Techniques for Getting in Position for a Calisthenic Handstands

Actually getting in the position for a handstand can be a bigger challenge than doing the exercise itself. Flipping yourself over so that your legs are in the air, your arms are supporting your weight, and your head is pointing downward between them is a feat of both strength and dexterity, as well as overcoming a part instinctive, part rational fear of falling and injuring yourself as you adopt this unnatural position. Here are a couple of methods you can use for handstand initiation.

Assisted handstand pushup

The assisted handstand pushup involves using a wall to support and balance you while carrying out the handstand. Unless the wall is cement or cinder block, you should wear socks only rather than shoes, since shoes will leave marks and possibly scratches or gouges on the finish of most walls in the home.

This method is good for beginners and lets you build your handstand capability quickly while avoiding the major risks and difficulties of a free standing handstand, where it is much easier to pitch over if you are unaccustomed to balancing on your arms.

You need to flip into the handstand position with a rolling motion. Extend your arms, palms out, while facing towards the wall, so that your hands will end up a few inches from the vertical surface (twelve inches is likely a good beginning distance).

Kick one leg up and over, while allowing your body to tilt forward and down, rolling your arms forward and down at the same time. This should propel your arms to the ground – do not reach down, but keep them as straight as possible up from your shoulders, and let the flipping motion carry your hands to the ground.

Support yourself on your hands and continue to flip your legs and body upwards. This should bring your feet into contact with the wall. Hold your body straight with your back hollowed (do not hunch your back while flipping, or at any point in the exercise).

Straighten your legs so that your heels are resting against the wall, and begin your exercises. The first few times, you can just hold this position for a while rather than actually performing any handstand pushups.

Calisthenics Handstand

Freestanding handstands

Freestanding handstands are far more difficult and can only be carried out safely by the experienced. If you are new to handstands, you should always use a wall for balance, because it is far too easy to fall over if you have no practice at balancing. Using the wall will let you accustom yourself to the new forces acting on your body, as well as stabilizing your stance immensely.

Kick off the ground in the same way as for an assisted handstand. You should roll forward into the handstand, allowing the motion of your whole body to carry your hands to the floor rather than deliberately pushing them down to meet it. Your hands should meet the floor when your body has achieved roughly a 45 degree angle with your head on the downslope side.

Kick one leg back behind your back to provide the momentum pulling your whole body up and over the pivot point provided by your hands on the floor. Keep the other leg slanted forward in front of the body at the moment in order to control and counterbalance the action of the other leg, so that you do not flip yourself over entirely and land on your back on the floor.

As your body approaches the vertical, scissor your legs together so that they end up pointing at the ceiling. Regulate your body’s motion by moving the legs towards the vertical at different speeds, if necessary. Your body should reach the point of equilibrium when your legs are aligned side by side and pointing at the ceiling.

If you are tipping over onto your back, rock your legs slightly out of true towards the front of your body and dig your fingers into the substrate. Tipping over onto your belly is prevented by moving the shoulders and hips to counteract the motion, and possibly bending your arms to shift the weight back in the other direction.

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