Skill Progression: Handstands

04 Feb

Skill Progression: Handstands

The art of balancing on your hands.

When you stand up on your feet, you don’t realize that you are going through thousands of small balance adjustments. Your toes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, head are continuously adjusting to the changes in position. The reason we are unaware of these adjustments is because this skill has been practiced for many years and now it's embedded in your brain. 

Similarly, we have to start with the foundation so that handstands become second nature. So, where do we start?


Crawling is a step for babies to start their bipedal journey. This will train your body to have weight on your hands and help you regain range of motion in this crouched position. Often with beginners they lack strength to keep their arms straight or experience wrist pain.

To start, try to crawl for 10min each day. You can break it down throughout the day to build up to that 5min. You can also combine this with some planks and cumulate 5min holds every day!

This foundation will allow us to move to the next step; hollows and headstands.

Hollows and Headstands

Hollows: Legs and arms straight and together with toes and arms pointed. Staying tight, your head & shoulders come off the ground with ears glued between your shoulders.

This position will help you stay tight when upside down. A great starting point would be to hold 2min unbroken to be able to progress to headstands.

Headstands is a great introduction to being upside down, to learn about body alignment. Where vertical is and how to stack properly your body while benefiting from a wide support area. Play with this as often as possible so you feel comfortable being upside down and also understand what alignment means. Particular awareness on the head, neck alignment. Position your hands so that they create a triangle equilateral from the crown of your head to your hands.

Refine and play with the headstand so you can comfortably stay there for 2min. I know that this may appear like a long time but make sure you earn the right to move to more complex drills. Put this into your daily routine and have fun with the refinement of this skill.

Handstand balance

Now that you are comfortable being upside down its time to balance on your hands.

There is a big difference between kicking and holding against a wall and freestanding handstand holds. 

BALANCE is the difference. It’s good to use the wall to start feeling comfortable kicking up to a handstand position. To learn about being precise with that kick. However, it is also important to develop the feel for where the balance point is WITHOUT that wall. You will see that at first you will not dare to kick hard enough to find that same alignment.

To help you get confident to do it without a wall, I suggest that you learn and practice to get outside of these critical positions. Learn how to “fail” safely. Learn how to kick and cartwheel your way out of danger. Learn how to kick and roll. Ask for a partner to assist you by spotting you and stopping and place you in the correct alignment. 

Learn how to stay tight and what alignment/balance means and feels like. You will know when you will be in a perfect alignment. Just like you have to spend time learning how to fall, you have to spend time experimenting and feeling when you are too far forward or back. Learn where that balance point is and be deliberate to get out of that specific point. Learn how to come back to the handstand point without using the wall or a partner.

At the beginning, you will be able to stay there for a couple of seconds. As you get more confident and comfortable being up-side down, you will start bringing awareness to your hands and finger activation. Then you will understand better about shoulder and hip alignment and you will be able to hold longer in that perfect aligned position.

I like to practice that skill at the start of a session, it’s a great warm-up for the shoulders and bring awareness to where the body is in space. Understand that these skills take time to develop so don’t expect holding a freestanding handstand hold in 1 week practice… think more like 2-3 years project! 

Make sure you have fun with it… go back to your “kid” days where you tried to do them in the grass or at the beach… explore, move, challenge yourself. Enjoy ;)


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