How to Do a Handstand: Get Your First Handstand in 30 Days

Today we teach you how to do a handstand!

A handstand is one of the coolest exercises ever, but it’s also one of the most advanced moves to learn.

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place.

Today you start your journey to the Upside-Down!

We'll start your journey to the Upside-Down with Handstands today!

Ah, not that Upside-Down…we’ll keep you in this dimension.

We’ve helped many of our coaching clients achieve their first handstand and today we’ll share with you how it’s done with this guide!

We’ll treat it like a video game, progressing you from complete noob to Level 6: Handstand Master. 

We’ll go over the following (click to flip to that section):

The tutorials ahead are from our premium course Nerd Fitness: Handstands, which I would encourage you to check out if you like what you see. It includes even MORE instruction, a skill-tree leveling system, plus exact directions on what to do, for how long, and when to advance.

Alright, brace yourself to get flipped-turned upside down.

Are Handstands Good for You? (3 Reasons Why Handstands Rule)

Jim pretending like he's Luke doing a handstand.

At Nerd Fitness we LOVE handstands like Eleven loves waffles.

Eleven is determined to start doing handstands. But she needs to get her grub on first.

Here are 3 reasons why handstands rule:

#1) Like other bodyweight training, there’s no excuse. If you have room to stand up, you have room to practice handstands.

#2) It recruits DOZENS of muscles in your body.

From arm strength to wrist mobility to core strength to shoulder mobility and muscular endurance, handstands do it all.

Rebel Leader Steve showing you how to kick up to a handstand.

When you are trying to balance, it makes your body work as one complete unit.

#3) It scares you – yes, that’s a positive. We grow outside our comfort zone and for many people, just the thought of a handstand is enough to make their palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, vomi…

Whether you have to perform in a rap battle or do a handstand, confidence is key.

…nevermind.

The point is that the handstand is just as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one.

How scared do you think this guy gets on a regular basis?

Whatever you do, don't try a handstand like this your first time. Or maybe ever...

That’s Coach Jim!

Master of the NF Fitness Universe, and our lead trainer for our Handstands Course and Nerd Fitness Coaching. You’ll be seeing a lot of him in today’s article because Jim can do handstands in his sleep.[1]

The Secret to Performing a Handstand

The hardest thing about handstands is actually the mental component.

Sure, we need to build strength to support ourselves upside-down, but even that hurdle is overblown.

A proper handstand actually starts to feel easy. 

That’s because once you’re balanced and aligned, it becomes uber efficient. Just as you don’t exert yourself much if you stand straight with good posture, a good efficient handstand is the same way… it will soon start to feel effortless.

Actually, the biggest hurdle to overcome – especially at the beginning – is the mental fear.

Don't be scared of handstands. It's not like anything spooky from ST.

The voice/feeling in the back of your head that says “you could get hurt doing this!” SCARY!

And I won’t sugar-coat things, you CAN hurt yourself working on these skills… but it’s no different than if you walked into the gym first day, slapped 315 lbs on the bench press and gave it a go.

Or went out and tried to run 13 miles without training.

The exercise itself isn’t dangerous, unless you attempt TOO much, too quickly.

If you wouldn’t load up a bar to deadlift 500 lbs on your first day in the gym, why do so many people just kick and fling themselves up into a handstand, failing repeatedly, hoping one day they’ll “get” it?

Don't try to do a handstand your first day practicing! Work up and progress as directed by this guide.

There’s a smarter way!

How do we overcome this fear and keep ourselves safe? Just like learning any other fitness skill: slow, easy, successful steps!

These small victories accumulate over time to bring us to our goals safely while having a lot of fun.

Are you ready to learn?

I'm glad Jack here wants to do handstands. But maybe he could be more chill about it.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Read on for ways to safely progress to handstand mastery!

Handstand Progression Warm-Up Routine

Folks from all over the NF Rebellion do handstands!

For any handstand exercise, there is going to be a significant amount of stress on the hands and wrists. So, it’s important you stretch and warm things up.

Here is a video from our NF Handstands course going over some of our favorite wrist stretches to prepare to get upside-down. Go through each stretch about 10 times.

Let’s spotlight a few of these Handstand Warm-Up exercises:

Forward and Back Wrist Stretch:

Rocking can help gain wrist strength, critical for doing handstands.

Lifted Palms Wrist Stretch:

Simply lift your palm off the ground for this stretch.

Reverse Palm Stretch:

Reverse your palms like so for this handstand stretch.

Backhand Palm Stretch:

Do this stretch with your backhand facing the ground.

Upside Down Wrist Stretch:

Another stretch for your handstand progression.

The trick with wrist stretches is to move as many different ways as feels comfortable. Feel free to make the warm-up your own!

The shoulders are another stressed area in the handstand. There are several ways we can prepare them for work

A few rounds of jumping jacks:

Jumping Jacks are a great cardiovascular bodyweight exercise

Or arm circles

Arm circles are a great way to warm-up for your handstand!

That will get the blood moving and the area ready.

From here, we’ll begin our journey leveling up your Handstand Progression.

We’ll start by having you work with some balance drills and some positional drills.

Nothing too crazy, and in fact some of these might seem TOO EASY. That’s fine! That’s what we want, remember?

We’re using small victories to motivate us. Landing on your head is not a great way to motivate anyone.

Don't progress so quickly that you hurt yourself in a handstand.

Want someone to build you a custom made progression plan for doing your handstand? Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program will do just that, plus your coach can review your movements through our app so you’ll know your training correctly and safely.

Level 1 Handstand Progression: Quadruped Rocking

You may be thinking that feeling the balance of a handstand is going to be brutally difficult.

Not so!

We can start quite easily on our hands and knees in the quadruped position.

Steve showing you how to do quadruped rocking, a great workout for doing a handstand.

From here, we will simply rock forwards and backwards on our hands.

Seem familiar?

If you did the wrist mobility we described above, it’s the same motion!

Rocking can help gain wrist strength, critical for doing handstands.

Isn’t that handy?[2]

As you are rocking back and forth, feel where the weight rests in your hands.

  • When you rock back, it sits more in the heel of your hands. 
  • When you rock forward, you’ll feel it in your knuckles and fingertips.

Where do we want it in the handstand?

Right around the knuckles.

This is a balanced spot – similar to the balance you find when standing. You don’t sit all your weight on your heels, and you don’t lean all your weight forward, gripping your toes hard into the ground, do you?

Find and feel that balance when you rock.

When should you move on to Level 2 Handstand Progression? 

Now would work!

Level 2 Handstand Progression: Hollow Body

The hollow body is one of the best ways to engage the midsection and stabilize the body. It will help to give your handstand a good shape.

The hollow body is a great exercise to practice doing a handstand.

Do you need to master the hollow body to master the handstand?

Not necessarily, as there are plenty of handstands out there that are a bit banana-shaped.

The one and only Jim doing a banana shaped handstand

But the hollow body will help you create a more efficient position.

#1) Start by laying down a yoga or exercise mat on the ground and laying on the ground face up.

Start by lying on your back like so.

#2) Think about pressing your lower back down into the ground and engaging your midsection like you’re coughing. You should still be able to breath!

#3) Once the midsection is set, tuck your knees to your chest and hold your shins like you’re getting ready for a wicked cannonball.

Grab your legs like you are doing a cannonball.

#4) Holding the shins will help you maintain that lower back and midsection position.

Still feeling good? 

Then try rocking!

Try rocking your hollow body once you get comfortable.

  • Rock your body forward and back slightly from the upper back to the lower back, like a rocking chair. 
  • Head and feet stay off the ground. 
  • If you are stable then you should move as one unit.

If you need more of a challenge, reach your arms by your ears, keep the knees tucked, and rock some more.

Extending your arms will up the difficulty of this handstand workout.

Without the hands holding the shins, the midsection really has to keep engaged in order to give you a smooth rock.

With any of these positions, work to rock for a full 15 seconds under control. 

Once you can do so with arms extended, progress up to Level 3.

Level 3 Handstand Progression: Crow Pose

To enter Crow Pose, move forward from the Quadruped Rock position so that your knees are on the outside of your arms. You can even bend the elbows a little and rest your legs on them.

The crow pose can help with wrest strength for doing hand stands.

Rock forward in the same manner as before, putting a little more weight on the hands and a little less weight on the feet.

Start by barely lifting your feet off the ground for crow pose.

Important: this isn’t Assassin’s Creed… We are not making a leap of faith here!

Don't make this crazy of an attempt when doing your crow pose. Start easy.

Don’t jump!!! 

We are simply looking for less and less weight on the feet.

Take things slow and easy – rising up on the toes when you can. When you are ready to pick the feet up and hold yourself off the ground on just your hands, it should come naturally.

The lift in crow pose will help you gain strength for a handstand.

Be sure to grab into the ground hard to hold and control yourself, and feel free to put down a pile of pillows or mats in front of you if you should fall!

Once you’re able to get both feet off the ground comfortably and safely, it’s time for Level 4 Handstand Progression.

If you find yourself stuck at the crow position or any other level, we are here to help! 

Our coaches can review your progression and form to help you advance onto the next level!

Level 4 Handstand Progression: Wall Walk

In this level, we’ll get started working toward something that actually looks like a handstand!

The wall walk will help you build strength for a handstand. Be careful here.

All we’re trying to do with this exercise is support our bodyweight on our straightened arms (just like the front plank or push-up).

You'll start a wall walk by first getting comfortable in a plank position.

So, the first level of this exercise is to simply get yourself up into the top of a push-up and hold. If that’s too hard, put your hands up on an elevated surface and/or rest on your knees and hands instead.

Once this is mastered, level up by simply lifting your hips in the air into a down dog position!

Before getting on the wall for our handstand, we'll do a downward dog.

From here, it’ll be a matter of getting your feet onto a higher and higher surface. Note: putting your feet up something even a few inches off the floor counts – small steps!

You can use something as simple as bumper plates:

Bumper plates can help you raise your feet for handstand prep.

As you progress, add more bumper plates (or whatever you’re using) so your feet are higher and higher.

Once you are supporting yourself with your feet on a high box, try walking your feet up the wall. (Think of it like a really tall box!)

Steve doing a wall walk as part of his handstand progression workout.

Be careful at this step: Be sure you have enough energy to walk back down safely and second, that you don’t walk too close to the wall and risk flipping onto your back!

See the next section on pirouettes to safely exit these wall walks if you happen to “go over!”

With each of these variations, we’re looking to build up to a solid 15 seconds under control before moving forward.

Once you’re at the point of lying vertically against the wall, you’re on your way to leveling up to a full handstand! 

But first, we need to talk about how to bail safely.

Level 5 Handstand Progression: How to Bail out of a Handstand

As you start to get better with Wall Walks, and you practice getting closer and closer to completely vertical while upside down, there’s going to be instances where you start to “tip over.”

In order to safely return your feet to the ground, you’re going to want to do what we call a pirouette:

It's very critical you practice this bail as you progress in your handstand work.

How to bail out of a handstand:

  • Get into a wall handstand.
  • Shift your weight to one arm (the planted arm), allowing the other arm to move.
  • Drive one leg into the wall (the one that’s on the same side as the planted arm), and lean the opposite leg forward.
  • Gravity pulls you around, and lets you lower your feet to the floor safely.

Steve showing you the "pirouette" so you can bail out of your handstand safely.

This is one of the most important skills you can learn as you develop your handstand practice, as it will allow you to safely exit any handstand without any risk of injury as you develop your balance!

Once you feel comfortable bailing out of a handstand, my dear rebel, it is time for Level 6!

Level 6 Handstand Progression: How to Do a Handstand

We are now ready for you to try a handstand!

It’s going to come down to you slowly but surely leaving the safety of the wall.

First, just try to take one leg off the wall during your wall walk:

Lifting one leg during a wall walk is how we'll start our full handstand.

When you’re comfortable taking one leg off, trying switching them!

Once one leg feels comfortable, the trick will be switching legs like so!

The objective is now is to switch your legs in a slow, smooth manner – one lifts off the wall while the other simultaneously moves back to the wall. 

Once you get comfortable with this, it’s time to take both legs off the wall!

When you have both legs off the wall, you are doing a handstand! Woot!

BOOM! Your first handstand!

Are you doing it right?

A good way to tell would be to record your handstand practice and review it against the videos here to check your form.

Want to have an expert review your form? Check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program! Our spiffy mobile app lets you send video of your handstand directly to your coach, who will provide feedback so you can perfect your technique.

They’ll also build a workout program that’s custom to your situation, which will have you doing handstands like Luke Skywalker in no time!

4 Tips and Tricks for Doing Handstands

It's now time to share with you some handstand tips and tricks.

Nothing beats patience and hard work, but there are a few tips and tricks we can provide that will allow you the best chance for success.

#1) Make sure you go through a proper warm-up: We’ve given you several options for the wrists and shoulders. Not only will a warm-up help prevent injury, but it will get the muscles and joints properly prepared to get the most out of your training.

#2) Prioritize Your Handstand: You can work the skill on its own time, and it won’t interfere or be interfered by anything else, but what if you’re doing other exercises during your workout?

When do you handstand, when you’re training in a swamp?

Luke rocks one arm handstand, but he also has the force. And yoda.

The best time to work the balancing drills (like your wall walk) is at the beginning of your workout, after you’ve warmed up.

These skills require concentration and a fresh focus to really benefit and progress with them.

Trying to balance after you’ve exhausted yourself with a tough cardio session is an exercise in futility (pun intended).

The best time to work the positional drills (like your quadruped rock) would be sometime during your strength session, and before your cardio.

These drills are not as dependent on completely fresh muscles, but we still don’t want to try and hold ourselves upside-down after a grueling workout.

#3) Don’t do too much, too soon.

We’ve mentioned this a million times because it’s so important. Taking on too much too soon is a way to develop bad habits and possibly injure yourself.

Don't go too quickly or you may end of bashing your head against the wall.

Take your time! Enjoy and really master each step!

#4) Take it Easy: In the same vein, we want to look for success.

What do I usually see when people practice handstands: Someone kicking up 100 times and kinda getting a handstand once or twice. How much sense does that make?

While we might not be batting 1,000 with all our attempts, but we should be looking to successfully complete around 8 out of 10 attempts. If we’re not? Then we might have taken on too much, too soon!

Let’s wrap up this guide and give you some next steps for your handstand practice.

The 5-Minute Rule: Practice Handstands Every Day and Be Amazed at What Happens

Now you know how to progress into a full handstand!!!

Commit to 5 minutes a day. That’s it. But do it every day.

I’ll see a lot of people go all in for a single handstand session, and then not touch the skill for a week or more.

Dan Gable once said, “If it’s important, do it every day.”

Now this is a simplification, but with handstands, this is ESPECIALLY important.

When you first start out, your arms and shoulder may only be able to do 5 minutes before they are DONE.

Doing them for a short time each day is the best strategy to improve strength, endurance, and balance.

Wayne is stoked that he learned to do a handstand today!

Want help progressing with handstands from here? I’ve got 3 great options for you!

#1) Our course NF Handstands includes more instruction, a skill-tree leveling system, and exact directions on what to do, for how long, and when to advance.

#2) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to complete handstands, get stronger, and even eat better, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get strong, get healthy, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, your turn:

Have you ever tried to kick up into a handstand?

What’s the one thing holding you back?

What questions can I answer?

-Steve

PS: One day I’ll be able to type articles like this while doing a handstand. 

Jim, our lead trainer for Nerd Fitness Coaching, makes it look so easy:

Jim really does make handstands look so easy.

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Photo sources:[3]

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