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So You Want to Learn to Walk on Your Hands

While handstand talking isn’t exactly crucial to functional fitness, I understand the appeal. It’s a pretty cool party trick!


Here’s the thing, though. Unfortunately we can’t just “show you how to walk on your hands.” If takes time—a lot of time! If you’re OK with that and are willing to put in the time, here are some basics concepts, and things you can do, to get closer to walking on your hands.


  1. Positioning


To balance on your hands, your lower body—your hips and feet—to be parallel with or over your shoulders (In a perfect gymnastics world, you wouldn’t be over rotated at all, but we’ll accept a bit of an arch in your spine to help you be more balanced).  You also need to be able to control your midline (spine and pelvis) while inverted.  If you lose control of your body, you will have next to zero control while on your hands.  Think about how hard you work to hold a heavy barbell or pair of dumbbells overhead - the same principles apply to the handstand.


Let’s look at the pictures below:

In the first picture, my guess is this woman isn’t going to stay upside too long. Her hips and feet are behind her shoulders. This means gravity will immediately do its thing and pull her to the ground. It’s almost impossible to balance a handstand in this position.


The middle picture is obviously the most ideal position. His feet, hips and shoulders are stacked perfectly on top of one another, and his spine is in a safe and beautiful position. It’s IDEAL, but it’s not that realistic for most of us.


The third picture is indeed an ugly handstand, but my guess is he’d beat the woman in the first picture in a handstand contest. He’s got a slight arch in his back, but it’s much easier to stay balanced in this position, and much easier to walk on your hands, when your bodyweight is moving in the direction you’ll be walking as it is here.


(A gymnastics coach would kill me for suggesting this is an acceptable position, but if your goal is to show off handstand walking on the beach to your friends, then a bit of an extended spine might be needed if you’re not yet an elite gymnast).


  1. Learn how to fall


It’s imperative that you know how to fall out of a handstand. If you don’t, you’re going to end up smacking your back, or your head, on the hard ground. Learning how to fall safely will also make you less scared to send your bodyweight over your center of gravity as you start to walk on your hands.

Two options include:

Tucking your head and rolling: (although this can still hurt on hard ground). The best way to practice this when you’re first start is from the wall. Check out this video for a great demo:

Cartwheel dismount: Although it sounds tricky, really all you have to do is turn your hips 45 degrees to the side as you’re falling, and then step down. This is my favourite dismount and usually the easiest if you don't have the best control yet in your handstand.


  1. Freestanding Handstand


Now, in an ideal world, you would learn a freestanding handstand before you learned how to walk. If you can hold a handstand without walking, then walking is an absolute breeze!  On this note, even if you CAN walk on your hands, you should still always be working on your freestanding handstand to develop better control and awareness.


One great drill to practice your freestanding handstand control and balance is to use a wall, but instead of kicking up with your back to the wall, cartwheel up (or wall walk up) so your chest is facing the wall. Once you find your balance, pull your toes off the wall and see how long you can balance for a couple inches from the wall. If you come back to the wall, reset a moment and then pull back off the wall gently and try again. Here’s a video for clarification:


Now I could go on and on listing all kinds of different progressions and drills to get you better at handstand holds and walks.  But not all progressions work the same for everybody.  My suggestion if you want to pull out some handstand walking for your next party trick is to get in touch with your coach for a private session to learn the proper positions and structure a progressive program to get you upside down more often.

Coach Terrence