Getting Comfortable Upside Down: Developing Your Handstand Technique for CrossFit

In CrossFit it has become vital for athletes to obtain a proper handstand.

This last weekends invitational being a testament to this, with Dave Castro stating that we will be seeing more of the handstand walk obstacle course in the future.

Fifty point five seven seconds. @karipearcecrossfit – #CrossFit #CrossFitGames #CrossFitInvitational

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However it has also long been expressed by CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman, that the handstand is a crucial part of the sport.

“Handstands, hand walking, and pressing to the handstand are critical exercises to developing your athletic potential and essential components to becoming “CrossFit.”

As being upside down is a large component of CrossFit events, being competent at it is vital for competitions. However the ability to be upside down is also a great skill to develop for the everyday athlete. It develops body control and awareness and can be a great exercise for the shoulders and wrists.

There are many ways to be upside down; handstand walking, handstand push-ups, ring handstand push-ups or free standing handstands. No matter the exercise they all start of with the basic handstand. If the basics are on point, it becomes easy to build complexity from there.

The best individuals in handstand hold, handstand push-ups etc. are usually the athletes that have spent a considerable amount of time engraving the basics. The athletes with a gymnastic background paying homage to this, most notably Katrin and Annie the 2 Icelandic females.

To start your handstand there are a few pre-requisites that have to be in place. They are expressed in the following chart:

hand-stand pre-requisites

A handstand is a skill that needs time to develop. Therefore within The Progrm we integrate handstand exercises to our gymnastic warm-ups, as they not only develop the handstand, but also have a good transfer to other movements, especially overhead positioning.

Developing the basics:

Joint loading/stacking

How many athletes do you see holding their wrists after practicing handstand walking?

It is vital that our joints are able to handle the compression placed on them. If they are not used to this load it can lead to injury and soreness.

Join loading steps:

  • Step 1: 60 seconds comfortably in a push up position.
  • Step 2: 60 seconds comfortably in a handstand box hold.
  • Step 3: 60 secs in a wall facing handstand hold.

Preparing for the handstand. “Developing the basics:” How many athletes do you see holding their wrists after practicing handstand walking? ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ It is vital that our joints are able to handle the compression placed on them. If they are not used to this load it can lead to injury and soreness. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Joint loading/stacking steps: Step 1: 60 seconds comfortably in a push up position. Step 2: 60 seconds comfortably in a handstand box hold. Step 3: 60 secs in a wall facing handstand hold. 🤸🏻‍♂️ @jacdah • If you're interested in The Progrm we offer a 7 day free trial – check out our website: theprogrm.com • @gymnastics.jamyburgh #TheProgrm #Europeiscoming #Handstand #Gymnastics #Warmup

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Joint movement/stacking

The ability of the joints to express the range required for proper alignment is vital. The most important joints for a correct handstand are the wrist and the shoulder.

Joint mobility steps:

  • Step 1: Wrist flow warm up
  • Step 2: Shoulder opener
  • Step 3: Close grip hang

Micro-balance

Is the ability to use only the wrists and fingers to balance the body. Just like your feet are your contact when standing upright and you need a solid base, your hands are your contact when being upside down.

A great way to practice this awareness is through the “Crow pose”. During this specific exercise you will have your centre of gravity much closer to the floor, thus allowing you to isolate the balance to the wrists and fingers, without the need for full body control.

Micro-balance Steps:

  • Step 1: Wrist/Hand and finger awareness
  • Step 2: Start weight loading
  • Step 3: Crow pose for as long as possible

Working on mastering the handstand? 🤸🏻‍♂️ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Micro balancing is the ability to use only the wrists and fingers to balance the body. Just like your feet are your contact when standing upright and you need a solid base, your hands are your contact when upside down. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ A great way to practice this awareness is through the “Crow pose”. In this exercise you will have your centre of gravity much closer to the floor thus allowing you to isolate the balance to the wrists and fingers. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Micro-balance Steps: 1. Wrist/Hand and finger awareness 2. Start weight loading 3. Crow pose for as long as possible 🤸🏻‍♂️ @jacdah • If you're interested in The Progrm we offer a 7 day free trial – check out our website: theprogrm.com • @gymnastics.jamyburgh #TheProgrm #Europeiscoming #Handstand #Gymnastics #balance #microbalance

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Macro-balance

Once you have advanced to joint stacking step 3 (Wall facing handstand hold), you will now learn how to feel the macro-balance.

There are two main locations of macro-balance: The hips and shoulders.

There are two directions where the balance will go: Toe side or Heel side. Basically falling forward or falling backwards.

You can experiment with this exercise to help develop awareness:

Controlled falling:

This is one of the harder exercises as it requires good body awareness whilst upside down.

  • Step 1. Walk up into a wall-facing handstand about 10 – 15 cm away from the wall. Lock the shoulders in place and the only movement should be coming from the lower back and hip.
  • Step 2. Start tilting your pelvis anteriorly (arch your low back), you will notice your lower back curve getting bigger.
  • Step 3. Your toes will start to leave the wall, as they do, you will need to tilt you pelvis back posteriorly (hollow your low back) – the correct position. Take your time in this correction.

One of the more advanced exercises in our handstand article coming soon with @gymnastics.jamyburgh. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Controlled falling: ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ This exercise requires good body awareness whilst upside down. So make sure you are comfortable upside down first. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Step 1. Walk up into a wall-facing handstand about 10 – 15 cm away from the wall. Lock the shoulders in place and the only movement should be coming from the lower back and hip. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Step 2. Start tilting your pelvis anteriorly (arch your low back), you will notice your lower back curve getting bigger. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Step 3. Your toes will start to leave the wall, as they do, you will need to tilt you pelvis back posteriorly (hollow your low back). Into the "correct" position. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Take your time in this correction. • If you're interested in The Progrm we offer a 7 day free trial – check out our website: theprogrm.com • @boxrox #TheProgrm #Europeiscoming #Handstand #Gymnastics #Gym

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If you have any questions about your handstand feel free to reach out to us: info@theprogrm.com

A handstand is a skill that needs a lot of time to develop. Work consistent on it and don’t forget to have  some fun along the way. Happy hand-balancing!

Teen CrossFit Athletes – Developing the Next Generation


hand-stand pre-requisites © John Singleton

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About The Author

JA has over 16 years of gymnastics experience and has competed internationally in tumbling gymnastics from 1998-2005, finishing 6th at The World Games. He is currently a practicing sports physiotherapists in Hungary. His current focus is on implementing and teaching movement efficiency to CrossFit athletes.

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