How to Do a Handstand & 11 Reasons WHY You Should Learn

The benefits of learning how to do a handstand extend beyond becoming the Instagram envy of your friends and followers. There are very real, very tangible benefits of teaching yourself how to do a handstand that can measurably enhance your everyday life--and sure, maybe gain you a few likes along the way.

Why Do a Handstand
Muscles Used to Do a Handstand
Who Shouldn't Do a Handstand
How to Do a Handstand: Step-By-Step
Troubleshooting Common Handstand Mistakes

Why Do a Handstand

Before you can learn how to do a handstand, it's useful to know why you should do a handstand. This knowledge will keep you motivated through the inevitable (and literal) ups and downs of practice.

The benefits of handstands abound and include:

  • Strengthening your upper body, especially your arms and shoulders. 
  • Increases blood flow to the head.
  • Increases grip strength.
  • Improves balance.
  • Demands multiple muscle recruitment and balance, which can help hone in your focus. 
  • Promotes lymphatic drainage and thereby helps eliminate toxins from your body.
  • Requires NO equipment — can do anytime, anywhere. 
  • As a load-bearing exercise, handstands improve your musculoskeletal health
  • Bolsters digestion by reversing gravity on digestive organs, releasing trapped toxins and gasses.
  • The inverted posture flushes adrenal glands, which can improve metabolic function.
  • Reduces swelling in legs, ankles, and feet. 

Muscles Used to Do a Handstand

Handstands are a total-body move. Doing a handstand requires multiple muscle recruitment and incredible balance. The main muscles used to do a handstand are as follows:

Shoulders: anterior and medial deltoid

Back: serratus anterior, erector spinae, trapezius, latissimus dorsi 

Chest: pectoralis major and minor

Core: quadratus lumborum (deep core muscle), transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and obliquus externus.

Arms: triceps brachii and coracobrachialis (slender muscle of the shoulder joint). 

Lower Body: quadriceps muscles, inner thigh, hamstrings, glutes, calf, & foot--all must be tensed to maintain the handstand. 

Who Shouldn’t Do a Handstand

Handstands are not recommended for everyone. Put learning how to do a handstand on the backburner if you have any of these issues or conditions. 

Handstand Contraindications 

Do NOT do a handstand if you…

  • Have back, shoulder or neck injury
  • Suffer from high blood pressure
  • Have a headache
  • Are menstruating
  • Are in late pregnancy
  • Have a heart condition
  • Have an inner ear/equilibrium issue

You know your body best. Check with your doctor if you think there are any other reasons you may not be suited for handstands. 

How to Do a Headstand: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Warm-up first! Stretch your upper body, especially your shoulders & wrists before you do a handstand. Also, be sure to warm up your core and glutes.

Here's a great warm-up, courtesy of BodyRock Trainer Jenny Lam! Get more great moves like this in the Sweatflix Live series in Sweatflix. Join us now for a 30-day free trial

Deadlift + Row

Pink Thing Back Fly

Pink Thing External Shoulder Rotation

Step 2: Wall walk. Walk our legs up the wall until you’re totally inverted. Hang out here for as long as you can comfortably. This position will help develop strength in the upper body muscles required to do a handstand and will help create body awareness while inverted.

Step 3: One Leg Balance. Take one leg off the wall & try to balance. Again, stay in step 3 as long as needed to be comfortable with the posture. You may move to step 4 right away, or you may spend a few days moving between steps 2 and 3. 

Step 4: Liftoff! Progress to removing the other so you’re completely unsupported. 

TENSION TIP: Be sure to keep your body tense in your handstand. This tension will help you maintain the position. Squeeze your glutes and point your toes to generate more tension. 

Step 5: Dismount. To safely dismount, ‘pirouette’. Shift your weight to one arm. Drive the leg that’s on the same side as that planted arm into the wall, then lean the opposite leg forward. Gravity will tug you around, allowing you to safely bring your feet to the floor.

Step 6: Remove the Wall! Once you have got your bearings in the unsupported handstand and can move from step 1-5 with no issues, practice kicking up into a handstand without the wall support. 

Learn how to do a handstand with BodyRock Trainer Irina!

Remember: learning how to do a handstand could take a month or more, depending on your current fitness level, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not nailing the position in the first few days.

Even if you’re a lifting powerhouse, if you don’t regularly do balancing and flexibility work, your first handstand could be hard won.

Practice for 5 minutes every day for the best results. 

Troubleshooting Common Handstand Mistakes

Top 5 Handstand Mistakes

FLAT HANDS! Just like it's harder to walk with flat feet, it's hard to do a handstand with flat hands. Try gripping the floor with your hands, so that you can do those micro-adjustments needed to maintain your balance. 

TOO FAST, TOO SOON. We've said it once and we'll say it again: be patient. Don't skip the progressions between steps and make sure you thoroughly master each one before moving on. 

DON'T WALK ONCE YOU'RE UP! The point of a handstand is to stand, not walk. If you need to walk your hands forward after kick up, then you have not mastered the handstand. (Walking is something you can do once you can handstand still.) If you're walking forward after kick up, then you're likely exerting too much force. Try again until you find the right amount. Once you do, that perfect force will become muscle memory. 

Just like riding a bike. 

DON'T ARCH YOUR BACK! Arching your back will not only throw off your balance, but it can put a lot of stress (and cause injury) in your low back. 

YOU DON’T HAVE TENSION. Remember that tension is key to maintaining your handstand. While your fingers need to take over the role of your feet and be ready to adjust, the rest of your body needs to be taught and tense. Squeeze your butt, engage your core, point your toes. 

Check out our #FitFam in action. Nausheen MK is a well-known handstand champ around our BodyRock Insider Group on Facebook, and she shares her tips with us here. (You can join the Insider Group too. Stay motivated, stay inspired in this positive-vibes ONLY community!)

Ready to try a handstand? You got this! Be sure to tag us @bodyrockofficial in your Instagram posts!

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