Handstand expert's five simple drills to improve your handstand from meh to wow!

The 'King of Handstands' gives his best training tips for effortlessly floating your way up into a handstand like a pro

A fit man doing a handstand on a pier at a lake
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Handstands not only look super cool, but when performed regularly as part of your fitness routine, they help strengthen your core and improve balance while giving you the benefits of increased circulation and lymph flow. 

You might not realise it, but while upside down in a handstand, you’re engaging your whole body while working your shoulders, arms, core and back. It’s a great full-body workout that will also impress anyone seeing you do it.

One downside, learning how to do handstands isn't easy; they take a lot of practice and training before you can get close to balance in the air. However, London-based PT, strength and mobility coach Alex Niño is renowned globally for giving people the tips and tricks they need to be able to do a handstand way before they thought possible. 

In a recent post on Instagram (embedded below), Niño explains how you can not only do a handstand but tells of the drills required to push into one from a standing position: something called a handstand press – or straddle press if you’re fancy. This is probably considered the ultimate party trick and display of strength in the fitness world.

So how do you do it? Niño lists the five drills you should start integrating into your training to help you get there.

“Dreaming of pressing to handstand? Here you have five drills that will help you make your shoulders stronger so you can float into it,” says Niño. Although it’s worth noting that you’ll 

Niño’s five practice moves are as follows:

1. Eccentric assisted drill

This “eccentric” drill focuses on practising the second half of the handstand push, so coming down from the handstand position with legs in the straddle position, slowly lowering yourself down to your feet. As it’s assisted, you can use a wall for support as you practice the move.

Start with both your hands another hand’s distance from the wall, and kick up to handstand using the wall as support. Ensure your back and head are pressed flat against the wall before you begin lowering your legs as they open as wide as possible. Bring your feet to your hands at the end of the move so that each toe touches your wrists and, eventually, the feet hit the floor. 

2. Eccentric unassisted drill

This is the same drill as above but “unassisted”, so it requires you to start in a handstand position (if you can hold it) away from a wall. This may be very difficult, but practising it is the only way to get your handstand press without needing support.

3. Concentric assisted drill

This “concentric” drill simply refers to practising the first half of the handstand press, so pushing up to handstand from a straddle position. This is the hardest part of the movement, but luckily this drill can help you get there more easily as it’s assisted, meaning you can use a wall for support and help you into the position.

Simply use the wall in the same way you did the assisted eccentric drill above, starting with the back of the head resting against the wall and lifting your legs up and out to each side and hovering them the best you can, using your core strength. If you’re nowhere near, don’t give up. You can even start by lifting one foot at a time. 

Over time, with practice, you’ll be able to lift your feet higher and higher until you can lift them entirely up through straddle and to handstand position with your back gradually laying flat against the wall. 

4. Compression walks

These are good warm-ups for abs, hip flexors, lats and shoulders and for creating midline compression. With legs in a wide position, fold forward so that you can put the palms of your hands on the floor, walk them forward until you reach a high plank, and then use your core to drag the tops of your feet along the floor until they are in line with your hands again. Repeat as a consistent movement. It’s probably best to wear socks for this drill to help with the sliding of the feet. 

5. Compression against the wall

For this drill, start with your hands shoulder-width apart and fingers pressed up against a wall while in full plank position, head neutral. Compress your legs into the torso keeping your back and hips up against the wall as much as possible. From there, return back to plank position with control.

“If you have the conditioning in the wrist and shoulders, they can do 10-20 reps of each,” adds Niño. Check out his website for more info on handstands and training.

Lee Bell

Lee Bell is a freelance journalist & copywriter specialising in technology, health, grooming and how the latest innovations are shaking up the lifestyle space. From national newspapers to specialist-interest magazines and digital titles, Lee has written for some of the world’s most respected publications during his 11 years as a journalist.