So you've just started practising handstands, or maybe you've been practising handstands for a while now. You've tried a few different drills and exercises, you know the general idea, but you still can't seem to find that elusive balance, even for a second. Isn't it frustrating!? You'll be pleased to know that you are not alone. Here are seven* things that you absolutely must do if you want to master the handstand.
1. Fix Your Hands
Are you starting from a standing position with your arms above your head, and then flinging yourself at the ground like you're about to do a cartwheel? Yeah... don't. Start with your hands on the ground, like this:
2. Adjust Your Gaze
Where are you looking? Looking too far forward (in front of your fingertips) is probably putting your neck and back in a position that makes it difficult for you to find balance. Looking at the horizon or wall, with your neck in a neutral position, is an advanced position that you're probably not ready for if you're reading this post. Instead, find a spot on the floor directly in between your thumbs, and fix your gaze there.
3. Push Your Shoulders
Every part of your body should be active and safe while you handstand, especially your shoulders. Slack shoulders will make it hard to balance, and sinking into your shoulder joint is a risky and inefficient position. When you're upside down, PUSH HARD through your shoulders so they drive closer to your ears. With your hands overhead, try to shrug your shoulders so they touch your ears - if you can't get your shoulders to touch your ears, there's a strong possibility that your lats need a good stretch, which leads me to...
4. Stretch Your Lats
Tight lats can contribute to a rubbish overhead position, which will make it very difficult to get in an efficient position for handstanding. Try this: find a table, bench, or bar at about navel-height. Standing about arms-length away from the table, hinge forward from the hip and place both elbows on it, shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, make your hands into fists and press your knuckles together (or even better, the outside edge of your hands so your pinky fingers are touching and your palms are facing towards you). Now draw your hips back, and your pull chest down towards the floor so that your head tucks between your arms. You should be in a kind of L-shape, with vertical legs and a (roughly) horizontal back. Bend your knees if you have to; this is not a hamstring stretch. Suck your belly in and keep your lower back flat: no twerking.
5. Hollow Your Belly
Raw asparagus is great. Overcooked asparagus is not. Why? Well, you should be able to balance a fresh, raw asparagus spear on a table-top so it stands up straight and points at the ceiling. If you overcook that asparagus and it goes all floppy, you won't be able to make it stand up straight. Furthermore, a straight piece of asparagus is easier to balance than a curvy one, right? Your handstand is the same. You need firm, straight lines. One of the most common handstand faults is floppy abs and/or curvy spines. Create a better shape by "hollowing" your belly: tilt your pelvis to eliminate any curve in your lower back, and suck your navel in towards your spine. Draw your lower ribs in so they don't flare out. Practise this lying on the floor face-up and face-down, and also standing.
6. Squeeze Your Butt
This is the same principle as the hollow belly. Squeeze your butt and tilt your pelvis to eliminate any curve in your lower back. Keep your butt squeezed; you need tension to create balance. #nofloppyasparagus
7. Point Your Toes
Point your toes, point your toes, point your toes! Just do it. Create tension to create balance. POINT YOUR DAMN TOES.
Incorporate these things in your practice and your will improve your handstands. Here's the kicker though: none of these things work unless you do. It requires daily practice, for as long as it takes. Be consistent, and be patient. Handstands are cool because they are a high-level skill. You're not going to unlock handstand mastery in a matter of weeks or even months. Don't worry about how long it takes; just do it and enjoy the process. There is no end point; even the best handstand masters still practice regularly and consistently. If you're not prepared to be patient and persistent, then handstands are probably not for you.
*Why seven things? Because these are actually important; this is not a "one magic trick for a flat belly" article... you still have to put in the work.