As much as a handstand is a fancy looking skill to have, it comes with a moral message that sits very close to our hearts at SOF.
Nothing worthwhile (particularly your health) comes easily or quickly. Having and maintaining the skill of a handstand can be compared to having good health.
You have to work hard to earn it and constantly give it attention to maintain it.
Handstands appear to have become a bit of a craze of late, mostly thanks to social media. It does have a “showy” element to it and is sometimes used to “elevate ones image” in the health and fitness world, often devaluing it.
That being said, it is a skill that has to be earned and maintained constantly. Just like exercise, it has several physical benefits and more importantly (at least to us) there are many deeper lessons to be learned from the skill.
You won’t often see overweight people upside down on their hands and on the other end of the spectrum, you don’t often see massively muscular bodies upside down either. If your posture is compromised fro too much muscle or adipose tissue (rounded shoulders, week abs etc.) you will struggle to truly have a handstand, simple as that.
It requires a great amount of strength in the upper body, a great amount of pelvic and spinal awareness coupled with an appropriate amount of mobility to really define upside down stability.
When we look a little deeper there are many other layers involved.
The vestibular system gets a full shake up as you are inverted but still trying to maintain balance. Your “balance” system is now driven from wrist to shoulder to the trunk, so in a proprioceptive (mind and body relationship) sense, you have a whole new neurological map that needs to be established and maintained which does wonders for your brain function.
A handstand can be a really rewarding skill. It gives you blissful moments and brings you back to childlike feelings of euphoria.
As mentioned before it is not something everyone has and, more importantly, it requires a lot of attention and time, particularly in the early stages.
It involves a lot of failure and very small amounts of reward. After 3, 6, 12 even 24months you may not feel like you’ve achieved a hell of a lot because it is such a slow process and, as contradictory as it sounds, that’s the beauty in it.
It’s one of those skills that requires diligence and hard work, and there’s nothing better than having something you work hard for?
Our Favourite Part
There is no end to a handstand. It can always be better, more complex, longer etc. Just like health, there is always room for improvement.
Rather than it being a destination, it is actually a journey and that’s where we have to find the enjoyment, in the constant pursuit of unattainable perfection.
The mechanical detail
A handstand is not earned by simply getting the body upside down as often as possible. There specific parts of the body that need to be trained in order to develop the skill to do so. Below is a list of drills that will help develop the muscles and joints that play an imperative part in having a handstand. Please note that these are only a few options, of which there are hundreds, that help improve a handstand.
For a joint to handle your bodies weight, it has to have the appropriate amount of strength. Think, wether you regularly exercise or not, how many time you have deliberately trained the strength of your wrist alone? If you haven’t, don’t jump straight into handstands.
Your wrists need to be trained to have the strength to manage the weight of your entire body. This may take a while. Below is a few ideas of how to do so.
Forearm Raise - From a palms flat position, elevate onto the ball of your hands and slowly back down. Increase difficulty by increasing the load on the arms.
Wrist Rocking - Rock forward and backwards keeping a hollow spine and straight arms. Palms to be worked in all plains
Lower abdominal and pelvic management
Your lowers abs, thanks to being educated in a chair, are most likely underdeveloped strength wise. If your lower abdominals are down on strength, it is likely that your pelvic and lumbar spine proprioception is underdeveloped as well. If you can't manage your pelvis, you will not be able to hold your spine in a neutral position, making it very hard to maintain balance when upside down. Below is a simple exercise to help build the “map” of your lumbo-pelvic relationship.
Like the lower abs, if you were educated in the western world its highly likely that your midthoracic strength (muscles that make you sit up straight and pull your shoulders back) is pretty rubbish. The movement below is directly applicable to a handstand and is great for developing upper back strength needed for a good handstand.
A crucial point to understand about a handstand is the management of weight when inverted. By spending time focusing on different entry positions, you will allow your body and brain to work out the necessary positions to best manage your weight when upside down. Often, we all just want to get upside down and hold, when training, disregard the end position and focus on learning the pattern and best positions.
By flipping the perspective from outcome base to processed based, the satisfaction shifts from achieving to doing.
If you want to find a way to change your perspective (or start developing the skill of a handstand) get in touch, either way, its our specialty.