THE LITTLE HANDSTAND PROGRESSION LADDER

If you want to learn to handstand, this ladder is essential, but even if you don't, striving to master this ladder will still do a lot of good things to your body... plus you'll be able to hold a One-Arm Wall Handstand.

LET'S TALK ABOUT IT...

Take on The Little Handstand Progression Ladder and you'll have to build strength and mobility through your wrists, elbows, triceps, shoulders and thoracic spine. You'll have great arms and a fun way to train.

To Master it, we train handstand strength drills two months out of four in The Strength Sessions Programme, then all the other pushing drills will give you good carry over. The L-Sits, Planche drills, Bent-Arm Handstands and the Push-Ups will all help. Master this ladder and you'll have to be strong, lean and have great arms. That would be nice, right?

PROGRESSION 1: PRETEND HANDSTAND. FEET UP.

CRITERIA: 

–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Torso within 11 degrees of vertical
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling off until after allotted time

WAFFLE

Most folks can do this. Sort of.

The lock-out of the arms and the hamstring flexibility to make it look good aren’t always there at first. Many people who haven’t done this sort of training will find their wrists woefully lacking in ‘preparedness’ too.

So be patient if it looks easy but then feels like a massive shock to the system. It happens to the best of us. Once you’re over the initial few months of shock, you’ll most likely make rapid progress up the first half of this ladder. It designed it like that. Gives you time to get used to the whole ‘upside down thing’ before you need to be really strong.

PROGRESSION 2: 90 DEGREE HANDSTAND. FEET ON WALL.

THESE ARE THE CRITERIA:

–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Torso within 11 degrees of vertical
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling down until after allotted time

Unless you’re one of those unfortunate sods who keeps sliding off the wall (try going barefoot perhaps), this should be quite easy after the first progression. It’s just here to make sure you’re ready to start climbing the wall.

PROGRESSION 3: STRAIGHT HANDSTAND. DIAGONAL TO WALL.

CRITERIA: 

–> Hands must be within one metre of wall
–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Body line must be straight
–> Breathing must be happening
–> No falling down until after allotted time

WAFFLE

Now it looks like a handstand! Master this, then we get intimate with the wall.

PROGRESSION 4: STRAIGHT HANDSTAND. CLOSE TO WALL.

THESE ARE THE CRITERIA:

–> Hands must be within 10 cm of the wall
–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Body line straight (or slightly piked asd long as ‘Dish’ position is perfect)
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling down until after allotted time

Here we move much closer to the wall…now it really could be handstand. Don’t forget to grab a friendly spotter who has a vested interest in you staying alive and plan and practice your exit strategy well. When you’re just learning this, every step is that little bit more scary than before, that’s as much of a challenge as the strength itself. Don’t rush from one progression to the next, spend time allowing your brain to get used to the position and your shoulders, triceps and wrists will be glad for the time to get stronger too. Check your form criteria at each rung of the ladder, are shoulders still locked and externally rotated? Are your shoulders still elevated? Is your body-line straight or have you lost your posterior pelvic tilt?

PROGRESSION 5: STRAIGHT HANDSTAND. RIGHT AGAINST WALL.

CRITERIA: 

–> Heal of hands must be within 2cm of the wall
–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Body line straight
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling down until after allotted tim

WAFFLE

If you are good at getting into this position quickly, you may find this is actually easier than the last position. In this position, because you are so close to the wall, you’re more stacked (more vertical: shoulders over wrists, hips over shoulders, feet over hips) so there’s actually less strength required than with your hands further from the wall. The challenge: it’s in your head isn’t it? As long as your wrists are ready FYI...listen to them, you need them.

PROGRESSION 6: ‘HEAD IN’ HANDSTAND. FACE TO WALL.

THESE ARE THE CRITERIA:

–> Chin must be tucked, eyes looking up the wall
–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Body line straight
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling down until after allotted time
–> Heal of hands must be within 2cm of the wall

For the next progression, you simply have to get yourself in the same position as last time, but now you have to move to the ‘Head In’ position. It’s not much different strength-wise through the shoulders and arms, but your abs will probably do a lot more! It’s a good training position to work your Dish as it’s easier to tuck your pelvis with your chin tucked.

I make you do it for the stomach strength and the confidence and awareness that comes from being able to hold a handstand whilst looking up towards your feet. It’s a bit scary at first, so the usual cautionary points apply: plan your exit strategy, use a spotter, move into the position bit-by-bit.

PROGRESSION 7: MOSTLY ONE-ARM

CRITERIA: 

–> Weight must be shifted to one side
–> You must be able to do it on both arms (haha)
–> Your body must be aligned in the correct position, hips centred over the working arm
–> Heal of hands must be within 2cm of the wall
–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Body line straight
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling down until after allotted time

WAFFLE

As if all this wasn’t good enough, for this progression and those beyond, we work towards holding a One-Arm Handstand on the wall. Both strength demand and the awareness and control needed shoot up massively, so progress slowly and patiently please. Maske sure you can DOMINATE each stage before testing the next. You don’t fluke this stuff; you master it step-by-step.

It’s growing list of criteria now, I’ll give you that!

PROGRESSION 8: ONE-ARM, PLUS FINGERTIPS.

THESE ARE THE CRITERIA:

–> ‘Spare hand’ must only have fingertips in contact with the floor (yep, hence the progression name).
–> Weight must be shifted to one side
–> You must be able to do it on both arms (haha)
–> Your body must be aligned in the correct position, hips centred over the working arm
–> Heal of hands must be within 2cm of the wall
–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Body line straight
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling down until after allotted time

Getting pretty serious now. If you’ve mastered the last stage, you should be able to ‘soften’ your ‘spare’ arm and lift the heal of that hand leaving only the fingertips in contact with the floor. Don’t suddenly try to lift the hand, those fingers are probably doing more than you think! Stay here, master this position and focus on pushing down as hard as you can through your working arm while completely controlling your body in this position.

PROGRESSION 9: ONE-ARM WALL HANDSTAND.

CRITERIA: 

–> ‘Spare hand’ must be off the floor and not gripping the wall
–> Weight must be shifted to one side
–> You must be able to do it on both arms (haha)
–> Your body must be aligned in the correct position, hips centred over the working arm
–> Heal of hands must be within 2cm of the wall
–> Hands must point straight ahead
–> Arms must be locked out
–> Shoulders must be elevated
–> Body line straight
–> Breathing happening
–> No falling down until after allotted time

WAFFLE

Firstly, if you’ve got this…bloody well done. You can either do it with the spare hand out to the side, or help against your leg — whichever you prefer. Keeping it held out to the side probably feels safer at first, but squeezed into your thight feels more solid to some (helps you maintain body tightness) and looks pretty heroic too, if you’re into that.

Secondly, I bet we’ve got you practicing a few handstands in the open too by now too, right? If not, you should be. Anyone who can do a real One-Arm Handstand is sure to live a good life.

When I started learning to handstand, being able to handstand on one arm was a bit of a pipe dream. Four and a bit years later–at the time of writing – I’ve managed a genuine 1.5 seconds each arm and I’m (finally) close to mastering the free standing One-Arm Handstand. That’s without huge amount of focus on it or time spent practicing, just consistently working and chipping away over years.

I'm not sure what my point is really, just that, as I always say, if you’re consistent, if you don’t get distracted, if you narrow your focus to a few key strength skills, over time, you can master some pretty amazing moves. You are going to need to train for the longterm anyway (you only get one body), so why not stay on track and master these ladders?

You don’t need to be an amazing athlete naturally, I’m certainly not.

You don’t have to be the most hardcore and never mess up (I’m not, and I do).

But if you’re smart and consistent, you will go far.

Cheers.

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