A World Upside Down - Learning Handstands for Adults
Why it's never too late to learn handstands
Different people are attracted to different forms of exercise - but as we get older we become content with our exercise routines. Out of risk aversion or habit, we shed our childhood desire to explore our limitations.
In the context of the human body, this state of content signals to our muscles and bones that we don't need them to be capable of anything more than the light exercise that we continue to do. It's no wonder that as we age, we become weaker and less capable. This physiological spiral is fuelled by a lack of stimulus, and without stimulus the body can't adapt. In fact, this results in atrophy, as without proper maintenance the body degenerates.
The human body is capable of many things, and even as we age, we can retain our ability largely intact if we train consistently. Gymnasts, for example, are well known to be some of the strongest and most capable athletes on Earth.
Even as they age, many of these gymnasts retain much of their practice, and are often more capable in their 60s than most people in their 30s. This is not a coincidence. It's a result of maintenance - and it's never too late to start. That's not to say that everyone should leap into the world of gymnastics, but we should definitely test the waters and find elements that can revolutionize our training.
Learning Handstands for Adults continues below:
Basic Gymnastics For Adults
Gymnastics is often viewed in the light of somersaults and impressive feats of pure ability and strength. However, not everything in gymnastics requires superhuman strength. The handstand is just one such example.
Many people discover the handstand either through CrossFit, gymnastics, yoga, calisthenics or another bodyweight training discipline. Once you discover it, it's hard to forget it. This skill is special for a number of reasons and it will revolutionise the way you train.
Benefits Of Handstands
Handstands are great for building strength. They require core strength as well as strong shoulders and triceps. Moreover, they will activate many postural muscles you probably have never felt!
Your balance will also greatly improve. Handstands require the engagement of a lot of postural muscles and as well as the ability to gauge where your body is in space. The coordination you gain from training handstands will enhance your balance right side up just as much as upside down.
The best thing about handstands is that they are an exciting training tool that will forever change how you approach fitness. Handstands will foster an appreciation for movement itself. Rather than mindlessly smashing out reps, you will find that training skills is far more enjoyable (and is often a better workout!)
Building Up To The Handstand
Handstands are not particularly difficult, but require some proficiency in balance, body awareness and strength. These elements need to be met simultaneously to achieve the handstand. Most people lack at least one of these elements. To begin your handstand journey, you should consider polishing up on your weaknesses using various exercises!
To be able to practice the handstand safely a certain amount of core and shoulder strength is required.
The best core exercise for the handstand is called the hollow body hold.
This is a core exercise that handstand gurus swear by. The best thing about this exercise is that it replicates the handstand position perfectly and engages the exact muscles needed for a solid handstand. This exercise should be held in place for 30-45s. It'll set your core on fire like crunches never could!
By leaning sideways at 45 degrees in the hollow body hold, you can also target your obliques. It's highly recommended you incorporate this tilt for a more well-rounded core!
The arms and shoulders will also need to be strong
Great exercises for strengthening up the shoulders are shoulder press and pike push ups. The shoulder press can be done with a resistance band or a pair of dumbbells.
Pike push ups are a more advanced exercise. These push ups are done in the downward facing dog position while leaning forward during the eccentric phase of the exercise so that the head almost touches the ground. Pike push ups are quite difficult but can be made easier with resistance band support from above.
Handstand drills should also be practiced before attempting a freestanding handstand. Handstand drills are safe and can be progressed according to individual needs.
The wall handstand is one of the best handstand drills because of how specific it is. By facing the wall and walking up with your feet, you can progressively make the handstand harder! Once you can get your feet quite high, start walking your hands back towards the wall until they are almost touching the wall.
Another great handstand drill can be done with a partner and requires much less effort on your part! You can do this body tension drill with a friend or a calisthenics personal trainer. Start by coming down into a push up position. The objective is to hold yourself in the same position while your partner lifts you progressively upward by the feet, and eventually into a handstand. If you have sufficient core strength and body control, you should be able to maintain the same hollow position without arching through your lower back, if not then your core needs some work!
Once you build sufficient core and shoulder strength, and master the aforementioned handstand drills, it's time for the fun stuff! The freestanding handstand can be intimidating but you should tackle it with confidence, knowing that you are now strong enough and aware enough to achieve it.
The only way to get into the freestanding handstand is by kicking into it. There are 2 ways to kick into a handstand - from the ground and from standing. If you're not confident then kicking from the ground is your best bet. You should have a wall behind you just in case but should try not to touch it, as it will force you into a 'banana handstand'.
Handstands are a fantastic training tool, even for older women seeking new exercise alternatives. They are fantastic for training core and will benefit your coordination and balance. Most importantly, training them is extremely fun, and will challenge you to achieve a specific goal. Training will no longer be a chore, and you will find newfound motivation for working out. Give handstands a go today!
About the author:
Vic is Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street
Workout St Kilda .& Liquid Chalk Shop. He has a passion for bodyweight training and the art of movement.