Number one rule – Learn to stand before you walk.
If you want to truly master a free standing handstand then it’s very important to learn a static, free standing handstand before you try to walk. Think about it logically. If teaching a baby to walk, the first thing to do would be to stand the baby up on two feet so he/she can first learn to balance. Then you would start to walk. Why should it be any different when learning to walk on your hands? Learn to balance first, then walk.
You need to learn to find that position where you are in balance and learn to stay there. Otherwise 9 times out of 10 walking will just be an attempt to stay up for 5 seconds instead of 3 or 2 or even 1 second. Ideally you should be holding a handstand with no movement, consistently, for a minimum of 10 seconds before you walk and, with some practise, I’m telling you that anyone can do so. With a free standing handstand, taking a step should be to regain balance, which from time to time you may need to do, but my point is you should not be scrambling around desperately on your hands. Even in Crossfit where walking on your hands is a big part, mastering a handstand with no movement will transfer much better. Besides, what’s to say in a Crossfit competition they couldn’t put in a free standing handstand for time as opposed to walking for distance, so you need to be prepared. I know lots of people who can walk a short distance but can’t hold a free standing handstand. I know zero people that can hold a free standing handstand but can’t handstand walk. Anyway, I will do a different post for handstand walking.
Important points to remember:
- Keep tight. Hold your position well and don’t arch your back. It may be easier to arch right now but in the long term it’s better if you can hold one with a perfectly straight body. Use the following cues but keep in mind there are many so each time you practise pick just one or maybe two points to really think about and nail.
- Squeeze your glutes. If you remember just one thing, make it this. By squeezing your glutes, your body natural falls into a good, strong position and your pelvis will naturally tilt into a better position. The best thing to do is get a partner to poke your glutes, they should be tensed, if they’re soft and relaxed you’re not doing it right.
- Push through your shoulders. Think about pushing through the floor and trying to touch your toes on the ceiling. Your shoulders should be up by your ears. This is crucial to ensure your shoulders are in a good position. It also doesn’t require as much endurance so your shoulders tire slower. Finally, if you want to learn more advanced variations, let’s say a one handed handstand you absolutely must master this.
- Turn your elbows inward. As if you are turning the inside of you elbows towards your hands. This will help to ensure you arms are locked straight and also helps you to keep your shoulders in a good position.
- Point your toes. Not because it looks good but because it helps you to maintain tension throughout your body.
- Keep your body straight. As explained above, don’t arch. A slight dish/hollow position is fine. If you have nailed the above cues this should come more naturally anyway.
- Look at the floor. You need to focus on something that is not moving in order to help you balance. Looking in front would mean lifting your head way too much and putting your body in an exaggerated arched, and general bad position which we want to avoid. You can look at the wall behind you but I wouldn’t recommend this yet. Firstly, it´s a little more advance, secondly you´re likely to get distracted by someone walking past causing your focus to break, thirdly if you sport is Crossfit then you will mostly be walking on your hands. If you’re not looking at the floor, you can’t see where you’re going. So, look at the floor, try not to lift your head too much. You should be looking through your eyebrows, somewhere in between the lower end of your hands (palms).
- Use your fingers. Your weight should be in your fingers, not your palms. Push through your fingers into the floor, this will create a stronger base and make it easier for you to stabilize. Secondly, it is instrumental in helping you find your balance. Sooner rather than later you will find a point where you are balanced I.e. you will be able to temporarily hold a handstand, the skill then becomes finding this position consistently and being able to stabilize for a longer period of time.
- Spend time upside down. You need to get used to being upside down and in a position where you are balanced. I regularly see people ‘practising’ a handstand by kicking up to a bad position, not in balance, and then coming back down – it probably won’t do any harm but it definitely isn’t going to help much. The more time you spend in a handstand (in the correct position), the easier you will be able to find that optimal position, and before you know it you’re doing a free standing handstand.
- Start where you feel safe. If you feel safe kicking up to a handstand then great, try it. If you don’t or then try squatting down and jumping up to a tucked handstand, even with bent arms. Then work to straight arms, then practise until you feel more balanced, then start to open up your tuck until you are in a full handstand. This is just one example of many ways to learn and practise … but my point is you don’t have to kick up the traditional way.
- Practise with a partner. Having a spotter who can provide assistance when you start to lose balance will allow you to stay on your hands for longer and get you more volume in that position where you are balanced. Ideally, work with someone whose ability is similar and someone of a similar build.
- Build the relative strength. This is a different type of strength to squatting 200kg or even pressing 100kg. Practise relative assistance work. Remember that holding a handstand for say 30 seconds doesn’t actually require too much strength or endurance but clearly if you can’t do a wall facing handstand for 30 seconds you’re not strong enough to do it without the wall yet. You get the picture.
- Experiment. Like I say, it’s about getting volume in a handstand and developing awareness of your body in different positions. So you should experiment. When you can hold a handstand begin to try different variations – learn it on bars, use closer or wider stances, and create obstacles. You will probably find that it’s actually easier on the parallettes (bars) once you get used to it, as your wrists are stronger when stabilizing in this position as opposed to on the floor.