I always have this little pit of fear/excitement in my stomach when I walk into the box for another WOD. Something about not knowing what is going to be asked of me gets me a little jumpy.
It never ceases to amaze me how certain movements – burpees and thrusters *cough cough* – knock the wind out of my sails before I even begin. None more so, than those four little letters HSPU – Handstand Push Ups.
Handstand push ups? Pftt. Let’s be real for a moment. I can’t even do a free stand handstand for longer than 1 millisecond. It begs the question though, should you be attempting HSPU’s before you’ve even learned to stand on your own two arms?
There are so many muscles and ligaments that get called upon when doing a handstand. Wrist mobility, core strength and overcoming the mental fear of being inverted are 3 of the main issues people face in the beginning. Not to mention shoulder strength, balance and stability.
Preparing to Handstand
There are a few ways to master the handstand, but first you need to prepare your body, so listen up.
Wrist strength and mobility is crucial. If you don’t have good wrists, you will not have good handstands. To prepare your wrists, there are 3 exercises to follow.
1. Kneel on the ground and place your hands flat on the ground, keep your fingers forward and arms straight. Gently rock forward to bring your shoulders past your fingers and hold for a few seconds. Relax and repeat 5-8 reps.
2. Remain kneeling on the ground and point your fingers backwards. Sitting back, hold for a few seconds, relax and repeat 5-8 reps.
*Note: Don’t let the heels of your wrist come off the floor.
3. Kneeling, place your palms face up with the tops of your hand on the floor. Keep your fingers facing towards your knees and sit back gently. Hold this for a few seconds then relax and repeat 5-8 reps.
Now that your wrists are all warmed up, you must master the Hollow Rock position. The hollow rock, or hollow body position is when you lie on your back side, lower back flat on the floor with arms and legs raised off the ground.
As you can imagine, it takes a strong, controlled core to hold this position and it is pretty darn close to how you will hold your handstand.
There are four handstand progressions you will want to move through to finally achieve your freestanding handstand.
The first few progressions will be done using the wall.
Facing the Wall
Most people feel more comfortable maintaining the hollow rock position while facing the wall, so this is where we’ll start.
Climb the wall with your hands shoulder width apart and walk your way up the wall. With your toes against the wall, focus on maintaining a strong hollow rock position. To get out of the handstand, slowly walk your way down.
If you are struggling to hold the position you may need to focus on building shoulder strength. Focus on walking up and down the wall for a 3 reps for 3 sets. Once this starts to feel more comfortable, start working on holding at the top of longer periods of time. You want to work up to being able to hold this position for 1 full uninterrupted minute.
Facing Away from the Wall
This next progression is popping into the handstand while facing away from the wall. This will help build your confidence for getting into the position.
I know personally, my biggest fear was that the wall wasn’t going to be there to catch me, so this exercise is great for conquering that fear.
Lock your arms and kick your legs over your head into the hand stand position. Maintain your hollow rock with heels touch the wall behind you. Keep your focus looking down slightly. Once you can hold this for 60 seconds, you can start trying to pull your heels off the wall and maintaining the hold.
The L-Stand is exactly as it sounds; your body in the shape of an L by standing on your hands with your legs extended out.
This is incredibly hard to do, but really challenges your muscles and helps you build handstand strength while improving your form. It also helps you get into the free stand handstand in a controlled manner.
Focus on getting your legs into a 90 degree angle while pushing down through your hands so your shoulders don’t collapse. Try to hold this position for 5-10 seconds and increase length of time as you get better.
Free Stand Handstand
Your mind may be racing because you know there is no wall behind you, but try and put all that energy into your form. Start with your hands on the floor, arms locked out and slowly tuck your legs up (this is where the L-Stand comes into play) until you are in a full handstand. Push away through your hands, keeping your body in the hollow rock position and hold for as long as possible.
To really build your strength, try doing 5 sets of 5-10 seconds until you can hold for a minute.
Handstands are tough, but they are also tons of fun. If you practice daily, you’ll soon have a new party trick!
Now tell me; what has been your biggest struggle with handstands? Share in the comment section below.
March is the founder and owner of The Barbell Beauties which she started in 2015. She is from the Philippines and currently lives in beautiful Thailand with her American husband and daughter. She is an avid Crossfitter and has just started her journey into Muay Thai (kickboxing).