How to do a Handstand

Quickly learn how to do a handstand with these top 5 techniques tips.

Learn what it means to be “good” at handstands and why using poor technique is needed to balance a handstand.

Top 5# Tips to Balance a Handstand

#1 Push Harder

Elevating the shoulders while in a handstand is often referred to as “pushing harder.” Pushing the ground away creates more significant shoulder elevation, creating more stability in a handstand.

Even advanced athletes working on their one-arm handstands constantly remind themselves to “push harder.”

You may find shoulder elevation quite tricky as a handstand beginner. With intention and consistency, your shoulder mobility and strength will improve.

Suppose you’ve done one of my workouts. In that case, you will know that I place a heavy emphasis on shoulder mobility drills as it is needed to build the strength and mobility required to balance a handstand.

#2 It’s called a HANDstand for a reason 😉

Handstand beginners tend to place their palms flat on the ground, which leaves very little ability to make any adjustments to create balance.

You need to grip the ground with your fingers by pulling the first knuckle of your finger toward your palm. This gripping action acts as a lever to pull your body into alignment. If your toes fall overhead, use your fingers to pull the weight back inline.

In my training, I ensure that I have handstand fingers when performing any calisthenic exercise on the ground, such as push-ups, crow-poses, and V-sits.

hands gripping the ground

Implementing “handstand fingers” in your pushing movements will make the gripping action more natural.

hands gripping the ground

#3 Where should you look in a Handstand? 

Where to look in a straight handstand

When trying to achieve a straight handstand, beginners often look in front of their hands which requires more muscular strength making it much harder to hold a stacked handstand. By moving your gaze between your hands, you will be able to balance a straighter handstand. 

This new head position will require more shoulder push which may be uncomfortable initially. However, this added effort of consistently looking between your hands will allow you to expand into more advanced handstand shapes quicker. The discomfort you endured to achieve this new (better) head position will pay off when you earn an effortless, beautiful straight handstand.

TIP: Set up a marker (like a piece of tape, a scuff on the floor or a ring) to remind you where to look when learning how to handstand.

where to look in a handstand

 Where to look in a scorpion handstand

If your goal is a scorpion handstand, you will slowly and incrementally move your gaze in front of you while maintaining your shoulders stacked over your wrists. 

Take a marker (like fluff, a piece of tape or a ring) and move it in front of your hands to use as your reference point of where to look. Once you have mastered that head position, move the marker higher and higher until it is directly in front of your eye line (if looking in a mirror). Depending on your flexibility and strength, this gaze shift will take some time to achieve. It took me literally years to look at myself in a scorpion handstand. 

#4 Breathe!

Breathing is vital when trying to find balance in a handstand. The goal is to breathe in the same manner you would when standing on your feet. If you can find your breath in your handstand, it will be a much more relaxed, calm position. Albeit, this is difficult and takes some time and intention to master.

As a queue to remember to breathe, set up a metronome and breath to the beat. 

If you cannot find your breath in your handstand, relax your core, push harder through your shoulders and focus on your hip extension.

#5 Lower Body Connection

When learning how to handstand, our lower body can often cause our most significant falls. It’s common to throw your legs over too hard and fall on your back or have your legs flail so much that you begin running in your handstands to “catch your balance.”

Firstly, to minimize this problem, stretch out your hips and perform arch body holds to hollow body holds to reinforce muscular activation.

After activating your core, find a tactile queue that you can hold between your knees to queue your body to stay squeezed together.

If you have a partner, perform an assisted handstand having them place their hands between your knees to squeeze.

If you’re alone, roll up a towel between your knees or put a hip circle around your legs to act as a reminder to keep them squeezed. It can be difficult to kick up with a ball or towel between your legs. If you find that troubling, use a hip circle or a partner.

You want to learn how to handstand, right? If so, you need to know the right way to wall handstand for beginners.

By practicing these techniques, you’ll learn how to balance a handstand as soon as possible!

girl-walking-on-hands

Is Poor Technique a Good Thing in Calisthenics?

Having someone tell you that you are using poor technique can be super irritating…because only performing exercises you are perfect at will stunt your ability to develop new skills like handstands, muscle-ups, or basic flips.

I believe training should be about learning new skills (which means failing at new skills) and perfecting the basics.

It is essential to focus on “perfecting” the basics in any sport. Much to the general publics’ surprise, elite athletes tend to focus on training basic skills far more than one would realize. 

The “basics” are the foundational movement patterns and strength necessities required to achieve more advanced skills. 

Learn how to handstand using the  80/20 Rule

In your handstand training, make sure that you focus on handstand drills you can execute with good form 80% of the time. Followed by attempting more challenging progressions 20% of the time. 

Not sure what handstand drills you should be doing? Try my beginner handstand workout, 4 exercises to get your handstand, or my handstand walking workout. 

girl-walking-on-hands

Using the 80/20 Rule to Learn How to Muscle-Up

To learn how to muscle up, I spent hours developing the basics skills like high pulls, straight bar dips and L-hangs. BUT just doing the basics wasn’t enough to teach me how to muscle up – I actually had to try muscle-ups to achieve them.

I focused on training the basics of the movement pattern 80% of the time while attempting (and failing at) actual muscle-ups the rest of the time.

Once I was able to get into a muscle-up, my muscle memory took over (from training the basics), allowing me to progress at muscle-ups far quicker than the average person.

I would have been left “trying” muscle-ups for months without genuinely succeeding without focusing on basics.

strict gymnastics ring muscle up

Conclusion
Spend the majority of your training session working on mastering the basics of the movement pattern (whether it be handstands, muscle-ups or doing a cartwheel), then spend the other 20% of the time attempting the skill (safely, choose a progression of the skill that is do-able for your body. In no way am I saying as a beginner to try one-arm handstands….keep it within your realm of possibility).

What it Means to be GOOD at Handstands

When I’m training handstands in public, people often want to join me, which I LOVE. Training with other people who enjoy handstands is incredible. Even if they are at a different level than me. 

After welcoming them to train with me, I find many people say they “aren’t good at handstands,” to which I respond:

“It’s not that you’re not good at handstands. It’s just that I’ve practiced more. I am not better than you. I am just more practiced.”

This reminds me of this famous quote:

Don’t Compare Your Chapter 1 To Someone Else’s Chapter 20.”

Let’s say I just took up snowboarding. I wouldn’t compare myself to a professional snowboarder, as that’s a sure-fire way to feel like crap about myself! Instead, I would focus on what being good at snowboarding means to me. Which, in this case, may just be standing on the board (definitely a win!)

So, let me stop you here and say that it’s time to reframe your mindset when learning new skills.

learn how to do a handstand

Define what being good at handstands means to you.

Maybe being good at handstands means holding a handstand against a wall. Or being able to hold a handstand for 3 seconds as a party trick, or perhaps it’s being able to handstand walk? Or handstand push-ups?

The handstand community can be pretty negative when you get to more advanced levels. When I was learning how to handstand, I followed advanced hand balancers who were literally balancing on one hand while calling their training session garbage! But to them, it was, but to me, it was unfathomable. 

Just remember, “good” at handstands is all subjective. You do not need to hold a one-arm handstand to be good at handstands. Holding a 2-second handstand alone is an accomplishment!

4 steps to get your handstand push up

Handstand Progressions

Once you’ve learned how to hold a handstand, you can begin to expand your practice by learning:

  1. How to Walk in a Handstand
  2. How to Get Your Handstand Press
  3. How to do Strict Handstand Push Ups
  4. 8 Different Ways to Enter a Handstand
beginner calisthenics handstand lesson

There’s so much more I could talk about when learning how to handstand. Let me know if you want to learn more drills and techniques or chat about the mobility needed for handstands.

In the meantime, try my follow-along handstand workout to get closer to your handstand goals – no equipment required. Ready to take handstands to the next level? Learn how to handstand push-up or get your handstand press with these 3 tips.

Thank you for being here!

beginner calisthenics handstand lesson