If you want to build an athletic upper body and fine tune your shoulders, then listen up, because this is only one of the many handstand benefits that will help you move better. It says a lot about how in touch with your body you are when you can go completely inverted and maintain this position. It shows complete muscular control. It shows courage. Most importantly, it shows dedication to yourself and to your training. In this post, we are going to go over the best handstand benefits and why you should do them, besides the fact that they look really cool.
Improved Motor Control
Nobody can doubt the fact that balancing your entire bodyweight on you hands requires excellent motor control.
The human body was not meant to be inverted, therefore, to be inverted is a struggle. You often notice this in beginners (including myself) when performing handstands. A beginner’s body will have a banana shape when in the handstand. Although this position still requires a good amount of motor control, it often can be though of as more of a strength position. This doesn’t mean that you don’t get any handstand benefits. You will still obtain many of the handstand benefits, however your motor control will need some work.
If you look at an elite gymnast performing a handstand, you will notice that their body is in a perfectly straight line from head to toe. This demonstrates perfect motor control. The athlete understands how to balance on their hands, contract their abs, use their iliopsoas and glutes, contract the quads and point their toes.
This is referred to as the hollow body position. The entire torso is braced and rigid. This allows the body to move through space in a more controlled manner not just in the handstand, but also in muscle-ups, levers, deadlifts, etc. Anything that requires your body to be braced and firm will benefit.
In his book Overcoming Gravity, author Steven Low describes in gymnastics how the handstand is the most important step in advancing your gymnastics career. If you take a room full of athletes and tell them to get into a handstand, the ones who have a better handstands have better motor control.
Learning this style of handstand takes months (sometimes years) to learn, but it is well worth it considering the handstand benefits you get in return.
Better Upper Body Mobility
Most athletes that I see have very bad overhead mobility. There can be many causes behind all of this. Two of the most common ones that I see are from sitting for long periods of time and from doing too much pressing work and too little pulling work.
Regardless, overhead shoulder mobility is definitely a major one of the handstand benefits worth doing the exercise for.
Weighted exercises, such as the overhead press, often place the shoulders in a susceptible position to become injured. Now just to clarify, I am not saying that the overhead press is a bad exercise, when done correctly it is perfectly fine. However, the low barrier of entry into the exercise causes many people to load excessive weight on the bar with bad form.
The handstand forces the shoulders into their safest position. The elbows are at about 45 degrees and the humeral head is securely in the glenoid fossa. The thoracic vertebrae are also forced into extension, thus helping to prevent kyphosis. By practicing and mastering the handstand, you can develop flexibility and strength in a safer manner.
Carryover To Other Sports
Any sport that requires overhead motions of any kind can benefit from doing handstands. When I first started weightlifting, my coach explained how doing certain gymnastics exercises can benefit a weightlifter. One of those exercises were handstands.
In order to be inverted, whether against a wall or not, your body activates every muscle in the upper body to support you. Thus making the handstand not only a great strength builder for the upper body, but also a great tool for body awareness.
When people perform most weighted overhead exercises (i.e. Presses) there is a greater temptation to cheat in order to lift more weight. This is often done by hyperextending the lumbar spine.
Aside from being potentially dangerous for spinal health, this is also programming bad overhead motor patterns for athletes who need overhead strength. It’s one thing to able to lift more weight, but it is totally another to do it safely.
If you ask most athletes why they do not train the handstand, they will tell you they are intimidated by the exercise.
Let’s face facts, it is not easy being upside down. But it is like any other fear, its all in your head and its an illusion. Once conquered, it will allow you to transcend yourself and reach a new level in your life.
This new found confidence is a definitely one of the handstand benefits most athletes need. If you show up to an event, all anxious, it is like ingesting poison and somehow magically thinking you will come out on top. It should be no surprise to anybody who regularly competes in events that this is not the case.
A simple quote from a fighting mantra explains all of this “Hard Training Easy Fight, Easy Training Hard Fight”. Simply put, if you get lazy and try to slack off during your training sessions for short term pleasures, then you will miss out on the joy of victory.
Yes, handstands are hard and scary looking, but if you really want to perform at your best and improve yourself, then you will do whatever it takes. Accomplishing difficult feats during your training will only serve to improve your performance during an event.
Huge Strength Gains
If you are not a gymnast and are taking the time to learn the handstand, then you are probably training to learn the handstand pushup, which is an enormous strength builder.
Earlier I mentioned that the weighted overhead press puts the shoulders in a more compromised position versus the handstand pushup. Since I don’t see too many lifters pressing their own bodyweight over their heads. You have an exercise that will not only build great strength, but also will keep your shoulders safe.
The handstand pushup can be performed against a wall, in fact, I recommend this for most people. However, if you can already bang out several of these and want a bigger challenge you can do them freestanding. This will require much more strength and muscular control.