Please watch the following video and compare the two handstands you see.  



Both are freestanding handstands and both accomplish the same goal of maintaining the center of mass over the base of support. for a given amount of time  However, the way this goal is accomplished is very different between the two examples.  

I want to offer an in-depth explanation of what is going on in the two clips, as well as some insight of how to incorporate that knowledge into one's handstand practice.  

As a little bit of background, the only way to hold a perfectly still handstand is to be supported by something(like a wall or a partner).  A freestanding balance involves continuously making corrections to avoid falling(I hope this is starting to become common knowledge).  
The difference in what the balance looks like depends on how those corrections are made.  

STILL HANDSTAND
The first handstand you see is what I would call a 'still" handstand, even though that's not completely accurate.  See there's no such thing as being perfectly still in a handstand. Even a handstand that appears to be static is still in constant motion.  
The reason this pose can appear to be motionless is for two reasons:
-The parts of the body with which the balancing corrections are made
-The speed and amplitude with which the balancing corrections are made.  

In this balance, the corrections are being made solely through the wrists and the fingers.  Finely adjusting the weight distribution through the hands allows the whole body to be controlled in this fashion.  Also because the movement is coming from hands, it allows the other major joints in the body to stay locked out.  This gives a much cleaner aesthetic and is generally a more efficient way to hold a balance.  

This brings me to my second point: to create a still balance by only using the hands for correction requires a high degree of accuracy and precision.  This is because the hands have a relatively small surface area and thus do not offer much leverage in terms of manipulating the center of mass.   
This method of balance also generally requires more corrections to be made in a smaller time frame compared the other technique we are going to discuss.  To give you some idea of the speed at which corrections through the hands can be made in real time, check out the first 30 seconds of this video of mine from a few years ago;


Of course on one arm the balance is much more complex, but the idea is to see how adjustments to the balance are constant.  

The above points are also what make a still balance more refined.  It generally takes longer to learn and is not always the intuitive path when first learning.  However, this is a good long-term goal to have because as you improve you can learn to make smaller corrections and less of them.   This will save a lot of energy for learning the more advanced balances.  


WOBBLY HANDSTAND
I admit that my demonstration here might be somewhat exaggerated, but that's something I did intentionally to make my point easier to see.  
The wobbly handstand changes the shape of the body in order to manipulate the location of the center of mass.  This can manifest as flexion/extension of the elbows, shoulders, back, hips, and knees.  
My hands are still active by all means, but the balance corrections are not isolated to the hands.  
Usually this kind of balance is characterized by a distinct "sway" or dramatic moments of catching a possible fall. The main cause of this is often a lack of accuracy or precision; people unable to make rapid fine-tuned adjustments through the hands find it easier sometimes to make bigger corrections through their bodies.  It allows for a balance to be maintained while accounting for a slower reaction time.  
This is also more common in students who tend to favor their attributes like strength or flexibility over technique.  

The downside is that balancing with the body takes more energy and can slow down the progression towards more complex movements.  
Aesthetically, it can look unstable or chaotic.  This isn't necessarily a negative depending on the intentions of the performer.  

I actually believe that learning a handstand that wobbles is often a necessary step towards eventually building up to a still handstand.  As time goes on and awareness/control increases, the student can begin to "trim the fat" so to speak and learn to isolate their balance corrections.  


FINAL THOUGHTS
-The still handstand looks much more "professional"
-You can build a ton of strength and control through bigger movements of falling and catching yourself. 
-Some apparatus like rings or canes have a built-in instability.  The still technique needs modification in order to be successful in these cases.
-Keeping the weight spread out sometimes allows for more wobble, while having more weight over the center forces more stillness due to higher need for accuracy in balance.  As examples, a split or stag two arm handstand is more likely to wobble compared to a straight handstand.  Likewise holding a candle style one arm handstand generally requires more stillness compared to a straddle one-arm.  
-Fighting for the handstand is an important part of learning how to balance, but a long term goal should be to learn to hold it without having to fight. 
-Even my still handstand moves quite a bit if you look at it from the right perspective
-Though true stillness is an illusion, it's a nice direction to head towards
-The still balance is an amazing display of control, but an unstable chaotic handstand might be more interesting to watch because of the fight/struggle going on.  


One last disclaimer:
I am not writing this article with a preference for either technique.  I want to help people understand the theory behind each method and the value they can have in their balance practice.  

Ultimately it's good to have the versatility to understand both methods of control.  

Interested in learning more details behind the process of learning a handstand?
Check out my ebook here:



Or come learn from me in person at my workshops all over the world:






 

Posted
AuthorYuri Marmerstein