One of my favorite push exercises lately has been the press to handstand. Ever since I suddenly was able to perform it (as you guys know i’ve been doing handstands for a while…), I’ve been training to master the exercise, and it’s tough. However, today i’m going to break the key elements to this exercise down for you guys to try for yourselves!
When first trying to learn this move most people fall into either one of two categories; 1) you got a strong upper body and bend your arms in an attempt to push yourself up, 2) you keep arms straight but just can’t lift those legs up no matter what you do. If you have tried it, or just try now; which do you end up in?
To solve both these problems I’ll now go through the press to handstand motion from bottom to top and add exercises you guys can try to develop the strength or flexibility needed to perfectly perform this move, however you should be aware that it takes both practice and patience to learn how to do this.
0. The Fundamentals – A strong core is a definite requirement to be able to press up into the handstand, I highly recommend you adding some core exercises to your workout program. Preferably hollow body holds, hollow body arches, knee raises, leg raises, imprints, dragon flag raises and side – and normal planks. All of these should be performed with focus on keeping the core activated throughout and with quality.
1. The Hands & Wrists – When starting to lean forward you most of your body weight on the wrists, especially if you keep your palms straight infront of you with your index finger pointing forward. This stress is inevitable. However you can point the thumbs forward instead to relieve some pressure but it’s not as effective.
Preparation: You should perform this warm-up here. Which also goes through the entire body in both static and dynamic stretching and prehab. These exercises provide the necessary steps to build a body that can resist injuries in general.
Note; Pressing up to the handstand with the arms bending, at any point, is not a clean press to handstand. When using correct technique you should not need to bend the arms for extra support on the way up. The bending disconnects the link between the wrist and the shoulders/chest. It’s a different exercise in itself.
2. The Shoulders & Chest – The most important link in this chain we’re working throughout the press is without a doubt the shoulders and chest. Why? Because the upper body connects to the lower body and utilizes strength in the upper back, mainly the traps. When performing the press you want to elevate the shoulders (shorten the trapezius) towards your ears and push the chest forward to open up the flow between the wrists and remaining parts of the body.
Preparation: Stretch this part of the body and perform a chest-opening exercise like this to really activate the correct part. Stretch before and after ever workout and hold each pose you choose to perform for at least 1 minute. To gain strength in these muscles perform exercises such as; Pike Push-Ups, Negative Press To Handstand, Handstand Push-Ups, Planche Leans, Planche Progressions, Dips, Scapula Push-Ups, Yoga Ball Presses, Straight Arm Dumbbell Raises, Straight Arm Dumbbell Sit-Ups, and Incline Push-Ups, to name a few. Reps should be around 8×4 or 45s for holds.
3. The Hips & Core – Moving along to the base in all exercise pretty much, the core and hip play a large role in this movement since these are the two components we’re actually trying to raise from the floor to above our heads. This is easier said than done, I know that. However, the key to the press to handstand is to center your feet, hips, shoulders and hands in a perfect line on top of each other, one part at a time. Only when your core is sucked in (looks like vacuum) and hips are placed on top of your shoulders will you be able to pull your legs up correctly. When this happens, you’ll feel it.
Preparation: In order to get a stronger core you’ll need to challenge your core repetitively with correct technique. Perform exercises like l-sit, tucked l-sit, leg/knee raises (hanging or laying), leg paddle, burpees, assisted headstand presses, jack-knifes, leg lifts and plank variations to challenge the core to get stronger. However, don’t forget that every rep you perform anywhere includes you hips and core, so think about your technique here and you’ll get extra core work done! For the hips I truly recommend you add this great 10 minute workout routine to your program! I love it!
4. The Legs & Feet – Last but not least, the legs and feet. Those things that feel like they weight a thousand kilos when first trying to lift them up but as time moves on gets lighter and lighter and eventually will just be levitating off the ground thanks to your great technique and strength. I recommend the legs to be straight at all times, which means you extend legs and activate all the muscles in your legs. Including your feet – they should be pointed, no matter your personal opinion regarding point vs flexed feet, the point really does make a huge difference here, so try it.
Preparation: I like performing back squats, front squats, deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts, air squats, box jumps, toe jumps and calf raises to strengthen the legs. Even though they may not really need to be the strongest part of the body for this particular movement they’re key to gain full body awareness and control. Your flexibility is your friend in this exercise, if you’ve got a great range of motion in the back and hamstrings/hips it’s much easier to push yourself up. If you don’t then do this; 1 Min Standing Forward Stretch (one leg at a time), 1 Min Calf Stretch Against Wall, 1 min Sitting Hamstring Stretch (lean forward), 1 Min Sitting Hamstring Stretch (left side, then right side). Want to perform even more? Again, do this.
All in all, that’s the basics of the press to handstand and what i’ve been doing to gain strength, mobility and awareness of my body in order to lift my legs up in the air into a solid handstand whenever I feel like It, which is a really cool feeling! My next step is to conquer the art of piked press to handstand (legs together) so I’m far from done! Good luck!