Freestanding Handstand

Nov 16, 2013

Holding a handstand up against a wall is great for building shoulder, arm and core strength but, in my opinion, a free-standing handstand should always be the ultimate goal. Not only will you develop great balance but you will be able to get endless cool photos doing handstands in bizarre locations. Welcome to my life!

Balancing on your hands is a very hard skill to learn and it took me a long time to figure it out. The first hurdle is the fear factor, being confident that you will not hurt yourself when you tip over, because at some point you will. To overcome this fear the first thing I teach is how to fall out of a handstand safely. I'm not a fan of teaching beginners to roll out of a handstand because unless you have fairly good control this could lead to you falling on your back or head. And let's face it at this point your control is likely not that great. So the way I teach, while not necessarily pretty or elegant, is to 1/4 turn out of it. The key is to get your feet on the ground as quickly as possible, however ugly it may look. Avoid landing on your back or head!

Once you are over the fear we learn about using our fingers for balance. This was a huge eye opener for me in terms of understanding how to stay in a handstand for a long time. You really need to grip the floor. I like to find the point where I am slightlyover-balanced, not directly vertical but a few degrees over, and then pressing with my fingers to keep myself balanced. When I come down from a long handstand hold, my forearms are usually burning from gripping the floor so much. To build this strength I suggest finger push-ups, see the photos below. Start on your knees with two sets of 5-10 reps and slowly build up to 2 sets of 20 from a full front support.

IMG_2445

IMG_2446

Going from the wall to the floor is a big step so before we make that jump I like to do what I call "wall scissors". With your hands about 1-1.5 ft from the wall get into your strong handstand position (butt tucked, chest in, tall). Keeping one foot on the wall raise the other leg into a full straight handstand. With control bring the second leg off the wall and try to find that balance before taking the other leg to the wall. Repeat these scissors 3 or 4 times and then rest.

IMG_2430

IMG_2431

There is now one more step I like to teach before moving to full handstand. This progression is similar to the previous one except that you are starting with one foot on a box and one leg vertical. From here you bring your lower leg up to meet the other one and find your balance, ensuring your whole body is stacked over your hands.

IMG_2433

IMG_2434

Now we learn how to do this from a standing position and this is where I get super picky. A lot of people expect to be able to start in a poor, loose position, with their arms in front of them and their chest out and then magically end up in a super tight, strong handstand. It's not going to happen! If you start standing in a poor position you will end up upside down in what will likely be an even worse position. It is important to begin by pulling in your chest and pressing your arms to your ears. As you step into the handstand maintain that perfect straight line all the way from your hands to your back leg. When you place your hands on the floor you need to keep this line, push with your front leg until you reach the same position you were in with one foot on the block. At this point you bring the second leg up to the vertical position, squeeze everything and hold it. It isn't easy but by starting in the same position you want to end up in (just up the other way) is going to help tremendously.

Now all you need to do is practice, practice, practice.