The handstand is considered the first and most important foundational skill any child doing gymnastics will learn. Handstands are performed consistently as part of a range of gymnastic skills and across all apparatus in both men’s and women’s gymnastics. It is vital that the handstand is taught and executed correctly, as bad habits formed early can make it more difficult to learn advanced skills such as back handsprings, round offs and front handsprings in the future.
We break the handstand up into 3 component parts:
- The Start: How to get into the handstand position;
- Body Alignment: What shape to make with your body when it is upside down;
- The Finish: How to safely exit from a handstand position.
Let’s work through these parts:
A. Start in a rocket shape.
B. Take a big step forward to lunge:
i. Arms need to be straight, “squeezing your ears”;
ii. Tighten your tummy muscles;
iii. Your front leg will be bent, foot flat on the floor with toes pointing straight ahead or turned out slightly;
iv. and your back leg will be straight, also pointing straight ahead or turned out slightly.
C. Reach forward towards the ground leading with your fingertips. Push off your front leg to kick your back leg straight up towards the ceiling. Fingers should be spread wide (Star Hands) pointing forwards, shoulder width apart.
THE HOLD: BODY ALIGNMENT
A. The aim is to create a straight line from your toes to your wrists.
B. Your weight should be spread evenly through your hands and fingers – your fingers and thumb are very important to help with your balance.
C. Keep arms squeezed into your ears… arms locked and no gap between your head and arms ensures arm, shoulder and back muscles are engaged.
D. Your head should be neutral with eyes spotting the ground between your wrists.
E. Keep tummy, glutes and leg muscles all tight! If these muscles are all “floppy” and soft, it’s a very hard position to hold.
F.Your aim is to create a straight line… no banana backs!
A. Split your legs. Remember that the last leg up is the first leg down. This ensures that you place your dominant leg on the ground first at the front of the lunge position.
B. Land back in your lunge position:
i. Keep arms straight, “squeezing your ears”;
ii. Keep tummy muscles tight;
iii. Your front leg will be bent, foot flat on the floor with toes pointing straight ahead or turned out slightly; and
iv. Your back leg will be straight, also pointing straight ahead or turned out slightly.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I TIP OVER?
No worries! Falling over is all part of the learning. If you feel your body tipping, allow your hands and body to twist in the direction you are falling so that your feet can return safely to the floor. Landing in bridge, whilst fun, is not always the safest exit – especially on beam! So, it’s important that we learn the appropriate way to exit a falling handstand.
Handstands are an extremely technical skill, but if taught correctly and practiced consistently, will provide a solid foundation for a child’s future in tumbling sports. It’s also a pretty cool trick to show to friends and family!