Introduction- Handstands

There are a lot of cool things people can do in this world: Pull ups, back flips, origami, math… and hopefully anything you’ll find on this site.  One of the talents I hear most people wanting to be able to do is to do a handstand.  Not a headstand where your head is on the floor and digging painfully into the ground.  Not a crow pose in yoga where your feet are 3 inches off the floor and your shoulders are barely working.  I’m talking about a true, gymnastic style, straight up and down, rock solid handstand.  I believe that doing a handstand is one HUGE benchmark is an athletic individual’s fitness progression.  Just like doing a push up, or a pull up, being coordinated and strong enough to pull this off tells you that you’ve made it to a huge milestone in your fitness journey.  Many try but few succeed.  Let’s see if you can be one of the ones who succeed.

Just as a quick note:  This WILL take some time.  A large amount of time.  A large amount of practice and a pretty large commitment.  Be patient.  This is a huge milestone in your fitness journey but there’s a reason why is a huge milestone: it takes time.

The good news is it takes time but it does not take rocket science.  I’m going to break down exactly what to do (more importantly, what NOT to do) in order for you to have the best shot at reaching this highly sought after achievement.

Tips:

  1. If you use a wall, do NOT face away from it.  Naturally when you’re learning how to do handstands, you’re probably afraid of falling over and landing on your head or back.  Therefore, using a wall as a barrier to prevent that from occurring makes sense.  However most times someone will first try and hit the wall with their feet and arch their back and bend their knees to find the wall, creating a big arch from head to toe.  There are many problems with this technique but the main reason why you should avoid this is because it creates poor handstand technique.  Instead, face away from the wall initially and walk your feet up the wall. Walk your hands toward the wall as you walk your feet up so when you’re completely upside down you’re facing the wall.  Place some pillows or mats in front of you just in case you do tumble over and land on your back.  Try to be as straight as you can as you’re upside down. This will create good habits.
  2. Learn to tuck your head.  If you’re following Tip #1, you might at some point fall over and land on your back.  In order to to protect yourself from falling on your head and shoulder injury, learn to tuck your chin into your neck.  When you’re falling down and about to land on your back bring your chin into your neck as far as you can, this will ensure your back hits the floor first and not your head.  In addition, do not try and swing your feet over and land on them.  Doing this could cause and internal rotation of the should with your entire weight on it.  If you are comfortable tucking you head and rolling away you won’t put undue stress on your shoulder, potentially causing injury if repeated.
  3. Use handstand canes.  Handstand canes are vertical posts with a small block of wood used to do handstands on. They look like this: handstand-canes                 They look decently intimidating as they are a lot higher off the ground then, well, the actual ground.  However, the reason these canes help is they allow your fingers to wrap around around the hand blocks which relieves some strain on the tendons in your fingers, palms and ultimately wrists.  If you plan to practice handstands frequently I would suggest using a pair or hand blocks so your wrists can withstand a little bit more stress than if you were to do them on the floor.  You can use any regular wooden blocks you have lying around or you can make a pair of handstand canes to impress your friends.  If you prefer to have a little softer hand blocks you can purchase a pair of upholstered canes at my shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Dandstands?ref=hdr_shop_menu

What it’s good for: 

Like I said before: this is a huge accomplishment for anyone and it more or less a athletic-level benchmark.  The main reason this talent is worth doing is for the self-pride someone develops from being able to hold their bodies upside down and supporting themselves with a much weaker portion of their muscular system.  You’re literally taking limbs (arms) that have been underdeveloped for strength, stability and rigidity and overdeveloped for dexterity, range of motion and convenience and asking them to complete a task they were asked not to do over hundreds of thousands of years by evolution while at the same time trying to counter act your body’s frantic confusion in the equilibrium portion of your brain to tell it to keep you from falling and bashing your skull open.  If you had any doubt that a handstand is incredible, you should throw that doubt out the window, no matter how easy it may be for some people.

If you’re the “what muscles does this work” type, you will obviously develop very strong shoulder muscles, potentially triceps and biceps, very strong connective tissue and bone that surrounds and makes up that shoulder joint as well as more durable wrist joints.  Be cautious however, you are putting a lot of pressure on your wrists and shoulders that it is not accustom to.  If you feel any pain whatsoever in those two joints, you more likely than not will benefit from a few days off or until that pain has subsided.

Progressions:

  1. The first progression is to go with higher handstand canes!  Yes using hand-blocks and short (less than 12 inch) handstand canes will be better on your wrist and fingers but upping the height (18, 24 or 38 inches) is very intimidating the first time.  This may be less of a physical progression than it is a mental progression but let me tell you, it will be a great party trick. Again, you can find some upholstered handstand canes here:                                                                               https://www.etsy.com/shop/Dandstands?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  2. Moving your feet.  Once in a stable handstand, try to open and close your legs, moving your feet forward and backwards or bend your knees.  Moving your feet around slightly changes how you can manage your center of balance.  This progresses your ability to hold a handstand.  It’s actually a lot harder than you would think.  At least for me.
  3. Head stand to hand stand. I did not suggest this in the Tips section but starting with a headstand allows you to get the neuro-muscular coordination and strength of a hand stand without putting your entire body weight on your shoulders.  I did not suggest this because I would prefer you to develop the strength and coordination of a handstand at the angle you will be holding yourself up.  However, pressing from a head stand to a hand stand is definitely a difficult task.  Try to press yourself from a head stand to a handstand and hold the handstand while you’re up there.  Good luck!

Please let me know if you have any luck!

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