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How I Achieved The Freestanding Handstand

Long before I started training with calisthenics…

Long before I even knew what working out is…

There was a skill I wanted to achieve…

That skill was the handstand!

After many years of having this dream in the back of my mind…

This summer I finally nailed it!

Now I’m able to hold the handstand for 30s (or more) – at will.

In this article, I’ll share with you some of the challenges I faced, the most stupid mistakes I did, and the process that helped me achieve the handstand.

All of these with the goal to help you achieve the free standing handstand.

The 3 Biggest Challenges I Faced On Learning To Hold A Handstand

On my journey towards the freestanding handstand I faced numerous challenges.

Here are the 3 biggest challenges I faced:

Challenge #1: Wrist Conditioning

This is probably the greatest challenge regarding the physical aspects of handstand training.

Your wrists aren’t prepared to handle your whole bodyweight right away and so you have to dedicate a fair amount of time and effort to train them to do so.

Despite training my wrists every single day, it still took a while for my wrists to become “ready”.

Sometimes, even today, my wrists can get tired, if I train the handstand too much.

There were times that I had to take a break from certain handstand drills in order for my wrists to recover.

Unfortunately, the only solution, I’m aware of, is to wait for your wrists to become stronger.

Challenge #2: Frustration

The freestanding handstand is one of the most frustrating skills I’ve achieved so far.

There were days that I was totally “ON” and I could hold a handstand up to a whole minute(!) without any issues, thinking…

“I nailed it this time!”

Yet, during the next training I couldn’t even hold it for 10 seconds…

If you’ve been training with handstands, you know what that feels like.

But…

Is there a way to deal with this frustration?

The way I did it was… to not give up.

I knew that eventually I’ll be able to do it.

So, if you’re dealing with this type of frustration, whatever you do…

Don’t give up!

You may need to do some research…

You may need to do some adjustments to your training…

But whatever the issue, don’t give up.

If you do, you’ll not be able to achieve it.

Challenge #3: Arm Imbalances

If you’ve been reading some of my articles for a while, you probably know that I’ve broken my left elbow when I was 9 years old…

Long story short, my left arm is shorter than the right one.

As such, my arms don’t reach at the same height when extended overheads.

This influenced my handstand practice leading me into a slight sideways tilt [picture 1 – Before].

handstand alignment
Picture 1: Notice the slight tilt on the “Before” image.

How I Fixed That Issue

After I became aware of this issue I had to take care of it.

What I did was quit simple.

I chose 2 basic chest to wall handstand drills and I started to practice them at a very specific place [picture 2].

What made this place special is that I could spot myself.

So, when I went into handstand, I could easily know when my legs were in line and when not.

handstand wall
Picture 2: This wall allows me to notice when my legs tilt to the sides without the need of a spotter.

It didn’t take much time to figure out how to distribute the weight on my arms to be completely straight [picture 1 – right].

The 3 Most Stupid Mistakes I Forgot To Avoid

Why stupid?

Because even though I knew about these type of mistakes (from my training experience), I still did them…

Talk about blind spots and needing a coach…

Anyway…

Here are the mistakes…

Mistake #1: Not Being Consistent

This is the most important mistake I made.

When I started training for the handstand (around 4 years ago), I wasn’t very consistent with my training.

Some days I trained and some others didn’t.

I’ve even had 4-month breaks with no handstand training…

During that time, I didn’t think of it as a big mistake since I was focusing on other training goals.

It wasn’t until last year (after I completed my army service), that I decided to achieve the handstand no matter what.

It didn’t take long after that point.

Just 8 months of dedicated and consistent training.

Mistake #2: Not Getting Feedback

There are 2 types of feedback you can take in regards to your training:

  • Feedback from a training buddy/coach
  • Feedback by seeing how you perform on a video

I didn’t do any of them… 🙂

It was later on (around the 8th month) that I decided to get some feedback.

Only then I was able to see that my handstand wasn’t completely straight (as seen on Challenge #3) – thankfully it was quite easy to overcome that issue.

Keep in mind that during the time I finally got feedback I was already able to hold a handstand for a fair amount of time.

If I didn’t take that feedback, I’d still think that my handstand was completely straight even though it wasn’t.

In short, getting feedback is the best way to find out blind spots and other issues you aren’t aware of.

Mistake #3: Practicing Mostly With Free Handstands

Who wants to train with “mindless” drills over and over?

I certainly don’t. 🙂

But this is a big mistake.

You see, I was mostly training with free handstands.

I was going against the wall, I was kicking my feet and I was trying to balance myself.

But this doesn’t work!

Even though it’s more entertaining to just kick up into a handstand, it’s not a very effective form of training.

You have to train with the drills!

Only after I started to train with drills on a regular basis (I even abandoned kicking into free handstands for a while) that I was able to make serious progress and finally achieve the handstand.

4 Things That Helped Me Achieve The Handstand

Despite the challenges I faced and the mistakes I did, there are some things that I did correctly from the get go.

Here are the most important ones:

#1: Bridge Training

bridge exercise
Picture 3: The bridge and the bridge push ups are some of the best exercises for opening your shoulders.

You may be wondering…

What does bridge training have to do with handstand training?

Well…

One of the main handstand requirements is adequate shoulder mobility.

Thanks to regular bridge training, my shoulders were very mobile and strong in the overhead position.

As such, I didn’t have to spend a lot of time to condition my shoulder to become stronger or more flexible.

#2: Perseverance

Despite all the frustration that comes from training for the handstand, I never gave up my training and I always returned to my goal.

If I’d given up, I wouldn’t be able to achieve this awesome skill.

Perseverance is probably the most important factor in my handstand training success (or any success in general).

If you’re reading this and you’re training for the handstand, keep this in your mind and keep training until you achieve it!

#3: Daily Wrist Conditioning

As I said in “Challenge #1”, the wrists are the most limiting physical factor in achieving the handstand.

Since, wrist training doesn’t require too much time, I started to train my wrists every single day,

I was training with 2 sets of 10 reps with these 2 exercises:

These 2 exercises helped me a lot in the long run, since I was able to train more frequently with handstand drills later on.

#4: Having A Strong Core

Ab wheel roll out
Picture 4: Any core strengthening exercise will help you improve your handstand.

The handstand requires a very strong core since you must be able to control you whole body while you’re upside down.

Thankfully, after many years of calisthenics training, I already possessed a strong core and so, I didn’t have to invest too much time into it.

I just had to practice some simple body line drills to get used to the handstand position.

#5: Being Already Strong

When I started to train seriously with handstands, I was already far beyond the beginner level.

As such, I was able to adapt more quickly to the loading demands of the handstand.

I was able to meet the strength milestones more easily than a total beginner would.

For example, I didn’t have to spend time strengthening my shoulders with pike push ups, since I’ve already done that in the past, prior to my handstand training.

This allowed me train directly with handstands drills on the wall.

How I Finally I Achieved The Handstand

50s handstand. #handstand #calisthenics #workout #fitness

A post shared by Nick Anton (@nikolaos.anton) on

First of all…

How long did it take me to achieve the handstand?

Not counting my early attempts – since I was very inconsistent – it took me around 8 months – Counting from last November I was able to achieve the handstand around May.

The most important thing in my training was that I started to train with handstand drills every single day.

My 10-Minute Training Practice

Training for handstand every single day may seem like a big commitment to make.

However, it’s not that hard.

All I did, was to have at least 10 minutes every day dedicated to handstand training.

I’d just put on the time to 10 minutes and I’d practice with as many quality sets as I could until the time was over.

Some days I practiced for endurance, others with strengthening drills and others with balancing drills.

The rotation between different drills allowed me to train daily without the need to take a day off.

I put my 10 minute practice between my warm up and my main workout session.

This way I was always training for the handstand while being completely fresh and warmed up.

Why 10 Minutes?

This isn’t just a random number.

When I decided to train for the handstand every day, I started with 20 minutes.

While more time may seem like a better choice, it’s way harder to stay committed to it.

On the contrary, 10 minutes isn’t that much of a time commitment and you can easily find the time to do it.

In certain days, if you feel like it you can even have two 10-minute sessions during the day.

Lastly, what really helped me was my weekly assessments.

After every handstand practice, I was keeping a note to see where my weaknesses are.

For example, if I was falling forward, I knew that I had to train with the drills that will help me with that.

The Resources That Helped Me The Most

There are many resources that helped me achieve the handstand.

The far best resource available is Antranik’s guide:

This is probably the only handstand resource you’ll ever need.

Apart from this guide, there’s one more resource that helped me a lot:

Final Thoughs

Now, that I’ve finally achieved the handstand my journey is over… jk!

Now my main focus would be to master the handstand and be able to hold it for 3 solid minutes.

After that, I’ll focus my attention on learning some other handstand based skills, like:

Now.

Before closing off, I’d like to tell you something…

If you’re training with handstands, always remember this…

Don’t give up!

Keep training and you’ll eventually achieve it!