Handstand sessions can vary greatly. Some days you feel strong and can hold forever, while other days you just can’t seem to find your balance. Over the years we’ve found some little things that can help bring more consistency to your practice for less frustrating training days. You can think of these as rituals, bringing you into the mindset and preparing the environment for an ideal session.

Clear the Clutter

We recommend you clear the clutter, literally and figuratively. Giving yourself an open, empty floor will keep you from focusing your attention on items in your periphery. Constantly worried about kicking a table in front of you? You’ll likely develop a habit of under-balancing. Wondering why your kick up is weak if you always train in the same room as your cat who likes to walk by your feet? Clearing your training space of physical distractions will get rid of mental distractions at the same time. You’ll feel safe knowing you won’t endanger yourself, your stuff, or you pets during a training session, allowing you to focus on your balance rather than how you’re going to need to bail.

Flat, Hard Floor

When learning handstands, a mistake we often see is people going to train handstands on soft surfaces. This is especially common in gyms, where people will go to turf, mats or spring floor to balance, where hardwood is a much more ideal surface. Not only is a hard floor easier to balance on, but it is also kinder on your wrists and fingers.

While soft floor may seem safer and can make a forward roll bail more comfortable, it ironically increases the chances you’ll need to do a bail. This is because you cannot push through your fingers to correct overbalance, as they’ll just sink into the soft floor. On the other hand, hard surfaces such as hardwood or thin rubberized floor will give you a solid surface to push against and correct your balance. It will also push you to practice safe bail-outs such as the twist or cart wheel out, which in the long run make for a more sustainable practice.

The give of soft surfaces also reduces the control you have over your wrists and finger movements, and when you are just learning handstands your muscles and ligaments may not yet be conditioned to deal with the increased demand of a soft floor. Allow your fingers and wrists to build strength in the controlled environment of a hard floor before introducing an unstable surface to your handstand training.

If you do not have a hard floor available to train on, consider using a handstand plank or board – a flat, wooden shelf will usually do the trick!

So seek success, find a spot that encourages you to find balance, not one that promises a slightly more comfortable bail. As you advance in your handstand training and your balance becomes more consistent, and your wrists more accustomed to the load, you can challenge your balancing abilities by venturing out onto softer surfaces such as grass or thin mats, using it as a tool to introduce more variety into your practice.

While we do want to set ourselves up for success, bails are inevitable. Emmet and Mikael discuss what failure means, and how it can be leveraged as useful information for your handbalancing practice in episode 56 of the Handstandcast.

A Good Warm-Up

Handbalancing relies on lots of small muscles and joints that don’t normally carry the load they bear when supporting the whole bodyweight. Starting with a good warm-up will prime your muscles and joints for the load and demands of a handstand. This can help prevent injury, not only by activating the tissues and nerves, but also by cluing you into aches or pains in that you might need to train around. It’s much better to notice tightness in your wrist while doing wrist circles than experience it when that wrist is bearing your entire bodyweight.
A good warm-up will also mentally focus you for the upcoming training session. You bring kinesthetic awareness to your limbs, and shift your focus away from other things in your life towards the current moment of physical training.

And lastly, warm up your sense of balance, too. Just as you would work up to a heavy lift, don’t expect to achieve peak balance in your first few sets of handstands. Instead, warm up your balance systems with some regressed drills for what you want to work on. If in this session you want to practice kicking up to a straight handstand, warm up with some leg lifts to balance and some wall-based balance drills first, such as heel or toe pulls. A more advanced handbalancer would warm-up with head-in drills to prepare for a one-arm training session.

Dress for Success

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. As the saying goes, dressing like you want to handbalance can lead to better handstands, for suprisingly practical reasons.

Train barefoot or in socks. Shoes can pull your weight more dramatically, they can change your kick up spacing, or catch on the ground with pressing. While an inch or two of foam might not seem like much, those few inches can make a big difference with the micro-adjustments common in handbalancing. Shoes will also make pointing your toes more difficult, which can help bring awareness to where your legs are in space when you are just learning to be upside down. If you train in a gym where footwear is mandatory, wearing ballet slippers is a great work-around.

Wear mobile, but well-fitting clothes. Loose t-shirts can fall in front of your face when you invert, taking away your visual reference for balance. Stiffer pants, like non-stretchy jeans, reduce the amount your legs can split and so makes kicking-up more awkward, and can hinder your compression which will in turn make pressing more difficult.

So pick an outfit that stays out of your way, doesn’t inhibit your movement, and doesn’t add cumbersome ounces to your frame.

Throw it All Out the Window

While these rituals can bring structure and consistency to your training, we don’t want you to constantly overthink it. Only being able to handstand in a quiet room on polished walnut in your favourite yoga pants will make your handstand abilities quite restricted. By purposely removing or changing select parts of your rituals, you can bring in some controlled chaos to your practice. This will build a broader skillbase for when you just want to have some fun in the park and do handstands on the grass with friends or those inevitable scenic instagram shots.

By crafting a ritual that focuses your mind and preps your body for a handbalancing session, you can mitigate some of variance in your performance session-by-session.  But situations will not always be ideal, and you should try to keep consistent anyway. So when you can, control your situation to get the most out of your practice, and when you can’t embrace the challenge of the changes that come your way.

Build your own handstand ritual with our online programs.

Whether you’re a beginner or working towards advanced handbalancing skills, we have a program for you to follow in your ideal training space.

Build your own handstand ritual with our online programs.

Whether you’re a beginner or working towards advanced handbalancing skills, we have a program for you to follow in your ideal training space.

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