The handstand is a classic gymnastic ability used by street performers, Yoga practitioners, athletes and soldiers dating back to the ancient Greeks and Spartans. In today’s world however, we hardly see a practical application for it. But in developing the ability to get inverted you get a powerful upper body, improved flexibility, strong sense of balance, spatial awareness, and core control – just to name a few. Your posture will also improve as you work on stabilizing and aligning your back, neck and shoulders.
In CrossFit we slowly work up in progressions to develop the strength, flexibility and balance to enable us to achieve the handstand. Core, shoulder and arm strength are the key. Some prerequisite abilities should be:
- holding a proper hollow position on the ground for 30 seconds
- 10 strict Push-ups
- 10 unbroken Ovehead Squats with a barbell
- 10 unbroken shoulder presses with a barbell demonstrating proper wrist, shoulder, hip and ankle alignment
- 10 second modified handstand hold with the body in a pike postion and feet on a 20″ box
Once you can do all of the above well, we can move on to developing the handstand against the wall. The first step is the ability to kick up to the wall. Start in an active lunge position with arms extended in front of you locked out, then move forward planting the hands firmly on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width and then kick up into the inverted position with the feet directly above the head. The elbows should be locked out, shoulders open and active, core tight in a hollow position, and glutes activated with the legs straight and together.
Not everyone can achieve the handstand right away. The key is keeping the elbows locked out, arms straight, core tight and committing to the action. If you fall, go down the way you kicked up.
Once you achieve the handstand you’ll find that it’s more like a balancing act than a feat of strength. The final position should look like:
Hands spaced slightly wider than shoulders, elbows locked out, shoulders active and open, head pushed through the arms, hollow core, tight glutes with legs and feet together. From the side view there should be a straight line from the ankle, through the knee, hips, spine, shoulder, elbow and wrist.
From here we can move on to further abilities such as inverted shoulder touches, handstand walks, the single arm handstand and the coveted free standing handstand without the use of a wall.
But for now, work up through the progressions until you can hold a handstand for more than 30 seconds. Once you get this, we’ll work on bigger and better things!