Cover Photo by: Jiggo Montenejo
Ever since I was young, handstands have been my favorite fun trick to do. I learned how to do them as a young gymnast and the fascination of being upside down never left me. Good thing this fun trick is a full body exercise that has a lot of benefits (not to mention it looks great in pictures!)
The first benefit of handstanding is upper body strength. Putting your weight on your hands will definitely toughen up your wrists, arms, shoulders and upper back. A lot of balancing is also involved when you’re upside down, and balancing means a lot of muscle adjustments. Here, your core (abs, hip flexors, lower back and thigh muscles) engages to maintain your alignment and hold the handstand. The key to holding your handstand for more than 10 seconds lies in core strength and muscle stabilization. Aside from strengthening and improving balance, doing handstands can also help destress by promoting blood circulation, relieving tired legs and feet and just pumping blood to your head and chest.
There are a lot of exercises you can do to help you with your handstand practice. Here are some exercises I do:
- Knuckle raises with wrist deviation- Face the mat on all fours. Rotate your wrists inwards, with your weight at the back of your hands, your folded fingers facing you. With straight elbows, raise your thumb and fingers until you’re balancing on your knuckles and then slowly go back to starting position. Repeat 10x.
- Fin pushups – Use the back of your palms, fingers facing each other, you can be on your knees (half pushups) or on your toes (full pushups). 10 reps.
- Fingertips push ups – Palms down, hands curled up so only fingertips on the floor, on your knees or full push ups. 10 reps.
- Arm circles – rotate both of your arms at the same time, going forward 10x and then backwards 10x.
- Pipe stretch – use a pvc pipe, holding it with both hands. Grip with fingers facing away, start with a manageable distance about 4 inches from your shoulders, slowly bring the pipe forward towards your hips and then slowly over your shoulders towards your back without changing your grip. Repeat while progressing and shortening the distance between your hands. The closer your hands are to each other, the more strenous the exercise will be.
- cat and cow pose – face the mat on all fours, protract your back and push your belly in with your eyes to your navel, hold for 2 seconds and then retract or arch your back, look up and lengthen your tummy, hold for 2 seconds. Repeat 10x.
- cat and cow pose on a TRX plank – feet elevated on the TRX strap, cat and cow pose. Repeat 10x.
CORE AND BODY ALIGNMENT
- hollow holds – lay down on the mat, lift your legs and arms up a few inches off of the floor, keep your belly tucked in, your arms near your ears and protract your back by pushing your shoulders up, eyesight on your hands. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 4x.
- TRX plank walk in place – while in a front plank position, protract back with locked elbows. Raise your palms off the floor one at a time without losing plank position. Repeat 20x.
- handstand facing the wall – hands can be 6-12 inches away, feet or toes touching the wall, hold for 30 seconds, repeat 4x.
- handstand facing the wall with shoulder taps – each arm alternates in tapping the opposite or the same shoulder, 20 reps, repeat 4x. (Click here: shoulder taps)
- wall runs – start from one side of the wall, walk/run to the other side and then repeat on the other side going back. 2 reps. (Click here: wallrun)
Reema Chanco took gymnastics in her early years and revisited it by attending Adult Gymnastics Class in her late 30s. She is a fitness trainer who specializes in suspension training and vibration training. In her spare time she plays team sports and her two faves are ultimate frisbee and basketball. Like her Facebook page here.