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Handstand part 1 – What you need to balance

To watch a good handbalancer in action is pure satisfaction. The elegance, the focus, the calmness… just wow! Imagine the feeling of freedom to know that you any where, any time, you can just place your hands on the floor and balance. All you need you carry with you all the time, wherever you go.

Many people are interested in learning to balance on their hands, so in this text you will get a introduction to handstands and learn what 3 things you need to balance.

WHY SHOULD YOU LEARN THE HANDSTAND?

But first of all, why should you even learn the handstand at all?

Well, that’s a very good question and to be honest – You don’t really have to, but frankly, it’s kinda cool.

Maybe you are looking for a way to strengthen your wrists and shoulders? Maybe you want to increase your body awareness or practice your patience? Maybe you want to add another movement in your tool box or you simply have too much time and want a new hobby to neard in to?

To practice the handstand can give you all of that, but so could so many other things. So whatever the reason you have it’s a good one. All I want to do is encourage you to try and I will gladly help you to get started. Just know that the reason that makes you want to start might not be the same reason that makes you want to continue.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

Another good one to which I would like to say pass, but if I really have to guess I would say somewhere between 6 weeks and never.

To be a bit more serious, it’s really hard to say because there are so many variables involved.

  • Your training background and current level
  • Your age and physical status
  • How much time you have
  • How much time you are willing to put into it
  • If you practice many other skills at the same time
  • If you get enough rest
  • What it means for you to be able to handstand – Is it to kick up against a wall? Is it a 5 seconds freestanding? 10 seconds, 30 seconds?

A nice milestone is to be able to consistently hold a 10 second handstand. That’s when you know that you have to make a few corrections, you take a few breaths, feel that you have some level of control and you are actually balancing rather than just falling slowly. A guess here is that if you go from zero this might take you somewhere around 4 to 12 months.

So rather than seeing this as a fixed goal within a certain time frame (like ”I’m gonna learn handstands before summer”) I encourage you to see this as a journey with milestones which you will reach eventually if you just practice consistently. A journey where you will learn, discover and improve along the way and for every time you take one step forward you hit a PR. And even though not all us neither can or wish to become a pro handbalancer we can all improve from where we started.

THE FIRST THING YOU NEEDCoM over BoS

When we talk about balance the most essential thing is to have your CoM over BoS or Center of Mass over Base of Support. Your BoS in a handstand are your hands. Your CoM is located somewhere around your bellybutton (It varies a bit from person to person). So if we would draw a vertical line from your hands we want it to intersect with your CoM. If the CoM is to far in any direction that is probably where you will fall.

But what about when people do all sorts of crazy shapes in a handstand? Yes, then their CoM is relocated to still be aligned with their BoS.

So, that’s it – can I balance now? Probably not. You see, that CoM won’t stay there by itself. You have to do something to keep it there which brings us to the next thing.

THE SECOND THING YOU NEED – ENOUGH STRENGTH

You need enough strength to hold yourself in the position you want to be in, or rather to hold your CoM over your BoS. Not more strength, but enough strength. If you have enough strength, more strength won’t probably make it easier. However, if you don’t have enough strength you could probably benefit with more. So in the beginning your handstand practice will probably also be a bit of strength training as well until you have built up the specific muscles you need. Different positions also requires different strength. So just because you are strong enough to hold yourself for example in a straight handstands doesn’t mean you are strong enough to hold a pike.

THE THIRD THING YOU NEED – HANDS

And this is not meant in a ”No shit” kinda way. You need your hands to balance with. Your hands are not merely a platform for you to balance on – they are what keep you in balance. So that means that you need to teach your hands and fingers where to distribute the weight and how to make adjustments when you are getting out of balance.

You want to keep your weight somewhere in the middle of your hand, because in that way you have more room for corrections and it will probably be the least taxing for your wrists. It’s easier to balance with your fingers, but it will be really draining for your wrists in the long term. It’s not as demanding for the wrists to balance more on the palm of the hand, but on the other hand it’s harder to make corrections to stay in balance.

So exactly where the weight is, how you angle your hands and how you spread your fingers can vary a lot from person to person. A good starting point could be to have your hands about in line with your shoulders. Your index finger is pointing quite straight forward. From there you have to find what works best for you.

CONCLUSION

Balancing on your hands is hard… but so was balancing on your feet the first times you tried. Then you practiced and kept on practicing for every day of your life and now you can (hopefully) stand quite well on your feet. We are not used to balance on our hands since we’re not doing it as often but the principles of balance is the same. In a handstand your hands are your feet.

Before I let you go I just want you to try this – Stand barefoot on the floor and lift one leg. Look at the balancing foot. What is it doing? A lot of constant micro adjustments! You don’t really have to think about it since your body knows how to handle this. The same can be applied to your hands, only in the beginning we constantly need to focus on what we are doing. There is never ”nothing” going on. There is never ”just balance”. Balance isn’t something you find, it’s something you create.

I hope you found this somewhat interesting and helpful. In the upcoming parts we will look more into how you can get started. what you can do to overcome the fear of falling and some drills you can practice. If you can think of someone that wants to learn handstand and could benefit from reading this, please don’t send this to him or her, because what if he or she would become a better handbalancer than you??

Viktor

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