Handstand leren - hoofdfoto

Handstand for beginners: Ultimate 2024 guide

Learning the Handstand: for many, it’s a dream, and not without reason. Training the handstand is enjoyable, offers endless progressions, and teaches you something that many consider impossible.

However, mastering the handstand becomes challenging if you don’t know how to train for it. That’s why in this blog, I’ve outlined how as a complete beginner (with zero handstand experience), you can progress towards achieving your first handstand. Follow the tips, get started, and before you know it, you’ll be seeing the world from a different perspective 😉

Why learn a handstand?

You’ve clicked on this post yourself, so I probably don’t need to convince you anymore about why you should learn the handstand. Nevertheless, I can’t resist listing why the handstand is such a fantastic exercise.

  1. It builds strong shoulders and abs.
  2. It teaches you better body control.
  3. It looks incredibly cool.

What makes a good handstand?

It’s much easier to learn the handstand correctly from the start than to unlearn bad technique later. That’s why we take the time to study what a good form looks like.

In a proper handstand, your body forms a straight line. Your feet, hips, and shoulders should be aligned above the center of your hands. This way, your body is perfectly balanced, therefore it requires minimal strength.

Handstand for beginners

Learning the handstand: posture

Place your hands at shoulder width. To establish a solid grip, lay your hand flat on the ground and then try to grasp the earth.

When done correctly, your hand should make contact with the ground in three places: the heel of your hand, your fingertips, and the top of your palm.

Body positioning:

  • Squeeze the ground with your hands.
  • Wrists, shoulders, and hips in a straight line.
  • Push the ground away to extend the shoulders.
  • Point your toes.
  • Head between your shoulders.
 

Handstand Warming up

Before you begin your training, always start with a warm-up. The focus here is on three components: the wrists, shoulders, and pre-activation of the abdominal and leg muscles.

Warming up: fingers & wrists

The fingers and wrists are crucial for balance in the handstand. In daily life, they are relatively underutilized, making it even more important to warm them up. Neglecting this step increases the risk of injuries during training.

There are numerous exercises you can perform to warm up your wrists. Dedicate about 3 – 5 minutes to this.

A mere description of these exercises might not be as helpful, so I recommend watching the video below for a complete wrist warm-up.

Warming up: shoulders

To achieve a perfectly straight line, you need to be able to keep both arms straight alongside your ears. Maintaining this position requires a considerable amount of strength, stability, and flexibility. Warm up your shoulders by gently swinging your arms in all directions. You can also use a resistance band to warm up your shoulders.

Warming up: body positioning

The hollow body hold is the ideal exercise to practice the handstand posture. It pre-activates the muscles, ensuring your body knows which muscles should be engaged when you’re in the handstand.

During the hollow body hold, lie on the ground and extend your entire body. Ideally, only your lower back should touch the ground. Refer to the photo below to see what to focus on.

3 Types of Handstand Exercises

You learn the handstand through 3 types of exercises: strength building, kick-up exercises, and balance exercises.

#1 Learning the Handstand: Strength

With the strength exercises, you prepare your muscles for practicing the handstand. Simultaneously, you acclimate to being upside down, activating the right muscles, and breathing while inverted with the following exercises.

(elevated) Pike hold

The elevated pike hold is a safe way to start your training. In this position, your feet are elevated, preferably at hip height. This allows you to position your shoulders directly above your wrists.

Note: If you feel any pain in your shoulders or wrists in this posture, stop. The exercise may feel uncomfortable but should not be painful. If it is, it means you need to strengthen your shoulders and wrists first.

handstand leren: pike hold
Elevated pike hold

If placing your feet on a (high) elevation feels too intimidating, start on a low platform and gradually increase the height until your feet are approximately hip height.

Take your time with the elevated pike hold. You don’t need to progress to the next exercise immediately in your first workout. Learning the handstand is a slow but rewarding process. If you’ve never been upside down before, you’ll first need to get used to the feeling of being upside down.

Move on to the next exercise once you can hold the elevated pike hold for 5 sets of 20 – 30 seconds each.

Wall handstand

Now, it begins. Your first full handstand, albeit against the wall, but that shouldn’t dampen the excitement. In this phase, you practice the handstand facing the wall.

Often, you’ll see people training with their back to the wall. Don’t do this. In a later stage, that variation has its benefits. However, when you’re learning the correct posture, the handstand facing the wall is superior. It provides you with the correct posture instantly, and you can activate your body much more effectively.

To get into the chest-to-wall handstand, you have two options:

1: Begin in a squat facing away from the wall. Place your hands firmly on the ground and walk your feet up the wall while moving your hands toward the wall. – This is my personal favorite.

2: Start next to the wall with your face toward it, place both hands on the ground. Perform a slow cartwheel motion and stop when your legs are at the top.

Wall Handstand shrugs

Handstand shrugs help strengthen your shoulder muscles. Additionally, they teach your body to adopt the correct shoulder posture. To get your shoulders perfectly above your wrists, it’s essential to fully extend your shoulders.

Start in the chest-to-wall handstand. Then, push your shoulders all the way up (tip: focus on pushing away from the ground). Hold this position for 1 – 3 seconds, then lower your shoulders back down.

This exercise probably feels quite challenging at the beginning, and that’s normal. It’s a posture you don’t often assume in daily life. Don’t worry; especially in the beginning, you’ll see progress in your handstand shrugs with each workout.

#2 Learning the Handstand: Kicking Up and Falling

With the kick-up exercises, you learn how to safely exit a handstand and practice the steps to kick up into a handstand.

Falling with a cartwheel

Before moving on to practicing free handstands, it’s crucial to learn how to fall out of a handstand. Failing to do so could lead to serious injuries.

The safest method is to lift one arm and let your legs fall to the same side. Always stick to one consistent side, for example, always your right arm/legs. Watch the video below for more instructions on falling out of a handstand.

Kick-ups against the wall

Begin training wall kick-ups by placing your hands on the ground, approximately 30cm away from the wall. From this position (both hands on the ground and your arms extended), gently kick your legs up. Stay in this elevated position for 2 to 3 seconds, then lower yourself back down. The goal of this exercise is not to stay upright for as long as possible but rather to kick yourself up as many times as possible.

Tips for wall kick-ups:

  • Don’t kick your legs up as hard as possible; instead, try to find balance before your feet touch the wall.

  • Gradually increase the distance from the wall, giving yourself more room to find balance before reaching the wall.

  • If you don’t have a suitable wall, you can also ask a friend to assist you by catching your kick-ups with an extended arm.

Kick-ups without wall

When the wall kick-ups feel comfortable, you can begin training kick-ups in open space. Make sure to have a soft surface, providing you the opportunity to fall.

Tip for maintaining balance more easily: position your legs in a scissor shape before bringing them together at the top.

#3 Learning the Handstand: Balance

With the balance exercises, you transition gradually from the wall handstand to a free-standing handstand.

Foot taps

Begin in a face-to-wall handstand with your hands approximately 30cm away from the wall. Lean forward while alternately balancing with your feet against the wall.

The goal here is to gradually increase the time between foot taps, allowing you to stand longer without the support of the wall.

H-hold

In the H hold, place your hands approximately the length of your legs away from the wall (usually around 80cm). Next, extend one leg fully in line with your body while keeping the other leg against the wall.

This creates the shape of the letter H with your body and the wall. Try to touch the wall with your foot as lightly as possible and focus on maintaining your own balance.

Freestanding handstand hold

If you train the previous steps consistently, you will eventually master the handstand. Keep practicing wall exercises alongside your free handstands. Improving your balance is most efficient when training against the wall.

Here’s an additional tip: take short breaths. Deep breaths shift the center of your weight, requiring you to readjust. You can prevent this by breathing in and out briefly.

Learning the Handstand: Parallettes

Looking to spice up your regular handstand training? Give handstanding on parallettes a try. It adds a completely different dimension to your handstand.

On parallettes, balance relies less on your fingers and more on your wrists. That’s why this variation is ideal if you tend to experience discomfort in your fingers during handstand training. Parallettes come in various shapes and sizes. Start with low parallettes and gradually increase the height.

 

Final word

Learning the handstand is not a sprint but a marathon. It’s better for your body to start slowly, think about 15 – 30 minutes every 2 to 3 days, rather than going all out and training handstands for an hour every day. Your body needs time to adjust, so give it that time. You’ll notice that you gradually become stronger and maintain better balance.

If you happen to experience tired wrists/forearms from handstand training, you can choose to use wrist wraps. It’s also wise to incorporate forearm training in such cases.

Handstand in Calisthenics Workout

Do you want to combine the handstand with a calisthenics workout? Click here for a free calisthenics workout plan for beginners. There, you can download a schedule that will help you make safe and consistent progress in the handstand, handstand push-up, and other calisthenics exercises.

Read more
Start now with calisthenics!
Heavyweight calisthenics beginner guide