Performed without thought or tension as a kid, the handstand now takes a lot more practice. It’s a total-body workout that requires strength and complete body control. It’s a move that, we can all agree, looks wildly impressive on the beach and feels smugly satisfying in the gym. And it’s also one of the best moves you can do to keep your functional fitness thriving.
A handful of reasons to handstand regularly
1 – Your balance will get better
With regular handstand practice, you’ll feel less like a game of Jenga and more like a steady, balanced, beautifully postured Yogi. Begin by balancing yourself on a wall, then move to freestanding once your centre of gravity becomes easier to find.
2 – Your core will get stronger
Like planking, but fun. Handstands add a playful dimension to building core strength. Rather than clock-watching during a timed plank, you’ll actively work the same muscles (abs, shoulders, hamstrings, obliques, inner thighs, lower back, hip flexors) without realising you’re even exercising.
3 – Your brain will feel calmer
Your body needs playtime – and handstands are nostalgic reminders of summer days practising gymnastics in the garden. There’s also a physiological reason behind the mood boost – being upside-down promotes blood flow to your brain, calming your mind and body and reducing stress hormones.
4 – You’ll strengthen your upper body
Doing a handstand for the first time in forever is a little daunting. If you’ve been used to maintaining your weight with the lower part of your body, relying on your wrists, arms, and shoulders to keep you upright is a challenge. With practice, initial reservations will vanish and your upper body will get stronger.
5 – You’ll increase your blood flow
Flipping your body upside-down creates a lot of extra movement inside it. Which is fantastic news for your circulation. As well as moving to your brain, more blood flows to your lungs and heart.
Preparing for a handstand
First thing’s first – if your wrists aren’t used to maintaining your body weight (looking at you, office workers), you’ll need to loosen your tendons.
Try this wrist-stretch warm-up:
- Get on fours, with your fingers pointing back towards your legs.
- Keep your hands flat on the floor and shift your hips back as far as you can.
- Hold for five seconds, then move back to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times, daily.
Other handstand drills you can do include dolphins (half-forearm-plank, half-downward-facing dog), wall crawls (walking your feet up and down the wall with your hands on the ground), and various lunges.
How to do a handstand
When you’ve developed the strength and flexibility needed to master a handstand, it’s time.
Here’s how to break the move down, step by step:
- Begin in a lunge with your arms straight above your head. Your dominant leg should be forward and slightly bent. Keep your front knee behind your ankle.
- In one sweeping move, kick your legs up one at a time and push your hands to the ground, keeping your arms straight and body straight.
- Embrace your core and glutes, pushing through your shoulders strongly. Imagine you’re standing upright against a wall (just, the other way round), with your toes pulling towards the sky.
- Carefully lower one leg at a time to land in your starting position.
The stronger you get, the easier you’ll find your centre of gravity and the longer you’ll be able to hold your handstands. We won’t lie – handstanding is addictive! Once you start practising this playful, purposeful move, you’ll want to practice every chance you get. Which is great – because you can literally do them anywhere, at any time.
Raise your hand if you want more functional fitness tips and check out our EVO blog.