Today is the official start of our brand new 6-week challenge and I couldn’t be more excited to be focusing on handstands.
During the next month and a half, we’re going to be working on different exercises you can do to help you build up to doing a freestanding handstand. Don’t be too intimidated—it doesn’t matter if you’ve been practicing handstands for a while now or you’ve never even tried to do one, this 6-Week Handstand Challenge is for you.
For the Week One of the challenge, our focus will be working on our wall handstands.
Even if you can hold a freestanding handstand relatively well, I’d still recommend working on your wall handstands to help build endurance and perfect your handstand positioning. Just try and hold them even longer to make them more challenging 🙂
Here’s everything you need to know to get started with week one of the Handstand Challenge:
Getting Up in a Wall Handstand
Most people, when getting into a handstand against a wall, tend to kick up into a handstand with their back against the wall. If you’ve ever done CrossFit before, this is probably the technique you learned— and while it seems natural, you should almost always avoid kicking up against a wall into a handstand.
Kicking up into a wall handstand will cause an automatic “banana back handstand” (where the back is arched) and will make it nearly impossible to find the correct hip and shoulder positioning to eventually be able to do freestanding handstands.
Instead, you should walk up the wall by doing these steps:
- Face away from the wall with your hands on the ground shoulder width apart.
- Slowly walk your feet up the wall until you’re vertical, then walk your hands as close as you can to the wall.
- Really focus on pushing up through your shoulders, tightening your core, and pointing your toes. You should look straight at your hands while in this position.
- Walk or cartwheel back down.
Watch the short video above for a demonstration of how to get in and out of a wall handstand.
Practice Surfaces for Handstands
It’s really important to choose the right type of surface to practice on, especially when you’re first starting out with handstands.
The best surfaces to practice on are wood or cork floors since they allow for the most grip without overly straining your wrists.
Here are a few surfaces to avoid:
- Carpet: For the longest time I tried practicing handstands on carpet since it seemed safer to fall on, and I got nowhere. Now I understand why—especially when you’re first starting with handstands, you really need to be able to grip the floor with your fingers to find your balance.
- Concrete: Concrete can be harsh on your wrists, so I wouldn’t advise practicing on it much, although a little here and there should be fine. I actually injured myself this way.
- Grass: Although it might seem like a good idea, most grassy surfaces aren’t quite flat enough to practice on when you’re beginning with handstands. The exception is Bermuda grass which tends to be really short and much more level than other grasses.
- Rubber mats: These may seem like the safest to practice on, but if the mat is overly squishy (such as some of the super thick mats in gyms), it will actually end up hurting your wrists. A harder or thinner mat can be ideal though.
What About Freestanding Practice?
If you’ve been working on freestanding handstands (a.k.a. handstands without a wall), should you keep practicing them?
If you’ve been practicing without a wall for a while now, feel like you have reasonably good form, and have had at least some success holding a freestanding handstand, go ahead and keep practicing them if you want. I’d recommend doing all the designated homework first before playing around with some freestanding handstands—that way your body will be used to the correct form and it will be more likely that it transfers to your freestanding handstand.
If, however, you’ve been trying to do a freestanding handstand for ages with very little success, have pretty bad form (such as an extreme banana back handstand or your legs tend to flail all over the place), or are just feeling really, really frustrated with freestanding handstands right now, I’d suggest holding off on practicing them for a while and just focus on doing the homework exercises to help you build strength, endurance, and correct form. You can always pick them up again later in the challenge.
It’s totally your call, but if you want my advice you can post a photo or video of yourself in a handstand in our Facebook group and I’ll do my best to give you feedback!
Handstand Challenge Week One Homework
Here is your homework for week one of the Handstand Challenge! We will build on this homework each week, so get ready to rock a lot of handstands.
3+ days a week:
Hold a wall handstand for as long as you can for three separate rounds. You can take as much time as you need to in between each round. Make sure to time your holds so you can track your progress throughout the challenge.
If holding a handstand for any amount of time is still tough for you, practice walking up and down the wall as many times as you can to help you build up strength and endurance.
Make sure to post your handstand photos and videos in the 12 Minute Athlete Facebook group to get feedback and support from us and your fellow athletes.
And have fun!