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Master the handstand in 4 steps

4 Handstand Variations You Need to Master

Written by
June 27, 2014
Updated April 12, 2018

Have you ever dreamed of being a world class gymnast?  Stepping out on the mat in front of millions of viewers around the globe with a chance to take home the gold?  No? Maybe you always wanted to learn to do a cartwheel but could never quite get it. The first step to accomplish either of these goals is to master the handstand.  The handstand is an impressive feat of total body strength and coordination.  The following progressions will help you conquer the handstand and start the road to Olympic gold! (or just learn a cool party trick).

Handstand Progression #1 – Body Line Wall Drill

The first step to learning a handstand is to practice keeping your body in line.  Now, beginners may have a hard time balancing themselves at first,  that’s alright. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Practice makes perfect!  Begin with your back to the wall.  Get down into a sprinters stance and start walking your feet up the wall while simultaneously walking your hands back closer to the wall.  After you reach full extension, spend some time at the top. You need to get comfortable being upside down.  Try to keep your weight on your hands where the knuckles meet the palm, this will help center your weight. Once you can hold the position for a minute, move on to the next progression.

Handstand Progression #2 – Kick Up Wall Drill

Next, you will kick up to the wall to get used to the handstand position. Begin in the same sprinter position as before, but this time you’ll be facing the wall.  Using the straight leg, kick up over your head, heel first, keeping your leg straight. The momentum of the kick should carry both legs up, over your head and against the wall.  Try to come to a rest against the wall, don’t slam into it.  We don’t need any holes or angry neighbors. This teaches how to apply the proper force to kick up into a freestanding handstand. After you are comfortable kicking up against the wall, try inching your feet away from it into a freestanding handstand.

Handstand Progression #3 – Freestanding Handstand

Good work! Now you are ready to get off the wall.  You’ll want to practice in an open area because you’ll fall several hundred times before you master the handstand.  Begin in the same sprinter stance as before, kick up into a handstand applying the correct amount of force you learned in the previous exercise.  Once you can keep yourself from falling, try to hold the top position as long as possible.  It’s ok to walk around if need be, just remember to keep your weight centered over the area of your hands where the knuckles meet the palm.  If you do fall, which you will, try to tuck your chin and go into a roll.

Bonus Handstand Progression – Gymnastic Handstand

The following handstand is for those who have mastered the normal handstand only. The starting stance is the same as the previous iterations, but this time you will not kick up.  Instead, you will slowly bring yourself into the vertical position. Getting into a gymnastic handstand without kicking up requires a lot of wrist, core, and shoulder strength in addition to wrist and shoulder mobility. It takes years of practice, requiring total body strength and extreme coordination.

Andrea Orris
Andrea competed for Illinois State University in Gymnastics from 2006-2010. She was named 2010 Midwest Independent Conference Athlete of the Year as well as 2010 MIC 1st Team All-Conference Selection. Andrea was a member of the Illinois State Gamma Phi Circus 2010-2011, competing in Hand Balancing, Teeter Board, Russian Swing, and Acro Sport. For 10 years she has been a member of the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) Team garnering 2 Junior Olympic National Qualifier honors. While training with the WOGA she trained alongside Olympic Gold Medalists Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson and was coached by Olympic Coaches Valeri Liukin and Natalya Marakova. Not only is Andrea a competitor but she also has 4 years gymnastics coaching experience, Compulsory/Optional-Collegiate, as well as 4 years choreography experience, Compulsory/Optional-Collegiate. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Human Development and Family Relations.

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