One Arm Handstand progression : My one year journey

One arm handstand tutorial - Theo Philosport
Enjoying a good summer day in Lyon for a oahs practice

Before diving into this article, take a look at this short video bellow that recaps my one-year OAHS (one arm handstand) progression. It will give you an overview of what are the learning process I went through and am sharing here.

If you are not yet proficient with your 2 arms handstand, I strongly advise to read the guide I wrote about it. Here it is : Handstand tutorial, a one-year guideline.

Also, you will find further information, training tips, exercises and tutorials on my Instagram account. If you decide to follow along, do not hesitate to say hello and let me know you're on board.

If you want a spot for a 1/1 online handstand coaching, sign up now :

1st January of 2018 - the challenge started

The first day of 2018 was the time to apply my new year resolutions. Among them, stood the OAHS in one-year ! I was aiming a few seconds hold on each side and I would share my one arm handstand progression on my Instagram account every week while talking about the insights I would get. This is exactly what I did and you can find my posts about it by checking this #1yof1armhs.


When I started this journey, I had been engaged in a handstand practice for about 2 years. My handstand was quite proficient. I could hold it for 30 seconds with some ease and were getting comfortable at different basics entries and leg variations. I had the chance to be taught by Yuval, which helps. I had also been "playing" with the OAHS for those 2 years, trying to balance once in a while, with obviously no success at all. Thus, I decided to start this challenge, understanding that only a consistent and clever training will allow me to reach my goals. 

In this blog, I share what I have done and learned in this process. Be aware that it is a tremendous task to write down everything that happened. Here, you can find the outlined of it, only. 

Yuval Ayalon and Theo Philosport one arm handstand
Attending Yuval Ayalon's workshop in Paris, November 2017.

From week 1 to week 7 - Diamond HS and weight shifts

You can click on every single picture to see the video and comments associated

Weeks 1, 4, 6 and 7 from my one arm handstand challenge

Programming for OAHS - Philosport
  • Simply shift my weight from side to side
  • 3 to 5 specific sessions per week
  • About 6 sets per session
  • ~10 seconds per sets
  • ~ 10% of my total workout volume
  • Going for both sides at each set
  • Had about 2 weeks off due to left wrist pain and food intoxication
Handstand insights - Philosport
  • I am unbalanced : my right arm is stronger and my left pelvis side tilt more.
  • Knees gotta be pointing forward, and feet should be aligned with the wrists/shoulders/pelvis.
  • Very hard to steady the pelvis at this stage

Handstand training tips - Philosport
Training tips
  1. There is no "right" amount of pelvis side tilt. The less tilt the "lighter" it feels but the harder it is to balance; the more tilt the "heavier" it feels (center of gravity goes down) but the easier it is to balance
  2. The shift is initiated by the pelvis
  3. Give yourself enough rest between each trial/sets in order to put muscular fatigue out of the equation (endurance is not what you seek here)

From week 8 to week 11 - Diamond HS and Piano fingers hold

Weeks 8, 9, 10 and 11 from my one arm handstand challenge

Programming for OAHS - Philosport
  • Trying to max hold the piano fingers position
  • 5 sessions a day planned, much less done (for many reasons)
  • ~ 8 sets per session
  • Going for both sides at each sets
  • Left shoulder pain in week 9
Handstand insights - Philosport
  • At this point, I had built enough strength to consider this training as a technical one, not a physical one
  • When trained every day, the progress is much faster (week 11)
  • Real pleasure on working the OAHS appeared  (week 8)

Handstand training tips - Philosport
Training tips
  1. The palm of your hand should take off only because it has got lighter, not because you push harder on it
  2. From this stage, it is probably necessary to train regularly, at least once every 2 days
  3. The more weight is on one shoulder, the more you need to push the floor away with it, keeping your elbow locked

From week 12 to week 22 - Legs variations on piano fingers

Weeks 13, 17, 19 and 22 from my one arm handstand challenge

Programming for OAHS - Philosport
  • Building 10 seconds piano fingers on the 4 basics legs positions 
  • Training each legs positions, about 3 weeks each
  • 5 days a week
  • ~ 12 sets per session
  • Going for both side at each sets
  • 2 weeks off (back injury)
Handstand insights - Philosport
  • Felt strong enough to take the supportive hand off (week 14)
  • Straight legs position is the heaviest to balance. The pelvis tends to go sideways and the feet are compensating by going toward the center
  • Being strong can lead to poorer technique and alignment since it is easier to compensate using strength
  • Progress is not linear... at all

Handstand training tips - Philosport
Training tips
  1. Training the 4 legs positions will help you better understanding how to balance in one arm. Each position requires different adaptations that allows you to get a lot of insights
  2. Taking videos of your form will be of great help. Recording some sets from the side will tell you how much you twist, your sides differences, and your overall line
  3. Having a solid headstand as an ally can prove to be very helpful. You can for instance use it as a preparation drill, with the specific legs position you use for your OAHS training

Week 23 to week 38 - Straight supporting arm and playing with balance

Weeks 23, 24, 26 and 30 from my one arm handstand challenge

Programming for OAHS - Philosport
  • Balance with the supported arm straight, putting as little weight as possible on the finger(s).
  • ~6 days a week
  • ~15 sets per session
  • 3 weeks of diamond HS, 6 on straddle and 3 on half-straddle
  • From week 28, I've been trying to remove my hand and balance  (too early) 
  • Only one side pet set
  • 3 weeks off due to travel and workshops (Devin's Workshop, in Taipei, see picture below).
Handstand insights - Philosport
  • Removing weight from the supporting hand, thus adding weight to the balancing one, can (will) compromise your line and technique until you develop the needed strength
  • The "ribs in" cue helps to put more support on the body structure (and less on the muscles) but it needs time to gain the control over it (week 25)
  • When the temptation is strong, it's okay to remove the hand and  play with balance ... but it is PLAY, not training. The focus should still be on building the balance


Handstand training tips - Philosport
Training tips
  1. Before going to the straight arm position, make sure your hand is very light in the bend arm variation. The transition should not trigger any other movement in your body
  2. To build some capacity, you can use the wall to help you balance and hold some long sets there, keeping the technique as close as the finger tips OAHS as possible
  3. Be patient and consistent : the closer you get from the free OAHS, the longer it takes time to make improvement. This principle stays true with more advanced balancing skills, which requires more and more time
Devin Kelley and Guizard Théophile - Philosport - One arm handstand progression
Devin and I in Taipei

Week 39 to week 52 - Holding the OAHS

Weeks 41, 42, 45 and 47 from my one arm handstand challenge

Programming for OAHS - Philosport
  • Going for the 5 seconds hold
  • ~6 sessions a week
  • ~20 sets per session
  • ~25 secs by sets
  • ~ 25% of my weekly training volume
  • Mostly straddle OAHS
  • Only one side per set
  • Workshops in Lyon and Paris (from Yuri) about the OAHS
Handstand insights - Philosport
  • Rushing things (here due to the end of the year pressing the challenge) was not a good idea... progress got slower
  • The more time spend on the hands, the more the body sends feedback and the more the position can be controlled and adjusted
  • The shoulder from the free arm needs to stay "down" and relaxed, leveled with the supporting shoulder
  • "Ribs in" and "pelvis back" combine well with "push more" by allowing more structural support
  • Focusing only on technique made me forget about actually trying to balance. Where to put the focus matters

Handstand training tips - Philosport
Training tips
  1. Stay focused on building the balance instead of playing with it : use drills than you can perform with a success rate between 40% and 80%
  2. Do play, but don't make it the primary focus, and be aware of what is playing
  3. Don't forget to actually try to balance, not only to correct the technique. It all depends on concentration and where your focus is directed
Yuri Marmersein and Guizard Théophile - Philosport
Yuri and I, after a workshop in Paris, December 2018

The journey continues

One month has passed since the end of this one year challenge, and my one arm handstand progression continues. Without the "pressure" from the challenge, I was able to shift my training back to mandatory basics, as building more capacity. To do so, I am focusing on increasing my one finger tip hold to 30 seconds on each side. This training seems to have a strong positive impact on my technique as well... Also, I started others challenges for 2019, including a OAHS challenge. This year my goal is to hold 20 seconds, on each side, on the 4 basics legs positions. I will write all about it in my Instagram account.

You can follow me and do not hesitate to PM me directly for training tips or online coaching.

I will be writing another article about the OAHS. This time I will share a general training plan, from 0 to Z ! Stay tuned !

Are you highly motivated and willing to invest in order to reach your OAHS ? I am here to guide you personally throughout this journey