Starting with Realistic Expectations
To begin with, Paul Zaichik, creator of the video, tells us that we must have a few basic requirements before we can use the video. He explains the flexibility and strength requirements to be able to make proper use of the video. This is also explained on the product page so people recognize these are requirements in the process. The only thing I might suggest is to link to his shoulder flexibility DVD on the product page so that people who need help gaining that ability can easily find it from the handstand page, but that’s a separate issue from the video itself.
A 2-Pronged Approach
The progression toward doing a handstand is complicated. It takes a combination of balance and technique, as well as core and shoulder strength. Paul Zaichik presents two separate progression tracks for building up to doing a freestanding hand stand: one for people who focusing on using balance to maintain a handstand and one for people focusing on using strength. These progressions aren’t mutually exclusive though. They exercises in either can help enhance your progression in whichever track you choose.
For me, the balance track made more sense for me than the strength track, but I did look at the strength track. It makes sense, offering a gradual approach from a starting point of being able to do 30 standard push-ups. A sample of some of the progressions includes pike push-ups, wide handstand push-ups, and the holding easier but similar positions to the handstand, etc.
Balance & Flexibility Progression
While this is the ‘Balance & Flexibility’ progression, you still need a certain degree of strength in your core and fingers, as well as in the serratus. These exercises work on finger gripping, an important skill for controlling your position in the handstand. I found that doing these made a difference after a few weeks. The second exercise works on core strength in the handstand position using inclination to add resistance. This also helps control position within the handstand in combination with hand grip. I quickly realized that I had perhaps tried to transition into full handstands too quickly by not having spent more time working core and grip strength. I had been doing this from the plank, but I clearly needed another developmental step to help me get the control I needed to maintain balance within a handstand.
The next progressions involve working the balance within the handstand, which I realize I need more time working with the core and finger grip conditioning before I’ll really be able to make good use of them. That being said, the video does give a useful progression of exercises to help develop the balance and stabilization positions for doing handstands. They do require a few tools, including a solid box or similar stabilizing device, a unencumbered corner of a room (surprisingly hard to find in my house), as well as a set of connected bars supported on foam blocks. This last item, might be harder to make or find, but maybe you could jerry-rig something to serve the purpose.
The last set of exercises helps condition the serratus anterior, which helps rotate the scapula up to get the arms into the overhand position. I was already fairly comfortable with these exercises, but I could see how they would help someone who might need a little more attention to this under-emphasized area. Paul also offers some exercises to help make sure the serratus is activated so you can apply this important muscle group to your handstand (rather than over-relying on the trapezius and the pectorals). They definitely helped me be more aware of the use of my serratus so I could apply this to my handstand training.
Working with Postural/Spinal Alignment
The one thing I would have liked to see a little more of is discussion on postural/spinal alignment within the handstand. This is something I had learned prior to using the video, but I think that beginners would benefit from having the details of this pointed out. A gymnast that had been working with me used elbow stands to help me work on my spinal alignment. This, in combination with her guidance on adjusting my spine, really helped me understand how good alignment makes balance easier.
While I thought there could have been more details on postural/spinal alignment, many people already get this advice from their current trainers. With this in mind, this video is an excellent complement to one’s handstand training, giving lots of exercises to help you figure out what you need to work on most to get your handstand down. Mine isn’t there yet, but what I’ve learned from this video will certainly help me get there. Paul also has a few handstand tips on his YouTube channel that you might find useful. I found this one really interesting and helpful:
Here’s where you can buy the Handstand Mastery video, if you’re interested.