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Handstands are awesome.

First, they look really cool and you can make beautiful shapes while in one — case in point, the amazeballs Nadia Sharif in our main image. Second, they are great emergency exits from inverted moves. If you can comfortably hold yourself in a handstand, you can slide down into one and hold it while you get the rest of your body sorted out. Third, they are great conditioners for inverted poses like aysha, because the arm/shoulder position carries through from one to the next.

Handstands can also be really scary and difficult, and it’s important to do them with proper technique both for safety’s sake, and to make sure you’re getting the best benefit from doing them.

Handstand hints

There are a few tried-and-true things you can do to improve your handstands … or to make sure you have a good base technique if you’re just beginning.

PLEASE make sure you have a spotter and that you are using proper technique when you first begin. Old habits are VERY difficult to break. Learn the proper technique and build your strength, THEN break the rules. 😉

Check your body position

Your hands should be at shoulder width and the shoulders should be shrugged up next to the ears, with the tension/push starting all the way at the bottoms of your lats. The key to a stable handstand is tension, rather than balance.

We spend so much time drilling shoulders back and down that this one can be tricky for pole dancers to wrap their heads around. Note: wide-set hands can be very dangerous — if your hands could slip, or your elbows could buckle because your arms lack support from your shoulders and lats. Your lats have much less push power when your arms are at an angle rather than straight up and down.

Body should be a straight line: shoulders stacked over hands, hips stacked over shoulders, feet stacked over hips. Head should be directly between ears to begin, and you should be looking forward, not down toward the floor (if you look at the floor you may also quite naturally arch your back, and you don’t want that!). As you become more comfortable you can move your head around a little to find comfortable positions, and start to play with counterbalance and an arched back, but until you can hold your body keep those eyes forward!

Conditioning exercises

There are lots of great conditioners for handstands. Downward dog. Hollow body (crucial for body alignment!). Ball/block pikes. L handstands. Handstands against the wall.

This video has several good conditioners as well as good visuals on basic handstand position and technique.

And here’s a video from the lovely and super powerful Sarah Scott. <3

And here are ball/block pikes. These are fantastic as you work toward press handstands because they offer some support while you learn how it feels to stack your body slowly. The pike is shown at 0:40 — note her beautifully stacked body position!!!
pike handstand training on ball

Make sure you know how to properly and safely come out of a handstand, too. The easiest and most straightforward emergency exits involve coming out the same way you went in, or cartwheeling out to the side.

Happy handstands!

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