From Head to Hands: How to Prepare Your Upside Down Body
Circus performers, callisthenic-enthusiasts, and yogis everywhere have been obsessed with mastering the perfect handstand for years. Their artistic displays vary from straddled handstands to one-armed handstands, but one thing remains constant—this upside-down masterpiece is the ultimate demonstration of strength and complete body control. Handstands play a crucial role in Gymnastics Strength Training, but for most of us, starting off can be difficult and scary. However, by experiencing the sensation of being upside-down in a safe and controlled manner, learning the perfect handstand becomes easy.
Headstands are a great tool to help you learn to control your body and increase your strength, while upside down. While practicing headstands can help improve everything from your spatial movement and awareness to your overall sense of balance, the effect they will have on your handstand is exponential! Start tackling your handstands by using these headstand tricks!
Many children have an inherent fascination with being upside-down. Playgrounds across the world are filled with kids hanging from bars with their legs in the air, smiles across their faces, and not a care in the world. If you take a room full of 5-year-olds and ask them to kick up to a handstand, the chances are that most of them will toss caution to the wind and fearlessly fling themselves up. Whether or not they successfully reach a handstand is another matter, but without hesitation, they will try.
Now, let’s consider another scenario. Imagine a room full of adults who have no gymnastics background and are asked to kick up to a handstand for the very first time. Looks of fear might begin to appear as they cautiously move their hands to the ground. Then, perhaps they will gently kick one leg into the air, being careful not to move too quickly. After a few minutes of failed attempts, violent falls, and maybe even a few tears of despair, they will resign to the sidelines, defeated by the sheer fright.
For someone with years of experience, being inverted will feel comfortable, even natural, but for you and me, it will literally feel like our entire world has been turned upside-down. Thus, enter the headstand. By adding an additional third base of support, the headstand removes many of the challenges of the handstand. It will allow you to slowly and gradually move your feet over your head, causing the fear of kicking up is disappear. For those of us who may not have upside down in decades, this is a complete game-changer.
Learn to control your body, starting with the most basic positions from our Online Training Courses.
What to Do
To begin training your headstands, place your hands on the ground about shoulder-width apart. Spread your fingers and focus on gripping the ground as if you were trying to palm a basketball. Next, place your head on the floor in front of, and in between, your hands. This should create a triangle shape between your hands and your head. After you have created your solid base, gradually lean forward to increase the amount of body weight placed on your hands and head. If you can, slowly begin to lift one or both feet off the floor, however, if you are unable to do this at first, don’t worry, you’ll get there!
As you become more comfortable in this position, place your knees on your elbows and begin to lift your feet off the ground for only a few seconds at a time. Once this tripod headstand position feels comfortable, start to slowly extend your legs upward. If you find that you are still uncomfortable being upside down, try positioning yourself close to a wall so that you are unable to tip over backward. As you do this, your weight should be centered between your head and your hands while you focus to achieve a perfectly straight line from your head to your feet. This is also a great place to practice keeping your legs together, locking your knees, and pointing your toes—all details that will come into play down the road as you train your freestanding handstand.
As mentioned, the biggest benefit of training headstands is the introduction to being inverted. This is followed closely by the opportunity to practice stacking your body end-over-end in perfect balance. You will find that balancing over three bases of support, instead of just two, allows you to feel in control of your body. By placing your head on the ground, in addition to your hands, you will be able to feel the small adjustments you need to make in order to perfectly balance your body. Learning to make these adjustments close to the ground will prepare you for the fine-tuned balance required for your handstand.
In addition, headstands have the unique benefit of helping strengthen your neck. Although it may not seem like it, your neck strength will be a very important factor in your handstand success. Practicing your headstands consistently will allow the weight of your body to gradually, and naturally, strengthen the musculature surrounding your neck—musculature that will play an important role in balancing your overall handstand balance. By focusing on the alignment of your body and “stacking” your body one section on top of the other, you will also be strengthening your core which, in turn, will increase your stability.
As you train, remember that you might not have not been upside-down in years. Do not become frustrated if your headstands prove difficult at first. Instead, continue to work on it. As you practice, you will improve. As you get better, you will begin to feel the benefits and satisfaction that come through successful Gymnastic Strength Training. Once you have mastered these basics, keep working to improve your balance by making small adjustments to your body position. You can also learn other tricks to control your body and build your strength with more handstand variations found in the GymnasticBodies Courses! Before you know it, you’ll be balancing on your hands everywhere you go!