Handstand progression for total body fitness is my new recommendation for anyone up for a challenge. Although it may look intimidating at the start, learning to do a handstand, and then eventually walking on your hands, is one of the best ten-minute workouts out there.
With a steady practice of the handstand progression, you will be on your way to total body fitness and will reap multiple other rewards along the way.
Learning How to Do a Handstand
One of the first things to remember about a handstand is that just like every other physical exercise, practice makes perfect. You are unlikely to master a handstand on your first try. Fortunately, as long as you practice the right techniques, every attempt will bring you closer to your end goal of the perfect handstand.
Also, remember that perfection is subjective. Even after weeks of practice, your handstand may not look the same as that of a Cirque de Soleil contortionist, but that is totally okay.
Doing a Handstand Requires More Than Just Strength
Before getting started, there is one important caveat to remember about what a handstand is not all about. The absolute beginner might mistakenly begin their handstand practice thinking that it is all about muscular strength. They assume that if their biceps and triceps are big enough that they will be able to do a handstand.
However, a handstand is about more than arm strength. It also requires balance, flexibility, core strength, good form, and body control.
For these reasons, the handstand might be one of my favorite indicators of overall fitness. Call me crazy, but it’s my favorite exercise, by far. It’s a great way to get a good overall body workout with no equipment or weight machines. After a few weeks of handstand work, you notice not just improved upper body strength, but almost every area of your body in better shape. What other exercise requires such physical skills and overall body coordination?
Handstand Progression May Take Time
It is important to remember that learning how to do a handstand is not easy. It involves lots of moving parts and putting these parts together into the correct position. Therefore, instead of trying to do the whole movement the first time, it is more effective for most people to break down a handstand into small doable pieces, and improve a little bit at a time.
Two of the most important body parts for a successful handstand are the wrists and the shoulders. These body parts bear a lot of weight and stress during a handstand. So, before you start working on your handstand, test your wrist strength, shoulder strength, and shoulder stability.
Do some basic stretches. And, if you feel tightness in these areas of the body, or have any trouble with range of motion, add additional stretching exercises.
Once you have tested out your joints and their strength and mobility, your next step is to move to a wall. A training session using a wall is perfect for improving your skills, and taking your handstand progression to the next level.
Wall Handstand Facing the Wall
When preparing for a wall handstand, begin by standing facing the wall. Place your hands shoulder-width apart at chest height. Take several deep breaths and then slowly begin to walk your legs back. You will continue to walk your legs back until your body and your legs form a 90-degree angle.
In this pose, your back will be flat, like a tabletop, and your head will be dangling between your outstretched arms. This pose is the first step in your handstand progression. You will start to realize the benefits of an inversion from this starting position. It also introduces your wrists and shoulders to the flexibility and strength they will need in a full handstand.
Once you have gained comfort with this, you can move on to a wall handstand. Here’s one important thing to remember you are just beginning your handstand journey. It might not make sense initially, but just simply getting accustomed to being upsidedown is a big part of the learning process. Practicing handstand walks on a wall first will help your body acclimate itself to the unnatural feeling of being upsidedown.
Handstand Progression: Perfecting The Wallstand
Begin by placing your hands near the base of the wall that you will be using for your exercise. You will be facing the wall. To start with, kick one of your legs up behind you, leaving the other foot rooted to the ground.
These initial kick ups may be small, just a few inches, or a foot or two. But it’s essential to start small and build gradually. You will progress quickly, just start small. Be sure to alternate between your two legs. Do not be surprised if this is easier to do with one of your legs than with the other. After all, our bodies are not perfectly balanced.
As you work at this, you will likely notice one of your legs begin to float closer and closer to the wall until it actually makes contact far above your head. As your one leg makes contact with the wall, your other leg will also likely float off the floor.
With each attempt, work to continue bringing the second leg onto the wall while also maintaining smooth breathing. You will find yourself in a handstand position with both legs comfortably above your head with time and practice.
Handstand Progression: Before You Do The Full Handstand
Before moving on from the wall to a full handstand, it is important to check two things. First, while you are doing your handstand, look down at your hands, wrists, and elbows. Make sure that your body is appropriately aligned.
Your fingers should be facing forward, and your weight should be spread firmly across your palms and your fingers. Your wrists should be straight, and your elbows should be stacked above your wrists. Alignment is critical.
An exercise called the hollow body position, or the hollow body hold will help in your handstand progression. By laying on the ground flat on your back, lift up your arms and legs until your body looks like a banana. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds. Moves such as the hollow body hold will strengthen your core and help stabilize your back muscles. With a strong core, your handstands will progress much smoother.
Second, check that you know how to safely exit your handstand holds by windmilling your feet back down to the floor in a controlled manner. Many people think that the only handstand challenge is getting up. But, getting back down can be hard for some people too!
Preparing to do a Full Handstand
Now that you have mastered the art of the wall handstand or wall walks, you are likely ready to try an unassisted handstand. For many people, this can be scary or intimidating. After all, being upside down is a unique experience.
Therefore, it can be comforting for some people to have a spotter or an extra set of eyes and hands there to help them if they run into challenges. The spotter should have basic training on how to safely assist you.
Make sure that you try your handstand in an open space. The last thing you want to do is send a precious family heirloom flying when you kick your legs up. You should also look for a room with a soft surface, like carpeting. This can be the best way to provide an additional safety net for these early handstands.
Handstand Progression: Attempting to do a Full Handstand
Just like when you were doing your wall handstands, place your hands firmly on the ground, ensuring that you have a good finger, hand, and wrist alignment. Next, walk your legs back into an almost modified downward dog position.
Take a few smooth breaths, remembering the skills that you have learned in earlier stages of the handstand process. Once you’re ready, prepare to kick your legs up, one leg at a time, and in a controlled manner. Ultimately, your legs will be stretched above your head with the muscles of your legs fully engaged.
Your body should also be straight and well-aligned. Make sure that your hands are shoulder-width apart, with your shoulders being near your ears. After that, you’ll notice that your hips are a natural distance apart.
Once you are officially in proper alignment and in a full arm handstand position, you should not feel any stress or strain on your joints or different body parts.
After Completing Your First Handstand
If you were able to complete your first freestanding handstand, good job! We know it’s not an easy feat, but you’re on your way to doing so much more. With practice, you can work up to holding your handstand for a longer period of time. You’ll also be able to add in additional tricks and twists as you get better, such as handstand walking.
One trick is learning how to do the splits (either side-to-side or forward-and-back) while you are holding your handstand. Another more challenging trick is learning how to walk on your hands. This takes strength and practice.
To walk on your hands, begin by lifting one hand slightly off the floor so that you can learn to balance on just one hand and arm. As you become comfortable with this, you can work on moving your hand and your body forward step-by-step until you are an expert on walking on your hands. Handstand work can be a great workout and lots of fun. Pace yourself, and remember injury avoidance is the number one priority.
Inversion Therapy and its Benefits
One of the best parts about learning how to do a handstand is the inversion therapy benefits. Inversions happen whenever our head is lower than our heart, which is what happens when we do any kind of handstand.
Inversion therapy switches up our blood flow and, because of this, it can be super beneficial to anyone with circulation issues. An inversion can also be calming for some people, reducing anxiety levels.
Another often overlooked benefit of inversion therapy is its ability to reduce lower back pain and other muscular stiffness. However, it is important to remember that inversions are not for everyone. These exercises should be avoided if you are pregnant or if you have eye problems, such as glaucoma or a detached retina. They may also be contraindicated if you have certain cardiovascular challenges.
Handstand Progression Takes Time
Doing a handstand is an impressive trick that is sure to help you gain strength and flexibility. In addition, doing handstands could be good for your circulation and your psychological health. You will gain strength, stability, improved blood flow, and the confidence of learning a difficult skill.
There are almost endless handstand variations, and all of them offer benefits for strength, stability, and self-esteem. Mixing in handstands along with a rigorous yoga practice is one of my personal favorite routines for a total body workout.
The downside, though, is that handstands are not easy to learn how to do. They take time and practice, and a hefty side dose of patience. But, with all of that, you can learn how to master the art of doing a picture-perfect handstand with a little hard work and determination.