If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to do a Handstand properly, this Blog series is the place to be. The Handstand tips and drills in these articles will lead you to the strongest Handstand practice you’ve ever had. With that said, let’s get started!
This installment focuses on the all-important 1st step: Hand placement in Handstand.
Step 1: Hand Placement In Handstand
I’m starting with this fundamental element of Handstand because it paints the larger picture for how your stack is going to end up. Fear not, we’ll dial in the rest of the hand details from there. The big debate (although I personally don’t think there’s anything to debate here) is the question of stacked grip vs. wide grip…
Stacked grip wins. I repeat: Stacked grip wins.
Sorry wide grip. You’re just a not functional hand placement in Handstand for developing strength and endurance over the long term.
If you learned a wide-grip Handstand in Yoga, I totally get it. I was there too. The main problem with this grip is simply the lack of bone stacking. When you practice Handstand with hands wider than your shoulders, you are conditioning the compensation of other muscles that don’t necessarily need to be used. Said another way, it’s not the most efficient way to make the shape.
Sure, you can learn to Handstand by muscling through it with wide hands. Or you can learn to Handstand by stacking your bones and using less energy exertion of your muscles, and thus hold a cleaner Handstand for longer.
The items in the rest of this article leave some room for person refinement, but this is one correction I make over and over in Handstand students everywhere, and the moment they try the proper grip, it’s like they have a whole new Handstand in their pocket.
Step 2: Hand & Finger Alignment
If you ask 10 different instructors about the right hand placement in Handstand, you’ll get 10 different alignment cues….
- Line up your middle finger with the outside of the head of your shoulder
- Turn your hands so the crease of your wrists are parallel
- The webbing between your first 2 fingers should be pointing forward
- Turn your index fingers out to face 10:00 and 2:00
- And so on….
So who’s right!?
Well….all of them. And none of them.
Here’s the deal. The human hand is f*&king complex…..like really complex. So your ideal hand placement in Handstand is going to be different than mine, and different than the next person. Much in the same way they don’t make only 1 size of glove, there is more than one way to rotate your hands in a Handstand. Let’s take a look at the finger cues that are easiest to remember AND the most effective:
**WARNING: PERSONAL PREFERENCE AHEAD**
For my Handstand, I prefer to make the #11 with my index fingers and spread every other finger from there (the 1st picture). It helps me begin to make a line with my joints because, spoiler alert, a clean Handstand is really just a stacking of all the joints up the chain. Thus, I like to start my stack with the very 1st joints in the arrangement.
My ideal line connects my finger joints to my radioscaphoid joint (wrist joint on the inside when palms are face down) to my elbow to to the inside of my shoulder.
The best way to test your preferred hand placement in handstand is simply to try on a few different arrangements in Plank position. Your body is going to tell you the most natural position of your hands for weight-bearing exercises like plank, and eventually the progression to Handstand.
Hold Plank for 30 – 60 seconds in each hand position and take note of any sensation in the wrists and palm. Lean into the insides and outsides of each hand and eventually find the placement that feels the strongest. It’s usually a slight leaning inward towards the index finger and thumb side of the hands (the inside).
With any/all of these different grips, one thing that remains constant is using spread fingers vs fingers close together. They should be wide enough to slide a nickel in between each pie slice that is made when the fingers are spread. This allows you to grab more of the floor and get a better feel for your Handstand surface.
Step 3: Handstand Grip
Once you have your desired rotation of the hand and fingers spread, the final piece of the puzzle in learning how to do a Handstand is to grip your surface. This is one piece that I see forgotten all too often, especially in new students.
A flat and lazy hand is not the best base for weight-bearing exercises, especially one in which your entire body weight is coming down onto your hands. Thus, start to practice your Handstand grip.
Simply put, this grip requires actively pulling back through pads of your fingertips, so much so that your middle knuckle on the index and middle fingers begin to lift. I hear yoga instructors say things like:
“Grab the ground like it’s a basketball”…..and I disagree. And yes, I’m guilty myself of having said this.
Gripping a basketball is bending at the 1st knuckle and we want to be bending at the 2nd. Notice the difference between the two pictures below
The obvious difference is the contact points to the earth and that the “basketball grip” doesn’t make much sense for learning how to do a Handstand.
In conclusion, proper hand placement in Handstand involves:
- Keeping your hands stacked under your shoulders, not out wide
- Spreading your fingers and find a comfortable rotation of your hands
- Gripping your surface by pulling back on the pad of your fingers
You got this.