The handstand is an advanced gymnastics and yoga pose that requires balance, strength, and technique to perform correctly. Executed properly, handstands build upper body and core strength while providing other physical and mental benefits. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of handstands, proper handstand technique, common mistakes, and frequently asked questions.
Benefits of Handstands
Full Body Workout
Handstands engage muscles throughout the body. To maintain balance upside down, the shoulders, arms, core, glutes, quads, and calves contract isometrically. The tension builds strength over time. Handstands also build active flexibility in the shoulders and increase spinal mobility.
Balancing inverted challenges your proprioception and vestibular systems. The proprioceptive system relies on receptors in the muscles and joints to orient the body, while the vestibular system uses the inner ear to sense changes in equilibrium. Handstands force both systems to work overtime to stay balanced upside down.
Increased Bone Density
The resistance training involved in bodyweight exercises like handstands helps increase bone mineral density over time. denser bones support overall health and can help prevent osteoporosis later in life.
Being inverted encourages venous blood from the lower extremities to flow back to the heart. This can relieve swollen feet and improve circulation over time.
Handstands challenge your coordination and concentration. The mental focus required stimulates brain activity and can improve spatial awareness.
Proper Handstand Technique
Executing a handstand requires full body awareness and control. Follow these tips for proper form:
Prepare Your Base
- Square your shoulders over your wrists with hands shoulder-width apart
- Set your fingers wide for a broad base of support
- Press evenly through all four finger pads
- Engage your latissimus dorsi muscles to stabilize the shoulders
Align Your Body
- Ground your fingertips into the floor to lift your hips over your shoulders
- Squeeze your glutes and quads to extend your legs straight up
- Point your toes towards the ceiling
- Pull your ribcage in to keep your body in one straight line
Find Your Balance
- Shift weight towards your fingertips to balance
- Make micro-adjustments by flexing your wrists and fingers
- Gaze slightly in front of your fingertips
- Avoid overly arching or hollowing your spine
Control Your Descent
- Bend elbows slowly at a 90-degree angle when lowering down
- Pause above the ground then gently touchdown top of head first
- Roll carefully down your back coming out of the handstand
Common Handstand Mistakes
Handstands require practice to perfect. Be aware of these common errors:
Hips sagging towards head indicating weak core or glutes
Excessive arch overcompensates for balance but compromises alignment
Legs lacking full extension and tightness due to improper technique
Unstable foundation from collapsing wrists or uneven weight distribution
Falling over side to side from incorrect body positioning
How long should I hold a handstand?
Aim for 5-10 seconds when starting. Work up gradually to hold a handstand for 30 seconds to a minute as you get stronger.
Which muscles do handstands work?
Handstands engage the shoulders, arms, core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings to maintain proper alignment against gravity.
Where should I do handstands?
Practice on a soft, flat surface like a yoga mat or padded carpet. Outdoor grass or turf also works well.
Will handstands improve my posture?
Yes, handstands can improve posture over time by strengthening the upper back and shoulders and mobilizing the spine.
Can I learn to handstand on my own?
It’s best to learn proper technique in a class or with an experienced spotter to help catch falls and guide your alignment. Mastering balance takes time.
When performed with proper alignment and technique, handstands provide a challenging full-body workout. Handstands build functional strength, enhance balance, increase circulation, and require great concentration. Start by kicking up against a wall, then progress to freestanding handstands for a few seconds at a time. Be patient as you develop the strength, balance, and body awareness needed to hold a solid handstand.