How does working a variety of handbalancing skills and shapes improve your overall hold time? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to continue to focus on fighting for extra seconds for your straight handstand? If we ignore the body stimulus and think about the stimulus to the balance instead, we can start to understand why variety is not only the spice of life, but also the key to handstand hold progress.
If you only do the same, straight handstand every time, you only get the same stimulus. If you start altering your hold, you get new exposed sensations and learn to counterbalance in more ways. There’s are so many elements to tweak with handstands, such as hand width, head position, leg shapes, entrances, and apparatus just to name a few.
We generally start people with shape changing. This can be something as simple as foot positioning, or the classic staple of straight to straddle handstands. The straddle is a very accessible shape that also lowers your center of gravity a bit, which some people might actually find easier to balance. Shifting into a tuck handstand is another shape that exposes your body to new sensations, as it will force you to find control in underbalance, which doubles as a great way to build upper back and finger strength. A perk of working these two shapes in particular is they also begin to lay the groundwork for handstand press variations. And even if press is not your focus, the weight shifts from the different shapes alone will build additional strength tangentially, which as we outlined in the first section of this article, is key for breaking handstand hold plateaus.
Another benefit of shifting your focus away from time to changing shapes is doing so can keep you from overthinking. If you attention is directed towards the shape change, you get out of the way of the fingers and balance doing the work. Your muscle memory that you’ve trained up to this point will take over, which in many cases can lead to quicker reactions and also longer holds.
Overall the key to longer holds is better endurance and strength, but building that strength doesn’t have to be boring. Instead it can be challenging in a whole different way with the introduction of new handstand shapes, and tangentially lay the foundations for more advanced handstand techniques like presses and the one-arm handstand. Our advice, don’t limit your progress by shackling yourself to only training the straight handstand for arbitrary amounts of time. Instead, broaden your horizons by introducing variety and complexity to your handbalancing practice sooner, and occasionally check in on your hold time. You might be surprised at how much it improves when you’re focused elsewhere.