Five Simple Tactics to Improve Your Handstands

Developing the strength & skills necessary for progressing handstands and their variations such as handstand walking are quite a task. Fortunately, CrossFit Games athlete and my partner in Performance Plus Programming, Pamela Gagnon is here to give us five tips for better handstands!

We have several handstand programs to help athletes of all skill levels reach their handstand goals. Join Performance Plus to start working!


Tactics to Improve Your Handstands


Sounds simple but very true. You can get inverted in a few different ways, some more scaled than others. For the beginner, learning handstands try straight arm and leg bear crawls, frog stand holds. For the intermediate, try putting your feet on the couch or a box and place your upper body into a handstand position. For the advanced, you can work on headstands, wall facing handstands (working the hollow body position) and rear facing wall handstands.




If you don’t have mobility to open your shoulder angle it will be almost impossible to learn how to “stack” your handstand position. Think of a handstand as building blocks. If one block is stacked neatly upon another, you will have a stable tower, but if each block is just a little off-center, (think Jenga) then your tower will come tumbling down. Therefore, although not necessary to have flexible shoulders to hold a handstand, it is necessary to continue to progress into the best handstand possible.

For more help improving your mobility, check out our FREE Ultimate Mobility Checklist!



So what does that really mean? Just like learning to stand as a toddler and using your toes for balance, handstanders use their fingers for the same reasons, balance. Try lifting your right leg and balance on your left. Notice as maintain balance, your toes are working and gripping to distribute weight for you to stay upright. Now do the same inverted!



Disclaimer: Do not kick up to a handstand until you are VERY ready but this is to teach you that the kick up should be slow and controlled. Have you ever seen those people who practically kick through the wall? Yup, most of us have. Why does it matter? A handstand is about balance, and balance is about control, and control is about body awareness and stability. You can’t balance a house of cards by throwing them into place, you have to carefully and meticulously stack one card on top of another. Think of getting into a handstand in the same way.




Here are 4 great drills I would recommend.

1)   Shrugs – handstand shoulder shrugs are a great way to build balance and strength upside down. Get inverted (either scaled w. feet on box or against wall) and shrug shoulders up and down – at the top of the shrug, push through the floor and extend tall and at the bottom compression stay hollow and do not create a shoulder angle. Make sure arms stay straight the entire movement. The video shows a tap…for a more advanced complex.

2)   Balancing – In a scaled handstand with feet on box, shift weight slowly to one arm and push through the floor on the dominant shoulder. I call this shift and lift because you are shifting weight then “lifting” your body through your shoulder extension. You can also do this drill against the wall if you are already comfortable in a handstand. Eventually you can shift and come to fingertips, then shift and do shoulder taps….and so on.

3)   Teeters – This drill will help you find that “sweet spot” to balance. You are slowly teetering back and forth, squeezing fingers to floor and pressing into an active shoulder.

4)   Hollow body – Not only does it help to have strong and mobile shoulders, but a strong hollow body is important to achieve handstand greatness. Learn how to engage your core, like a gymnast, by doing hollow body holds and rocks. You can scale in the tuck position, one leg out or both legs out. Remember to press your lower spine to the ground and lift your upper back, so you bring “ribs to belly button.” Your hollow body will help you out tremendously when you work on becoming “stacked” in a handstand.



*BELIEVE IN THE PROCESS. Remember, this won’t happen over night but if you put in the time and work on the drills, balance and flexibility portion, it will eventually come together and you will start to see progress!

Ready for some serious work on improving your handstands? Check out our Handstand specific programs on Performance Plus!