How to do a handstand without breaking your neck
In our daily lives, we practically always have our feet firm on the ground and our hands free. However, why not break the routine and every now and then venture to the opposite position, hands on the ground, feet in the air, head down, doing a handstand! In the world of sport and physical activity, there are many admirers of the handstand, an exercise that seems as impossible as dangerous, but that certainly marks an incredible ability to control your body.
The handstand is among the key exercises of gymnastics. Nonetheless, even if you are not an aspiring gymnast, dedicating yourself to learning this technical gesture will allow you to improve your body perception and implement your newfound agility in many other scenarios.
This exercise, which on paper seems quite simple (after all, what you have to do is turning your body upside down), is just as complex to learn correctly for all the nervous and muscular players involved.
Having to turn you upside down, your body loses the usual references it uses to maintain balance and spatial orientation, making this exercise very complex not only from a muscular point of view, but also from a psychological one.
How should the perfect handstand look like?
If we analyse the profile image of an athlete doing a handstand, we can draw a line that starts from the hands, passes through the shoulders, pelvis and ends with the feet.
Perfect vertical alignment
Achieving this precision requires a workout that involves the development of many coordination skills, something that requires time and technique.
The muscles mainly stressed during a handstand, since they have to support most of the load, are those of the shoulder joints: trapezium, front of the deltoid, pectoral and triceps. In addition to these, we should not underestimate all the other muscles that contribute to maintaining the fixed position thanks to their constant work of “adjustment” and balance: forearm and core muscles.
Learning the key aspects of movement
The preliminary elements to be evaluated and before approaching the practicality of the handstand are few but very important. Good shoulders mobility is essential to ensure a perfect shoulders-arm-trunk, so that both are perpendicular to the ground. Without sufficient mobility, the ideal line will be broken, and we will fall to the ground like a bag of potatoes.
Therefore, before starting a vertical workout, always make sure you warm up with specific mobility exercises for the shoulder joints.
The ability to maintain the position of the pelvis in retroversion when we are doing a handstand is another aspect not to be underestimated since, once turned upside down, all of the points of reference are modified and the systems that provide us with postural feedback will be in great difficulty.
How to train the upper body for a handstand
If you’re new to gymnastics, the first thing you need to focus on is figuring out how you can stand upright. That’s why training your shoulders and arms is so important.
Hands should be placed with your entire palm in contact with the ground as far apart as the width of your shoulders, fingers facing forward and open to create a larger support surface. Another central element is the position of the elbows, which must be fully extended: this allows you to unload your body weight directly from the shoulders to the floor.
In order to practice and get used to support your whole body with your hands and shoulders, start your workout in a four-pedestrian position with your arms outstretched, such as the bear crawl.
Concentrate then on the correct support of the hands and the constant stretching of the elbow, imagining that you have to lift yourself from the floor at every step. As the load on the arms is lower in a quadrupedal position than on a vertical one, you can focus on a more technical job.
Once you are confident enough in your arms and their ability to stay outstretched for your handstand, start progressively adding load, shifting your body vertically little by little. Place yourself facing with your shoulders to a plyobox and place your hands on the ground in front of you, from here bring one foot at a time above the box, keeping your arms outstretched.
Once you are sure to have your upper limbs perpendicular to the ground, try bringing your pelvis aligned above your hands, to familiarise with the correct handstand position. At first, use a box of about 40/60 cm in height, then try to repeat the exercise by replacing the box with a wall.
Thanks to this exercise, called wall climb, you can increase the weight perceived on the shoulders, so that you can train them correctly in view of the actual handstand.
The role of the core in the handstand
Another essential component to make the perfect handstand is your core. As mentioned before, the goal is to achieve perfect linearity of all body segments, and the core is the bridge between the lower and upper limbs. During the handstand, the pelvis must always be in retroversion, allowing the optimal activation of the muscles of the trunk.
The secret to positioning the pelvis in the correct position is to always think about contracting the buttocks: thanks to the action of these muscles, in fact, a perfect rotation of the pelvis is created, which guarantees the linearity between core and lower limbs.
Frequently, the obstacle that most people encounter when learning the handstand is not related to anything we have mentioned so far. Indeed, it is the fear of “jumping” from the upright station to a handstand that blocks many in learning this fascinating movement.
If you are also part of this large group of people who would like to do learn how to do a handstand, but you are also afraid to put your safety at risk, try to follow these simple tricks, so that you can fight this fear safely. Position yourself with your forehead facing a wall, move the foot of your dominant leg forward with a wide step and place your hands on the ground about twenty centimetres away from the wall.
From this position, the leg on the back will help you achieve the necessary thrust in order to bring your body upside down.
Gain some confidence in this exercise, and with a little training try to bring both legs one after the other towards the wall, making sure to lean only your feet against it. In fact, a frequent mistake is to also lean your pelvis and/or shoulders against the wall, thus creating one or more corners in the straight line that starts from the hands, going to break the verticality of the handstand.
When you feel confident in the execution of the vertical on the wall, try to gradually move away from it and experience the free handstand, asking for assistance to a coach or a partner to control yourself in the search for perfect alignment.
With the right practice, combined with good technical tips, learning to do the handstand will no longer be a distant dream, but an exercise that will bring you many benefits for all your Skillathletic workouts.
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