Handstand Challenge Week 3: Shoulder & Hip Positioning: Pike Rolls

At the beginning of April, we started a brand new 6-Week Handstand Challenge.

During the next month, 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 handstand challenge is for you.

During Week 1, we focused on building strength and endurance with wall handstands. Week 2 was all about protecting our wrists and avoiding injuries.

We’re about to start Week 3, but if you’re new to this challenge, no worries, you can still jump right in! To get the most out of this handstand challenge, make sure to join our private Facebook group where you can share your experience and get in touch with fellow members of the 12 Minute Athlete Community.

For Week 3 of the challenge, we’ll be working on our shoulder and hip positioning in a handstand.

One of the hardest parts of learning to do a freestanding handstand is understanding where exactly your hips and shoulders should be.

While we’re pretty good at understanding where our hips need to be when standing to avoid falling over, this is much more difficult to do when upside down, and for good reason—we spend a lot more time on our feet than we do on our hands.

When you’re in a handstand, your hips should be directly over your shoulders. And while this may sound simple enough, until you develop the body awareness it takes to remain in a good line upside down, it can be extremely frustrating.

Here’s an exercise that can help you to start developing that body awareness you’ll later need for freestanding handstands:

Pike Rolls to Help With Shoulder and Hip Positioning

One of the exercises that helped me the most when I was learning shoulder and hip positioning for handstands were pike rolls using a Swiss ball.

As a bonus, this exercise will also help increase your strength and shoulder flexibility.

Here’s how to do them:

  • Grab a Swiss ball that’s about mid-thigh height.
  • Get in a plank with your shins on the ball, then slowly roll forward so you’re on top of your shoulders in a pike position.
  • Try to get a stretch through your shoulders and get your butt as far over your head as you can as you keep your core tight and point your toes.
  • Roll back down with control.

Practice this often and you’ll start to better understand the correct handstand line you’ll later need for a freestanding handstand.

If you don’t have a Swiss ball:

If you don’t have access to a Swiss ball, give the following a try:

  • Find a couch, chair, or even table that’s about mid-thigh height (lower will work too, it’s just harder).
  • Get in a plank with your shins on the raised surface, then slowly slide your toes forward so you’re on top of your shoulders in a pike position.
  • Try to get a stretch through your shoulders and get your butt as far over your head as you can as you keep your core tight and point your toes.
  • Slide back down with control.

You may have to place a towel or furniture sliders under your toes to allow you to slide in this position. It really just depends on the surface of your couch or chair.

View the short video above for a demonstration of this exercise with and without a Swiss ball.

Note: Some of you might find that you lack the flexibility in your hamstrings to be able to this exercise properly. Check out this article on hamstring stretches to help increase your flexibility.

Handstand Challenge Week Three Homework

This week we’re building on wall handstands from Week 1 and wrist health from Week 2. If you missed them, make sure to check out those posts for complete instructions for each exercise.

Here is the homework for this week:

3+ days a week:

#1: Perform 1-2 rounds of the above wrist stretches before you practice your handstands.

#2: Alternate between the following three times:

  • Perform 3-5 pike rolls with a Swiss ball (or non-Swiss ball option).
  • Hold a wall handstand for as long as you can.

Make sure to time your wall holds so you can track your progress throughout the challenge.

Don’t forget 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 as always, have fun!

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2 thoughts on “Handstand Challenge Week 3: Shoulder & Hip Positioning: Pike Rolls”

  1. Pike Rolls are awesome! The video you did was nice showing another way to do it without the Swiss ball. I have never been very good at managing the Swiss ball. Once I get this down a little better, I will try to get the photo you are requesting but I am not very photogenic. LOL

    • Hi John! Yes pike rolls are tough but they’re amazing for getting the body positioning right. Just keep practicing! And we are looking forward to your pictures 🙂


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