In my last post I talked about 3 Unconventional Exercises Everyone Should Master, one of which is handstands. Not only do they look cool, but they have some pretty awesome benefits for your health as well. By inverting your body, you give your heart and your spine a break, improve your mood because of the blood flowing to your brain, strengthen your core and upper body, and improve your balance and spatial awareness. Our bodies weren’t just designed to stay on our feet. Today I’m going to give you 3 simple steps to mastering the handstand. Don’t be intimidated, it will seem hard at first, but keep working at it and you will not be disappointed.
Plank – Before you try balancing upside down, it is crucial that you have some core and upper body strength first. Plank is one of the best ways to activate the core muscles you will be using in handstand, as well as your shoulders and upper body muscles. Try planking in various positions; with your feet on a raised surface such as a couch, with your hands on a chair, with your hands stretched out as far as you can in front of you, or any other way you can think of to get a strong core.
Chair Handstand – This is a great way to get used to the feel of having your body upside down without putting your feet up over your head. Place your feet on a chair (or some other raised surface) and your hands on the ground. Walk your hands out and lift your hips until your hips are directly above your shoulders. Take it slow and easy, you don’t want to fall on your neck.
Plate Overhead – This is a very helpful way to help your brain understand what your body’s position should be when you are upside down, before actually inverting. Take a barbell plate and hold it straight overhead. Engage your core and keep your body in a straight line. Your back shouldn’t arch at all. Practice this until you really get the feel for which muscles should be engaged when you are in a handstand. In this video, Camille has some great tips for improving your handstands.
Wall Climb – Now that your muscles have woken up and gotten stronger, start working on your wall climb. For this exercise, you will be facing a wall with your hands on the floor and your feet over your head and against the wall. Start with your hands a couple feet away from the wall and walk your feet up the wall. Once your legs are extended straight, if you are feeling confident, walk your hands in as close to the wall as you can get them. This is tough the first few times you do it, but it gets easier with time. If the first time you can’t walk your hands at all, that’s fine, just try to keep your body in a straight line. If you feel at all shaky or unsteady, don’t be afraid to come out of the handstand by either walking your feet back down or by kicking them to the side like you are finishing a cartwheel.
Kick up – Another great way to practice handstands without having to risk falling in the middle of the floor is to kick up with your back to the wall. This is practice for when you will kick up into a freestanding handstand. Like with the Wall Climb exercise, try to have your hands as close to the wall as you can. Don’t arch your back, and when you are ready, try not to touch the wall with your feet. You should barely put any weight against the wall – remember your goal is to eventually not need the wall at all. Work up to holding this position for 30 seconds, then a minute, or more.
Now that you’ve put in all that work, you should be thoroughly prepared to attempt a freestanding handstand. Yay! When you move into freestanding handstands, practice by moving gradually away from the wall. Don’t just immediately try one in the middle of a room. At first, keep the wall close enough behind you so that if you do fall backwards, your feet can land against the wall instead of you crashing to the floor. If you do feel yourself starting to fall, try to tip to the side like you are coming out of a cartwheel. You will have much less chance of injury that way. One thing that is helpful for me to remember is that if my arms are straight and locked out, I won’t fall on my head. Avoid the temptation to bend your arms if you start falling over. The moment you bend them, you will probably land on your head or back. Keep your arms straight at all times.
Most of all, remember to relax and have fun with this move. It is so rewarding to finally master this exercise 🙂 I personally am still working on my freestanding handstands. I was terrified the first time I tried to kick up into one, and fell flat on my back. After that I did some research and learned the techniques I’ve mentioned above, and now I’ve progressed to the point where it isn’t any problem for me to hold them against a wall with very little weight resting against it. I can’t wait for the day when I can hold a free handstand in the middle of a room for 10 seconds straight! 🙂
Let me know your thoughts and/or questions in the comments! I would love to hear from you.