Handstands Are Here Again

My wrists have been feeling pretty good recently, so why not destroy them? I started thinking about learning to do handstands again.

Conveniently, Athletic Playground offered an Intro to Handstands workshop this weekend. In! I’m on a bit of a workshop kick this month.

I’ve tried to learn handstands twice before. I didn’t do a refresher on purpose, because I wanted to come to this workshop with a blank slate. I find it incredibly valuable to be taught a skill by different people.

Our instructor did a great job explaining basic concepts and building on them. But first, she declared that there was no right way to do a handstand. Doing a handstand is like walking or dancing, just upside down. She was going to start us on the straight handstand because it’s the easiest.

We started with some stretches for our core, back, shoulders, and wrists. As part of this, we learned about “Pac-Man”, which is essentially what you imagine doing when you tighten up your core right in the middle, near your diaphragm.

Next, we placed our hands on the floor, fingers spread, shoulder width apart. With our arms completely straight, we played around with putting our weight on our hands and feeling the pressure shift from the heel of the hand to the base knuckles and then to the fingers as we shifted our weight over them. We were tasked with finding the point at which we felt even pressure on the heel and base knuckles.

Next, we put our weight on our hands and got into something of a standing pike. We focused on keeping our weight distributed evenly on our hands, our arms straight, and everything in our shoulders and core strong.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a light landing. Same focus.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a light landing on the other foot. Same focus.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a flutter kick plus landing on the launch foot. Same focus.

I really liked this exercise, because I got to observe and practice the right way to land on land feel softly, by piking extra right before touching the ground.

After push practice, we worked on face-to-wall handstands. Same focus on core, shoulders, and arms. For some of us, this is where our form started to break. For me, it was the usual: my back is too arched.

We split the class in two after this: those who could kick into a back-to-wall handstand and those who couldn’t. I chose the latter group, because I really wanted to make sure I learned all the basics correctly.

We did a face-to-wall variation of the handstand using boxes: one leg straight up, the other on the box, with light hops. This was a great way to feel and adjust our hands and shoulders.

After that, a break for a stretch: hands against the wall, hips hinged 90 degrees. We worked on pulling our chest down toward the floor. Something of a shoulder stretch… into a position you need for a nice straight handstand.

Post-stretch, back-to-wall handstands. Hands planted, arms straight, shoulders strong, a little momentum, and kick up! My kicks are still straight and balanced, thanks to 30×10 and 30×25.

The instructor had a couple good rules for us all to work on in back-to-wall.

Rule 1 – Don’t kick off the wall. Get one leg perfectly straight, feel it like an extension of your arm. Then use your Pac-Man core to pull your other leg straight in a controlled fashion. No kicking off the wall!

Rule 2 – Squeeze your legs together like you’re trying to hold $1000 bills in place.

Not that it’s as simple as just two rules. I still need to work on tucking my belly in / Pac-Man / hollow body / whatever you want to call it. Really tighten that core!

I’m hesitant to officially start another 30 Days of handstands right now. I’m going to see how my hands and wrists feel in the next few days and maybe get another couple practices in before deciding.

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