How to Do a Handstand: Prep, Progression & Training Plans

I’m gonna start with the obvious: handstands are cool.

If you didn’t agree, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have clicked on whatever link brought you here. So I’m not going to waste any words trying to convince you that handstands are worth your time.

This article is about how to learn them, so let’s get started.

Perfect Handstand Progression: How to Learn Handstands Efficiently

I’ve taught thousands of people how to do handstands using these four basic progressions in this video:

Now, it is really just that simple?

No, of course not. It takes practice and some specific training to make consistent progress toward a perfect handstand. That’s what the rest of this tutorial is about 🙂

Here’s what we’ll cover in this tutorial:

🧠 Essential handstand concepts
✅ Your starting assessment
🚦 Joint prep/warm-up
🔢 Step-by-step progressions
🍕 Exploring different variations
🏃‍♂️ Endurance and strength📝 Learning from every attempt
👉 Positioning and breathing tips
📆 Handstand training plan
💪 Advanced handstand variations
❓ Handstand FAQs
 

🎁 You can also download everything.

The Best Way to Learn a Perfect Handstand

I’ve seen countless ways of teaching the handstand, and mine is different from other approaches out there.

For instance, my friend Yuval Ayalon is a master hand balance performer. In his own practice, he’s aiming for perfection, because he gets paid to perform. He teaches other high level hand balancers how to get as close to perfection in the handstand as humanly possible.

I’m not a performer like Yuval, and I’m assuming you aren’t either.

So the approach you see below isn’t built the same way a high-level acrobat would go about mastering handstands. My goal is simply to help you feel comfortable on your hands, so you can enjoy exploring one of the most rewarding physical skills I know.

This method emphasizes motor control along with strength and balance throughout the body, and mobility in your wrists, shoulders, and hips.

Let’s get started.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

🧠 Essential Handstand Concepts

Like I said, we’ve got a pretty specific approach to learning handstands, which comes from practicing these ourselves for many years, as well as teaching handstands to tens of thousands of people over the years.

In this video, I’ll give you an overview of how we structure this approach using the “5P Framework” and I’ll also go over some essential concepts that are going to help you have the most fun and success with this process. It can be a tough goal to work on, so arming yourself with good strategies can make a world of a difference.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Download this entire tutorial for easy reference. 👉 Tap or click here and it’s yours. We’ll walk you through each step to getting your first handstand.

When we plan a training session at GMB, we break things down into five sections: Prepare, Practice, Play, Push, and Ponder:

Prepare — We use targeted exercises to warm up the body for the specific work ahead. Practice — Then we break down the skill we’re working on (in this case, the handstand) into smaller components, so that we can practice those parts of the skill.Play — We then take things down a level so that we can play and explore within our own capabilities.Push — This is where we ramp things up a bit, improving our conditioning for the skill we’re working on.Ponder — Finally, we reflect on the day’s session so that we can learn from that for next time.

That structure is going to set you up for success with your handstand practice.

Additional Tips for Handstand Success

As you’re working on your handstand, you may run into some trouble at certain points. These tips will help you out:

What is an attempt: A clean attempt of the level of handstand you’re at. Take a short break between attempts so that you’re set up for another clean attempt. Focus on one thing with each attempt. Don’t put yourself into information overload. How to rest between attempts: Make this an active and mindful rest period. Think about how the previous attempt went and what you want to focus on in your next attempt. Let go of expectations: You’re going to have great days where everything clicks, and you’ll have some days (or even weeks) where you feel like you’re not making progress at all. You are, though! Progress just isn’t linear. So try to let go of expectations (as hard as that may be) and just show up. You’ll get there. Know when to call it a day: If you keep practicing after your form starts to break down, you’re not doing yourself any favors. End on a strong attempt. Working on your line vs. holding for time: We recommend focusing on the latter because you’re building up your handstand endurance and strength, which gives you more opportunity to work on your line.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

✅ Handstand Assessment: Find Your Weak Spots

If you’re not used to practicing handstands (and really, even if you are), the positioning of the wrists, shoulders, torso, and even legs in the handstand can be quite different from what you’ve done in the past. It’s important to assess where your body is at right now to see how ready you are for the work ahead.

In this video, Rose will demonstrate some movements to assess how well your body is able to get into the positions needed for the handstand. Since every day will be different with the handstand, it’s a good idea to repeat this assessment regularly.

Here are the assessments shown in this video:

Wrist Strength & Flexibility Assessment

This assessment will help you determine how well you are able to extend your wrists.If you are unable to extend them fully, it doesn’t mean that handstands are out of reach by any means. It just means you will likely have to spend a bit more time on your wrist prep that day.

Shoulder Mobility Assessment

Similar to the wrist assessment, this helps you assess your shoulder flexion before your session. If your shoulders are feeling tight on a particular training day, you may want to do some extra work on your shoulder prep, and you may need to drop your practice to a lower level.

Wall Walk Assessment

Rather than doing a full wall walk at this point, this assessment gives you a chance to test out how you feel upside down and on your hands.It’s important to take this one slow, especially if it’s your first time doing this assessment.

Remember: it’s okay if you can’t do all of these perfectly yet—these assessments just help you get a clearer idea of what you might need the most work on as you practice.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

🚦 Handstand Warm-Up (Prepare Your Body)

We’ll start with some exercises and stretches to prepare the body for the handstand work you’ll be doing.

Handstands place a LOT of strain on the wrists, which most people are not prepared for without specifically working on this area. You’ll also need a good amount of shoulder mobility to get yourself into good alignment, and leg strength is key.

Put all those pieces together, and it’s clear that jumping right into your handstand practice for the day probably isn’t the best idea.

This preparation routine will get your body ready.

The main areas you’ll want to get warmed up before you start your handstand work for the day are your wrists and your shoulders. Here are the primary wrist exercises to focus on:

And here are the main shoulder warm-up exercises to work on:

In the warm-up video, we’ve also included:

Seated Leg Squeeze—This is important for getting the feel for squeezing the lower body while you’re upside down.Handstand Bails—Learning to bail comfortably will help you overcome the fear of being upside down, and will protect you from injury if (and when) you fall out of the handstand.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

🔢 Step-by-Step Handstand Drills & Progressions (Practice Your Handstand Skills)

Every part of the 5Ps is essential to nailing down the skills you need for the handstand, but the Practice portion is probably the most important—and most neglected—part of learning any skill.

If you’ve ever learned to play an instrument, you know the key to mastery: practice, practice, practice.

Think of the handstand like learning to play the violin. You’re going to have to practice the foundational parts of the skill, over and over, until you’re ready to move on to more complex variations.

In this video, I’ve included variations starting from a rote beginner level, leading all the way to the freestanding handstand.

Here are the handstand progressions from the video:

Elevated A-FrameFroggerHigh FroggerElevated L-StandWall EntriesWall FloatWall Line WorkSplit Leg Kick UpStraddle HandstandFull Handstand Entries

Rather than think of these exercises as step-by-step progressions, try to approach them like the pieces of a Tetris board. If you’re an absolute beginner, you’ll definitely want to start with the first variation I show, but as you progress through them, you may need different pieces than someone playing on a different board.

The pieces don’t necessarily go “in order,” although they certainly can be followed that way.

Just make sure not be too rigid in your approach to these variations.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

🍕 Handstand Exploration (Play with Your Skills)

Serious practice is important, but playful exploration within and around the skills you’ve just practiced is a key to mastering those skills.

It’s impossible to tell you exactly what you should be doing for the Play portion, since everyone is at a different level, and feels comfortable with different things, but in this video, we’ll show you some examples of Play.

The idea of adding play into a training session is a completely foreign concept for most people, and it can take some time to get used to what it really means and how to incorporate it in an effective way. The most important thing to understand about Play is:

Practice happens at the edge of your ability; Play happens a the core of your competence.

What that means is you’ll play with variations with which you are completely comfortable. Play at whatever level you’re at, and find different ways to explore those variations.

As an example, let’s say you’ve been working on wall kick-ups. To Play with this skill, you may try kicking up against the wall and then moving your head around in different directions to see how it changes things. Or you could play with different ways of breathing, or with where you place the pressure through your palms.

No matter what level you’re at, you can—and should!—prioritize Play in your training sessions.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

🏃‍♂️ Handstand Conditioning (Push Your Skills)

Next up is the Push component. This is the part of the session that will feel most like a “workout,” but their real purpose is to strengthen your body and give you range of motion to hold a straighter handstand for longer.

The key is to work at a lower level of skill, so that the quality of your movement remains high.

Here are the handstand conditioning exercises:

Band drillA-Frame shrugsHollow body holdHigh frogger

You’ll notice that these exercises are drills that focus on particular parts of the handstand.

This is pretty different from trying to jump up into a handstand and just hold as long as possible (not very helpful advice, especially for someone just starting out with handstands). By approaching your “conditioning” in this way, you’ll get a lot more out of your skills practice.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

📝 Reflect on Your Practice and Learn from Mistakes (Ponder on Your Performance)

This is the final piece of the puzzle that can make or break your progress with the handstand: mindful reflection.

In this video, I’ll talk about what it means to “Ponder” about your handstand practice, and how it will dramatically improve your overall performance and experience with the handstand.

Key points for reflecting on your practice:

Taking a few minutes at the end of your session to reflect can make all the difference in your handstand journey.Think about what you learned from the session–good or bad–and how you can apply that to the next session.If you’re not enjoying the process, you need to reexamine your approach.

As you go work on your handstand, you’ll see that progress is anything but linear, and if you don’t know what to expect, it can really mess with your head. It’s easy to start feeling down about your progress if you get too caught up in day-to-day fluctuations in your performance.

By taking a few minutes throughout and at the end of your session to mindfully reflect on how things went, where you struggled, and any big wins you had, you’ll start to see the bigger picture over time.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

🧘 Handstand Positioning and Breathing Tips

In this video, I’m going to go over the most important positioning tips that’ll set you up for success on your handstand journey.

I’ve seen plenty of people struggle with the handstand for years, and once they’ve got a good understanding of these concepts, it changes everything for them. Things begin to click, and it just makes the journey a lot smoother.

Here are the key positioning tips:

Stack the blocks: Think of stacking the joints like blocks, aiming for a nice, straight line. This is the most solid position you can be in. Maintain tension: Squeeze everything to create better stability. The more tension you have through your body while you’re in the handstand, the less effort you’ll need to put in to holding your body upside down. Just make sure to keep the neck loose and comfortable.Balance through your hands: Shift your body slightly to maintain balance by pressing through the fingers and the heels of your hands. This will help you find your balance point. Say your ABCs: This is a great technique to make sure you keep breathing while in the handstand. Cartwheel to bail: Practice your cartwheel, so that you can safely bail out of the handstand when you need to.

I know that probably looks like a lot, but you don’t have to try and absorb it all at once. These are just general points to keep in mind as you practice, and they take time to master.

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

📆 Handstand Training: Develop Your Plan

All that goes into mastering the handstand may feel a bit overwhelming. But when all the pieces are put together, this approach should streamline your handstand practice, and make it a lot more directed and focused.

Because the handstand is a skill, you’ll benefit from frequent practice, even if you can’t do long sessions each time.

Basic Practice Tips:

Practice 2-4 times a week so your central nervous system can acquire the skill efficiently.I recommend 45 minutes if you’re super serious, but for most people, 15-20 minutes is a lot more realistic.It’s impossible to say how long it’ll take, because we’re all different. Just keep with it, and you’ll improve.

Here’s a sample program for 4 days a week, 45 minutes per session. This is just a sample, but you can use this template to inform your own handstand training program.

Monday/Thursday Tuesday/Friday
Prepare 10 minutes total:
• Wrist prep
• Shoulder prep
• A-Frame Shrugs
15 minutes total:
• Do the full prep routine
Practice 20 minutes total:
• Bailing Practice and Entries (either using wall or freestanding split leg kick-up) [5 minutes]
• Single attempt handstand holds (either using wall or freestanding for attempts) [15 minutes]
20 minutes total:
• Bailing Practice and Entries (either using wall or freestanding split leg kick-up) [5 minutes]
• Single attempt handstand holds (either using wall or freestanding for attempts) [15 minutes]
Play 5 minutes total:
Choose a movement at an appropriate level and explore. Some examples:
• Kicking up to hold before you bail
• High Frogger tying to pause at the top
• Wall Floats
5 minutes total:
Choose a movement at an appropriate level and explore. Some examples:
• Kicking up to hold before you bail
• High Frogger tying to pause at the top
• Wall Floats
Push 5 minutes total:
• 1-minute Stamina Hold x 3 (Using wall facing in or the band standing up)
• 1-minute Hollow Body Hold x 2
No push session today! Take it easy 🙂
Ponder 5 minutes total:
Spend some time reflecting on the session and prepping for the next one.
5 minutes total:
Spend some time reflecting on the session and prepping for the next one.

This is the same overall training structure that guides all of our programs at GMB.

💪 Advanced Handstand Variations

For most people, working toward a freestanding handstand, then taking that further to improve that, can be a journey that takes many months, sometimes years. But for a small percentage of the population who’ve already achieved a high level of skill with the handstand, they want to take their practice further.

And that’s great!

In the world of advanced hand balancing skills, it seems like people just keep upping the ante. You see some crazy variations these days 🙂

We’re not advanced hand balancers, and there are better resources for learning those crazy Cirque-du-Soleil-level tricks if that’s what you’re after (we recommend Yuval Ayalon, Yuri Marmerstein, or Miguel Santana for help with learning those tricks).

But we do have quite a bit of experience with hand balancing, and we have some good resources for certain skills.

Here’s some of our other tutorials that’ll help you learn some advanced hand balancing skills:

Handstand Push-UpOne Arm HandstandPlanche

Skip to the section you want:
🧠 Essential Concepts |✅ Handstand Assessment | 🚦 Joint Prep | 🔢 Progressions | 🍕 Exploration | 🏃‍♂️ Conditioning | 📝 Reflection | 🧘‍♀️ Positioning & Breathing | 📆 Training Plan | 💪 Advanced Variations | ❓ Handstand FAQs | 💾 Download Everything

❓ FAQs about Holding a Handstand

With the rising popularity of handstands, people have lots of questions about handstands, including benefits of practicing them, best ways to get the most out of practice, and how to stay safe.

The MOST FAQ: “What if I can’t keep my balance?”

Handstands don’t take a ton of strength or flexibility, so anyone in reasonable shape should be able to do one without too much effort, right?

Well, turns out it’s not always that easy, so we made this video to help you master your handstand balance:

If you’re struggling to hold a handstand for more than a couple of seconds, the most likely culprit is to be found in perfecting these three components of your practice:

Master the set-up so you have a solid foundation to balance on top of.Control the kick-up so your momentum doesn’t pull you off balance.Learn to bail so you have the confidence to practice without fear of falling.

More Handstand FAQs

Do handstands build muscle?

Not really, no. Sure, some people may see slight changes in muscle mass (particularly at more advanced stages of practice), but we don’t recommend making that your primary focus when working toward a handstand, since there are far better ways to increase muscle mass.

What you will definitely see improvements in with your handstand practice, though, is strength. You’ll see improved strength in the fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders, back, core, legs, and throughout the whole body.

Do you need to be strong to do a handstand?

To do a beautiful, straight-line handstand? Yeah, that’s going to require quite a bit of strength in your wrists, arms, shoulders, and core. Nobody gets to that level of skill without building a fair amount of strength.

But to get started? No, you don’t need to be mega strong or anything.

We begin with an assessment for a reason, though. You want to make sure that your wrists, shoulders, and arms are strong and flexible enough to support your weight in an inverted position. The assessments up above will help you figure out where your weak links are, and then the progressions will start you at the beginning levels so you can build your strength up slowly and safely.

How do you get strong enough to do a handstand?

With practice! Start with the most basic progressions and gradually build up your strength and control. The “wall walk” progression is the initial move I suggest for a person looking to get strong enough to start working on the handstand. The end goal is to be able to walk your feet up the wall, bringing your hands close the wall so that your body is in a vertical line with toes on the wall. Hold that position for time, then safely walk down.

In the beginning it is totally fine to not be anywhere near the wall and simply have your body at a 45-degree angle. Just work at your own pace, walking up and down the wall with your feet and moving your hands towards the wall. This will build wrist, arm, shoulder, and core strength, as well as endurance to take your handstand practice further.

How do you do a handstand against a wall?

There are two ways to do this:

Facing the wall—Walk up the wall. (*Read the previous question’s answer)Facing away from the wall—Use a split leg kick-up.

What muscles does a handstand use?

The entire body. However, you will mainly feel it in your fingers, wrists, shoulders, and core when done properly.

Are handstands good for you?

Sure. They can be when done in a safe and healthy manner. Some of the benefits of practicing handstand include:

Increased blood circulationImproves spatial awarenessBuilds wrist, shoulder, and core strengthImproves balance and control throughout the bodyCan help your mind relax once you get past the initial frustration aspect of learning themMakes you 43% cooler at parties

How do you train to do a handstand?

Well, as you can probably tell by this very long and detailed handstand guide, we’ve got quite a bit to say about that 😉 But, the process can be boiled down to:

First, train safety and strength—practice bails and wall walks.Then, train the entry for balance while continuing to work on strength—practice kick-ups and wall work.Finally, work on your endurance for the freestanding handstand—practice freestanding kick-ups, holds, and wall holds.

How long should I do a handstand for?

If you’re asking this question then I say for as long as you can 🙂

Depending on the particular goals you have, being able to hold it for 10 seconds could be adequate. If you’re looking to be able to work on more advanced versions of the handstand, like the one arm handstand for example, I suggest being able to hold the handstand very comfortably for up to one minute. That is not to say that you must have a one-minute freestanding handstand in order to start training the OAHS. However, being able to hold a one-minute handstand would generally mean that you have the strength and endurance necessary to set you on the right foot (or hand in this case) for training the OAHS.

How do you hold a handstand for a minute?

Like anything, you gradually work up to it.

A great way to train at any level is to perform your best freestanding hold for as long as you can, then immediately go to the wall facing inwards and hold it for 5 to 10 seconds longer than your freestanding handstand attempt. Then, take a long enough break so that you can repeat that. This will help build endurance while also allowing you to improve your balance while freestanding.

How long does it take to learn handstands?

There isn’t one answer to that. It depends on so many variabilities for each individual, so there’s really no way for me to give a blanket answer to that.

For some people who might have a strong background, a natural aptitude for hand balancing, and lots of time to devote to it, it could take only 6-8 weeks.

While for others, it could take several years if you don’t have much time to devote to handstand practice, or you are starting from a very beginner level of training.

Neither one is better or worse than the other—it entirely depends on what you want from this practice. If your goal is to become a circus acrobat, yeah, you need to devote a whole bunch of time to this, and work your ass off until you get it. But for the rest of us, that timeline shouldn’t matter. It’s all about the process.

Should you do handstands every day?

I wouldn’t say you should but some people do enjoy doing them everyday. If that is something you’d like to do then I suggest slowly building up to doing that. Handstand practice can take a toll on your wrists, shoulders, and lower back for many beginners so make sure you work up to doing them every single day if that’s something you want to do.

Are handstands bad for your back?

They can be if you find yourself performing “banana” handstands due to poor core stability or poor range of motion in your shoulders. But if you build up your strength slowly and with an emphasis on control, practicing handstands is not bad for the back at all.

Can headstands be dangerous?

Any movement can be dangerous. That is why it is good to start at the beginning and gradually work on increasing your strength, flexibility, and control with each progression or variation before moving on to the next level. But no, headstands are not inherently dangerous.

Are handstand push-ups dangerous?

Only if done in a dangerous way. Check out how to do it in a safe way here.

Can you lose weight doing handstands?

Weight loss comes down to good nutritional habits. Not doing more handstands.

Is the headstand or handstand harder?

The majority of people will find it easier to learn the headstand because the length of the lever, your body, has been decreased. In a handstand you are further away from the floor and therefore will require better balance in more joints of the body.

What is the longest someone has held a handstand?

No idea, but those kinds of “feats” seem a bit silly to me. Plus, there are a lot of factors to be considered like what kind of handstand, what kind of form allowed, etc, etc.

Does doing handstands help hair growth?

No. Handstand practice is extremely frustrating and stressful and a large cause of premature baldness in the movement community.

(…kidding, of course, but Google says a lot of people have this question, so we figured we’d add it in here).

🙋‍♀️ What Else Can You Do to Improve Being on Your Hands?

Whew! That was a LOT of information!

If you’re working on handstands, or plan to at some point in the future, I recommend downloading this guide so you can refer to it whenever you need.

📲 Download the Complete Tutorial & Simplified Cheatsheet

Download this entire tutorial for easy reference.

👉 Tap or click here and it’s yours.

We’ll walk you through each step to getting your first handstand.

Working towards, and maintaining, a solid handstand is great training.

If you follow the instructions and guidelines I’ve shared here, I know you’ll find the practice both rewarding and fun 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *