The pinnacle of CrossFit party tricks. The ultimate in children saying “you can’t do that. Not even Timmy’s parent can do one of those!” The handstand.
The second most sought after movement in CrossFit gym is the handstand *instert hold, pushup, or walk*
Why though? There isn’t a normal or even extraordinary situation where a handstand will be more efficient than walking or running. If you hit fatigue and bail incorrectly, you’ve got a one way ticket to contracting face to ground disease. The only obvious reason to do it, for the uninitiated, is because it looks cool!
Well, this crowd pleasing movement, when done right, is an excellent way to understand our own bodies far better than we would performing “normal” exercises such as a squat or deadlift.
The Mental Reset
Let’s look at how toddlers learn to walk:
Assisted Sitting Upright ->Sitting Upright -> Climbing Up to Stand -> Assisted Standing -> Unassisted Standing -> Assisted Walking -> Unassisted Walking -> Running
Now let’s look at how we teach adults how to handstand walk:
Foot Assisted Headstand -> Headstand -> Wall Walk (Climbing up on wall to handstand) -> Wall Assisted Handstand Hold -> Freestanding Handstand -> Partner/Wall Assisted Handstand Walking -> Unassisted Handstand Walking -> Handstand Pirouettes and Obstacles.
Are we catching some similarities?
The beauty of a handstand is that we aren’t used it it. It’s foreign in every way to a human that has only walked on their feet for the first 30 years of their life!
As we go through life, we get so used to walking that we no longer have to think about all the coordination that needs to happen for us to move around. When we have to learn handstands, it takes our brains right back to when we were toddlers and we have to become aware of all the muscular contractions we have to make to perform a handstand.
When we become more aware of our muscles it becomes easier to become more aware of what we need to do with other movements. When we learn how to control our abs in a handstand, it becomes easier to brace for a back squat. When we learn to hold our bodies up by pushing the floor away, our overhead squat position improves and we get stronger as a result.
There just isn’t quite any other movement that has this affect across the board for athletes.
Other Handstand Benefits:
Other than kinesthetic awareness (knowing what our body is doing in movement), we can see some obvious body building benefits as well.
Handstands without a doubt create a stronger core. Holding just a headstand requires an insane amount of balance and static contractions of the abs and lower back (also known as isometric). Learning to handstand walk will also create a need to for obliques to become even stronger to provide lateral balance (side to side).
Up next would be your shoulders. You have to hold your entire bodyweight up with just your arms. Trying holding a back pack over your head for a minute with straight arms and tell me how hard it is on your shoulders? Now, imagine trying it with your whole body overhead. That is quite a burn that is created from holding a handstand.
Mobility may be less obvious but for most Americans with a desk job have poor mobility in their mid-back and chest (thoracic mobility). A handstand is a great way to teach the body to break the habits that created the poor mobility and open up the previous mentioned areas. Regularly working on handstands can help your posture for sure when executed correctly.
Lastly, breathing is another less obvious issue when going upside down. When you’re a coach, however, you see a lot of forehead veins and winded athletes when any handstand movement is done in class. Because how novel a handstand is to the human body, starting out athletes will hold their breath in an attempt to put all their effort into the handstand. In reality, a good handstand requires us to breathe, otherwise you are limited in your abilities by how long you can hold your breath. As athletes progress in a handstand, they become more aware of their breathing. This translates to more control in other movements because athletes know they can contract muscles without holding their breath as well as being able to keep heart rates down in conditioning pieces.
How To Start Doing Handstands?
I do not recommend trying it on your own due to the fact you can fall on your head if you aren’t careful. Having a trained teacher is always the best route with getting a handstand.
The best place to go would be a gym with a certified coach, like Vegvisir CrossFit, where the steps are all laid out for you and all ya have to do is give your best effort!
Even better is that we are offering a Gymnastics Course that is for all levels of athlete whether you have a 10 second plank or can handstand walk a mile!
The challenge starts on January 18th and runs until February 13th! With options that include personalized programming for the exact movements you want to learn, Saturday specialty group class, and 30 minute personal skill sessions, it is a perfect opportunity to learn or improve your handstand!
With packages starting at $40/2weeks, all ya gotta do is email us at email@example.com to reserve your spot! We only have 7 spots left!