Being able to master your own body weight - in exercises like pushups, pull-ups and dips- is incredibly impressive. The same goes for lifting heavy sh*t. But being able to balance on your hands without equipment or assistance?
Holy hell that’s more than just impressive. It’s so badass.
Do it for the increase in upper extremity & core strength and the improvement in balance, coordination and proprioception (the concept of being aware of where your body is in space).
Or, and let's just be honest here, do it solely because it's guaranteed to make people say, "Damn, that's cool!". I won't judge. Plus, they look awesome on social media. Just sayin' #DoitfortheInsta
When it comes to handstands, or any exercise really, but especially handstands, nothing beats actually doing them. You have to practice handstand-ing (not a word, but go with it) in order to, you know, handstand. Unlike strength based exercises, the handstand is generally thought to be more of a skill which requires frequent repetition in order to advance. Like most skills, practice is going to be your best friend when it comes to nailing your first handstand and all the ones that follow. If handstands are something that you want to be able to execute and improve upon, you're going to have to practice them, the more often, the better.
Aside from practicing the actual handstands (we'll get there in a minute), there are tons of exercises and drills that will assist you in developing the strength you'll need, getting you comfortable being in an inverted position and get you used to the increase in pressure on your hands and wrists. Not interested in handstand-ing? You're missing out, but I can respect it. Most of these are excellent as stand-alone drills, especially for chiseling a set of rock hard abs.
And we all want those, right? Right.
Here are some ways to become a handstand rockstar
Tip # 1 (THE most important step when it comes to handstands): Stop telling yourself you can't do a handstand.
Handstands can be intimidating, I get it. You're upside down! Balancing on your HANDS! Without assistance! But, having refrains of, "There's NO way in hell I could ever do that!" running on repeat in your head is a surefire way to A) remain fearful of YOUR OWN BODY and B) hurt yourself.
Maybe you don't have the ability or body awareness to be able to pop into a handstand right this second but understand that you, yes YOU, can develop the skill if you want.
Tip # 2: Make the Hollow Body Hold Position Your Biatch
Handstands not only help build core strength, but they require an initial foundation of it as well. The Hollow Body Hold Position helps increase your core stability, strength and endurance. It's key for learning how to keep tension throughout your body as you brace your abs and keep your body tightly together as "one unit".
Hollow Body Hold - floor position
Flatten your low back into the floor, think about tilting your butt "under", squeeze your legs together and raise them 6-12 inches off of the floor.
Tip # 3: Get Used to Putting More Weight on Your Hands
There's no way around it, handstands will put a considerable amount of increased pressure and weight onto your hands and wrists. The feeling does dull a bit over time and can be helped through gaining more strength, mobility and flexibility in your wrists. But yo, you're balancing ON your hands there's going to be some pressure! One of the best ways to reduce the sensation, however, is to make sure that your wrists, elbows and shoulders are all stacked in a straight line.
Pushup variations are great examples of hammering the skill needed in order to do this as their position ideally mimics that of the Hollow Body Hold; a braced core and tension produced throughout the body. Try adding in 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps on one of your lift days.
The same goes for Feet Elevated Stability Ball Plank Holds. Elevating your feet on a stability ball (or bench or box) will not only increase the difficulty but increase the amount of pressure that you'll feel on your hands.
(Mini Australian Shepherds help give you major handstand gainz, of course.)
Stability Ball Tucks will help increase core strength and Stability Ball Pikes will not only light up your abs, but assist you in getting used to the feeling of having your body in that stacked alignment: wrists, elbows, shoulders and hips all in a straight line.
Tip# 4 Get Your Feet Up on the Wall
A common drill used for beginner handstand-ers (I know, also not a word, whatever) is one where you turn your back to a wall, put your hands down on the ground and slowly walk your feet up the wall while walking your hands back towards the wall.
I HATE this drill.
The idea is that it helps promote the hollow body hold position (sort of), gets you used to pressure on your wrists and hands as well as being upside down and it provides you with some assistance from the wall. But here's the thing: in order to get yourself in the correct position (stacked wrists, elbows, shoulders and hips), you need to walk yourself in VERY close to the wall. For beginners, this is ALOT of increased wrist and hand pressure. It's not only a tricky position to get into, but it's even tougher to get out of. If handstands are new to you, having to rely on your own body strength to safely get out of this position could be awkward, difficult and, downright scary. Plus, this isn't how you'll actually end up getting into your handstands, so I don't recommend it.
Instead, practice getting into a handstand by placing your hands approximately 6 inches away from the wall and kicking your feet and legs against the wall.
Here you'll be able to get a feel for what getting up into a handstand really feels like, while being able to "rest" against the wall with as much pressure as you need. Eventually, you'll be able to take more of your weight off of the wall, starting with one foot and then two feet.
Tip #5: Become a Handstand-ing Machine
The only real way to get better at handstands? Do more handstands.
Accessory work like the exercises here can help assist you in preparation, but nothing will take the true replacement of actual handstands.
Ways to incorporate handstand practice into your day-to-day:
- Make it a daily practice! Work on your handstand form for 5-10 minutes per day.
- Include exercises that challenge your anterior core ( like those in the Hollow Body and Stability Ball Plank series above) in your warm-up for 1-2 sets, or, at the end of your workout as your core exercises.
- Use 1-2 attempts as fillers in-between other exercises.
Serious about upping your handstand game? Go do one right now. Or, do one of the exercises listed above. Take 5 minutes to get yourself that much closer to being a total handstand-ing badass.