Handstands before Handsprings

Handsprings (and ayeshas) are a significant milestone in most polers’ journeys. The first time you are upside down with only your 2 hands to prevent you plummeting back to earth can be both scary and exhilarating. It is such a novel movement, full weight bearing and balancing solely on your arms.   There are not many other opportunities to practice this outside of handstands and cartwheels. Which is why having a good understanding of a handstand is vital before attempting ayeshas and handsprings.

I was fortunate to participate in gymnastics and learning handstands for many years. It is only now, as a teacher, that I see how valuable this foundation is. Tipping yourself upside down and being able to control your body above takes practice. Consider how long it takes to learn how to walk – it starts out wobbly, but with practice becomes more efficient and refined. A similar motor learning model applies to weight bearing on the upper limbs. Learning to push and load bear through the arms takes considerable practice.

It is a challenge to work with such a small base. I see many students come to a handstand class that are hesitant about getting their body stacked above their hands – it is a small base of support and tipping over is a real issue. You may have experience with inverting using the pole, or another apparatus, but going upside down fully unaided requires a lot of control. If you can’t stack your body in a handstand on the floor with confidence, how do you expect to feel safe when leaning your body away from the pole??

Over 2 years ago Lisa D released her Not So Nice Tutorials. They cover preparing the body (mainly lower limbs and core) with drills that will help ensure success and safety when you get on the pole. They are a good source of information, and I highly recommend you go check them out.

So, let’s get a bit technical about upper body alignment. The alignment of the weight bearing arm is similar in both the handstand and the handspring. You need to feel that you are pushing the floor or pole away, so much that shoulder blades are trying to cover your ears. Keep the shoulders open and chest closed – this is not an easy shape to understand or put in writing (best to work with a coach who understands this for real time feedback).

Visually the alignment can be seen as a straight line from the hand to the pelvis. Check out these pictures of a supported handstand, twisted grip handstand and handspring/ayesha.

Having significant experience of weight bearing through your upper body on the ground will set you up for success up the pole and also help in injury prevention as your body is adequately prepared.

Even experienced polers will benefit from refining their handstands, so get along to a gymnastics or handstand class to give it a go!!

Glenda Walters
Hanger 66 – Instructor
H66 – Physiotherapist