Handstands are multi-faceted – they’re used by so many sub sections of the fitness world, including Crossfit, Yoga, calisthenics, gymnastics, dance and even those just wanting to do hand balance as its own discipline.
While all of those disciplines have differing definitions of what an actual handstand is, one thing is unanimous: the ultimate aim is to stand on your hands and balance aka not fall down.
We’ve established before that good handstanding is a product of alignment and not strength; it’s a skill much like walking or standing on your feet is to someone who hasn’t done it before, except humans do it all the time so it means very little to us as we mature.
Handstands are a time consuming endeavor and the return on investment is something you have to take up with your own desires and priorities but there are no shortcuts. Ask anyone with a one arm handstand (and not a fake screenshot of a fall like you see on Insta all the time) and they’ll tell you the journey is lengthy and often fucking frustrating. But these guys are often addicted to the practice anyway and secretly love the grind.
In all honesty I think that’s more than half the battle!
Regardless of one’s level though, there will come a time where plateaus occur and ‘bad balance days’ pop up. Days where holds and shapes well within your capacity are elusive.
What do most people do in this situation?
Try to force the issue and absolutely wreck their ‘hit rate’.
The hit rate is basically your success to attempt ratio. Let’s say you attempt 10 handstand holds and execute 7 of them successfully, that’s a 70% hit rate. While I don’t want to throw arbitrary hit rates for you to aim for, I think it’s a sensible idea to have a cut off point. Much like an athletics coach stops their athletes in speed training when their speed has dropped beneath the critical drop off point, we should apply this to handstands, too!
Wall facing work – the unsexy one who’s always there for you!
Everyone hates wall facing handstand work. Trust me. Teach a class covering this and tell them we’re warming up on the wall and you’ll be asked straight away whether they’re allowed to kick or do they have to walk up……..
Wall facing work wins everytime as it forces better alignment which in turn builds more strength. PLUS, your hit rate on the wall will be 100% generally. This means less failures, shorter sessions and less central nervous system fatigue.
See, while handstands aren’t super demanding strength wise (unless you’re talking ultra advanced one arm stuff or pressing etc), they are very demanding neurologically. This puts a considerable load on your Central Nervous System (CNS).
Taking the balance out of the equation (wall work) instantly removes this extra stressor and generally allows you to use a higher level hold than you could in free balance. For example: Tuck handstand wall facing vs freestanding, or one arm wall facing holds vs the one arm handstand itself – there’s an astronomical difference!
The time spent in these harder holds carries over superbly to free balance when done right. And by right, we mean working at a level you can accumulate quality time in the position with the muscles activated correctly and the body in the correct shape(s).
I often tell beginners if I had my time again I would train the ‘toe pull’ wall facing drill very frequently. Whereas when I worked on mine, I hardly ever did any wall facing work……….
You might say I’ve got a decent handstand now so why can’t you just follow in my footsteps?! Sure, it’s OK now but I had to work on my line for ages and had wrist issues that almost became my identity, thanks to bad alignment and bad entries, which were a result of bad alignment.
So, the next time your practice doesn’t seem to go as well as you’d like, cap the free balance attempts to a certain number or percentage and when the time’s up, the time’s up! It’s now time to hit the wall and carry on there. Clear the mind, lose the ego and build up more quality work to assist your journey longer term.
Many many times when I’ve done this, my next session was almost god like; my balance was super on point. This is time tested with my clients and myself. Remove balance as the limitng factor and really learn the shape you want, build up time and you’ll progress far faster.
Yep, another ‘one step forward, 2 steps back’ scenario. But one that when accepted, will have you dozens & dozens of steps further than you would have been had you have kept trying to force a dead issue.
P.S. If you like a YouTube discussion feel free to check out my video on the topic below. If you like the content, please subscribe and share and help spread the knowledge. Your support means the world to me. Thank you.
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