The Handstand Walk

As you’re probably no doubt already aware, the contest of the month for September is the Handstand Walk, a challenge that builds on all the strength and inversion work we did throughout the month of August. How do you know you’re ready to turn yourself upside down and go for a walk, though? Try performing five handstand hip taps (five on each arm) while keeping yourself in a tight hollow position (for instructions, see the video here.) If you can do that with ease then you’re good to go.

Once you’ve determined that you are ready, the next challenge is to break away from the wall and take your first step. Here are three tips for getting into handstand-walking shape.

Turn your hands out

Holding your hands straight limits your range of motion at your wrist, so be sure to turn them out slightly which will allow your forearm to travel on a further angle forward.  This will shift your weight slightly in front of your balance point while still keeping your body in a tight position. Walking is just keeping our balance underneath a forward falling weight so now you are set up and ready to go!

The next two tips are so much easier with a spotter, so be sure to find a handstand buddy.

Learn to fail safely

Handstand walking is not that hard. The real difficulty often lies in wrapping your head around the idea of being upside down and purposely shifting your weight. One way to work with your brain’s natural defensiveness about the idea of being upside down is to have a safe plan for getting out of the position safely should you need to do so.

There are two easy ways to get out:

1. If you’re falling straight over top you can tuck your chin and shoulders and lower yourself into a front roll.

2. If  you’re falling to the side, push through a straight arm in the direction you are going to almost round off out of it.

Be sure to practice with supportive soft mats around you and ask a coach to show you and your partner how to spot these movements properly.

Go for long walks with your partner

Just like your parents helped you learn how to walk for the first time, your partner is going to help you get your first handstand walk.  Spending time learning how to feel your weight shift from hand to hand as you travel forward is so valuable in developing this skill.  Your partner’s job is to allow you to move your weight in front of your hands and start to take a few steps rather than keep you from putting your feet to the ground.

Spend 15-20 minutes following this approach each time you are in the gym, and preferably with a friend, and you may never want to use your feet again!


Duncan McNeill is a coach and co-owner at Alchemy CrossFit.

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