Why You Are Not Making Progress in Handstands

Handstands can be one of the most difficult and frustrating physical disciplines to learn.  
Progress can be very inconsistent.  

However, at the same time I notice people who do the same thing for years and make little to no improvement.  
The process towards progressing in this skill can be counter-intuitive, so here are a few common pitfalls experienced by beginner and advanced practitioners alike:


-You don't practice enough
Handstands take serious work, so if your practice consists of "messing around every once in a while", you're probably not getting better.  
This is a skill you need to devote some real time to; on top of that consistency of practice is key.  Luckily, it takes zero equipment so there should not be any excuses.  

-You move too fast
Wall handstand<freestanding handstand<one arm handstand.  These are the progressions, right?
Not exactly.  There are a multitude of concepts and steps in between that need to be addressed.  Many people are too eager to see the final product that they miss the process to get there.  
The basic rule is that you should feel complete control in your practice.  Any "wildness" means that it may be worth it to regress a step or two or reevaluate your technique.  

-You haven't properly refined your basics
This is about optimization of technique.  Understanding the concepts behind alignment, arm support, breathing, body tension and balance can help a lot when it comes to learning the more advanced skills.  
As a beginner, it's worth it to build a base.  As an advanced practitioner, it's worth it to keep refining your base.  If you advanced learning a technique that is not ideal, it's worth going back to solidify your basics.  
Case in point: if it takes you more than one try to find balance on two arms; you are not yet ready to progress to one arm work.  

-You spend too much time working on basics
The base is important, but at the same time it's important to begin exposure to higher level skills.  Some people spend so much time chasing perfection here that they don't get enough time to train what they're actually trying to work on.  
Yes, working basics will help with the advanced skills.  However, you won't achieve the advanced skills unless you actually practice them.  

-You haven't addressed your physical restrictions
In most adults, excess tension and restrictions in and around the shoulder, wrist, and elbow can impede handstand progress.  If you don't take care of these issues, they can have a significant effect on your practice, both technically and aesthetically.  
Check out my Wrist and Shoulder sequences on Vimeo to help address some of these issues
Wrist Sequence
Shoulder Sequence


-You haven't addressed your psychological restrictions
Handstands are as much mental as they are physical.  Being in a handstand can put people into an uncomfortable positions, and the tendency here can be either to collapse or fight.  
The key is to feel comfortable every step of the way.  If training handstands triggers a fear or panic response, it's worth it to spend some time developing comfort before moving on.  

-You train with the wrong methodology
Always remember what your goals and expectations are.  Are you training as a competitive gymnast?  If the answer is no, it may not be worth learning your handstand like one.  The same applies with yoga, circus, breakdance, and other handstand styles.  
Ultimately, this is an individual practice, so find what works for you without getting caught up in too many dogmas.  
Different acrobatic skills will also require different variations of the handstand.  

-Your view of 'progress' is too narrow
There are many ways to get better at a skill, and many of them are not as obvious as you would think.  Handstand hold time and body line are pretty obvious things to work towards, but things like efficiency in entry/exit, cleanliness of balance, consistency, fluidity of transitions and ability to save a fall also very important elements.  
Improving on these is just as important, even if you're not actively improving your line of hold times by doing so.  

-You get too caught up in PRs
Unless you were performing a feat of endurance, your longest hold time is not something you should get too caught up on.  
Hit 60 seconds?  Great!  How many attempts in a row can you hit that same number?  Ascending skill levels is going to take thousands of repetitions, so what we're looking for is consistency.  How long can you hold your handstand on the first attempt after rolling out of bed in the morning?  That's what I would be more interested in.  

-You spend too much time training on your own
I love training alone, but it has its pitfalls.  It reminds me of this quote:
"Solitude has but one disadvantage--it is apt to give one too high an opinion of one's self. In the world we are sure to be often reminded of every known or supposed defect we may have."
- Lord Byron
We all have a skewed perception of ourselves, so there are simply things we cannot notice or correct when it comes to our personal form.  For this reason, it's useful to have a teacher or training partner, at least every so often.  

-You don't do enough research
You might be someone who just likes to try something to see what happens.  In handstands, it's possible to progress this way for some people.  However, eventually there will come a point where some guidance is needed to continue progress or correct bad habits.  
This is where it helps to observe, watch videos, and take notes to get ideas from other sources.  

-You do too much research
Knowledge is important, but ultimately meaningless without proper implementation.  I encourage vast amounts of research, but there should be a good ratio between researching and doing.  There are too many people well versed in theory but with little practice in it.  
Don't be that guy.  

Just some guidance to help some people along in their handstand practice.  
Interested in more information on learning this illusive skill?

Check out my ebook on handstands, "Balancing the Equation"

In addition, check out my events page for a list of upcoming seminars I will be teaching