Some of the common issues I see in handstands are a short lunge, head out and improper balance.
A tip I got from Debbie Love was to walk heel to toe 4 steps and that should be the distance of step into the lunge. Elbows behind ears with an invisible straight line from finger tips to pinky toe. This lunge will provide the proper angle for athlete to stretch to the floor for their handstand.
Neutral head position is often tough for athletes starting handstands as they often feel as they will fall over if they don’t poke their head out. I prefer the athlete watch their fingertips touch the floor then look back the direction they came. This will allow for a neutral head position.
Balancing a handstand to hold for 3 seconds is often much more difficult than it may seem. Kicking legs and arching the lower back is the most common ways I’ve seen athletes try to balance and hold a handstand. I have my athletes clap their hands palm to palm and squeeze their fingertips so that their palms stay touching but there is a slight lift in the finger while the palm and tips stay touching. This allows the athlete to engage the muscles throughout their arms into the core. Pointing toes and engaging glutes, quads and hamstrings is crucial to holding a proper handstand.
The handstand is such an important skill for shaping as well as strength and when done properly helps all aspects of the athletes tumbling.
The handstand by far is the most crucial movement an athlete will learn when starting to tumble. This position will be the foundation of almost every tumbling skill. While learning this movement, conditioning is the most important aspect due to the full body strength and awareness needed to properly perform this skill, so strength is key along with overall flexibility.
When it comes to drills, the benefit comes from knowing how to attack certain key issues. A drill that is beneficial to help athletes feel comfortable upside down is Box Handstand, which takes the weight of the lower body off the athlete’s arms allowing for perfection of upper body positioning, along with alleviating any fears of being inverted. Wall Crawls is another drill that has dual use, allowing athletes to do a full body conditioning crawl up a wall until the athlete reaches a wall facing handstand.
When an athlete has a good understanding of upper body positioning, I like to then transition into lower body movement that puts them into the full weight bearing skill. Front lever repetition, learning to drive that back heel without breaking the upper body positioning and donkey kicks to levers.
I’m sure that everyone out there has at least given a solid effort in attempting to do a handstand. And I’m sure that some of us did them fairly well. But, we all have seen people try this “simple” drill and epically fail.
What I want to do, is give you a few techniques that we should all strive for, so that we can teach our younger kids the most important skill in all of tumbling.
First thing I’m looking for while teaching a handstand is the positioning of the arms, head, shoulders and chest, and lunge positioning. First off, in the lunge, I like my athletes to be in about a 45 degree angle from shoulder to back leg.
I’m also making sure that the athlete’s arms are not just by the head, but behind the ears, so to open the shoulders throughout. This will also help prevent the dropping of arms going into this skill, as well as how we approach cartwheels and round offs.
I’m then making sure that the athletes head position stays neutral throughout this skill. It’s so easy to have your chin raised, while looking for your hands, when reaching into the handstand. This will only cause a slight arch in the back, which is one thing we are really trying to avoid while learning the beginning/foundation skills of tumbling.
Let’s make sure that while we are teaching our fundamentals, that we don’t just pass on by these skills and drills. You ever want to know why a level 5 kid has a bad full? Check out their round off. Ever wonder why their round off isn’t too hot? Check out that handstand.
The topic for today’s edition of Drills=Skills is Handstands.