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Your Hands Are Your Feet

Jul 29, 2019

Stand on one leg. Notice how your foot contacts the floor. Feel where your weight sits. Observe how much pressure is on the heel of your foot versus the ball of your foot. Notice how much work your foot and lower leg is doing to help you balance. Your hip stays stable, your foot helps you balance.

Upside down your hands become your feet. Your shoulders are stable. Your body doesn't wobble like jello. Your hands and forearms are what make you balance. You have to feel your connection to the floor and you have to grip with your fingers when you start to tip over.

It's not just about using your hands it's about how you use your hands! In this post I will share with you some exercises and drills to help you learn how to use your hands while upside down.

Principles of Handbalancing

This post is part 1 of a series of 6 blog posts explaining my key principles of handbalancing. The 6 principles that I will cover are:

  • Your hands are your feet (learning to use your hands) - THIS POST!
  • Alignment and how not to be a banana
  • PUSH as far from the Earth as possible
  • Be a dry noodle not a wet noodle (stay tight)
  • Kick up gently a.k.a "Don't kick the Queen in the face"
  • Finding balance

I will also share with you my favourite cues and progressions for each principle. After years of teaching hundreds of adults how to balance on their hands these are the drills that I have found to be the most effective.

However, what is more important than the exact progressions is figuring out exactly what YOU need. You might need to learn how to use your hands to balance whereas Stiffy Steve might need better overhead mobility. So for each of the principles that I share ask yourself "Is this something that is holding me back?". And if it is then work at it until this is no longer a limitation. It is not about mastering each progression. It is about getting to the point where that aspect of your handstand is good enough.

So back to using your hands while upside down...

What are Active Hands?

I often hear from students that they are using their hands, but when I look closely at their hands, what I see is extended fingers and flat hands. Maybe they are pushing down with their fingers but their hands are acting like paddles.

Active hands are engaged with the floor. They are creating a strong foundation for your handstand (or planks, push-ups etc.). Feel the contact of your first knuckles on the floor (that part of the palm of your hand where your calluses are). Feel the heel of your hand on the floor, both on the thumb pad side and the pinkie side. Spread your fingers (comfortably wide not maximum wide). Bend your fingers slightly and grip the floor gently by pulling the tips of your fingers towards your first knuckles. You can see all this in the picture from my Instagram below.

As you do this you will feel the muscles of your forearm start to work. You will feel the muscles around your shoulder blades engage. When your hands are strong and active you are providing stability for your joints. This is a great post by Maja Vojnovic which talks about how dead hands place you at "risk for straining the soft tissues surrounding your wrists and elbows due to lack of stability throughout the joint".

Learning to Grip the Floor

It can be hard to fully understand how your hands have to work when you are balancing upside down. The cue "grip the floor" works for some but for others it isn't until they finally feel it that they understand what that cue means.

Gayle Pocock, the amazing Inverted_g on Instagram shared with me this tip for teaching students to grip the floor. Use a crow lower to headstand!

Some of you may be thinking that this an impossible feat of strength! But I can assure you we will take it step by step and work our way up to this movement. What I love about this skill is that you feel a lot more weight in your fingers than you do in a handstand. As you tip forwards you need to use your fingers to grip the floor. And don't worry I will show you how to make this safe if your fingers don't figure it out immediately.


  • Begin with your hands shoulder width apart, index finger facing forward, fingers spread wide
  • Place your knees as high as you can on your triceps (or outside of triceps if this feels more comfortable)
  • Tip forwards transferring your weight onto your hands
  • Slowly lift one foot off the floor
  • When you feel balance lift the second foot (do not jump)
  • Pull your heels to your butt


  • Start by lowering to headstand on a yoga block or stack of pillows
  • Begin in balance in a crow
  • Tuck your chin
  • Slowly tip forward
  • Keep your forearms vertical
  • Dig your fingers into the floor so that you move slowly
  • Use a pillow or mat when first learning

Where can you Learn More?

I teach this principle as well as the other 5 principles in my "Master the Handstand" in person workshop. Check out my calendar for upcoming events or email me ( to schedule something in your area.

If you want ongoing coaching, programming, accountability and support my Master the Handstand coaching group covers everything that you need to get upside down and away from the wall. My groups start September, January and April. Check out the details here and sign up to save your spot for my next coaching group.

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