The Art of Hand Balancing

Few people practice hand balancing these days to the extent that it is almost a ‘lost art’. In fact if you say to most people that you are ‘hand balancing’ they will not recognise what you mean. This is a great shame however as hand balancing is actually a fantastic activity that has a great deal to offer. Not only is this an activity that will get you in fantastic shape, but it’s one that is an amazing skill that will turn heads and provide an amazing party trick.

What Is Hand Balancing?

Though many people won’t have heard the term ‘hand balancing’ it is nevertheless relatively easy to work out what it might involve. Essentially it is the practice of ‘balancing’ on your hands in a variety of positions, and transitioning between them gradually. Doing a hand stand then is a very basic form of hand balancing and the one that most of us can do. At the same time though, it obviously involves a range of other moves such as one handed hand stands, head stands, hand-walking and even jumping and clapping. Professional hand balancers will also take their act further by climbing objects upside down and balancing on top of masts of piles of books and rollers. All this of course requires an incredible amount of upper body strength and muscle control, and this means that you will quickly build that kind of strength from your exercise. At the same time though, hand balancing will also look amazing and most people struggle to understand how it is done. If you want to impress a group of people, then slowly lifting your legs into a handstand then removing your spare arm is a sure way to do it.

To see hand balancing in action, try visiting a circus act such as Cirque du Soleil and you’ll see plenty of hand balancers there. You’ll also notice that during these parts of the act you have normally just one person on stage and the audience transfixed nonetheless – there’s no reason though that you can’t do that too with some practice – and even if you don’t get to that level you will still get an amazing amount of exercise and a few new party tricks from trying.

How to Start

To start learning hand balancing you will need some kind of apparatus to practice on. While it is possible to learn from the ground, it is much easier to begin with if you have something to hold on to. Preferably you will want two parallel bars that you can hold on to – if you have access to a gym then that will be perfect.

Failing this there are many other things you can use – for example try buying press up stands which give you a slightly raised handle from the ground in each hand. Alternatively you can use the arms of a chair (and if you can remove the back and the seat itself that will be even better). Another option is to buy yourself a dipping station which can also be just as useful to this end.

From here you will need to start with the basics. Firstly you should build up your strength and your strength-to-weight ratio so use lots of callisthenics such as press ups. You should also make sure to train your core as this is what will give you the control over your legs while they’re in the air, so do lots of sit ups/leg raises etc. Lats are also incredibly important for many of this muscles so be sure to do lots of pull ups and lat pull downs.

You will also need to try and start pulling off the basic moves. The first of course is the basic handstand, but before you do this you will need to try squatting on your hands. This can be called ‘frog stand’ and essentially you just kneel on the floor then put your hands on the ground (or your stands) between your knees before pushing yourself up off the ground so that you are perched on your hands with your knees by your elbows. This is the easiest starting position and the position from which you will be transitioning into all the other stands.

Next you will want to try and transition into a handstand from a frog stand. This needs to be a slow and controlled movement – notice how this is different from the way you might have been taught at school to get into a hand stand by ‘throwing’ yourself. Here you are using strength, balance and muscle control to achieve the same effect. Here you are ‘twisting’ your body so your head is moving downwards and your rear is moving up and round. Once you are vertical you will then simply extend your legs.

Of course at first you will likely find you are unable to achieve this position, but it’s simply a matter of trying on a daily basis for ten minutes or so at a time. If you find you can only raise your lower half slightly to start with, then do ‘reps’ of this and repeat it constantly. Once you start seeing improvement you’ll be hooked.

Tip: Practice in front of a wall so that if you fall back you can easily catch yourself.

Tip: When you start trying to walk on your hands you should move your legs at the same time as though you were walking. This momentum helps you to step with your hands while you walk (you can practice keeping your legs straight later once you’ve got it).

List of Hand Balancing Moves

Handstand: The basic hand stand we all know. Whether or not you should arch your back is actually optional and there are different views on the matter so do what you feel most comfortable with.

Frog Stand: The ‘perch’ position where you squat on your hands with your knees by your elbows. A very easy one to start with and crucial for moving into all of the other moves.

The Tiger Stand: A handstand you do on your forearms. Here you have your arms bend and your head tucked in. It’s a relatively easy one to start with and you can move on to it from a headstand. However dropping from a handstand into a tiger stand is a much more advanced and impressive move.

One Handed Handstand: This is a much more difficult move and requires you to shift your bodyweight significantly.

Walking on Your Hands: Walking on your hands is a good move to try after the handstand and involves tipping your weight just slightly forward while kicking your legs to add momentum (keep them still once you’ve managed to walk).

V-Sit: The v-sit is another fairly easy balance. Relatively easy to start that is, but very difficult to maintain. Simply sit back onto your hands with your legs straight and raised in front of your face. It takes an incredible amount of core strength as well as tricep strength.

L-Sit: A v-sit but where your legs are parallel with the floor rather than straight up in front of you. Easier of course than the v-sit.

Handstand Jump: Here you spring yourself into a little jump from your handstand by kicking your legs up. A more advanced move is the handstand clap.

Planche: Planche involves having your body horizontal and parallel to the floor. Simply have your arms by your sides and bent with your hands flat on the floor and your legs completely straight. A very impressive transition is to go from this slowly into a handstand and back.

Tuck Planche: A planche but with your legs tucked up to your stomach. Much easier and a good way to learn full planche. At the same time moving from planche to tuck planche is a great abs workout.

Elbow Lever: Another easier variation on the planche where you balance on your own elbows.

Headstand: Not what you’re thinking – here you only use your head with your hands free.

Press: The press is not a balance in itself, but the word used for the transition between any movement into a handstand.

Back Extension: A backwards role into a handstand.

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