7 Strength Exercises to Build a Better Handstand

Build strength, awareness and alignment to perfect the art of standing on your hands.

I was never good at handstands growing up. I admired anyone who could find balance upside down. This led me on a journey as an adult to be able to stand on my hands.

I learned that foundation is everything. I was lacking strength, body alignment and awareness. Building basic strength and stamina has allowed me to focus on the body alignment needed for handstands. Building strong and stable shoulders and core muscles is one of the very best things you can do to prepare yourself.

My handstands are not always perfect, but I now feel like I have control, consistency, self-awareness, self-confidence and enough strength to hold on.

If you don’t normally practice planks or handstands, your wrists will probably feel sore after working on the following exercises, so take breaks or gradually add exercises to build up your wrist strength.

Inchworm Plank

Inchworm Plank

Sets:Reps: 8

Setup: Start by hinging from your hips into a forward fold. Depending on the flexibility of your hamstrings, you can bend them or keep them straight.

Action: From a forward fold, walk your hands out into a plank position and then walk yourself back to a forward fold.

Tip: Make sure you bring your hips down into a full plank position.

Retracting Shoulders

Retracting Shoulders

Sets:Reps: 10

Setup: Start in a plank position with your hands under your shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Exaggerate pushing your shoulder blades away from each other and round out your upper back.

Action: Slowly sink into your shoulder blades and squeeze. Feel like you are touching your shoulder blades together. Alternate between shoulder blades apart and shoulder blades together.

Tip: Pause and hold for a few seconds at the top and bottom of the exercise. It should feel like a Cat/Cow position in yoga only in a plank.

Plank Walk

Plank Walk

Sets:Reps: 8

Setup: Start in a plank position with your feet together and hands under your shoulders.

Action: Walk both your right hand and foot out to the side and then your left hand and foot to meet. Then start the walk back to the other side, beginning with your left hand and foot.

Tip: Try to keep your hips as still as possible. Push up out of your shoulders, and keep your arms straight.

Plank Shoulder Tap

Plank Shoulder Tap

Sets:Reps: 16

Setup: Start in a plank position with your hands under your shoulders, pushing your shoulder blades away from each other.

Action: Touch your hand to your opposite shoulder and back to the ground, then switch sides.

Tip: Try to keep your hips and shoulders level as you lift up your hand. Go slow.

Extending into Shoulders

Extending Into Shoulders

Sets:Reps: 8

Setup: Start in a crouched position on your toes with your knees between your hands. You can put your hands slightly in front of your shoulders.

Action: With your arms straight, slowly start extending your legs and transferring weight into your hands. The more you can straighten your legs and lean forward into your hands, the harder it will be.

Tip: The goal is to start putting so much weight into your hands that you feel like you could lift your legs off the ground.

Inchworm Plank with Legs Elevated

Inchworm Plank With Legs Elevated

Sets:Reps: 6

Setup: Place your feet up on a surface that is higher than your hands and start in a plank position. The higher the surface, the harder the drill. (A couch can be a good surface to use.)

Action: From a plank position, walk your hands in as far as you can. Try to get your hands, shoulders and hips lined up.

Tip: At the top position, make sure your abs are pulled in tight so you’re not arching and straining your lower back. Think about pushing the ground away from your hands.

Flipping Hollow Body

Flipping Hollow Body

Sets:Reps: 10

Setup: Start on your back, arms up above your head with your arms, head and shoulders off the ground. Your arms should be straight and your shoulders as open as possible. Pull your rib cage down and abs in. Squeeze your quads, straighten your knees and lift your feet off the ground.

Action: Keeping your arms and feet off the ground, flip onto your stomach, initiating from your core. Keep your arms and legs lifted using your lower back and glutes. Alternate flipping from your back to your stomach.

Tip: Squeeze your muscles tight and try to move as one piece. 

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