What is a handstand ?
Handstand can wear many forms, but it's defined by balancing only with your hands. Simple ! Most commonly, it refers to the figure where we go totally upside down, the feet straight to the sky. The task is simple, but far from easy... as you probably know if you're here reading this.
To me, Handstand is a discipline on its own. To really master it, if that's even possible, requires years of dedicated work. If you desire to know more about your body and to connect with it more deeply, then handbalancing will be a great teacher.
Depending on where the Handstand is learned, its form can variate quite a lot (capoeira, gymnastics, calisthenics, circus, etc). None of those different handstand techniques are right or wrong, but some will prove to be more efficient (and aesthetics ?) and will open more doors for later progressions to come. The straight line variation is the one that I talk about in this handstand tutorial.
I have learned handbalancing almost entirely on my own. A few times, I went looking for answers and guidance among teachers I knew would provide great content (see below). This few moments have been keys for my progression. They acted like a gentle push in the good direction. Nonetheless, as I said, handstanding is a solo ride.
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There isn't any "bad" handstand
Here is a list of technical elements of a "proper" Handstand, or "straight" Handstand. The list is not short and there is no point trying to assimilate everything in one go. Just take a look at them for the moment. As you progress in your practice, you can check regularly the list and pick new elements to work on.
- Fingers spread, index pointing forward
- Hands at shoulder width
- Elbow locked (biceps pointing forward)
- Protracted and elevated scapula
- Shoulder flexion à 180° and stacked over the wrist
- Ribs "in"
- Retro-versed pelvic, stacked over the shoulders
- "Solid legs" : knees locked, feet tight together and pointed toes
I know that this part deserves a longer section with details description of each point. That will come later. At the moment, you'll have to understand the 8 points as it is.
If you master your handstand, you master your body
Training principles and programming
The handstand is a not a complex skill
I won't talk about "methods" in this Handstand tutorial. I don't believe in method that would apply for everybody as we are very different from one another. Instead, I will share some principles. Principles can be applied for everything. There are general rules that can be used to learn any new movement or skills, and even things unrelated to movements.
The following principles can be used for everyone that want to learn how to Handstand throughout a designed practice.
Here are the 3 main steps of this practice (the months span are not to follow strictly, of course)
- From 0 to 3 months : Discovery, fun and foundations
- From 3 to 6 months : Consolidations, variations and freestanding
- From 6 to 12 months : Combinations and endurance work : 1 minute goal !
From 0 to 3 months : Discovery, fun and foundations
First, let's play
I believe in the power of play to learn a new skill. Before any programming, it is important to spend some time just "playing" with a new skill we want to learn. Here, play doesn't mean f***ing around with it and laughing for nothing... instead, it means that you can just try the skill you want to learn, without worrying too much about technical issues, programming, etc. You just do and play for a while !
Week 0 to 2
- Play with the skill safely (against a wall or with somebody next to you), no more than 10 minutes per day
After this first period of discovery and play, there is a choice you need to make : do you keep playing with the skill or do you want to follow a more rigorous and effective path to get you to the free Handstand ? The choice is yours to take, depending on your goals and motivation.
Next, I describe a path that you can follow if you decide to get serious about it. There is nothing precise about it, again this is not a method, just some principles applied.
Week 2 to 6
Progressively throughout the weeks, the total volume of training should increase. At first, I advise roughly 30 minutes per session, 3 to 4 times a week. By the end of the week, you could go up to 5 hours per week. This DOES NOT mean to spend 5 hours actually in your hands : it involves every auxiliaries exercises (mobility, strength) and every rest time that a practice have. It will also depend on how your body and motivation react the training. It belongs to you to pay attention to what your body is telling you in order to avoid issues like injuries. Also, be clever about the drills you choose and about the amount you're doing them.
The exercises listed below are linked to Youtube videos. Feel free to study them and apply them to your practice.
- Wrists mobility routine
- The "perfect" plank
- "kick up" entry (with wall as a safety support)
- Alignment drill back to the wall
For the first month of "real" practicing, I suggest to work on the fundamentals, the basics : easy alignment drills, some mobility stuff, some conditioning and a little of technical work. As basics, they are highly important. Just working on them will prove to be enough for now. Personally, after more than 3 years of consistent handstand training, I still spend a fair amount of times on those fundamentals exercises.
Weeks 6 to 12 addition of :
- Wrists conditioning
- Air baby first variations
- Scapula conditioning
- "Headstand" (with wall support)
- "cartwheel out" > learning out to exit a handstand safely
Here, you go a bit further into the basics and have some more conditioning and technical work. New exercises doesn't mean you should give up on the previous one ! This is more an addition of exercises than a swap. I let i to you to implement those smartly.
6 goals to reach after the first 3 months :
- Holding the frog stance 10 seconds
- Understanding your mobility limitations (if there is any) concerning the straight line goal
- Being comfortable at exiting a handstand
- Being efficient in the kick up to handstand
- Being OK with being inverted, without fear.
- Having pain free and stronger wrists.
Months 3 to 6 : Consolidations, variations and free balancing
While you should still spend times strengthening the basics, the second part of this guide will be more about actual handbalancing. Soon, you will your first long handstand hold,
which is a sweet feeling ;)
Every new exercises displayed here should be added to your training progressively. Like before, the total amount of training volume should slowly increase throughout the months. From the ~3 weekly hours you could go up to ~5 hours after the first 6 months. But one more time, you are the judge here. You will have to find what works for you, keeping in mind that a large volume is necessary to keep making progress in handstand.
Weeks 12 to 19
Now is the time to put the work on freestanding. Flirting with the wall is one of the best drill to do so. Take your time : don't forget that slow progress makes long term progress. And here, rushing things will actually slow you down.
"Balance is not found, it is built"
Weeks 20 to 26
- Straddle up
- Tuck up
- Legs variations :
- "Diamand" handstand
- "Straddle" handstand
- "Half-straddle" handstand
Now that you probably start feeling comfortable on your hands, it might the time to increase the complexity. I propose two new ways to enter your handstand and some most basics legs variations. Working on that will make your handstand much stronger.
4 goals to reach after 6 months
- Being efficient (70%) in the 3 first entries
- Being consistent with 10 seconds freestanding
- Being comfortable with the 4 legs positions
- The banana shape is almost gone, if not completely
Months 6 to 12 : Combinations and endurance : 1 minute goal !
At this stage, you should be able to enter into handstand with efficiency and to hold it at least few seconds with ease. You are getting comfortable with some variations and your alignment starts to look much better. But may be not, and this guide is totally worthless :o Let's say it is not and that you are on the good track. Here are some final exercises you can add to your training.
Weeks 26 to 52
The total training volume should keep slowly increase to reach around 7-8 hours per week after one year of practice. Personally, I spend about 1h to 1h30 per day, 6 to 7 days a week, working on my handstand. There is always new goals to reach for that requires you to train more and more. For me, this is the one arm handstand (see video below).
For the last 6 months, I suggest you to work on many handstand variations and on your endurance.
GOOD LUCK AND ENJOY :)
Les 5 objectifs à atteindre à la fin des 12 mois sont :
- Tenir l'équilibre 60 secondes.
- Être efficace dans les différentes entrées.
- Maîtriser les 3 positions de têtes classiques.
- Pouvoir mouvoir ses jambes confortablement.
- Être "aligné", ou presque ;)
Si ces objectifs sont atteints, félicitations !
Vous pouvez considérer avoir atteint le niveau intermédiaire du handstand.
Que faire maintenant ? A ce stade, vous avez surement déjà pas mal de nouvelles idées de développement. Si l'équilibre à une main en fait partie, accrochez-vous... et jetez un coup d’œil à cet article et à la vidéo ci-dessous ;) !
- One arm handstand : comment j'ai eu mon équilibre à un bras en 1 an !
5 goals to reach after 12 months :
- Holding a 60 seconds freestanding
- Being constant in the different handstand entries
- Being comfortable with the 3 basics head positions
- Being able to move your legs freely without compromising your balance
- Being well aligned, or almost ;)
If those goals have been reached, congratulations !
You can consider having built a solid handstand and some strong enough base to move on more complex handbalancing skills !
Here are others articles that you can use to guide you through those more advanced skills :
- One arm handstand : how I got my OAHS in a year
- Handstand push-ups : coming up soon
- Press to handstand : coming up soon
My journey through the one arm handstand in a 2 minutes video
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