Handstands Tutorial: Learning Handstands From Scratch (2021)

handstand tutorial

Posted On December 2, 2019

“It’s through handstands that we stop looking at the ground, and instead find ourselves upside down and staring at an azure sky.”

Handstands present us with a complicated problem that needs to be solved de novo. Just as we have learned to walk on our feet, we must be humbled again by total incompetence. Our brain is moulded by novel stimuli. Just as learning music, languages and logic can develop our minds and activate new neural pathways, submerging ourselves in the world of calisthenics can stimulate neurogenesis and can have a beneficial effect on cognitive pathways related to memory and learning.

Handstands are sufficiently complicated that they require our entire focus. There are a million things to think about. Every second we need to make miniscule adjustments in muscular tension, in shape, in finger pressure. In the same way that Buddhists enter a state of Zen, handstands allow us to put aside our external thoughts and focus our minds on a single aspect of ourselves: balance. Like sitting cross-legged in a white room with no windows and no doors, we find ourselves without distraction and able to achieve complete focus.

Physically, the handstand is very demanding. For beginners it is an icon to strive for; for the initiated it is the perfect tool for maintenance. There is no good core workout without a handstand. It is simply one of the best exercises for the entire body. In addition to the core, we also emphasise the deltoids and triceps, two muscles primarily responsible for straight arm strength. The physically demanding nature of handstands gives them a relatively high-risk profile.

Learning Handstands


There are 4 main aspects of preventing injuries when practicing handstands in calisthenics.

1. Warm Up


Complete a sufficiently long warm up (10 minutes minimum) that focuses on the wrists, shoulders and lower back.

2. Gradual Progress


Don’t try to progress too quickly, stick to your level. If you’re unable to hit a full handstand, build up to it, don’t force it.

3. Hard Surface


Make sure you are using a sufficiently hard surface. Soft surfaces will, over time, result in wrist pain.

4. Correct Shape


Make sure you maintain a correct handstand shape. If you arch or ‘banana’ in your handstands, you are putting a great deal of pressure on your lower back, which will, over time, result in back problems.

Handstands in Calisthenics 


In calisthenics, handstands are widely incorporated as both static holds in their own right, but also as transitions to other more complicated static holds such as planche. Sometimes they’re even used as nuances in freestyle routines. Handstands are very versatile in calisthenics. There are many types and more importantly ways to get into handstands. Try them for yourself!

Here is a great comparison article on The Differences between Handstands in Calisthenics and Handstands in Yoga


Calisthenics classes and Handstand workshops in Melbourne


We are planning to launch handstand workshops in St Kilda, Melbourne. These will be an awesome way to learn handstands, socialise and connect to a calisthenics community. You can express interest in handstand classes here – once enough people express interest we will send out an email with the handstand workshop details!

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
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