What is the Handstand?
A Handstand is not just a major milestone exercise in calisthenics, but in a variety of other disciplines, like yoga, gymnastics and breakdancing. Performing a perfect handstand requires a lot of practice, strength, and a strong awareness of one's body. As such, nailing the Handstand is both rewarding and exciting. It's also makes for an impressive party trick!
What makes a Handstand such an important exercise is how it demonstrates great core engagement, shoulder strength and shoulder mobility. These are all factors that can improve your calisthenics performance. These factors can have far reaching benefits, like improvements to your L-sit, Muscle Ups, and other exercises.
Performing a handstand is the result of a variety of skills, so ensure you're competent with the following;
- Hollow Body Hold
- Crow Pose
- Wall Handstands
Learning a Handstand can feel scary on account of the fear of falling over. You can overcome this fear by practicing your Handstand away from any obstacles that may injure you. It's also important to practice the Wall Handstand facing toward and away from a wall. As you become more comfortable performing the Handstand, you can start to move further away from the wall. This will help you become more confident with your Handstand, and teach you how to correctly dismount.
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How to perform the Handstand
Ensure you've warmed up your shoulders and wrists appropriately before performing the Handstand. Here's a great resource on warming up to practice Handstands.
To move into the handstand, begin in your kick up position. You should look like a runner waiting to start a 100m sprint, only with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. Kick up with your back leg while keeping your other leg tucked in close to your body.
If you've kicked too hard your legs will fall over your head, and you should dismount safely. If you've kicked up with too little force, you'll fall back to starting. If you've kicked up with enough force, bring your legs together and squeeze. Engage your core and go into your hollow body position. By moving into your hollow body position, your Handstand is more likely to be straight.
Once you're in the Handstand, and you've engaged your body, distributed your body weight evenly across your hands. Instead of carrying all the weight in your palms, let some of your weight carry over to your fingers as well. Doing so makes it easier to adjust your positioning. For example, if you feel that your legs are beginning to fall back over your head, then push down with your fingers. If you feel your legs are going to fall back to starting, then push down with your palms.
It's also important to push down so both arms are straight, as this prevents your elbows from bending.
The Handstand requires hours of practice to build the strength and muscle memory stay upright and aligned. This means regular practice is necessary. It's doubly important to record your progress at regular intervals to measure your alignment. It's difficult distinguishing how straight the Handstand is while you're performing it.