Along with being fun and challenging, the handstand an important maneuver to incorporate into your parkour routine. Handstands are considered a fundamental technique in gymnastics because they improve strength, balance, and proprioception (a sense of your body’s relative position in space). All these are basic building blocks for a good parkour routine. Practicing and performing the handstand regularly will help take your parkour to the next level. Still, first, you need to learn proper technique.
How to Properly Perform a Handstand
- Practice walking your feet up a wall.
- Learn to kick up.
- Pay attention to alignment.
#1. Walking Your Feet Up a Wall
Learning the handstand can be intimidating at first. Being upside down is not a natural position for the body, and it is normal to have a fear of falling. You can conquer this fear and build the upper body strength necessary to perform a handstand by walking your feet up a wall.
Start by finding a solid wall and make sure you have plenty of open space around you. Kneel on your hands and knees facing away from the wall. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and your feet should be close to the wall, but not touching it.
Begin by raising your hips with your hands and feet flat on the ground so your body forms and inverted “V” shape. Bring one foot against the wall and press firmly into the wall while pressing your hands away from the ground at the same time, keeping your core tight. If you feel strong here, raise your other foot and press it into the wall.
To begin with, this may be as much as you can do. As you build strength, you can continue to walk your hands further in towards the wall as you walk your feet higher up the wall. Eventually, you will be able to walk your body into a completely vertical position against the wall. When you can accomplish this, try to hold yourself in this position for 60 seconds. Once you master this, it is time to learn the kick up.
#2. Learn to Kick Up
If you want to be able to do a handstand anywhere, anytime, you need to learn how to kick up. Learning the kick up is the first step to being able to perform a free standing handstand. However, at first, you should practice against a wall for stability and support.
This time you will face the wall rather than facing away from it. Start on your hands and knees with your palms on the ground shoulder width apart. Your hands should be about 12 inches away from the wall. Raise your hips with your feet flat on the ground so that your body is in the inverted “V” position, and begin walking your feet toward your hands to bring your upper body into a more vertical position.
Try to keep your back as straight as possible and your shoulders engaged during this step. When your hips are as high as you can get them and your upper body is close to vertical, raise one leg and straighten it above you. Now, spring lightly off your second leg and swing it up to meet the other leg.
You may need to support yourself by leaning against the wall at first. Don’t get discouraged! With practice, you should be able to kick up into a handstand without touching the wall at all. As with walking your feet up the wall, practice holding yourself in this position for up to 60 seconds at a time to train your balance and build strength.
#3. Pay Attention to Alignment
Once you can balance yourself in a handstand without using a wall for support, you will be able to perform the maneuver anywhere and incorporate it into your parkour. It is still important to focus on the proper alignment so that you can continue to progress without injuring yourself. As you practice, you will notice that small adjustments in your hand placement and body alignment have a huge affect on the outcome. Here are some basic alignment principles to keep in mind as you move forward.
1. Pay Attention to Your Hands
Keep your fingers spread wide and press your palms firmly into the ground. Imagine distributing the weight evenly across your fingertips, knuckles, and the base of your hands. Doing this will help you balance while preventing stress and possible injury to your wrists.
2. Keep Your Shoulders Engaged
Make sure your shoulders are fully extended and strong. Take any angle out of your shoulders by placing your hands no more than shoulder width apart. If you are doing it properly, your shoulders should feel tight and engaged in this position.
3. Stack Your Body
Ideally, your elbows, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should all form one solid line from top to bottom. This means you need to keep your core tight and avoid slouching your shoulders or swaying your back. Squeezing the muscles in your stomach and back will help keep everything straight.
4. Relax Your Head and Neck
Avoid tucking your chin into your chest or craning your neck to look forward. Your head works as a counterbalance and determines the position of your spine. Keep your spine straight and maintain your balance by holding your head and neck in a neutral position.
5. Keep Your Legs Together
Squeezing your thighs together and keeping your legs straight while performing a handstand will help you keep your balance. Eventually you will be able to balance while moving your legs into different positions, but first, you need to master the basics.
Keep these tips in mind, and you will be doing handstands in no time. Remember, practice makes perfect, and a little bit every day will go a long way to incorporating the handstand into a part of your parkour routine.