“I just don’t know why my handstands are SO bad,” an accomplished aerialist told me recently. “I know what to do, I have pretty good body awareness, but I just can’t stay balanced.” Handstand progress is usually s-l-o-w, but sometimes beginners are missing a crucial piece of info that, once put into place, allows them jump ahead in their balance ability right away. Seeing a student have that lightbulb moment and hold a handstand longer than ever, after just a single class or lesson, is one of my favorite experiences as a handbalancing coach! As I mentally sifted through the possible culprits for this aerialist’s inconsistent balance, I realized I had a catalog I could share that might help people who I can’t diagnose in person. So, roughly in the order that I’d address them in a student, here are eight roadblocks to holding a handstand into eternity.
Fear of falling over. If you’re afraid of kicking up too hard to your handstand because you think you might fall over and hurt yourself, you’ll rarely kick up enough to achieve balance. But if you feel safe both underbalancing (not getting completely inverted) and overbalancing (going too far, past vertical), then you can slowly work toward consistently kicking up exactly the right amount, in between those two.
The solution: With an instructor, learn to twist/cartwheel out comfortably and safely.
- Hands too far apart. Almost everybody untrained who does handstands for the pure joy of them puts their hands too far apart. When you want to hold your handstand for longer than a split second, most people will have more success if their hands are directly under their shoulders so that their arms are vertical and their weight can go straight down through their bones into the floor. This distance might be far narrower than you imagine (I like about 12 inches between the tips of my middle fingers).
The solution: Film yourself or ask a friend what they see; bring your hands narrower until your arms are parallel to each other. Then memorize the image of your hands on the floor the right distance apart, or note how many floorboards or tiles apart they are.