The Handstand Basics
The Handstand Basics
The Handstand Basics My name is Peter Wraae Marino, and I have been teaching gymnastics for more than 25 years. I am often asked what the most important skill a gymnast should master. I always answer “The handstand.” Sooner or later, you will be doing a handstand in just about every event. Many other skills, such as handsprings and cartwheels, contain a hidden handstand. Mastering the handstand will certainly make learning other skills easier and will help to reduce the learning curve. This handbook contains basic handstand exercises, all of which can be done at home or the gym. The exercises are written in order so you will steadily progress toward a perfect freestanding handstand. Let’s begin your journey into becoming knowledgeable about handstands and the basic skills
required. Equipment for The Handstand Basics
You will need the following equipment:
WallYou will need access to a wall. Make sure there is nothing sharp on the wall, suchas pins, nails, or thumbtacks. The illustrations in this handbook show a brick wallfor emphasis. In the real world, however, you do not want to use a brick wall, butrather a wall that is smooth and allows you to glide your feet easily and without in-jury.
BlockThe block is optional equipment and is used in two exercises in this book. Thereare some alternative exercises in which the block has been used.
SpotterSome exercises require a spotter. Make sure the spotter is at least the same sizeand build as you or bigger.
A good handstand completely depends on form. Training to perform the correctbody positions for the handstand will allow you to progress much faster towardsachieving it.We will cover everything you need to learn to perform a proper handstand: warm-ups, safety exits from the handstand, shoulder flexibility, lunges, hands and arms,technique, challenges, and more.
Open Shoulders“Open Shoulders” simply means that the angle of your shoulders is 180 degrees(that is, they form a straight line with the rest of your body).If you are arching in your handstand then you probably don’t have fully openshoulders. This is a very common mistake that takes lots of practice to understandand master.You can work on two main things to improve your open shoulders.
hollow position and work toward being in a straight line.
head back, but instead tilt it slightly so you can see the floor below you.If you have problems opening your shoulders, then you should work on yourshoulder flexibility. See the section called “Shoulder Flexibility” for relevant exer-cises.
Open Shoulders Using a BlockNow that you understand what open shoulders means, it is time to practice it.This exercise enables you to fix your shoulders open and begin to understand whatis required without the stress of holding up your entire body weight.
Straight LegsWhen you are in the handstand position, always keep your legs straight. A commonbeginner’s mistake is to hang the legs. This is usually because you are archingwhile doing a handstand (bad form).
Pointed ToesThe rule of thumb is always to point your toes when your feet are not on theground.A common beginner’s mistake is to point the toes first when in the handstandposition and not during the kick up to the handstand.
HeelsIn all handstands where your legs are together, your heels should touch each other.
WalkingWalking while in a handstand position is not recommended for learning the hand-stand. In this handbook you will see no exercises that require you to walk on yourhands. Some challenges at the end of the handbook include walking on yourhands, but these are not about learning to do a handstand; they are included forhaving fun once you have learned it.
The reason we do not walk on our hands when learning a handstand is that it pre-vents working on good form. The result is that every time a handstand starts to fail,you will walk instead of correct your handstand.Avoid walking on your hands!
Hollow BodyThe hollow body position is one of the most important positions to understandand master. It is also one of the hardest to do correctly.
Here are the steps to produce a hollow body position:
Practice the hollow body position on the floor.In the illustration at right, the hollow body position is exaggerated. In a handstand,your body should be straight, with a very little hollow body position.
Ears Between Ears Your ears should always be between your arms when executing a handstand. Even when you are in the standing position preparing to do the handstand, your ears should be between your arms. A common mistake is to throw your head back during a handstand. This will result in your ears not being between your arms. You want your ears between your arms because it will help shape the body in a straight line. Throwing your head back will cause your body to arch and prevent you from having open shoulders in your handstand.
Shoulders Shrugged Shrug your shoulders toward your ears. Do this at all times before and during your handstand. This muscular tension will give you greater control
Arms Parallel Keep your arms parallel at all times. If your arms are not parallel, then your handstand will be very unstable. Bent arms will also result in using unnecessary muscle energy to hold your handstand. Have another person look at your arms. It is not easy to know if your arms are par- allel if you can’t see them. You can also practice in front of a mirror to see if your arms are parallel.
Arms Not Parallel
Hands Pointed Forward All of the handstands in this book require that you have your hands pointed for- ward. This helps you keep a stable balance when doing a handstand. Some handstands require other hand positions, but they are used only when exe- cuting advanced handstands.
Finger Spread Wide Spread your fingers as widely as you can. The bigger the surface you can cover with your hands, the more stable your handstand will be.
Shoulder flexibility is crucial for correct posture. Lack of flexibility will usually result in executing the handstand in the closed-shoulder position. Gymnasts lacking flexi- bility might not even know they are doing their handstand incorrectly. It is very important to have somebody look at your posture while you are standing on your hands. Many of the following shoulder-stretching exercises should be incorporated into your warm-up.
Bridge A common misconception about why we practice the bridge position is to make the back more flexible. It is true that the bridge does help the back become more flexible, but the main reason we practice is to be more flexible in the shoulders.
Standing Shoulder Stretch with Wall Place one hand flat on the wall with your body perpendicular to the wall.
Bridge Pressing Chest into Wall It can be hard to know if your chest is over your hands when you are in the bridge position. Using a wall you can help you get into the correct position.