Fitness

Build Body Awareness Upside Down

While there’s some debate in the functional fitness world whether handstand holds, handstand walks, and handstand push-ups should be considered functional movements, I would say it doesn’t really matter.

 

Because…

 

 

People want to learn them.

 

They’re a cool party trick, they’re satisfying to learn, and they make you feel young and limber when you’re doing them (if you become proficient, that is).

 

As a former national level gymnast and now fitness coach of more than a decade, I have learned the biggest challenge to learning a handstand isn’t strength. It’s not even mobility, although that’s a close second.

 

The biggest limiting factor to handstands is a lack of body awareness upside down. People kick up but then they freak out because they have no idea which way is up and which way is down.

 

Thus, gaining body awareness is the first step in being comfortable upside down.

 

Below are five progressive exercises to focus on to build that body awareness.

 

Body Awareness Step 1: Inverted Box Hold

During a box handstand holds, your feet remain on the box while you invert yourself. They’re a great starting point to getting upside down, as they will keep you a little more safe and stable than a full handstand against a wall.

 

When you’re in this position, spend 5-10 seconds pressing your hands into the ground to get a sense of which way is down, and then a couple more seconds getting as long as possible in your spine toward the ceiling to engrain which way is up.

 

Make sure your body is as inverted (vertical) as possible on these. It helps to take a video to see if your torso is vertical.

 

 

  • Try 3 to 5 sets of 20 seconds where you spend 10 seconds focusing on your hands driving into the ground and 10 seconds lengthening your spine to the ceiling.

 

 

Body Awareness Step 2: Inverted Box Hold Weight Shifts

Beyond knowing the which way is up and which way is down, you also need to know your left from your right if you want to walk on your hands. And you most certainly need to be able to shift your body weight from your left side to your right side as you walk. These weight shifts are great for teaching just this.

 

The idea here is to shift your weight toward one side of your body and then gently lift the other hand two inches off the ground. Then shift the other direction and lift the other hand.

 

  • Perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 weight shifts per side.

 

 

Body Awareness Step 3: Inverted Box Shoulder Taps

These are slightly more advanced than the weight shift. This time, instead of lifting your hand two inches off the ground, lift your hand and tap your shoulder. This is also a great way to build balance and control upside down.

 

  • Try 3 to 5 sets of 10 shoulder taps per arm.

 

 

Body Awareness Step 4: Handstand Weight Shifts

Although you can do these with your back to the wall or facing the wall, I prefer them with your front facing the wall as it forces you to get into a better handstand position. So, if you can wall walk or cartwheel your way up to the wall, this is preferred.

 

If you’re doing them with your front facing the wall, focus on keeping just your toes and nose touching the wall. If you’re doing them with your back facing the wall, focus on being in a perfect hollow body position and lengthening your spine as much as you can.

 

The idea here is the same as the inverted box weight shifts, only now you’re in a full handstand position.

 

Check out the video for both variations: back to the wall and wall facing.

 

  • Perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 weight shifts per side.

 

 

Body Awareness Step 5: Handstand Shoulder Taps

Same as the above: You can do these with your front facing the wall or with your back against the wall. In either case, focus on a perfect handstand position and on moving slowly with control as you shift your weight and raise your hand to tap your shoulder just like you did during the inverted box shoulder taps.

 

  • Perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 shoulder taps per side.

 

 

Body Awareness Bonus: Freestanding Shoulder Taps

If you can do these, walking on your hands across the gym will be a breeze.

 



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