Happy Independence Day to all of my American friends.
Up here in Canada we celebrated things on Monday.
Now, I am in Moncton, New Brunswick. I am on my way to a Fitness Mastermind meeting with Vince Del Monte, Adam Steer, Chris Lopez, Eric Wong, Dave Ruel, Dan Go, Brad Pilon and Yuri Elkaim.
It will be a great time.
For today, I got a great post from Logan Christopher who does some amazing feats of strength. He is going to show you how to start out doing a handstand.
Rick Kaselj, MS
The Handstand is a great exercise that few people can do.
This is especially if you have injuries or major muscle imbalances in any part of your body. The handstand will likely point them out.
Just check out this old picture of me doing a handstand against the wall.
Notice how far I’m leaning to one side?
That’s because of an injury to my right wrist which made it hard to place my bodyweight on it, hence favoring the other side. Since then I’ve rehabbed my wrist, using techniques much like what Rick teaches, and can do much straighter handstands.
And in the article I want to detail the steps you need to do a proper handstand against the wall.
If you’ve never done this exercise it can seem quite intimidating at first. But once you get going with it and get a little practice in it’s actually quite easy to do. You see, the handstand itself doesn’t require much strength. In supporting the position you’re relying more on good alignment to do the holding. Its just a matter of getting into that position which can be the tough part.
Step #1 – The Headstand (Start Here)
Here’s a great lead-up stunt to the handstand. The headstand is easier to hold as you have a larger base of support, are closer to the ground, and your arms aren’t supporting your entire bodyweight.
Place your hands and head on the ground about 6-10 inches from a wall. (I recommend doing this on some sort of padded surface for comfort.) The hands will be in front of the head to form a triangle or tripod shape. This makes this exercise as easy as possible with the biggest base you can have.
Start with one leg straight and behind you and the other up close, as if in a modified sprinter’s stance, with your arms and head already in position. You’ll kick with the back leg upwards, then kick with the front leg, as they meet overhead against the wall.
If you kick too hard you’ll hit the wall hard, but hopefully avoid putting any holes in it. If you don’t kick hard enough you won’t get into the final position. Practice until this is second nature and easy to do. This will be even more important when we move onto the handstand.
When you’re up in the headstand you’ll be using your hands and head to keep balanced along with the wall. Most people find they can easily do away with the wall and balance in this position, but free-balancing is a topic for another time. Here we’re just using this as a stepping stone to the handstand against the wall.
Step #3 – The Handstand
Getting into the handstand is much the same as was described for the headstand. Start with your hands 12-16 inches from the wall. The index or middle finger should be pointing forward.
It is also worth mentioning that stretching out your wrists in extension beforehand can be helpful. Understand that in the handstand you’re supporting your entire bodyweight on the hands and if your wrists are inflexible they can become sore from working on this exercise, but that will go away in time. If your wrists can’t take it, you can do a handstand on top of pushup handles where the wrists are kept straight.
The hands should be shoulder width apart or just slightly outside of it. Keep the elbows locked at all times. This keeps the stress on your bones rather than on your muscles, as the bones are much stronger. That’s why I said earlier that the handstand itself doesn’t take much strength. Handstand pushups do but that’s another topic for another time as well.
With your hands and arms set you’ll be starting in the sprinter’s stance once again. One leg is straight and to the rear. The other is bent at the knee and closer to your body. Kick up and forwards with your rear leg. The front leg follows by kicking and they meet overhead. The first time you try this you’ll likely not kick hard enough, but then all you have to do is take that as feedback and increase your kicking more next time.
Remember to keep your arms locked out so that you don’t end up crashing on your head. We want to avoid that. If you need help, have a spotter grab your legs after you kick and position you in a handstand.
Practice this kicking up and getting into the handstand. It’s a matter of using not too much force with the kick, or too little, but just the right amount. Think Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Step #3 – Finer Points on Holding Handstands
Now that you’re in the handstand what should you do. Let’s work on the position.
Keep your legs together and straight, with the toes pointed. This is more than aesthetically pleasing, but actually helps keep your body as one tight unit. If you were to balance in the open this is exactly what you want. And it also helps even against the wall.
Shrug up with the shoulders, that is try to reach them to your ears. This gives you the best structure for holding the handstand. It is one exercise where you don’t want to suck your arms into the lat, like you do in pullups.
The head can be looking down at the ground or brought up so that you’re looking out towards the way you’re body is facing.
The body can be curved or straight. Neither position is wrong, contrary to what some people will say. The straight body position requires more strength and flexibility (in the shoulders) to get into so it is something to work towards. The curved position is more natural and will not hurt you assuming it is not exaggerated to a great degree.
To recap: keep your arms locked out, shoulders shrugged, body tight, legs together and toes pointed. Congratulations you have a good looking handstand!
You can work on holding this position for longer and longer times. When you reach one minute you’re doing fairly well. Of course from there, there is much more you can do such as longer holds, handstand pushups, hand balancing out in the open and so much more.
This is a simple exercise, yet great for all around athleticism. Start practicing and if you have any questions let me know in the comments below.
If you would like to progress to handstand pushups, you can check out The Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups that I put together.
Logan Christopher runs http://legendarystrength.com/ where he teaches bodyweight exercises including hand balancing, kettlebells, feats of strength, health, mental training and more. He’s known as a physical culture renaissance man and has done crazy feats like juggling a flaming kettlebell and pulling a firetruck by his hair. Make sure to sign up on his site for 5 free special reports.