And no, it’s not as simple as just “stand on your hands”.
A while back I was hitch hiking back from my early morning training appointments in a town near Jerusalem (I like to live dangerously) and one of the occupants of the car and I got to talking about fitness. He asked about programming, frequency of training, and so on. Naturally, being that I’m a calisthenics geek, the conversation steered toward that.
“How would you start someone on handstand training?” he asked.
A fine question. Below is my answer. While a complete tutorial is beyond the scope of this short post, the following should give you a good head start in the right direction.
– Handstands demand certain prerequisites in the way of mobility that can’t be overlooked. In particular you need proper flexibility in your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and thoracic spine. Inability to fully and easily extend all these joints (except the shoulders, which are flexed in the handstand) leads to disaster, or at least to next year’s model Mercedes for your surgeon. If you have the mobility of the hunchback of Notre Dame, you might want to put your ego on the back burner before you buy yourself a one-way trip to Snap City.
2) Basic strength
– Can’t do at least 20 pushups or 5 pullups without breaking a sweat? Then you probably don’t need to fiddle with handstand work just yet. I would consider the above an absolute bare minimum. Anything beyond said minimum (i.e. one-arm pushups, weighted pullups, etc.) is a big plus. Pushups will build a strong shoulder girdle and set of triceps, and pullups, well, pullups are just awesome. And believe it or not, a strong back won’t hurt you when you’re trying to defy gravity from your hands to your feet, so don’t skimp on ’em.
3) Get used to being upside down with partner-assisted headstands or headstands against a wall.
– Being inverted takes getting used to. Get used to this before you lengthen the height of your fall when you get dizzy and all the blood rushes to your head.
Failure to heed the above words may lead you to aforementioned one-way ticket to Snap City. If you’ve never been there, count yourself lucky. It sucks and leads to a lot of boredom (and constant pain).
Beyond that, here are some fun tips that will help you polish your new favorite move.
* Get TIGHT before you even get upside down. This will set the stage for a much more stable handstand.
* “Stack” your body. I picked up this tip from the legendary Mark Reifkind and it made all the difference. Get your hips above your shoulders above your elbows above your wrists and you will find all the stability you need to teeter majestically above the Earth.
* Stare at your butt (of your hands, that is) while squeezing your butt and legs together. The former will give you the right positioning (for me it does, anyway), and the latter will make sure your legs don’t topple your attempt at becoming a human tower. As my friend Josh Halbert says “loose legs are heavy legs.” Squeeze ’em tight or prepare to eat dirt.
And that’s it! Handstands are one of the coolest and most powerful calisthenic moves out there, and they’re very achievable by almost anyone. Put them on your list of to-dos and watch as your upper body strength soars sky high.
Pictured is yours truly, rebelling against the evil clutches of gravity.