The Handstand Party Trick: Part One

Party Tricks! What’s your favorite?

     Every gym rat or fitness fanatic has that one thing they have practiced on and perfected, that they typically perform to generate an emotional response from an individual(s) around them. The desired emotion is usually “shock & awe”, and depending on the second parties’ gender, is hopefully followed up with a release of oxytocin. So what’s your “Party Trick”, a standing backflip, freestanding handstand (FHS), freestanding handstand push-up (HSPU), or do you impress with testosterone-induced demonstrations of strength?! Given the mentality of our audience, in the rare case that you do not already have a “Party Trick”, I would like to teach you one that is not only awesome, but also beneficial.


So what’s so special about a freestanding (or unassisted) handstand? The FHS is awesome for a few of reasons. First, it really challenges your neuromuscular system constantly activating proprioceptors to get your body in a stable position. And speaking of “stable”, additionally while working on achieving this position you will increase the strength of your core and stabilizer muscles. Naturally, these additional gains lead to more benefits such as increased throwing ability, increased strength on overhead lifts and movements, and more importantly injury prevention. Standing backflips are super cool, winning arm wrestling contest boost confidence, but learning how to do a freestanding handstand produces improvements in a multitude of physical performance areas. So… lets start training?!

There are several ways to progress to this unique party trick, but like all things in life before it gets complicated, it’s best to learn the basics! For the FHS, this starts with very simple lightweight exercises that increase your shoulder strength (and by “light” weight, I mean NO weight) The best way to train and strengthen your shoulder is through resistant training (Cotten’s opinion). First thing’s first, you’re going to need a couple of tools to help you get started; good news is they aren’t that expensive and can be utilized almost anywhere.


     There are three main types of Bands that we’re going to discuss here; Mini-Bands, Flexibility Bands, and Mobility Bands (all important). These are all simple tools that can help strengthen the ENTIRE shoulder. Let’s start with one of my personal favorites, MINI-BANDS.

Mini Bands

     Many different companies make mini bands and in my personal opinion you are not going to find one brand that is superior to the other. The reality of it is they are elastic bands that, eventually, will wear and tear with repeated use and time. But these little guys are key to strengthening those crucial sub-layer muscles that don’t always get that much attention e.g. Supraspinatus and Adductors. And just as there are an abundance of manufacturers’ for mini bands, there are just as many workouts that you can find to utilize them with. However, for our particular purpose, I would make sure that I was using these to work on specifically on the rotator cuff area; remember that to goal IS NOT to take these exercises to the point of muscle failure.

(These are also great for warming up the deltoid before weight lifting, and to get blood in the shoulder if you are experiencing and discomfort in your shoulder)

NEXT: Flexibility Bands

Flexibility Bands

     Flexibility bands aren’t much different from Mini Bands except that you can tie off “Flex Bands” to stationary equipment for convenient access. Personally, I keep one of these tied off to my monster-lite rack system that I can grab and give a twist or two around my hand and easily knockout a couple sets of rotator cuff exercise to get some blood flow in my shoulders before AND after my workout. Again, much like the Mini Bands, there are also a tone of exercises out there that you can play with to find out what works for you, and helps you strengthen all those supportive sub-layer muscles and stabilizers.

FINALLY: Mobility Bands

Mobility Bands

     These Mobility Bands are typically a lot thicker than any of the other bands mentioned above, and also have a lot more resistances. The main application of these bands is used for distraction, a mobility technique that is used to improve range of motion and impingement problems. One of my fitness guru specialists, Kelly Starrett, has several demonstrational videos on how to properly apply these bands in your fitness program.

Also, due to the bands strength and elasticity, these bands are also utilized to assist people on pull-ups.

These are commonly found in CrossFit gyms hanging from pull-up bars to not only assist people with pull-ups, but also as a training tool to help those learning how to execute a muscle-up. All these bands are useful and have a place in your gym and/or gym bag, and every one of them come in a variety of elastic strength, size, and color. It is important that you start from the bottom (meaning lightest) and work your way up into the more intense bands. One mistep or incorrect movement could put you in a world of hurt, and take you out of training for a quite sometime forcing you to start from day one week one; which we ALL hate.

On the next post, we’ll start to attack the topic that everyone is waiting for: Going inverted! But go ahead and get started on your hand stand push up (HSPU) strength with these modified tips.

Later Gym Junkies!


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