As the famous Benjamin Franklin quote says “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” These holds true for most aspects of fitness especially perfecting the handstand.
I have taught movement to trainers around the world, and I can tell you the one thing all of the fittest, most athletic and capable people possess a plan for their training goals.
This seemingly simple fundamental step is often overlooked by people trying to develop new skills such as handstands.
Without a clear plan and a process, you will be trapped in handstand purgatory, one of the many who hurl their hands toward the ground and desperately flail their legs in an attempt to magically balance one day.
If you want to get somewhere in your training, you need a clear picture of the destination and an understanding of what it will take to get there.
Destination of Your Handstand
There are many ways to stand on your hands. Many shapes and different positions, however, everyone from beginner to advanced practitioners should constantly be working on a straight line handstand.
Holding a straight line requires open shoulders, great balance, and awareness. Many people often settle for a bent or banana shape because it is much easier to attain if your shoulders are tight.
Don’t settle for fast and easy, reach for a goal that will mean something and force you to work on areas you have ignored.
If you challenge yourself to get the best straight line handstand possible that process will have you improving your flexibility and mobility for more than just hand balancing it will transfer to every other area of your training.
Complexity in movement opens doors. Demand more from your practice and you will get more from it.
There are many example handstands found with a nice straight line. Have a look around and begin your training by finding an image to represent your goal. You can’t work “towards” something if you have no idea where you want to go.
Once you see the skill, you want to acquire you need to take a look at the attributes that the people who can perform that skill possess and measure that against your current abilities.
Do you have a good overhead position? Are your hands, wrists, and fingers strong? How physically prepared are you for the challenge you have set? Remember that failing to prepare is preparing to fail so let’s begin at the beginning with handstand prep.
Handstand preparation is conditioning where we build the necessary strength and flexibility to perform our movement goals. Before we get into some basic exercises, it is important to get a real physical picture of our current abilities.
Most people are frankly quite delusional about what they think they can do.
The following checklist will help you establish how your attributes stack up against someone who can perform a handstand with good posture.
Once you figure out where you stand, you can then work towards improving your abilities, and you will know precisely which areas you need to focus your attention.
Perfect Your Handstand Test #1: Shoulder Test
With your back touching a wall and feet a couple of inches in front of you tuck your ribs and raise your arms up over your head. Your goal is to keep those ribs tucked! Don’t arch your back as you try to touch the wall with the back of your hands.
How close are you? Are both arms equal or is one side closer than the other?
Do you look like the image on the left or the right? If you look more like the image on the left, you will need to get to work on stretching your shoulders and improving your overhead position if you want that perfect handstand.
Perfect Your Handstand Test #2: Hollow Body Test
If you want good posture in your handstand, you have to tuck your ribs in and keep them in. Practicing hollow body holds will help you develop this skill while increasing your strength. Lay on your floor, arms over your head, ribs tucked in, and heels slightly lifted off the ground.
Reach with your arms as though you are in a handstand position, shoulders up as though they are trying to cover your ears. Hold!! Your goal is one minute hold with your ribs in. Can you do it?
Perfect your Handstand Test #3: First Knuckle Push Ups
In a handstand, your hands become your foundation. If you have a weak foundation, everything crumbles. How strong are your hands? Test them out with the first knuckle pushup. Assume a pushup position with your shoulders past your hands.
This position puts a lot of weight on your hands and wrists, and if you lack strength or flexibility in this area, you will feel it right away.
From that position, simultaneously keep your arms straight and lift the heels of both hands off the ground until you reach your first knuckle, pause and then slowly return toward the ground only lightly touching your palms back down and then push up again.
This movement is slow and controlled, do no try to jerk or jump the exercise in an attempt to get your hands off the floor. A good goal to work towards here would be three sets of 20 repetitions.
After performing the above exercises, you will get a pretty good picture of where your physical attributes stack up, compared to a person who can hold a perfect handstand.
Don’t get discouraged if you struggled and didn’t get too cocky if you found these things easy. There is more to hand balancing than these drills. If they were comfortable, great and if they were hard, get to work!