3 Exercises to Improve Your Handstand Skills

Frau übt Handstand © foodspring

Handstands are all the rage. Everyone’s doing them—at the CrossFit gym, in the yoga studio, and all over social media. And they’re onto a good thing, too. Because as well as being an impressive trick, handstands are also the ultimate bodyweight training exercise. The handstand is an intense full-body exercise that requires strength in the arms, shoulders, torso, and lower body, as well as mobility, the right mindset, and plenty of discipline.

If you’re yet to master the handstand, or can only hold it against a wall or bent over like a banana, here are three tips and exercises to help you perfect your skills.

For complete handstand beginners, we also recommend our nine-step handstand guide.

#1 Mobility

A common problem for wannabe handstanders is limited shoulder mobility. Mobility exercises might not be your favorite part of your workout, but they are essential if you want to get results. Good shoulder mobility has many benefits, but it is particularly important for handstands: if you can’t extend your shoulders fully, you will never be able to form a straight line with your body in handstand position. To test your shoulder mobility, simply stand with your back against a wall, your feet about a foot width apart, and your knees slightly bent so that your back is pressed fully against the wall. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing the floor. Then try to extend your arms straight up against the wall, still making sure there is no gap between your back and the wall. If you are unable to perform this exercise, it may be an indication that you have limited shoulder mobility.

There are many exercises you can do to improve your shoulder mobility. For example: sitting back on your heels, bend forward and rest your forearms on the floor. Stretch your right arm right out in front of you, palm facing up. Raise your arm as far as you can and exhale. Hold the position for one breath in and then bring your arm back to the floor. Repeat the exercise ten times before switching sides.

Note: It’s also important to make sure your spine and hips are fully warmed up. We find the “World’s Greatest Stretch” a useful exercise for this.

Crouch down in a sprint start position with your left leg in front. Turn your torso to the left and extend your  left arm up to the ceiling. Then turn your body back and touch your left elbow to the inside of your left ankle. Finally, place both hands (or fingertips) on the floor and rock back to stretch your front leg. Repeat these three steps at least five times and then switch sides. Now it’s time to move on to the strength building exercises.

#2 Hollow Hold

This intense isometric core exercise strengthens your core like no other. It also strengthens your shoulders and legs, making it the perfect preparation for handstands. Lie down on your back with your arms above your head. Then raise your arms, shoulders, and legs, while keeping your lower back in contact with the ground. Hold the position for as long as you can and repeat three to five times.

Muscles: Frontal abdominal muscles, shoulders, thighs
Note: If you can’t hold the position with your back against the floor, you can either keep your arms by your side (rather than above your head) or slightly bend your legs.

#3 Pike Push Up

This exercise helps prepare your shoulders for doing handstands. The starting position is a downward dog, which is probably familiar to you, but—just in case—you can brush up on the correct technique here. Once in position, bend your elbows and bring your head towards the floor. Then push slowly back up to your starting position and repeat the exercise eight to twelve times. If you can manage three rounds of twelve repetitions, increase the difficulty by raising your feet with a plyo box or perhaps a exercise step if you want to start smaller.

Muscles: Shoulder muscles, triceps
Note: Your elbows should stay close to your body throughout the exercise.

Handstands take practice and you’re not going to perfect your technique overnight. Be patient with yourself, add the right mobility and strength exercises into your workout, and most importantly, keep at it! With hard work and practice, there’s nothing standing between you and that perfect handstand.

Sources for this article

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