Five tips for beginners to help CrossFitters with handstand

The handstand is a thing of beauty but is very rarely mastered without hours of practice and dedication. There are of course some CrossFitters with a gymnastics or dance background who can walk on their hands from the minute they step into a Box. There are also some who have done years of yoga and perfected not just their handstand but also their headstand. But most of us remember the day we first clumsily pushed up against a wall and smacked our heels against it, looking down in abject terror because we were - shock horror - upside down. And then something happened. After a few seconds we realised it was liberating - fun, even - to view the world from this topsy turvy perspective. In an instant we set a goal: to get a free standing handstand in 3 / 6 / 9 months or one year’s time. Whatever the existing ability, whatever the time frame required to get there - so many of us know how it feels to want this particular skill with almost obsessive fervour. That’s why we’ve put together these top tips to help you get your first free standing handstand. In our next blog we’ll be looking at ways of progressing that ability. But for now, let’s focus:

1) Understanding ‘the hollow’

This is probably the most crucial aspect of handstand technique: getting a feel for, and grasp of, the hollow body position. The hollow is essentially a tight, closed body position, when you slightly pull in your shoulders and curve your upper back, tucking your pelvis so that your lower abdominals in particular are 150% ON! One really good way to train this is from from the floor, lying down flat on your back pushing your belly button right down so that your lower back is fully flush against the floor - now keep it there, without letting your shoulders round too much and keeping your gaze straight again. It should look a bit like a small curve shape. Holding this position should feel really, really tough, or you’re just not doing it right, but it’s basically the same as the position you hold in a handstand, so it’s essential that you master it.

 

2) Crawling

Crawling isn’t just about learning to play like a child again - though that’s definitely one positive side of it - it’s also good preparation for gymnastic moves like the handstand. The bear crawl (‘walking’ on hands and feet across the ground or studio) will help you strengthen those essential abdominal muscles, but also from there, you can slowly begin to get more ‘airtime’ with your feet. Try to gradually and consciously increase this with every trip forward and back, perhaps over a distance of 25-40 metres. This is basically preparing you for a handstand walk (ie. just crawling on your hands)!

3) Wall climbs

These are brilliant for not only training your mind but bolstering your body. A common warm up amongst CrossFitters, the wall climb involves lying flat on the ground with your feet close to the wall, pushing up into press up position and then walking your feet up the wall and your hands as close to wall as possible. Holding this position for as long as you can will strengthen the muscles around your shoulders and back, as well as force you to use your abs and (hopefully) switch on your glutes. Make sure you walk your hands back down the wall before you start to feel like you’re going to collapse though as it’s important to keep this exercise safe.

4) Stepping up to the wall

At the beginning it’s all right to just throw your legs up into the air and hope for the best. But once you’ve established that you can survive being upside down - and maybe even that you kinda like it - it’s time to get serious about how you approach that wall. After all, if you throw your legs up with no control then once you come away from the wall, you’ll just topple over and somersault (if you’re lucky) onto your back. Learning to get up into handstand (and down out of it) with control really is a huge proportion of the battle. By stepping into a sprinter’s lunge position, as if you were readying yourself for a 100 metre race, though with a slightly longer stance, and then pushing off the front leg is a good way to train this. Start with little hops, then make your shape / jump a bit bigger. Practice this on each leg - you will favour one more than the other most probably - and then, when you’re ready, try and go all the way up.

5) Hold for time.

This is a surefire way to build those muscles that need to be strong for handstands: hold the position against the wall for reps. So, for example, you might want to do a max hold (have a clock somewhere visible or near so you know how long you’ve been up there) followed by a minute’s rest, two or three times. Or you could set yourself a target, like a 40 second hold, and then rest for just half of that, and do it 3-4 times over. Ask your coach for advice, as you don’t want to burn your shoulders out, particularly if you’re doing it before a tough workout. Handstands are best practiced when warm but not exhausted as they require a lot of your body and brain!

Tagged with: Crossfit handstand beginners

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