How To Learn Handstands

I’ve practiced handstands on and off for almost 10 years but it was only in making a study of the gymnastics giant that I was able to master my handstands. I did so by studying the component parts.

This post is about using small steps to learn handstands quickly and in stages. At the request of Karen X. Cheng I’ve broken down how to learn handstands into 10-second videos. To accompany the videos I’ve put together this post, detailing the progression.

Everyone tries to learn handstands by trying to do handstands. When we break the process down, it can be much easier and quicker.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein

Small Steps

There are many intermediate stages between standing up and being completely upside down. For example: put your hands on the floor. Get comfortable. Move around on all fours. Move side to side, forward and backward. Take this hands-and-feet position into dynamic running and jumping. Make this series playful. For example, use your feet to kick around a ball while supporting yourselves on your hands. By changing the purpose of your practice it is often easier to learn more quickly. A final, essential reason for all of these small steps is to incrementally overcome the fear of being in a new physical position.

Falling

There are many ways to fall out of a handstand. It is as important to practice getting out of a handstand as getting into one. Begin with small hops from all fours. Over time make those hops bigger and bigger. There are three different ways that we save ourselves from falling while standing on two feet:

All three of these are equally applicable with handstands. Before executing them upside down familiarize yourself with them in standing and walking. You’ll find that the ways you rescue yourself from a falling handstand will be one or more of these automatically but don’t forget to practice them intentionally, as well.

Pain Means STOP

If your wrists get sore, STOP! You can also circle your wrists slowly to warm them up before practicing. Mostly, though, take breaks and don’t try to do too much at once.

Doing It All At Once

Everyone tries to get handstands all at once. My nephew is 10 months old and is just learning how to crawl. Expecting a novice to hold a handstand is akin to expecting my nephew to walk already! It wouldn’t be helpful for his neuro-development to force him into standing and encourage him to put his feet on the ground. He’ll do so when he is ready.  He will learn to walk – just as we all did – over the course of several years of exploration. Handstands can be learned gently, too – though in less time.

The Wall

People often practice handstands against a wall. As an asset walls can help but we can make them much more effective. First off, go slowly! Don’t throw yourself against the wall but instead practice getting up with control. You can be up against a wall back to the wall or belly to the wall. If you feel unsafe get someone to spot you. Most importantly, enjoy being up against the wall and play while you are up there. We learn much better and more rapidly through being playful.

Types of Handstands

There are two general positions for handstands, with different uses.

  • Gymnastics handstands
  • Capoeira/breakdance handstands

Practice both of these positions on the floor and then upside down.

Standing Up

We’ve covered a lot tactics for learning handstands. Give a few of these a try. If you’ve never tried to practice kicking around a ball with your feet to improve your handstands, do so and see if it helps. I’ve had so much fun practicing and falling over the years and would love to share some of that with you. More exciting, I’ve found that by breaking down handstands into smaller steps they are much easier to master.

Take a look at my videos on GiveIt100.com. Then, leave me a comment and let me know which of these steps you find the most useful!