The Handstand – What’s All The Fuss About?

Written by Cam Watkins

There was a time when I questioned what all the fuss was about with handstands. Flooded with pictures on Social Media of people handstanding in exotic locations. Handstand 365- a movement established on Instagram where one would photograph themselves doing a handstand everyday. I just didn’t understand why it was so fashionable.

I then attended an Ido Portal workshop in April 2017. The Ido Portal method and this workshop was a big game-changer for me – for my own training, and for my practice as a Physiotherapist. Ido refers to the handstand as a doorway skill. Yes, on its own, it is impressive of course. But being able to master this skill will enable a whole world of movement possibilities.

To be able to perform a handstand (without looking like a banana) you need:

Jake Lalich Camp.jpg

  • Full shoulder range
  • Good overhead strength
  • Good thoracic and lumbar range of movement
  • High level core strength
  • Advanced lumbo-pelvic control
  • Good hip range of movement
  • Mental focus
  • Good wrist range of movement
  • Forearm and finger strength
  • Great body and spacial awareness

If one link in this chain is deficient, you will not be standing on your hands for long.

A strong, technically sound handstand requires the individual to become as long and strong as they can. So as a Physiotherapist working with netballers, footballers, gymnasts and cheerleaders, it makes a lot of sense to me that if one of these athletes could tick all of the above boxes, and could perform a strong handstand, then that would significantly help their performance and potentially reduce the risk of injury in their sport. Imagine Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever and Australian Diamonds) standing on her tippy toes reaching overhead as high as she can. Imagine Josh Kennedy (West Coast Eagles) jumping into the air and reaching as high as possible overhead to mark the footy. With the strength through the arms and core to hold his body line strong! The athlete would be unstoppable. But it wasn’t just athletes that I could visualise this being a brilliant skill to master. Imagine a desk worker who complains of neck, upper back or shoulder pain and tends to fall into a slouched posture with rounded shoulders. It made a lot of sense for someone like that to work on the above objectives, and if suitable, train to handstand. What a brilliant short break from the desk!

I am a Physiotherapist who doesn’t like to give any exercise to a patient that I can’t do myself. Thus, my handstand journey begun. Now I was not a kid who ever enjoyed spending time upside-down, doing handstands or cartwheels. To be honest, it scared me. My first attempts were embarrassing. Spending years in the gym, I thought I would get it quickly. But I didn’t. The truth was, I was barely ticking any of the boxes above and so It would be impossible for me to do a handstand. I needed help.

Under the guidance and structured programming of Jake Lalich, I trained at the Movement Co. With specific drills I could train the separate components of the skill. Rather than being a chore, training for this skill became surprisingly addictive. I could see improvements with each session. Although the improvements were slow, every now and then I would feel a glimpse of that equilibrium and it would keep me going. As my skill developed, I could feel my body becoming stronger and more mobile. I am still a novice, but I am enjoying the discipline required for the consistent practice. The focus required to quieten the mind and tune into the body. If you are not completely mindful, particularly in the early stage of learning, you will undoubtedly fall. As Jake often says “repetition is the mother of skill” and he is absolutely correct.

The handstand itself has become just part of a movement practice that I am in love with. The ultimate objective for me personally is to move well and feel great. Now, and when I am 80 years old. In doing so, this is helping to make me a better physiotherapist in helping other people do the same.

I would encourage anyone to get to one of the available Movement centres in Perth, like Movement Co, and dive into the practice. For any specific advice, come into the clinic for a good assessment so we can get a plan and program happening.