Handstands: An Underrated Skill. 5 Core Traits Of Handstands And How To Achieve Them

By Jason Jacques

What’s the deal with handstands?

Aren’t they just some kinda party trick?


It’s time to change your mindset about training handstands. Because they are definitely an underrated skill.

But only so long as you are willing to train them. Otherwise, you won’t get the benefits.

What are the benefits? We’re about to find out…

Btw, you might wanna go change into something you can move comfortably in. I encourage you to try the drills mentioned below…

5 Core Traits of Handstands And How to Achieve Them

As we go through these 5 core traits of handstands, you will start to see why handstands are such an underrated skill.

I will also show you drills that are effective for what we are discussing below. So you can access the benefits yourself.

These are the 5 core traits of handstands we will cover:

  1. Shoulder Strength & Endurance
  2. Shoulder Flexion
  3. Better Posture
  4. Hip Mobility
  5. Core Strength

Shoulder Strength

Handstands train the muscles surrounding the shoulders in such a unique and incredible way.

When you hold a handstand, you need to elevate your scapulae (shoulder blades). You are basically shrugging your shoulders and holding this isometrically.

Handstands are incredible at strengthening the muscles that move the scapulae.

And not only that, but the stabilization gains from learning to hold that position in space will do wonders for your shoulder health.

Handstands are an underrated skill for strength & endurance. Here are a couple variations of handstand shoulder shrugs for you to try out.

Standing Pike Scapula Elevation, or downward dog shoulder shrugs, are a great way to learn how to elevate the scapulae in handstands.

You’ll setup in a Downward Dog position. If your hamstrings are inflexible, bend your knees so you can get your chest closer towards your thighs.

Perform 20 scapular elevations, holding on the last rep for 20 seconds. Perform 3-4 sets total.

You can also elevate the feet to make it more challenging.

Similar to the last scapular elevation drill, only try elevating your feet onto a chair or bench.

Perform 10-15 reps and hold the last rep for 10-15 seconds. Do 3-4 sets total for best results.

Finally, why stop at the chair? If you are comfortable being fully inverted, face to wall shoulder shrugs are a great for really strengthening those muscles that move the scapulae.

Shoulder Flexion

We just talked about how handstands are unique at training the shoulders. Not only is it great for scapular strength and control, but its one of the few exercises where you can train your shoulders in a full 180-degree position!


Many people can’t accomplish that range in their shoulder flexion.

Via FlexibilityRX

Improving shoulder flexion is important for handstands.

A core trait of handstands is achieving “open shoulder” position.

Keeping a nice line with everything stacked over the wrists.

open vs closed shoulders handstand position fix banana back

BTW – this is why lotsa folks suffer from “banana back” in their handstands.

Notice the photo above. If you do not have full shoulder flexion, you will only be able to go to your limit. That angle gets compensated. See the photo on the right. Notice how my back is arched and my legs are way over the wrists? That’s a banana back.

If I instead would have tucked my pelvis and hollowed my body (as it is on the left), BUT my shoulders were not open, then I would have went into a “planche” position. My shoulders would then be way over my wrists to compensate and reach equilibrium.

Sidenote: inversions put tremendous stress on the wrists. Make sure you always warmup your wrists before practicing handstands.

Anyhoo… Here’s a great stretch to help improve your shoulder flexion.

Try to perform about 15 reps + 20 seconds hold of those for a couple sets.

Another great stretch for opening the shoulders and improving shoulder flexion, is a good ol’ chair shoulder stretch:

Over time, that will really open up your shoulders!

Better Posture

Okay we’ve talked a lot about the shoulders.

But posture is a big reason handstands are an underrated skill.

Think about our world today. Everyone is stuck in that forward lean position. Hunched over a computer and/or phone.

Handstands require the trainer to have good posture. You can’t have rounded forward lean in this shape.

What’s more, we often have to train opening the body up in such a way to allow for good posture for handstands.

We just talked about improving shoulder flexion. But another important thing to work on is spinal extension.

One of the best exercises you can do to open up your thoracic spine. AND improve shoulder flexion (discussed above), is wheel pose.

In fact, a good bridge / wheel can solve a lot of handstand alignment issues.

If you struggle to reach full wheel, you can perform the sequence with bent arms.

Here’s a beginner wheel sequence to demonstrate.

Hip Mobility

Okay. How the hell do handstands improve hip mobility?

Few ways, actually.

A well rounded handstand training means you are working on straddle handstands, tuck positions, and overall need to understand how to move the pelvis.

If you have goals of more advanced movements like the press, this will require hip mobility to perform the movements.

There are plenty of drills to improve hip mobility. I’ll share a few of my favourites from Handstand Mastery‘s mobility workout.

This sequence will really help your hip flexion and extension.

Perform this sequence once or twice. You may also want to practice your front split right after while your hips are nice and open.

Another great hip mobility exercise, especially for training straddle handstands, is pancake stretch. Here is a sequence to work on that:

Core Strength

Finally, with all of the compression and stabilization going on, a strong core is a core trait of handstands.

Training your core is one of the most important things you can do for spine health. The nice thing about handstands, is that you are training your deep local musculature system.

Aka the muscles supporting and stabilizing your spine.

PLUS… All this tension on the abdominals will give you a nice mid-section. Paired with proper nutrition, you can get RIPPED training handstands alone.

Here are a couple core exercises to try out.

Lying tucks are a great handstand alignment drill that also strengthen your core.

Lay on your back and bend your knees, so your thighs are perpendicular with the ground. Shins parallel.

Reach your arms overhead. Elevate your scapulae and keep them grounded. Tuck the pelvis. Keep the lower back grounded. Core is engaged.

Move through the movements with control for a count of 5. You will extend the legs 5 times, then reach the arms forward and back 5 times. Extending the leg after the last one and holding this position for 10 seconds.

Finally, I can’t leave you without a staple handstand training drill!

Hollow body rocks are a great exercise for training handstands. And they’ll strengthen your mid section tremendously.

Start out on your back, tuck your pelvis, bring your arms overhead, and straighten your legs. Bringing them as low as you can while keeping your lower back on the ground.

From there, rock back and forth with control. Keep the core engaged, legs squeezed together, toes pointed. Perform 15 rocks, and hold the hollow body position for at least 10 seconds after the last rep.

Get The Benefits Of A Regular Handstand Training Today

Hopefully this article convinced you that handstands are an underrated skill.

They are truly impressive for the benefits a solid training can provide.

Including better shoulder health, spinal and hip mobility, core strength, and more.

Want to start training handstands? A good place to start is with our free handstand training series.

Or for the truly committed, Handstand Mastery is our flagship handstand training program.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments you would like to add below.