Handstands can be a polarising topic. Some love them and throw them in a workout or even after class any chance they get. Others avoid them like the plague (COVID-19? Too soon?). And along the same vein what a good handstand looks like and how to get there sparks much debate.
Here is the official CrossFit Handstand demo video.
And here is what you are likely to see in any workout.
So why the discrepancy? Like anything it comes down to what you are trying to achieve. Gymnasts, Hand-Balancers, Yogis, and CrossFit athletes all use handstands but for different purposes, and hence have different looking results!
Here are some common tenets of a good handstand and what you can do to work on them.
1) Your body should be stacked. This one varies a little with style and purpose…for example handstand walking will require some forward lean. But in general if you are trying to remain upside down for any period of time you will want ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and hands in a line. It seems simple and it is…but not easy. Many will struggle with wrist or shoulder mobility which causes compensation somewhere else down the line – so the first thing is to clean up your mobility deficits. If you have good rang of motion, this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_KYq-GAJLo) talks about some key points of performance and finding a good line using the wall to assist.
2) It is an active position. As much as it may look like someone is just chilling out upside down, the reality is there is a lot of fine motor control and full body tension happening. So when you next kick up to a handstand don’t worry so much about trying to balance like a pencil on it’s tip, rather control the movement from the moment your hands touch the floor. Doing toe pulls (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGhntgSGMH4) off the wall help teach what muscles need to engage to keep you inverted.
3) Regular practice is key. Handstands do require strength, but it isn’t a strength exercise per se. They are a skill that must be practised. Being upside down is disorienting! And then there is supporting your bodyweight on your arms with an increased centre of gravity and with smaller ‘feet’. The only way anyone has developed any proficiency in this unique situation is to start gradually and build it up, allowing both their body and mind to grow comfortable. If getting upside down scares you, start with a Tripod Hold (start tucked and build to legs extended as in this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDiTM2htJZ0). Otherwise learn how to bail (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVSku3y64pc) so you can train safely day after day.
So whether you want a handstand with a great line for epic photos or if you are getting upside down to build your fitness, keep in mind stacking your body, staying active, and building confidence and awareness with regular practice and you’ll be on your way.
Head Coach – CrossFit Central Wellington