Unless you were a gymnast most of your life and are comfortable being upside down, the first time you try a handstand as an adult can be a bit scary. Shit, lets be honest, it’s a miracle if you can even get into a handstand in the first place! Let alone discover you have the necessary shoulder strength to hold yourself in that foreign position for more than just a few seconds.
If you did a handstand for the first time ever recently, you are awesome!
Seriously. You should be really, really proud of yourself!
There’s a reason you flop around and fall whenever you try a freestanding handstand at first (speaking from experience here)— improper form. Get the right form dialed in and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your handstands begin to improve.
Apply these tips to your practice and start cultivating a more solid handstand:
1. Squeeze Your Booty
When you enter a handstand, you should be engaging/squeezing your glutes the entire time, starting with the kick up. Try to activate your butt muscles before the kick, squeezing them as hard as possible as you kick up and keep squeezing as you remain in the handstand (this is true whether you’re practicing with or without a wall).
Squeezing your butt during a handstand is probably one of the hardest elements for people to grasp about proper handstand form— I’ll admit, it took me a while to understand and implement this concept. It’s hard to focus on something like squeezing your butt when you’re upside down and just trying to keep from falling!
2. Keep Your Abs Tight
Just like squeezing your butt, you want to keep your abs engaged and tight during your entire handstand. The ideal position is a slight hollow body one, with your back flat and your abs tight. This will help you keep upright and stay in good form rather than arching your back, which can cause you to fall.
3. Push Through Your Shoulders
As soon as you kick up (or tuck, straddle or pike up) into a handstand, immediately begin pushing through your shoulders. If you’re not exactly sure what that means, the key is to think about pushing your arms away from the ground, lengthening your body as much as possible. This will keep you from collapsing into your shoulders (another problem I’ve consistently had), which can be one of the main culprits for falling when doing a freestanding handstand. Pushing through your shoulders feels weird at first. I’d definitely recommend trying this against a wall first before trying it freestanding to build your confidence.
4. Glue Your Arms To Your Ears
When you go to kick up into a handstand, the first thing you should do (aside from squeezing your butt) is to lock your arms straight by your ears (be careful not to hyper extend your elbows!). They should stay in this position as you go into a handstand, giving you a nice, straight, solid line from the ground to your toes. Many people have a tough time keeping their arms straight in a handstand so don’t get discouraged. Keep trying and don’t give up because this is a great way to ensure your arms are as solid as possible.
5. Keep your legs tight
There are many different styles of handstands, the one we want to focus on is the tightest, straightest possible handstand for the best possible form, the more traditional image you think of when someone says handstand. Often times, people let their legs flop in a handstand. Instead, what you want to do is keep your legs as close together and as tight as possible. They should be so tight, in fact, that if someone wanted to pull them apart, they couldn’t do it (feel free to test this with a friend).
6. Point Your Toes
When your legs are engaged and close together, you don’t want your feet flopping around— try to point your toes when doing your handstands. This activate all the right muscles in your legs, ensure that your legs are indeed as tight as possible, and give you the straightest, longest line possible. It feels weird at first—but you’ll get used to it, I promise.
7. Look behind you
Like a lot of people, I have a tendency to look down at my hands when doing a handstand. It feels natural and mentally seems like it will help me from falling. This habit is unfortunately, not good form or ideal alignment. Looking down can throw off your balance and break the nice, straight line you created with the rest of your body.
Instead of looking at your hands, aim your eyes slightly down and behind you. This will ensure your head remains in the ideal position and maintain that tight, straight line. If it helps, you can put an object a few feet behind you and try and look at that while you’re in your handstand to better understand the position your head should be in.