Unless you were a gymnast most of your life and have always been comfortable being upside down, the first time you try a handstand as an adult can be a bit scary, to say the least.
Heck, it’s a miracle if you 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.
And if you did a handstand for the first time ever recently, you are awesome. Seriously. You should be really, really proud of yourself.
But just like as with anything else, as you get better, you’re going to want to up your game. There’s a reason you flop around and fall whenever you try a freestanding handstand (speaking from experience here)—because your form is probably lacking. Get the form right, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your handstands begin to improve.
Here are 7 tips you can apply to your handstand training starting today for a better, more solid handstand:
1. Squeeze your butt
When you go into a handstand, you should be squeezing your butt the entire time, starting with the kick up. In fact, you should really try and 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 things for people to comprehend about proper handstand form—and 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!
Once I finally got the hang of this, though, my handstand form improved like crazy and freestanding handstands became much, much easier for me. And once you start doing it, I’m sure you’ll find the same thing happens to you.
2. Keep your abs tight
Just like squeezing your butt, you really want to keep your abs tight during your entire handstand.
The ideal position is a slight hollow body one, with your back flat and your abs tight (more on hollow body in an upcoming post). This will help you keep upright and stay in good form rather than arching your back, which can cause you to fall and just looks sloppy in general.
3. Push through your shoulders
As soon as you kick up (or tuck, straddle or pike up) into a handstand, you should immediately be 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 know. I’d definitely recommend trying this against a wall first before trying it freestanding, since you’re pretty much guaranteed to fall the first time you try it without a wall.
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.
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, and this is a way to ensure your arms are as solid as possible.
If the position feels weird, you can actually practice out of a handstand—walk around with your arms straight and glued to your ears for a few minutes, and you’ll be more likely to get the hang of it in an actual handstand.
5. Keep your legs tight
Although there are certainly different styles of handstands, the one we want to focus on is the tightest, straightest possible handstand for the best possible form. In order to achieve this, you’ll need to not only focus on your upper body, but your lower body as well.
Too many people let their legs flop in a handstand, which is sloppy and unnecessary. 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 tight and close together, you don’t want your feet flopping around—so, in true gymnastic form, you should aim to point your toes when doing your handstands. This will make sure to 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.
And yes, I know 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. After all, it feels natural and mentally seems like it will help me from falling. But I’m trying to break this habit because it’s not good form—looking down can throw off your balance and break the nice, straight line you created with the rest of your body.
Rather than looking at your hands, you should actually aim your eyes slightly down and behind you. Aiming your eyes behind you rather than at your hands will ensure your head remains in the proper position and maintain that tight, straight line that we’re aiming for.
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.
Now go practice your handstands—stat!