What Makes a Strong Handstand?

Ok, this topic always comes up in conversation. Well, in many of my conversations.

There are a lot of myths that surround handstand strength and in general calisthenic related strength skills. So, for this blog I will take you through what makes a strong handstand and what doesn’t.

First and foremost, let’s quickly address the biggest myth in handstand strength. Which is “You need a strong core to do handstands”. Honestly, I don’t know how this one started, for some reason when someone goes upside down, “yeah that’s core, has to be core…”

The function of the core is to do many things but to balance you…would be a no. Yes, having a strong core will help with many things such as helping your deadlift, squat. When you are standing upright on your feet, you’re not consciously using your core to stay upright. So why then in a handstand when you are standing on your hands suddenly everything changes?

The main muscles being used to stand on your feet, are your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves for a very basic overview. Now in a handstand your arms become your legs so it would be your shoulders, traps, triceps and forearms that are going to keep you up.

In order for you to have a strong handstand these muscles need to be as strong AF! The stronger they are, the easier a handstand is. This applies across all levels in a handstand and hand balancing.


  • Can’t planche: Your front delts and traps are probably not strong enough.

  • Can’t press to handstand (flexibility aside): It’s going to be those traps and shoulders that aren’t getting your ass up.

Your shoulders and traps fall into what’s commonly called the shoulder girdle. The shoulder girdle is the key to supporting your body in a handstand so these need to be really strong. The easiest way to do this is chest to wall stands and build up time in this position, ideally over a minute. This will not only get you used to being upside down but will strengthen the shoulder girdle and the triceps and forearms.

Just like any work out accessory work should be performed to complement the main exercise. In handstand training that would be doing some sort of row (ring rows or a weighted rows are some examples here) and some sort of planche training to stress the front delt.

These types of exercises will greatly improve one’s strength for a handstand. As I have said before if you have read one of my posts before, handstands are hard. Learning to balance on your hands is hard.

Don’t let strength be a reason you don’t learn how to balance. Afterall strength gaining is a simple task. It might not be that enjoyable but if you do it consistently, it will happen. The rest of your training will be come more enjoyable.

Lastly all this is good, but how to put it into practice?

Having a program to follow is the most ideal way to get strong and achieve your goals. If you are looking to gain strength and want a simple no nonsense approach to doing so email me at david@handstandman.co.uk

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