by Tyler Bramlett
The freestanding handstand is one of the coolest exercises out there. And it displays the sort of strength, balance and coordination that only a few athletes have. But most people don’t understand how to properly learn to do their first perfect freestanding handstand.
In this article I’ll show you how to achieve your first freestanding handstand. I divided this program into four different sections to make it easy to use.
The first section is focused on building a strong foundation.
In the second section, you’ll learn how to get used to the uncomfortable position of being upside down. Many people fail in their handstand quest simply because they never acclimated their body to holding the inverted position.
The third section will teach you how to build strength and master perfect positioning. This is the most important step that you need to master! That way, when you go to kick up into your first real freestanding handstand, you’ll already have ample strength and perfect form in your body.
The fourth section is where you’ll learn how to go from being able to perform a handstand against the wall to performing a free standing handstand. The tricks and tips I highlight in this fourth section will shave months off your learning curve.
Please work through each step that I outline in this system, and take your time to master every exercise in each section before moving on. If you follow the exact sequence I outline in this article, you WILL get your first handstand. I guarantee it. But if you skip a step, if you go too fast, or if you don’t master the foundational drills then you may never get there at all.
Read to get started? It’s time to perform your first perfect freestanding handstand.
Step 1 — Build a Strong Foundation
The first exercise you need to learn in this section is the hollow position hold. To perform the hollow position hold, lie on your back
with your arms overhead and your legs outstretched. Press your lower back into the ground and lift your legs about 2 inches. Stay tight as you point your toes and squeeze your ankles together. Lift your arms off the ground, tucking your chin slightly so your head is in a straight line with your spine. Hold this position for time.
You may only be able to hold this position for 3 to 5 sets of 10 seconds at first. Work up to holding this position for a full 60 seconds without losing your core strength.
The second foundational exercise you need to master is the elevated plank. The elevated plank will the arm, shoulder and core strength to make the body position necessary for holding a freestanding handstand.
To perform the elevated plank, start in pushup position with your feet against a wall. Walk your feet up the wall until they’re higher than your hips. Hold this position, keeping your pelvis tucked, and make sure your lower back doesn’t arch. Try for 60 seconds.
Once you can hold each of these positions for 60 seconds, move on to Step 2.
Step 2 — Get Used to Turning Your World Upside Down
In order to perform a perfect freestanding handstand, you must be acclimated to holding an inverted position.
I remember trying to teach a friend of mine years ago how to hold a perfect handstand, but he wasn’t comfortable in the inverted position. Each time he kicked up to a wall he immediately collapsed to the ground. Luckily, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that will help you avoid this problem.
The first exercise is the wall headstand. Place your head about 3 inches away from a wall, and your hands about 3 to 5 inches in front of your head. Assume the “kick up” position as outlined in the photos below. From there, kick up against the wall, hard enough that you can achieve the inverted position. Press your hands into the ground the entire time to take pressure off your neck. Work on holding this wall headstand position for 60 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
The next exercise is the back to wall handstand. This is great for building the strength necessary to hold a perfect freestanding handstand. Assume the kick up position just like you did with the headstand, and kick up with your back facing the wall into a handstand position. If you can’t make it at first, try to kick so hard that you put your foot through the wall . Don’t actually put your foot through the wall, of course. But visualizing doing it will ensure you have enough momentum to get to the top position. Hold this position for 60 seconds.
Once you’re able to hold the wall handstand for a full 60 seconds, you can move on to Step 3.
Step 3 — Build Strength and Master Perfect Positioning
This is probably the most powerful exercise you can use to build upper body pushing strength, as well as to prepare yourself for holding the perfect freestanding handstand. It’s called the Walk Up to Face the Wall Handstand.
Start in the same position as you did with the elevated plank, but this time you’ll walk your hands towards the wall. As your torso gets closer to the wall, start taking small steps with your feet — or wear a pair of slippery socks that allow your feet to slide up the wall. Bring your hands as close to the wall as you can, and hold the position for 10 seconds.
There are some key points of alignment you’ll want to address with the Face the Wall Handstand position. It might be helpful to have a partner watch you from the side, or to make a video of yourself so you can make corrections.
Your feet should be squeezed together and toes pointed. Your hands should be no wider than shoulder width apart, and your elbows should be fully locked. Press your hands into the ground and see how far away you can bring your hands from your toes. Your pelvis should be tucked in the same position you used for the hollow position hold in Part 1. You should have no arch in your back whatsoever.
Hold this Face the Wall Handstand position for 10 seconds, and try to maintain active muscular tension the entire time. Then walk yourself back down to the elevated plank position. From there walk back up and hold the Face the Wall Handstand position again.
When you can do 3 walk-ups and hold the Face the Wall Handstand position with complete muscular activation for 3 sets of 10 second holds, it’s time to go for your first freestanding perfect handstand. Move on to Part 4.
Part 4 — Your First Freestanding Handstand!
Going for your first perfect freestanding handstand is an awesome achievement, but let’s cover the ground rules and key points before we begin.
The first thing you need to know is how to safely roll out of a handstand position.
In order to properly roll out of the handstand position, begin in the same position as you did in Part 2, with your head on the ground and your hands slightly in front of your face. Instead of kicking up to a full headstand, kick up and curl your spine as if you were trying to bring your knees into your chest, and then simply do a somersault rolling over onto your back. This will properly prepare you for a safe exit in case you find yourself over balancing in your freestanding handstand position.
Next, work on your freestanding balance and body position by practicing the freestanding headstand. To perform the freestanding headstand, set yourself up just like you did in Part 2. With your head on the ground and your hand slightly in front of your face, kick up gently to a freestanding headstand while maintaining the perfect body position you had in the Face the Wall Handstand. Hold this position for time. Work up to 60 seconds before moving on.
Okay, you’ve mastered the rollout and the handstand position, and you’ve built the core control and strength necessary to hold handstands. You’re finally ready to kick up to your first real perfect freestanding handstand.
A few things to note before you get started. Make sure when you kick up you DO NOT move your hands at all. In fact, if you move your hands while working on the perfect freestanding handstand you will train bad form, and it’ll become harder for you to achieve a perfect handstand every time. So Rule Number One: don’t walk around on your hands trying to get your balance.
Number Two is to make sure your fingers are as strong as possible to help you balance in this position. Try maintaining what’s called a crimped fingertip position, where your second knuckle is bent and pressing into the ground the entire time. This will give you better balance, and it’ll build better hand strength too.
Begin your kick up by assuming the same position as you did for your Back to Wall Handstand in Part 2. Start by gently kicking up to your handstand position. You’re not actually trying to reach the position at this point. Instead, you want to build confidence on your hands, and you’re trying to get a feel for exactly how much effort it will take to kick off the ground into a perfect handstand position.
As you kick harder, you’ll get closer to the handstand position. Just keep increasing that kick bit by bit until you find yourself getting into the perfect handstand position. When you reach this position, immediately lock your elbows, press your hands into the ground, squeeze your core, squeeze your feet together, point your toes and try to maintain your balance exclusively through the strength of your wrists and fingertips.
Now… don’t for one second think this will happen easily overnight. On average it takes me 30 to 60 days to teach someone how to hold a freestanding handstand by themselves, under my watchful eye. It may take you less or it may take you more, but the golden rule to getting good at freestanding handstands is patience and persistence.
Practicing your handstand daily for a minimum of 5 minutes is crucial if you really want to get good at this stuff. More training is better, but I tend to focus on the minimal dose necessary to become competent, and 5 minutes seems to do the trick for most people.
Once you’ve mastered holding the perfect handstand position for 30 seconds, feel free to move on to more complicated hand bouncing skills.