Tips and Tricks: Learning to Handstand

Handstands are often an alien movement for most people, but they are a great way to work your whole body and the potential for progressions is endless.

To start, core strength is quite a big deal when it comes to handstands – especially if you want to learn the best technique for a solid base. A great movement to work on is a dish hold – lie on your back, push your lower back into the floor and lift your head, shoulders and feet. Your arm position is optional and adjusting it will make the movement easier (down by your side, across body) or harder (above your head). Another pre-requisite of the handstand is shoulder mobility, it’s important to be able to comfortably stretch your arms above your head without having to push your head forward or arch your back to compensate. If this is something you struggle with, lots of stretching!

If you’re just starting, I would get used to taking weight through your arms and wrists in particular. You could try using a swiss ball or TRX with feet resting in/on and pulling in to an inverted v shape, until the arms are perpendicular with your bottom, shoulders and hands all aligned.

The next step would be to use a wall to walk your feet up. Start facing away from the wall and place your hands on the floor in front. Lift your feet onto the wall one at a time and walk them up slowly, moving your hands in as you go. Gradually, as you become more comfortable, you can build up to a fully inverted position.

Once you have sussed those, it’s time to learn the entry – the kick up. This can be done against a wall initially and the main coaching point is trying to stay as straight as possible throughout. To do this you need a long low lunge with your arms up by your ears. Once you can control the entry, without kicking the wall too hard, you can start to pull away from the wall and hold the handstand free. When you’re comfortable with that, you could use a platform to rest your arms against (I used to practice for hours against a sofa!) allowing you more control of your lower half or use a resistance band stretched across two vertical points to rest against (the higher up it is, the more support and assistance it will provide).

The next step is, of course, a freestanding handstand! The most important aspect of this stage is having an exit strategy – always make sure you are comfortable exiting the handstand if you overbalance, this can be a forward roll (definitely not great on a hard floor) or simply a twist to the side. Letting your feet go straight over is not ideal, especially for those lacking in back flexibility!

Extra Pointers

Squeeze your legs together and your bottom, engage the core and point your toes.

Spread out your fingers and distribute your weight evenly from the heel of your palm, the first knuckles and the finger tips – these are all crucial in maintaining balance.

Extend the shoulders – essentially push up through your shoulders to grow as tall as you can.

Keep a slight dish shape

Breathe!!

I would love to see your progress – tag #abalancedlifehandstands on Instagram to share!

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