The handstand is such a globally sought after skill/move/party trick/element that it’s usually one’s goal to have one they can do whenever, wherever.
Sometimes it’s learnt from scratch, other times it’s re-learnt from childhood. Whatever the case may be, we all want an iconic photo on holiday or to show off at a party (as I’ve done many times ;)).
But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes the journey involved in obtaining a good handstand leaves you wanting more; you want to take it further and wonder what else is out there. Surely the ‘basic’ handstand is only the tip of the iceberg?!
It’s a stepping stone in which there are copious paths to take. It’s not for me to tell you which one’s for you but I am going to share with you all the possibilities I know and hopefully help you make the choice. Before we get into the nitty gritty, keep in mind that some of these avenues actually compliment each other and can be worked on in conjunction.
Option 1 – Get an EVEN BETTER handstand
So you can balance? Cool, but how’s your line? Are you straight? What’s your longest hold? Can you do whatever you want with your head???
These are all variables you can play with and ones that can make your handstand look exponentially better. Try taking a photo or video of your best handstand and then ask yourself if any of the above can be improved.
A 60 second free standing handstand is almost the holy grail of recreational handbalancing and a wonderful milestone to aim at. Regardless, there’s ALWAYS something you can do to keep improving your line etc…
Option 2 – Handstand entries
Once you’ve got the handstand nailed down real good, it’s time to start varying the way you actually get into the handstand. There are so many methods with some taking little to no strength and others taking Herculean levels of strength.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing ways to enter a handstand is via the pike or straddle press to handstand. Obtaining one requires a nice mix of strength and mobility (for more on this move and the training methods, read my review of Tom Merrick & Ulrik On Hands’ Hand balancing & Bodyweight Skills Workshop review).
There are many more less publicised handstand entries around…..here is a mini list to explore:
- The bent arm press
- From crow pose
- From a headstand
- From a tuck planche
- From an L-Sit (either on the floor or parallettes)
Option 3 – One arm handstands
When it comes to pure bodyweight training, the most common answer to the question: ‘How can I make it harder without adding weight?’, is simply, working towards a one arm variation of the move. Think about one arm pull/chin ups, one arm push ups, single leg squats and single arm rows.
The handstand is no exception and the one arm handstand is a circus staple and the absolute holy grail of many handbalancers. This is a long and arduous goal with so many checkpoints en route – but the simplest way to get started on the road to one arm work is through tuck handstand work (where the load on the traps is heavier than a regular handstand) and simple weight shifts from hand to hand in a normal handstand.
Option 4 – Handstand push ups
If the one arm handstand is the holy grail of the skill side of the handstand itself, then the handstand push up is the holy grail of the raw power side of handstands. Clean, freestanding handstand push ups are elite. It’s that simple. Few moves require more components than these; strength, balance, coordination, control, proprioception and more!
Again, the sky’s the limit here as the possibilities for progression are almost endless. You can increase the range via parallettes, work towards ’90 degree push ups’, tiger bend push ups and clapping handstand push ups!
The journey towards this move (assuming simple linear progress) would be Pike push ups > Feet elevated pike push ups > Wall facing handstand push ups/Feet elevated pike push ups on deep parallettes > Free-standing negatives/free-standing single rep attempts and so on.
Beyond that would be higher rep free-standing reps, then using parallettes for more range and then 90 degree work along with any other advanced variation that takes your fancy.
Option 5 – Movement flows incorporating the handstand
In gymnastics and yoga circles, the handstand is a transitional element. Gymnasts use it as part of floor and tumbling routines to generate further momentum and ‘yogis’ use it to flow between different moves also. Using the handstand in conjunction with other elements is a phenomenal way to challenge your body awareness and build movement complexity – plus it can be great fun too and you’re only really limited by your creativity!
Some very simple examples of using the handstand with other moves are:
- Downward dog to handstand to upward dog and repeat
- Handstand lower to planche hold (at any applicable level)
- Handstand holds combined with handstand walking
- Handstands to bridge and back (front & back walkovers)
And just to reiterate what I love so much about calisthenics and bodyweight training: there’s always a way to progress a singular movement, be it in intensity or complexity.
Your handstand journey has only just begun.
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