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Great Tricks To Try

Skills like hand balancing, hand spins, tumbling, flexibility tricks are serious tricks that can only be achieved through continuous training and practice. Hand spins and flexibility tricks are good way to keep your body in shape even when doing a solo act. While advanced hand balancing and flexibility skills are nicer when done in pair or with a group.

Walking and Jumping On Your HandsWalking and Jumping On Your Hands on Amazon

Dan had been practicing some of these skills for the past 2 years, at least. Do you think you can do better in a shorter training time?

 

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Impressive Hand Balancing Duo

We already had a video from Dan where he balanced on his head on a stump. Today it’s a little bit different as Jakes and Rhiannon join for some hand balancing coolness.

Tumbling Illustrated
Tumbling Illustrated on Amazon

Jakes neck strength plays a very important role when Rhi performs the one-arm handstand on his head and even though it looks kinda wobbly, it’s all good.

Check out the best book on learning how to perform the one hand handstand here.

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Extraordinary Head Balancing Moves

While a handstand takes some practice and time to achieve, it’s still a fairly easy move to learn and perform. On the other hand, freestanding head balancing is a whole different kind of beast which requires immense balancing capabilities  strong core and neck as well. And Dan in the video below definitely has one!

How to do the One Hand Handstand by Professor Orlick
ow to do the One Hand Handstand on Amazon

Enjoy this fantastic video on freestanding head balancing on a stump.

Do NOT attempt to replicate this if you don’t know what you’re doing. It can lead to very serious injuries, especially in beginners. I’d strongly recommend building a strong and flexible neck first and foremost. Find the best way to do this here.

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Six Ways to Get Into a Handstand

There are numerous ways to get into a handstand and in this fairly short video Al Kavadlo shows 6 of his favorite ones:

  • Kick-up with hands in the air
  • Kick-up with Hands on the floor
  • Frog Jump
  • Crow pose press-up
  • Headstand press-up
  • Straddle press-up

If you’re looking to get in the best shape of your life without a gym membership, Raising the Bar by Al Kavadlo is well worth the read.

The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing
The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing on Amazon
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23 Handstand Exercises For You to Try Out

There are so many handstand exercises and variations that they could keep you busy forever. Instead of trying to master them all at the same time, it’s far more effective to focus on one at a time.

This video from Calisthenic Movement shows a number of basic and advanced exercises that should give you enough inspiration to start your training today and master a handstand exercise of your choice.

Learn How to Back Flip in 31 Days
Learn How to Back Flip in 31 Days on Amazon

Basic:

Intermediate:

Advanced:

  • Freestanding Straight Handstand
  • Pike Press
  • Straddle Press
  • Tucked Press on Parallettes
  • Straddle Press on Parallettes
  • L and V Sit to Handstand on Parallettes
  • Frog to Handstand
  • Rolling HSPU (very cool!)
  • Freestanding HSPU
  • Tiger Bend
  • 90 Degree Pushup
  • One Arm Handstand
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Hand Balancing Training Variations

When it comes to handstands and hand balancing in general, there are many ways to train and progress. In this video we have a chance to see quite difficult hand balancing moves by Pablo Molina.

Walking and Jumping On Your HandsWalking and Jumping On Your Hands on Amazon

Starting with a straight handstand, Pablo goes on to walk on hands and perform various hand balancing moves, including press handstand and even unsupported headstand; but he also shows some amazing one arm handstand variations and handstand pushups on hand balancing stands, which make balancing easier and increase the number of stunts you can perform. Check them out here.

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Handstand Training – My Ten Cents! – Guest Post by Paul “Coach” Wade

If there’s one thing we can all agree on in the world of strength and conditioning, it’s this: The National Handstand Council (NHC) has done a freaking terrible job of promoting the benefits of the handstand.

Why have they failed? Well, partly because I just made them up. But that’s no goddam excuse is it? Superman is made up, and you don’t see Lex Luthor all up in your face, right? So he did his job. But the NHC? Jesus. Useless. Guys want to work their pressing muscles, and they hit that bench press. Or reach for the dumbbells and do some shoulder presses. Some of the hardcore dudes might work some barbell standing presses. But handstand training? Good luck finding that in a gym, right?

You suck, NHC!!

But luckily the strength world does have a champion for handstand training; a man who has tirelessly promoted the strength and conditioning benefits of the old upside-down work so effectively that he has pretty much become the face of handstands on this here internet. This hero’s name is Logan Christopher. When Dragon Door formed the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) to instruct athletes in all aspects of bodyweight training, I pretty much begged Logan to get on-board: he’s so much more than “the handstand guy”, but hell, nobody knows handstand training like Logan. History, methods, kinesiology, you name it.

The bottom line: you gotta have those handstands!

I have probably been doing some kind of handstand training since before most of you reading this were born. Bill Pearl used to say that no one approach to training would take care of you for your entire life, and this has certainly been true for me and handstands. In fact, my approach to handstands has gone through at least four different stages.

 

The Brutal Basics: Wall Handstand Holds

When I first started calisthenics, I basically did two pushing exercises: basic pushups and handstands against a wall. This was in my early twenties, and in jail: no weights, no machines, no benches—nothin’. It seems primitive by today’s standards, but looking back, god damn—what a wonderful way to start off! I’d do pushups to work my chest, triceps and front shoulders, then at the end of the workout I’d flip up against the wall and just try and stay locked out for as long as I could. I knew I was doing great work for my muscles as I felt the burn viciously intensify in my delts, traps and arms. Oh man, wonderful stuff!

Brett Jones

The great Brett Jones holds a perfect wall handstand—in Alcatraz!

 

I still look back on that early training and thank God I didn’t have access to a modern gym the way today’s guys do. Most wannabe strongmen nowadays sit on their asses on padded benches to press—or worse, they lie down! When you think about the artificial nature of this, you’ll realize how nuts it is. How often in the real world do you ever need to summon huge strength while you are sitting down? Or lying down? Hell, real strength is ground-based. Training while you are carrying your entire weight through the floor forces the entire body to work as a unit to become stronger. Think about it…if this principle is true when your feet are carrying your weight, how much truer is it when your hands are carrying your weight during training?

The answer: much truer. If you want to begin to really tap your strength potential, get on your hands, son.

 

In My Prime: One-Arm Work

I trained this way a few years. I eventually got to the point where I could easily hold wall handstands for over a minute, so I switched to one-arm wall handstands. Oh, fun fun fun, boys and girls! One-arm work does stuff for your body you would never imagine. Your joints have to lock harder to support you, training the hell out of those elbow tendons; plus, my hands became hugely stronger. Just supporting your weight entirely on one hand throws enormous stresses through the soft tissues, and even the bones of your mitts. It made my hands tough as hell—and not just my grip, but my wrist strength and finger extensions too. All with no grippers or external weights. In fact, I wasn’t even trying to train my hands!

Over time, I moved away from the wall and embraced old-school hand-balancing. Again, I used very few exercises. I worked with elbow levers, one arm elbow-levers, free handstands, and one-arm free handstands. I didn’t build much more muscle this way; but boy, did I get stronger! Plus, I was learning to use the muscle I had built already. Over time I fused these core techniques into one “super-technique”—the pushup into a one-arm handstand from a one-arm elbow lever. In reality, there’s not a huge amount of “pushing” in this move. Do it right, and you kick up with your legs, building a head of momentum that carries you up. But it is an amazing movement, and I still feel privileged that I ever learned it at all.

 

Max Shank lever

The mighty Max Shank busts out a two-arm elbow lever.

Tumbling Illustrated
Tumbling Illustrated on Amazon

I think it was during this period that I began to understand the true benefits of handstand training. It’s functional—it really teaches you how to use your body as it was meant to be used. I’ve heard a lot of writers diss on bodyweight, especially the idea that it’s a natural way to train. What the hell is natural about a handstand? They say. Well, I disagree with this attitude. Learning to hold the body up on the hands is natural—in fact, it’s practically hardwired. We just choose to ignore it. We are one of very few species that has chosen to walk exclusively on our hind legs—all other species (and our ancestors) naturally also used the forelimbs—the hands. When we are babies we begin to explore the world by crawling, by walking with our feet and hands.  We get up from the floor by pushing through our hands. When we run at high velocity and tumble over, we inevitably spin into a handstand, if only for a split-second. Handstand training is just a scientific extension of these very natural (but mislaid) movement patterns.

 

HSPUs Convict Conditioning-Style!

When I started coaching guys a few years later, none of them were interested in the arcane arts of hand-balancing. Elbow levers? Shit, why?! They just wanted to get as diesel as they could, as quick and easy as they could. Swole shoulders, boy! So I trained them with handstand pushup progressions up against a wall. Rest assured, I strenuously experimented and “pressure tested” these techniques in my own little “lab”: and just about doubled the size of my deltoids by doing so.

Man, if you’ve never worked your handstands like this, it’s a brutal and super-efficient way to build huge levels of muscle and tendon-strength. You begin with inverse positions to train your body to being happy upside-down, set against the wall. When this gets easy, the handstand pushups begin. Since you’ve pretty much taken the balance element away, all the resources of your body and brain can be devoted to pushing.

 

one hand handstand pushups

With convict-style handstand pushups, who needs barbells?

The effects are not unlike heavy barbell presses, but with one exception: they strengthen and build up the vulnerable shoulder and arm joints, instead of tearing them down. Howcome? For one, the hands are flat—instead of gripping as they push. The old-timers who trained me were convinced that gripping while you push (as in barbell presses, bench presses) causes all the elbow and forearm problems so prevalent in gyms today. The flat hand cures these. (In nature, guys pushing heavy objects always do it with a flat hand. So why do we clench our hands while pushing in the gym?) Also, your elbow and body positioning is much more authentic during handstand work—in the gym, guys are forever pushing their elbows out, putting the bar behind their neck, and so on—this is all unnatural and wrecks those shoulders. Another major point is that your range-of-motion is limited by nature during handstand pushups—yer head gets in the way. This change alone cures a huge amount of shoulder problems.

These progressions went on to become a mainstay of my book Convict Conditioning. I stand by this type of work for bodyweight bodybuilders, and guys who want to build muscle, strength and joint health without the balance element of traditional, free hand-balancing.

 

OBHB: “Old Bastard Hand-Balancing”

As it stands, my next “big” birthday is a few short years away, and it has a 6 in it…unfortunately, the 6 ain’t on the good side! In the last five or six years, my inverse training has taken another definite turn. I still love being upside-down, but these days I do things different. Gone are the super-heavy handstand pushups against the wall—in their place, I’m back to traditional styles of hand-balancing. I play with stuff like:

  • Perfectly straight, still, free handstands
  • Timed free handstands (with a body-curve allowed)
  • Asymmetrical free handstands (different arm and leg positions)
  • Handstand transitions: bridge to handstand, forward bend to handstand, etc.
  • Walking on the hands
  • Sideways walks on the hands (try it!)
  • Headstands and shoulderstands

This keeps my interest up, maintains muscle and strength, and keeps my shoulder girdle healthy. And more than that—it’s fun for me. After years of grinding out HSPUs, learning to use balance and equilibrium again is interesting. Discovering the similarities between grace and strength is enjoyable—creative, almost. Will I ever go back to heavy asymmetrical unilateral handstand pushups? Probably. Almost definitely, someday. But like old Bill Pearl said, you need to shake your training up if you want to stay interested and in this game for the long haul.

balance and strength

Balance and strength go together better than most folks realize.

In many ways, this kind of training makes me feel like I’m going back to my roots. My first real calisthenics mentor, Joe Hartigan, was a huge fan of handstands, or “inverse work” as he sometimes called it. For Joe, the most important element of this type of exercise wasn’t muscle or strength gain at all—it was the fact that you were upside-down, or “inverse”. He was convinced that spending time wrongside-up had amazing health benefits, like flushing the lymph system, toning the circulation, and filling the brain with large volumes of fresh blood (he felt that this “fed” the pineal and pituitary glands, the “master glands” of the endocrines, thus optimizing hormonal output). In fact, Joe lumped headstands and shoulderstands into the same group of exercises as handstands. He often performed simple headstands for prolonged periods. I sometimes thought he was crazy—and I wasn’t the only one—but his results weren’t crazy. The guy was a strength legend, pretty much up to the day he died.

Handstands and hormones? Maybe kid. Maybe.

***

So perhaps you can see just from my own brief training bio that there are many ways to skin that cat…many ways to work on those hands God blessed you with. Which is the “best” approach? Basic handstands, gymnastic elbow-lever tricks, HSPUs against a wall, or old-school hand-balancing…?

Hm. Let me answer this way. For many years I was kind of obsessed with finding the ultimate method of calisthenics. But since working more closely with Al Kavadlo—the greatest calisthenics coach in the world—I’ve realized that there is no ultimate way. If you are enjoying your training, and getting better without screwing up your joints, hell, you are winning the game. That’s what it’s all about kid.

Now go get on your hands.

Paul “Coach” Wade is the author of the best selling books, Convict Conditioning and Convict Conditioning 2. These books are a must have for anyone interested in bodyweight training.

 

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Balancing Compilation

This video contains a number of amazing balancing moves, including one arm handstand, human flag, headstand on a head, hand-to-hand handstand and many extraordinary feats from circus performers.

The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing
The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing on Amazon

A video that left the biggest impression on me was the one with a circus guy who went up and down stairs on his hands. What’s your favorite one among those in the video?

In case you want Professor E.M. Orlick to teach you how to learn a one hand handstand, make sure to check it out here. 

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How to do a Headstand for Beginners

A headstand is an intense display of upper body strength. To attempt it without proper preparation could lead to severe personal injury or permanent damage to your body. It is also probably not best for you to jump into something like the headstand without having any idea of what you’re doing. It’s important to build on your core and shoulder strength before attempting to learn how to do a headstand for beginners. This is one of the more enjoyable and extreme gymnastics moves to master, and it’s best to have someone with you to spot you when you’re first learning on the process of a beginner’s headstand. People commonly feel refreshed and revitalized after being in an inverted position such as the headstand.

How to do the One Hand Handstand by Professor Orlick
ow to do the One Hand Handstand on Amazon

Preparing to Enter the Headstand

  • While facing a sturdy wall, lower yourself onto your elbows and knees.
  • Keep your hands together in front of your head and place the center of the top portion of your head down onto the mat.
  • Make sure that you never put the back portion of the top of your head down on the mat.
  • If you can’t go exact center, further to the front is acceptable.
  • Keep your elbows fairly close together by lining them up under your shoulders. Keep your breathing controlled and steady.
  • Now, straighten your legs by lifting your knees and buttocks and bringing your heels off of the ground. Rock back and forth on your toes a bit to get loosened up.

Entering and Exiting the Headstand Pose

The last step to learning how to do a headstand for beginners is to actually do the headstand.

  • Start walking your feet, on their tiptoes, closer and closer to your head.
  • Once it feels right, lift one of your legs up to the wall.
  • Let your other leg follow the first one up; this is a great time for your spotter to step in and help you straightened up.
  • While you’re in this pose, take some deep cleansing breaths. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes and count to five.
  • Don’t stay in an inverted pose like this for too long at a time.
  • Make sure that you do this slowly and in a controlled way.

Part of learning how to do a headstand for beginners is to learn how to make every movement involved steady and controlled. It keeps you from injury as well and helps strengthen your body against its own natural resistance.

 

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How to do a Headstand Yoga

Sirsasana is another name for the Yoga Headstand, which is a challenging posture within the inversion category. Other inversions include postures such as the handstand, the forearm balance and the shoulder stand. There’s a wide array of benefits to be had from learning how to do a headstand in yoga, but one should never attempt a headstand without taking the time to properly learn the correct alignment and setup for this particular yoga pose.

Preparation and Alignment

To get prepped and aligned for the headstand, get into your hands and knees.

Trampoline Handbook
Trampoline Handbook on Amazon
  • Lower onto your elbows, making sure your elbows are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Bring your hands together, and interlace your fingers, making sure to tuck under your outer most pinky.
  • Lower the crown of your head down and place it on the floor, cup your head with your interlaced fingers.
  • As if you were coming into the downward facing dog position, bring your hips up over your shoulders by walking up towards your head.

The Full Headstand

Now that you’re prepped and aligned, you are most on your way to learning how to do a headstand yoga. All that is left is to go into the full headstand.

  • Bring your knees and bring them in towards your chest while lifting both of your feet into the air.
  • Allow yourself to stabilize, and then straighten your legs. Do your best to bring both of your legs up at the same time.
  • Push up into the balls of your feet and turn your thighs inwards just slightly.
  • Push down deep into your forearms.

You should try to hold the pose for at least 10 breaths count. Congratulations, you just learned how to do a headstand yoga! To get yourself out of this pose safely, just slowly lower each leg one at a time on to the floor.

Benefits and Risks

There are both physical and mental rewards to the yoga headstand. You’ll find that this pose will increase strength in your arms and legs, as well as positive effects on your pituitary glands and lungs. Some claims state that the headstand pose can alleviate stress and depression, by changing your outward perspective of things. It is a fact that the act of acting against the gravity helps with the cleansing of our intestines. However, if you should suffer from high or low blood pressure, a heart condition, or back/neck injuries, you should not attempt this pose. People without sufficient upper body strength can also compress their spine and damage their body in doing this pose. Make sure that you are totally prepared and capable before attempting the yoga headstand.

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