questions I get from beginners learning to handstand and also the most common mistakes people make.

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