The Kick up can be a tricky beast to learn in the beginning, but to work up a solid entry to your handstand is crucial since it will save you lots of time and energy later on since you don’t have to spend multiple tries every time you want to get up and you can instead spend your time on the actual balancing.
One of the reasons this is tricky can be that most people see it as just a way to get in to the handstand (which it of course is) but now as a skill itself. And as with many skills in order to improve them we need to practice them. Instead most people in the beginning want to practice handstand, so they put their hands on the floor, throw their legs up and hope they will catch is this time. In most cases they won’t. So they keep trying for a few minutes, then call it a day and hope that they will make it next time. This is a typical example of a Handstand trying. What we want is to take this to a Handstand practice.
In order to do this I recommend that you in the beginning separate your practice into Balance and Kick up. In this case you can focus on one thing at the time and learn them individually to later on, when you are ready, put them together. In your balance practice your aim is to build capacity, get use to the feeling of being upside down and understand how you can create balance. This is best done with the help of a wall. If you haven’t I recommend you to read part 3 of this handstand series where you will learn how to do this.
Your Kick practice could also be done with the help of a wall. Just know that the intention here is to practice the entry, not fall in to the urge of trying to hold it. The aim here is to learn the movement pattern, make it efficient and automatized so that you don’t have to think so much about it later on. If this feels scary (which it does for a lot of people who want to learn handstand as adults) I recommend you to do more things that will get you comfortable with being upside down and practice your bailing.
The kick up
In this picture below I chose to divide the kick into 4 parts.
Let’s call them
- The set up
- The take off
- The half handstand
- The catch
What we want here is to align our whole body so that shoulders sits on top of hands, hips on top shoulders and feet on top of hip.
Take a look at this video where I talk a bit more about different drills you can use to practice. When you are practicing the Kick up (or any other entry) I like to work on a timer. Maybe 5, 10 or 15 minutes depending on your level and how much time you have.
During this time you can work in clusters of maybe 3-5 reps where you do your reps in a row. No rush but neither no overthinking in between every rep. Afterwards you take a break, maybe study your video if you recorded yourself and then try to think about one thing to improve for next round. Make sure you are rested before you go into next round, focus on that one thing and go. If you are trying to fix everything at once it will most likely turn into to shit. Afterwards you analyze to see if you could implement what you wanted. If everything is good and you can’t really think about something to improve your next goal is to replicate this the next round. Remember, your main goal in all this is not to do as many reps as possible, it’s to do as many GOOD reps as possible. More isn’t better. Better is better.
The set up
This is where everything starts. If you set up in a good way you give yourself a better chance to get the whole chain more efficient rather than trying to correct for previous ”mistakes”. In the beginning I recommend you to start with your hands on the floor rather than starting from standing. Later on you can implement that more and more if you want, but first learn to start here.
What we want here is to:
- Place hand in preferred position
- Shoulders on top of hands with straight arms and protracted shoulder blades
- Walk quite close with your feet to get your hip up. Hamstring flexibility could be a limiting factor here so find what works for you. The closer you get the more your hip will get up although you get less ”swing space”. To far away and your hip won’t be as high up and you have to jump a lot more which will give you a lot of momentum that you later on have to stop in order to catch it
- One foot on the floor. This is the foot that will make the jump
- One foot in the air. Many people use this leg to much in order to swing yourself up and lead with the foot which can easily lead to that you are arching up rather than rolling your hip up
The take off
From the set up you
- Do a small jump with the lower leg
- Reach up with the top leg
- The hip are going up and is now almost aligned with hands and shoulders
- Push into the floor from your shoulders to make yourself tall
The half handstand
Now we are close. As you might have noticed the shoulder position over hands haven’t changed during the whole time. Although what have happen is that the shoulder angle is changed. From a closed shoulder angle in the set up to an open one by making a shoulder flexion. If you want to understand what this means you can stand on your feet. Hold the arms in front of you in a horizontal position and then lift them overhead to a vertical position. There you just did a shoulder flexion and opened up your shoulders.
As you can see here we now have almost everything aligned on top of each other
- Shoulders on top of hands
- Hip is on top of shoulders (which means we now have Center of mass over Base of support)
- One leg reaching up (The first leg that was in the air the whole time)
- Only the second leg is delayed a bit in a pike position
- Continue to push up from your shoulders
- Use your fingers to catch yourself to not fall over
Almost there. All you have to do now is catch yourself to not fall over. The more speed and momentum you have it will be harder to stop. Less speed and momentum means you have to push a lot more to muscle your way up.
What is happening here is that everything stays in the same place as last step except for the second leg that we reach up to bring together with it’s leg buddy.
- Use your fingers to grip the floor to prevent you from falling over
- Push tall from the shoulders which will make it easier to open your shoulders
- Reach up with your legs
Just as balance is a skill so is the kick. If you practice your balance at the wall you will have a sense of what it’s like to be in the final position so that when you get there from the kick you are more likely to catch it. If not even if you get up there, what will you do next since you don’t know how to balance?
So separate your practice. Focus on the entry when practicing your kick. Focus on the balance when practicing your balance. Then add together.
I hope you found this text helpful in some way and if you know someone that could benefit from reading this, be a good friend and send this to that someone. As always, thank you for reading!