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Let’s get upside down: Part two of learning how to handstand

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Let’s get upside down: Part two of learning how to handstand

In the first handstand blog, we covered the basics of the handstand to help you get more comfortable moving your weight around in new or unfamiliar body positions, and eventually worked our way into a handstand on the wall.

In part two, we are going to move away from the plank and the box handstand, and actually get those feet in the air! Each of these drills are designed to help you get comfortable being upside down in a static hold, and eventually get comfortable shifting your weight around and get you ready for walking! 

First up, the kick up:

As a coach, I see a lot of athletes start their handstand attempt with their hands and feet on the floor, and then they try to kick their legs up from there. This might feel a little safer because there’s less momentum, and seemingly less risk of toppling over, but this actually isn’t true, and in fact, this position makes it harder to get in the correct handstand position. 

The end goal of a handstand is to have your weight stacked in a straight line (toes over hips over shoulders over hands). Placing your hands on the ground, and then trying to kick your feet up actually makes it harder to get to that straight, stacked position over your hands because that crouched, tabletop-ish position, means starting with very little tension throughout your body. Yes, you can have some, but in the end, this will result in your shoulders being too far forward, closed hips right off the bat, and more brute strength is needed to reach the handstand. 

It might feel a bit scarier, but I promise practicing the kick-up from a standing position will only benefit you in the long run.  Start standing with your dominant foot in front, and every muscle in your body engaged, especially your core and glutes. As you lean towards the ground, your back leg comes off the ground (acting as a lever) because your glute is tight. That leg wants to stay in line with your torso! As your hands hit the ground, your back leg is already creating a bit of momentum, and kicks up towards the wall. Because you’re already tight, your other leg will follow, and you will end in a tall, straight, stacked position against the wall! 

That was a lot of words…check out this video from Paradiso Crossfit for a great visual tutorial. Notice how far he reaches in front of him, and how straight of a line he keeps from his back through his leg! 

Practice: try 3×5 of these with a 5 second hold at the end of each rep!

Now, let’s get shifty:

Now that you’ve got the kick up mastered it’s time to get comfy moving your weight around in that handstand. In the first phase of practicing this, I want you to wall-walk into the handstand (see blog 1 for details if you need them), so your stomach is facing the wall. From there, staying so so so tight, shift your weight to your left hand, and then your right, and back and forth. It is crucial to keep tension throughout all of this! You should maintain that straight, stacked position, with very minimal hip movement (ideally none at all)!

Once shifting is comfortable, try shoulder taps! As you shift to the left hand, bring your right hand to your right shoulder so you’re balancing on your left hand. Do a quick tap, and then switch to the right hand while your left hand taps your left shoulder. It’s important that your hand touches the same shoulder, not the opposite shoulder. This will help you stay straight and tight the whole time and avoid any torso twisting if you try to touch the opposite side.

Practice: Try 5×10 shifts and shoulder taps! 

Now, let’s get shifty:

Now that you’ve got the kick up mastered it’s time to get comfy moving your weight around in that handstand. In the first phase of practicing this, I want you to wall-walk into the handstand (see blog 1 for details if you need them), so your stomach is facing the wall. From there, staying so so so tight, shift your weight to your left hand, and then your right, and back and forth. It is crucial to keep tension throughout all of this! You should maintain that straight, stacked position, with very minimal hip movement (ideally none at all)!

Once shifting is comfortable, try shoulder taps! As you shift to the left hand, bring your right hand to your right shoulder so you’re balancing on your left hand. Do a quick tap, and then switch to the right hand while your left hand taps your left shoulder. It’s important that your hand touches the same shoulder, not the opposite shoulder. This will help you stay straight and tight the whole time and avoid any torso twisting if you try to touch the opposite side.

Practice: Try 5×10 shifts and shoulder taps! 

Finally, it’s time to get off the wall: 

Now that you’re movin’ and groovin’ upside down, let’s use your kick up skills and do some free-standing handstands while still having the wall as a literal fallback option. 

To start, kick up to get in a tight handstand position, with only your heels touching the wall. Now, take one foot off the wall and stack it directly over your hips. When you feel stable, carefully push your second foot off to come together with your free foot. Now you’re in a free-standing handstand! 

Try to stabilize yourself here, and if you start falling, no biggie – that wall is there to catch you. Remember to maintain tension throughout the entire movement, not just when you’re in the free handstand. No tension = no handstand. If you start with your heels on the wall with tension all through your body, that handstand is going to be much easier and more successful. 

Practice: 3×5 free handstand attempts (one attempt is bringing your feet off the wall – so try to bring them off, then fall back (rep 1), bring them off again (rep 2), fall back, etc.)

The main goal by the end of all of these things is to allow you to truly feel comfortable (while still tight) and fearless upside down. Once you get to that point, walking is fun to practice because you are no longer timid. With all things gymnastics, you gotta commit. A half kick up is not going to get you to a handstand. A noodle shoulder tap is not going to build the strength and muscle memory for walking. Start on the first drill, and stay there until it’s consistently good! Each of these build on each other so that you can kick timidity’s ass.

That wraps up part two of this handstand series! Go get your handstand pants on and start practicing! Next up: handstand walking. 

Who Worte this post...

Mckenzie Souther

Mckenzie Souther

McKenzie is a North Carolina transplant (go Heels) who’s been coaching and attending Renew since 2016. Her favorite benchmark workout is Isabel, ‘cause quick power snatches are her jam. But as a former gymnast, she’ll also settle for any workout that requires her to be upside down. When she’s not coaching or working out, she just wants to be where her friends are -- preferably somewhere on the greenbelt with lots and lots of dogs!

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