Handstands are inverted exercises that are part of lots of workout routines, including yoga practice. Handstands have multiple health benefits like boosting your core, upper body strength, balance, bone health, and reducing inflammation.
Here’s how to do a handstand, and several modifications to use to work your way up if you’re not ready to do a full one just yet.
Do not skip the warmup. We repeat: Do not skip the warmup.
Your warmup should increase your temperature, get your heart pumping, muscles stretched, and body mobile. Well, that’s the theory. You’ll need to pay special attention to your shoulders, wrists, and hammies, as they carry the highest risk of injury.
These are some good warmup moves to limber up:
- Wrists: figure 8s, wrist flicks, and tabletop wrist rocks
- Hamstrings: Downward Dog with knees bent
- Shoulders: shoulder rotations
If it’s your thing, you could also throw in a yoga flow like Plank to Low Plank, then Up Dog to Down Dog until you feel loose and ready to rumble.
Here’s how to properly do a handstand:
Step 1. Start in Downward Dog with your heels just in front of an empty wall
Find a junk-free wall to be your friend. Don’t choose somewhere next to a precariously balanced fine art statue or a precious orchid collection. Go for the biggest bit of clear wall, just in case.
Sit on your butt, on the floor, facing the wall. Stretch your legs out and press the soles of your feet against the wall. See how far away you are? Good, take note.
Now you’re gonna flip over and, where your butt was, place your hands shoulder-width apart with your fingers facing forward, but not inward. Spread out those fingers to form a good, solid base.
Your butt is in the air, and your feet should be just in front of the wall, so you’ll be in a Downward Dog position.
From this position, try rocking forward so your weight’s on the balls of your feet and you’re standing tippy-toes.
Step 2. Slowly walk your feet up the wall
Now the fun starts. Slowly walk your feet up the wall behind you, keeping your legs bent. As you do so, press more weight into your hands and the foot that’s in contact with the wall.
If you haven’t collapsed yet, and your arms feel like they can handle the weight, continue walking up the wall. As you do so, engage your core and shoulders.
Step 3. Keep walking and double check your form
Are you feeling pretty stable and strong? If so, continue walking up the wall until your body and legs form a right angle, with knees slightly bent. Then, if you’re quivering like a newborn Bambi, you can come back down to the floor slowly.
But if you’re OK to carry on, make sure your elbows aren’t overextended. Keep a slight bend at the elbow to support your arms from collapsing and limiting stress on your joints.
You should also pull in your tummy to engage your core to stabilize your body. Pull your shoulders away from your ears, lifting from your lower belly.
Step 4. Extend one leg directly above your body
Choose a leg and lift it up. Try to rotate your legs inward slightly, which helps your spine remain neutral.
Inhale as you lift the leg for a more controlled lift. Exhale when in position. You can point your foot or keep it flexed as long as you keep your legs activated.
You should have one leg on the wall and one in the air. Get a feel for how you position your weight when your extended leg is over your center of gravity. You can swap legs if you like.
Step 5. Extend both legs above you
Bring your supporting foot away from the wall to meet the extended foot. Keep your core engaged and your spine vertical. If you feel wobbly, simply reach your feet back to the wall.
When you’re ready to rest, release the position gently, returning your feet to the wall for support and slowly walking your way back down to the floor.
Handstands are cool, but many peeps think they’re out of reach. Why’s it such a good idea to give them a try? Handstands are part of yoga practice, and multiple studies show that yoga can effectively boost heart health, regulate blood glucose levels, and help musculoskeletal issues. Here’s what else handstands can do.
- They increase upper body strength. Handstands work your shoulders, arms, and upper back strength. In fact, it’s not uncommon for beginners to start shaking after just a few seconds of holding a handstand.
- They build core strength. Handstands force you to stabilize your muscles and work those abs. Plus, you’ll work your hip flexors, hamstrings at the backs of your legs, inner thigh muscles, obliques that run along the sides of your core, and lower back.
- They boost balance. You need some pretty impressive balance skills to master the handstand. When you do a freestanding handstand, you’ll need complete muscle control and the ability to rebalance continually.
- They improve bone health. Handstands are inverted weight-bearing exercises, meaning they’ll help strengthen your bones, particularly in the spine, shoulders, arms, and wrists. Stronger bones are linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis.
- They reduce inflammation. Inversion yoga can reduce inflammation, according to a 2014 study. Long-term, low level inflammation seems to play a role in health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
For safety, you may want to give handstands a miss if you’re pregnant or have specific health conditions — at least until you have a chat with your doctor. These conditions include:
Here’s how to make sure you stay as safe as possible while you’re practicing.
- Enlist a friend. Get a friend, trainer, or yoga teacher to help you. They can help guide you as you align your body and help support you if you lose your balance.
- Use a wall. It might seem like a cop-out, but using a wall helps you build balance and strength and keeps you from toppling over. It’s a tool to use on your journey to handstand heaven.
- Get some cushioning. Grab some folded blankets or cushions, and place them around you. If you lose your balance, they’re a soft landing.
So, you wanna know how to get better at handstands? A strong core and decent balance are essential, so here are some exercises to help build those skills.
- Start in a push-up position, with your elbows under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend your elbows and drop down, so your weight is resting on your forearms and toes, keeping your body in a straight line.
- Maintain the hold for 10 seconds. Release to the floor. Work your way up to 30, 45, or 60 seconds.
- Come into Downward Dog with your heels touching a wall. Remember to position your arms shoulder-width apart and engage your arms.
- Lift one foot and press the sole to the wall at hip height. Next, lift the other leg beside the first, keeping them hip-width apart on the wall.
- Straighten your legs while harnessing the full-body engagement of the plank pose. Check that your shoulders are over your wrists, engage your upper arms, core, and quads.
- Hold for up to 60 seconds.
Modified box handstand
- Find yourself a box or bench. The higher it is, the more complex the move.
- Start on all fours in front of the bench, then one at a time, place your feet up on the bench.
- Walk your hands slowly back toward the bench and raise your butt in the air. You can keep your legs slightly bent if easier. Try to create a straight line with your arms and spine, and engage your core.
Handstands have some great health benefits, but they’re also fun to do! To build your strength, you can gradually incorporate handstand modifications into your routine and prepare to practice a full handstand. They just might turn your whole world upside down!