hand stand

Master the Handstand

A progressive workout to help you build the strength to execute the fitness-testing move

It’s a cool party trick, sure, and the ability to execute one earns you bragging rights in the gym. But athletes who can do a handstand have also clearly mastered something else: Body control. “Being in control of your body, which is a must during this skill, will help you in everything that you do athletically,” says Danielle Gray, a Tier 3 trainer at Equinox Marina Del Rey. That includes things like how fast you can rotate your arm as you throw a football to being more explosive in track workouts.

What’s more, a handstand is practically a total-body workout in and of itself, says Gray: Starting from the floor, you’re building finger (your digits work the whole time to keep you balanced), wrist, and forearm strength. Your shoulders are working hard pushing into the ground while your back is assisting them and your core is key in keeping your ribs in so you can maintain that “number one” body shape. Even your lower body—from your glutes to your quads, hamstrings, and calves—is working. Finally, all the muscles in your feet, ankles, and toes are turned on to keep your toes pointed. From a mental standpoint, it also shores up endurance and mental toughness.

But, even the fittest need practice to master the shape. That’s why Gray created this progressive routine to help athletes of any level build the strength it requires. “The moves go in order from basic to most complex. When you find your threshold, stay there, work on it, then you can progress to the next move,” says Gray, noting that even beginners should be able to get to the fourth exercise. “Keep in mind this isn’t easy,” she adds, adding that it’s important to listen to your body. Still, doing this routine two to four times a week (at the beginning or end of regular workout or on its own) will get you there, even if it takes a few months (Gray’s estimate for the average gym-goer, though this will of course vary based on body awareness coming in, athletic background, and more).

Complete two sets of each exercise before moving on to the next. Take 30 seconds to 1 minute rest between sets of the first 5 moves. Take 1 to 2 minutes rest between sets of the last three.