Why You Should Do Handstands On a Regular Basis

handstand training

There’s no question that most adults, no matter how strong or athletic they are, are intimidated by handstands.

But just because you didn’t take gymnastics as a kid and are scared to death of falling on your head when attempting them doesn’t mean you should avoid handstands forever.

Because not only are handstands fun (I mean, really, what’s more fun than being upside down and feeling like a kid again?), they’re actually really, really good for you.

I’ll tell you why in a second, but first, here’s how to get started with handstands:

How to do a handstand

Just starting out: Handstand facing away from the wall

  • 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 close to the wall.
  • Get out of the handstand by walking your feet down.

Try holding a handstand for 5-10 seconds for six sets. If this is too tough for you still, practice walking up and down the wall until you build enough strength.

Optional: Place a pillow or ab mat underneath your head to decrease your fear of crashing.

Next step: Handstand facing the wall

  • Face toward the wall, place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart, and jump up into a handstand.
  • Try not to slam your feet/back/butt onto the wall and practice control.
  • Work up to holding a handstand for 60 seconds. Once you’ve got that down, try working to remove your feet from the wall.

The ultimate handstand goal: The freestanding handstand

  • Start with your hands on a floor in an area where there’s nothing around you to bump into.
  • Jump or tuck up with control and hold the handstand.
  • Lower yourself down with control.

The key with handstand training? Have fun with it!

And now, here’s why handstands are so awesome:

They make your upper body crazy strong

In order to stay in a handstand for any amount of time, you need to be able to actually hold yourself upside down—meaning you’ll be bearing your full weight on your hands for an extended period of time.

And yes, it can be pretty tiring, but they’re worth it: handstands strengthen pretty much every muscle in your arms, shoulders, and upper body, making them one of the most beneficial upper body exercises you can do.

Do handstands often, and you’ll notice you feel stronger and more confident in no time.

They build core strength

Forget crunches—do handstands instead to build up your core strength.

Because they require you to stabilize your muscles to keep from falling over, handstands not only work your abs, they also strengthen your hip flexors, hamstrings, inner thigh muscles, and spinal muscles to create a balanced, super-strong core.

They increase balance

If you’ve ever tried to do a freestanding handstand, you know that in order to stay upright for more than a half a second, you need to be able to control your muscles and make constant adjustments in order to maintain your balance.

Frequent handstand practice will skyrocket your balancing abilities—but you’ll have to get over your fear of falling first (tip: practice on a soft surface like grass or a mat, not on concrete!).

They help with bone health, circulation and breathing

When you’re upside down in a handstand, your normal blood floor inverts, increasing circulation to your upper body while relieving pressure on your feet and legs.

They also benefit your spine, increase bone health in your wrists, arms and shoulders, and stretch your diaphragm, your main breathing muscle, which in turn increases blood flow to your lungs.

They can boost your mood and regulate your metabolism

Being upside down not only makes you stronger, it can actually boost your mood, since the extra blood flow to your brain can energize and calm you when you’re feeling down or stressed out.

Handstands can even reduce production of the stress hormone, cortisol, helping to relieve minor depression and anxiety. Plus, since handstands stimulate the thyroid and pituitary glands, they can actually help regulate your metobolic rate—meaning daily handstand practice could help you maintain (or reach) a healthy weight.

Pretty awesome, right?

Take on the handstand challenge:

Ready to rock some handstands? Take on this handstand challenge:

  • Every morning (or at least 5 days a week), do three handstands against a wall for as long as you can.
  • Rest 10-20 seconds in between sets, and focus on form the entire time. Try to aim for a total of at least 90 seconds.
  • If your arms start shaking, don’t worry—that’s a good sign you’re building up your strength!

Ready? Go rock some handstands!

28 thoughts on “Why You Should Do Handstands On a Regular Basis”

  1. I completely agree Krista. Handstands are such a great way to build many strength and balance among other things. Plus they are a ton of fun. I get my athletes practicing them on a daily basis.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement. I have a goal to do a middle-of-the-room handstand by my 65th birthday which is in January 2014. So far I can hold a 2-3 second facing-toward-the-wall handstand pretty well. Love your workouts. Thanks

    • So cool, Lea! It takes a lot of practice, but try and work on handstands just a little every day and you’ll build up the strength and balance you need pretty quickly. Good luck, and let me know how your progress goes!

    • Did you achieve your goal, Lea? I sure hope so! I have the same goal! I’m 22 so it’s a bit less impressive but i’ve always wanted to increase my ninja skills! (Ninja skills currently at 5%…)

      • How nice of you to followup on this comment. No, I still need the wall for security to do my handstands but it’s only because I’ve been working on other fitness goals. BTW, did you ever create more boxing training videos? I saw one but I kind of remember that you were going to do more… Maybe? I got some gloves and a punching bag. I really enjoyed your first boxing video and would love to hear if you have another.. Thanks
        🙂

  3. I love doing handstands… however against the wall. It feels really great. I am 36 and want to continue doing this till whatever time.

  4. Just came across this article about Handstands and fitness, great article! As a kid and into young adulthood I was constantly doing handstands and walking around on my hands quite frequently. I had no idea at the time how much fitness I was gain inning by doing it. For me, doing freestanding handstands and walking around on my hands was almost as natural as walking upright at the time. Alas, I’m now past middle age and no longer do handstands but after reading the article I’m thinking of gradually working my way back to being able to do freestanding handstands again and improve my over all fitness. Thanks so much for such a great article!

  5. Hi there, I really love that you wrote this article and that you are sharing so generously with people. I would also love to share some of my knowledge regarding handstand work and development, perhaps I could write an article on the tools and methods we use as circus artists and gymnasts etc? If you are interested just let me know or have a look at my Facebook page, I post videos on tools that will help your wrists and shoulders for the work ahead. Facebook.com/themovementguide. Nice work again Krista, love your site. Hope to hear from you.

  6. Hi Krista,
    Any chance of a video showing how to start doing a handstand? I attempted them for the first time yesterday but could not get my legs up.
    Thanks in advance. Love your workouts by the way.

    Avi Charlton

  7. Hey everyone! Im 30 male, always been in some sort of athletic activity but i never tried this before in my life! I started crossfit 10 days ago so i thought i d give it a go yesterday. I hit it within 30 minutes!! They really are fun! I must have done more than 500.000 abs in my life but my abs HURT now with this!!!

    Its awesome guys, do what it says on the article and you ll be amazed how happy you ll feel!!!

    • Hey Help!
      Handstands are a full body strengthening exercise, because everything from your fingers to your toes are engaged. But your arms, shoulders, upper and lower back and abs do the most of the work. Because you squeeze the glutes and point your toes, also your leg muscles are working.

  8. Why when my grandson did handstand a few times he started crying saying his chest hurts he was holding his chest ,he’s 12 years old

    • Sorry to hear that, Janet! It’s hard to tell what it is, and we’re not specialists, especially when it comes to kids… So it’s probably better to stop trying to do them. If the chest pain is present also when doing other physical activities, be sure to talk about it with your health care practitioner.

  9. I do handstands everywhere. Iffeltower, beaches all over the Caribbean , Europe I have pictures with most iconic structures. #handstansaroundtheworld is my #
    And I’m 52.

  10. After reading this I decided to go for it, I’m a 38 yr young dad and my 12 yr old daughter does great handstands so I have been wanting to learn to handstand for a long time now along with learning a front and back flip (I love parkour 🙂 but they will come in time, handstands are great as I can learn on my own but I’m finding my wrists do hurt a degree whilst performing the handstand, I’m back to the wall and can hold up to 40 seconds+ before my wrists really complain, can I safely assume this will go in time once they adapt and strengthen to the new stresses I’m putting them through?, it’s not a pain I’m too worried about but I’m keen to know if any body else has had the same issue, thank you 🙂

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