How to Handstand

Handstand in Japan

A short, effective tutorial on the handstand.

So you want to learn how to do a handstand. This is a bit of a difficult tutorial to make mostly because of the overwhelming amount of information that can be said about the handstand. As this isn’t the full guide, I’ll just put what I feel is really necessary to jump-start you on the acquisition of this skill.

So what is a handstand? It’s a balance move where your entire bodyweight is supported by just your hand(s), there is no resting of body parts on other body parts. This implies that it can be any crazy shape as long as you’re balancing on your hands right? Well… yes, but there are certain guidelines we will adhere to in order to be as efficient as possible thus maximizing your time when balancing on two hands.

Which brings me to the alignment. If you’ve done any research on this subject it’s something you’ve probably seen a million times already. Elbows locked, shoulders open and shrugged, ribs in, abs tight, butt squeezed, legs squeezed, toes pointed?!?!?! Nah dude. Thinking about all of that when actually attempting a handstand is going to overwhelm and frustrate you when you start sucking eggs at handstands.

Before I give you my alternative way of going about this, I would just like to note that having flexible shoulders is not necessary to perform a decent and functional handstand. However, the more flexible your shoulders are the easier it will be to execute all of those cues for the “perfect” line. But again, you can still perform a straight handstand with shit shoulder flexion and progress onto all of the fun stuff. Not having a perfect line is perfectly fine and dandy.

Exercise 1 & 2- Alignment Cues & Body Position

Alright. You’ll need a trusty stick. Here is the first set of exercises.
Exercise 1 Exercise 1
This is the first basic alignment cue, this teaches the “ribs in” feeling. Aim to get your back flat with the ground with your arms straight overhead. Contract your abs. Easy.
Exercise 2
Exercise 2
Next flip it over, you want to keep that ribs in/abs flexed feeling. My favorite way to explain this feeling is imagine you are about to get punched right in the stomach. You would of course try to brace your abdomen for such an impact. This is the “hollow” feeling you want to experience. You can see how my back is somewhat rounded in the first picture; I am trying to exaggerate the position a bit.

The second picture you will notice my arms are lifted off of the ground. Opening ONLY the shoulders like this is very difficult to accomplish without breaking the body position by:

  • losing the position of the abs
  • arching the back
  • lifting the chest
  • retracting the scapula

These are all things you want to avoid. Aim to open the shoulders/lift the arms without changing any another position of the body. This exercise does require decent shoulder flexibility to accomplish.

Main points:

  • Feet, hips, chest/sternum, are touching the floor
  • Arms are lifted up until they are straight with the body

Exercise 3- Going upside down

Now that you (and hopefully your body) understand what the handstand position feels like, it’s time to mimic that position upside down with the aid of a wall.
Exercise 3 chest to wall
So here is your chest to wall handstand (and some thunder thighs). Your goal is to try and keep the exact same position you practiced in exercise 1 and 2 . This time your bodyweight is supported by your shoulders, so you will want to focus on pushing up and opening that shoulder angle and keeping those abs contracted and torso straight. Learn this position well, you are well on your way to a freestanding handstand.

Main points:

  • hands fairly close to the wall
  • locked elbows
  • shoulders strongly supporting
  • feet pointed
  • the easiest way to get in and out of this position is a sort of cartwheel

Exercise 4,5, & 6- Balance

Now we’re getting on the good stuff.
Exercise 3 chest to wall Exercise 4
Here is the chest to wall balance. Starting from exercise 3 you are going to carefully apply pressure to the palm of your hand. While keeping the same exact position you will “peel” away from the wall. Try holding for a few seconds and then come back to the wall. You can repeat this as many times as you’d like.
Exercise 5 Exercise 5
Once you’ve gained some proficiency in exercise 4 move onto exercise 5, the back to wall balance. The back to wall is a bit trickier to keep that body position, so at this point you will want a decent awareness of your body alignment before doing this exercise. Get pretty close to the wall (you could be closer than I am in the picture), start with just your heels on the wall, and this time apply pressure to your fingertips to peel yourself away from the wall. Hold for a few seconds and go back. You can repeat this as many times as you’d like.

With exercise five you can also start to practice kicking up and getting a sense of how much force is needed to get yourself up to, but not past the sweet spot of balance.
Exercise 6 Exercise 6
The last balance exercise before you move onto freestanding attempts is the scissor. Now that you’re starting to suck less you can take it up a notch and increase your distance from the wall (I know scary) and start to just tap the wall and shift your focus to just balancing.

At this point you will start racking up seconds and hopefully new PRs. This exercise is also a good place to start learning how to save your balance should you tip over (and you will haha). I think this is something I will leave out and probably put in the handstand guide, it’s a whole other topic.

Main points:

  • apply pressure through the fingers or palm to balance yourself
  • take it slooooowwww
  • point your toes damn it
  • be patient
  • this takes a ton of practice
  • always strive for the optimal body position
  • but don’t let getting the perfect line consume your soul
  • after around exercise 6, you can concern yourself less with the alignment and more on developing balance
  • don’t give up

The Freestanding Handstand

Another handstand in japan
This is where the magic happens kiddos. Now you have my permission to start seriously attempting the freestanding handstand. I suggest learning how to roll and cartwheel out of a handstand; there’s going to be a lot of bailing. You will have had some practice with kicking up with exercise 5, but at this point you will need to fine tune the kick up in order to seamlessly transition into your desired alignment, without falling over.

Once you get the hang of it you can start trying different positions like the tuck here.

Or you can move onto some majorly badass stuff like the handstand push-up, straddle press to handstand, etc.

In conclusion, there are an endless amount of tips I could give about the handstand but what it comes down to is the amount of practice you put into the skill. My learning process was not a very smart one, I basically just tried to kick up into it for a couple years until I had a few epiphanies. What I have included in this tutorial I believe to be fastest and most efficient method to learning the handstand. If you want a more in depth analysis I’ll be putting up a comprehensive guide in the future.

As always, sharing is extremely appreciated! Let me know what you guys think, future tutorials, suggestions, questions, etc. Shoot me a comment or a message on FB or IG!

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