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3 Exercises to Begin Working on your Handstand

*written by Wes Hendricks, DC

Introduction

In this article, you'll learn my 3 favorite exercises to start working towards the handstand.

These three exercises are:

  • Front Body Line
  • Back Body Line
  • First Knuckle Raise

Unfortunately, when most people approach handstand training they endlessly start kicking up and “hoping for the best.”

What generally happens with this approach is that they build strength on top of poor positioning.

This mainly comes from a lack of body awareness. The majority of all upper body pushing exercises (the handstand is an isometric push) are upper trap dominant and incorporate somewhat of an anterior pelvic tilt, as opposed to the handstand which is more lower trap dominant and requires more of a posterior pelvic tilt.

Typically when athletes perform handstands with the first pattern in mind, we end up seeing banana handstands and shoulder positions that resemble more of an incline bench press than a stacked overhead position.

For the purposes of this article, we are looking at 3 of our favorite exercises to start building our handstand from the ground up with these considerations in mind.

Exercise 1 - Front Body Line

The front body line is going to begin teaching and strengthening our ability to fully open up our shoulders and utilize our lower traps. 

Here are the basics of how to do/coach this:

  • Lay face down on the floor with your nose and toes in contact with the floor THE ENTIRE TIME 
  • Holding onto a PVC pipe 
  • Wide grip is easiest. As you become stronger, work towards a shoulder width grip
  • Keep your elbows locked out
  • Raise the stick off the ground 
  • Make sure you keep a staight line from shoulders to wrists 
  • Be sure to actively shrug your shoulders into your ears, reaching the stick as far out in front of you as you can. 
  • Hold for prescribed amount of time 

Typically we do this in sets of 20-60 second holds 

The biggest mistakes when doing this is not actively reaching the stick out in front of you.

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Exercise 2 - Back Body Line

The first knuckle raise is going to begin building our finger and wrist strength needed while learning to establish our balance in a vertical position. 

Here are the basics of how to do/coach this:

  • Begin with your arms in a shoulder width position 
  • Palms flat on the floor, pulling your fingers as far apart as you can 
  • Slowly and under control, push your fingers into the floor raising your palm off the floor 
  • Pause momentarily at the top 
  • Lower your palm back to the floor under control 
  • Repeat for reps 
  • Make sure you keep your elbows locked out
  • Be sure to not use any momentum or kipping motion to get yourself to the top 

Typically we do this in sets of 10 reps.

The biggest mistakes when doing this is attempting to kip the motion vs performing it smoothly.

Exercise 3 - First Knuckle Raise

The first knuckle raise is going to begin building our finger and wrist strength needed while learning to establish our balance in a vertical position. 

Here are the basics of how to do/coach this:

  • Begin with your arms in a shoulder width position 
  • Palms flat on the floor, pulling your fingers as far apart as you can 
  • Slowly and under control, push your fingers into the floor raising your palm off the floor 
  • Pause momentairly at the top 
  • Lower your palm back to the floor under control 
  • Repeat for reps 
  • Make sure you keep your elbows locked out
  • Be sure to not use any momentum or kipping motion to get yourself to the top 

Typically we do this in sets of 10 reps.

The biggest mistakes when doing this is attempting to kip the motion vs performing it smoothly.

About the Author

Wes Hendricks, DC, is a sports chiropractor and bodyweight training coach. He is the founder of REBUILD and works with athletes all over the world helping them develop their bodyweight skills and reclaim their physical health.

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