The how to handstand for non handstanders
The other day I was waiting for the water fountain at the gym. As the person using it finished, they looked up at me and said
“Oh! You’re that girl that always walks around on her hands – right?”
I smiled and replied “Probably, although I don’t handstand walk as often as I used too”.
She continued “I’ve pointed you out to my trainer. I told him that you are my goal, I want to do the same things I see you doing, how did you learn?”
It seems rather strange (to me), but I actually get asked for advice quite often in regards to how to do a handstand or how to handstand walk.
I’m certainly no authority on the matter and tend to say it’s a case of kick up and “sink or swim” but I’ll share with you things that are a little more helpful – although I do adhere to the “sink or swim” prescription.
I did a couple of years gymnastics when I was in primary school so I’ve always kicked up into a handstand. This year I’d love to be able to press into a handstand (like yogi’s do) but I’ve also wanted to muscle-up for some time and I’ve never made it a priority, so we will see if the press stays in the “one day” basket too.
Kicking up with consistency is the hardest part of learning the handstand – too much and you’ll arse right over and if it’s not enough you won’t be able to get into the sweet spot. I lunge forward and plant my hands on the ground as I kick, whereas James will plant his hands and kick up from more of a downdog position. I personally think it’s harder to do it with planted hands (as you need to generate more force with your legs as opposed to being helped by momentum the way I do it).
Either way place your hands on the ground slightly wider than you would for a push up and spread your fingers, it will give you more surface area to balance on, I also roll my inner elbows outwards to engage my lats like you would when you grab the bar to deadlift. If you don’t quite understand the easiest way to explain it is to would be to place your hands on the ground put them at at 10 to and 10 past on a clock face.
The most important point I can pass on is you MUST push AWAY from the ground and stay strong through your core, most people immediately sink into their shoulder joints and bow like a banana. For those crossfitters amongst you – think of the handstand as the very top of the push press (just upside down).
Before I could hold a freestanding handstand for any real length of time I could walk because I found movement much easier than staying tight enough to hold a nice line, to this day my handstand walking is more kick up, balance, fall forwards then re balance, so I’m probably even less of an authority on how to walk than I am holding a line. 😉
I’ve seen many leg variations in handstand walks, stag seems to be popular (one leg forward one leg back so that you are more evenly balanced) but I walk in the same position as I hold a freestanding handstand because it’s the only handstand I’ve “mastered”. The only difference between when I hold a line and walking is that my feet are further forward to help me move in that direction. Then it’s simply a case of pushing away from the ground.
Mats, Grass, Sand or Concrete?
Softer is not necessarily better, in fact in the case of handstanding I’ve found the harder the surface the easier it is, but I understand that most people wouldn’t want to learn this skill on a bed of concrete. When I first started learning I would practice on the mats in the wrestling area, it’s nice and soft if you fall (which incidentally has never happened) and because you slightly sink into the mats it’s easier to find and hold that sweet spot. Grass would be a good alternative if you don’t have access to rubber mats but just be careful as the surface can be deceptively uneven.
Walking on your hands however is far easier on a firmer surface which is why back in the day when I spent a lot of time trying to master handstand walking there were lots of videos of me learning to walk on the rubber floor at the gym and even now I’ll choose the hard cricket pitch at the park over walking on grass as I’ve found my fingers tend to get caught up in the grass tendrils.
Honestly I think the best way to learn is through continual practice using gravity as your self corrector.
Till next time