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🤸♀️Handstand is a popular and sought after skill in the fitness world.
Aside from looking amazingly BADASS of standing on just your hands, the handstand is a great way to exhibit and build your body control, body awareness, strength, mobility and concentration.
Everyone should learn the handstand and anyone could start training for it.
But before you jump straight to your handstand, it’s important to build your strength foundations 💪 to prepare you safely and so you can progress faster. This is a lot better than mindlessly jumping around until you hit a handstand for 0.1 seconds then fall face first on concrete.
We’re going to focus on two main body parts for our handstand progress: your core and your shoulders. Your core provides you control for your torso, producing balance, control and awareness. Your shoulders will be acting as your legs. Since they’re not used to their new role, it’s only natural to strengthen and prepare them.
These two muscle groups are our main focus but the full body will also be trained especially the wrists that are also going to bare a lot of load and pressure.
This strength aspect is not only for beginners. Even advanced athletes should carefully take their time and always work on their basics to further improve strength and control. Plus, it corrects any weak links in your handstand journey.
Remember to never leave the basic movements even if you’re already advanced. These exercises can always be scaled for your level so you can squeeze every potential your muscles have to offer.
So let’s start building your strength to finally achieve your handstand!
🤜Hollow Hold (Arms Up)
Your core acts as a primary stabilizer to hold you up on your handstand. This will also make or break your form. Have a weak core, you’ll mostly have a banana handstand or just fall down because of your inability to control your torso.
The hollow hold is great for building your core and has very transferable gains to handstands (and many other calisthenics exercises as well). You are basically doing a hollow hold only in a different position when doing a handstand. Train this for 2-3 sets of 30-45second holds.
👍How to perform:
- Begin laying on the floor, straighten arms and extend next to the ears.
- Legs extend straight out, with toes pointed. Contracting the abs, and squeezing the legs together, lift arms, scapulas, and legs up a few inches up off the floor.
- Chin should be tucked in towards the chest, abdominals fully squeezed.
- Hold position for specified time, then return to laying flat.
🤜Hollow Rocks (Arms Up)
This exercise is also great for building your core strength. It’s basically a dynamic version of the hollow hold for added difficulty and requirement of stabilization.
The challenging part here is not to break your form of the hollow hold even with an added rocking motion. Keep everything tight, not just your core. It’s a full-body exercise with focus on your core. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. One up and one down counts as one rep.
👍How to perform:
- Begin by laying flat on your back with your arms next to your sides.
- With your legs straight and toes pointed, squeeze your legs together.
- Contract your abdominals, begin lifting your scapulas and upper back off the floor.
- Arms elevated, reaching towards your knees.
- Start rocking motion by gently rocking forward, lifting back up off the ground, then rock back onto scapulas lifting legs up.
- Repeat motion, and lay flat when finished.
🤜Downward Dog Shrugs
To start your shoulder strengthening journey, this exercise puts just the right amount of pressure on your wrists and shoulders to build your strength.
It’s important to keep your arms fully locked and straight and holding a straight body line. Focus only on shrugging your shoulders to maximize the gains from this exercise. If hamstrings are too tight so you are unable to walk closer to a pike position, try first to slightly bend your knees. Build strength with 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
👍How to perform:
- Begin in a kneeling position.
- Coming forward, place your hands out in front of you.
- Rise up off knees, straighten legs.
- Walk feet in as close to arms as possible, while keeping legs straight.
- Push through arms, head looking back towards legs.
- Push through your shoulders, scapular elevation, let your chin meet your chest.
- Then relax your traps as the head lowers towards your elbows. All while keeping your arms straight.
- Repeat per specified repetitions.
🤜Pike Shaped Shoulder Shrugs
This exercise is already simulating the handstand position but requiring you to have more open shoulders. Though it has less demands for hamstring flexibility, this exercise will train your harder to build stronger shoulders, triceps and core. It only requires an elevated surface for you to use. You can get creative with your equipment alternative.
Focus on the shrugging motion while maintaining a straight upper body and straight arms. Build strength for 3-4sets of 8-12 reps.
👍How to perform:
- To begin, start in a kneeling position with your back to the box.
- Lean forward onto your arms, keeping them straight push through your shoulders and step your feet up onto the box.
- Keep legs straight and together, and arms straight next to your ears.
- Keep abdominals tight and eyes looking straight ahead at the box..
- Push through straight arms, then shrug down lowering your head towards the ground without bending your arms.
- Repeat shrugs.
- Lower legs to the ground when completed.
Shrugs against the wall
Time to put more weight on your arms to build more strength. Shrugs against the wall simulate the full load on your arms as you will be holding most of your bodyweight.
This exercise also adds “fear factor” to your position so before trying this exercise, it’s ideal to first train handstands against the wall to build more confidence in getting upside down. This will be quite awkward at first but as you train more and more, it will basically feel just like standing up on your legs.
Train this strengthening exercise for 3-4sets of 8-12reps to build more upper body and core strength.
👍How to perform:
- Begin with standing straight near a wall with distance to jump into a handstand.
- Walk backwards up into the handstand putting weight into palms, keeping arms and body straight.
- Lower ear lobes towards tops of shoulders, then press back up.
- Repeat shrugs for specified repetitions.
To add resistance to your shrugs, you can place socks in between your head and shoulders to add friction. The additional friction will cause the shrugs to feel heavier. The heavier you’re shrugging, the more strength gains you will acquire.
If done properly, this exercise puts more load on your shoulders compared to the shrugs facing the wall because you’ll only use the wall for additional balance rather than putting a bit of your weight there for off-loading your shoulders. You will definitely feel the difference of this exercise compared to the against the wall.
Once you’re training this exercise, expect free-standing handstands very soon within your reach. Train for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
👍How to perform:
- Begin in a handstand, stomach facing the wall. Keep legs straight and together, and arms straight beside ears.
- With your arms straight beside your ears shrug your shoulders up to your earlobes.
- Lower head, as shoulders move away from ear lobes.
- Repeat shrugs per specified repetitions.
Like any other skill, you also need to build the strength component progressively so you can have a faster and more enjoyable learning process.
Take the basic steps as this will also address any weak links you have. No matter how much you can shoulder press, this shoulder strength will not transfer directly to your handstand journey (Though it could somehow help in case you’re wondering). But to make more progress, train exercises that have more transferability to your handstands.
For faster progress, you can also check out The Movement Athlete Academy’s platform so you don’t need to think about your training program anymore.
Build your strength and learn the handstand.