9 Moves to Help Anyone Master a Basic Handstand

Sure, a handstand is a fun trick to have up your sleeve. But as any expert inverter will tell you, learning how to do a handstand is more than just a cool photo op. This advanced yoga pose is an incredible feat of strength and balance. The many benefits of handstands make them an especially aspirational move, improving blood flow, reducing stress, and improving strength all at the same time (per the International Sports Sciences Association). However, unlike other workout moves, there's a significant barrier to entry. It's not easy to learn how to do a handstand when you're up against a force like gravity. But although challenging, it's still possible, and these nine exercises will help you figure out where to start.

If you have your heart set on getting upside down — or at least want to give it a try — learn how to do a handstand with our simple guide, courtesy of yoga and gymnastics experts. This list of nine handstand progression moves is designed to slowly build your strength and teach you how to balance upside down. It's the perfect resource for beginners learning how to do a handstand, allowing you to put in the work until you're ready to take flight (safely). But before we get there, learn a little more about why this move is absolutely worth your time.

Handstand Benefits

"Handstands have plenty of benefits," says Danielle Gray, a NASM-certified trainer and founder of Train Like a Gymnast. Some of the physiological handstand benefits include increased circulation, improved shoulder mobility, better muscle endurance, and overall body awareness and proprioception (aka understanding where your body is in space), Gray says.

Bryan Fobbs, NASM-certified trainer and a registered yoga teacher, agrees. "Handstands help to increase oxygenation throughout the body and improve circulation. When blood is sent upwards to the brain, it can help reduce dizziness and headaches," he explains, adding that going upside down can also aid in digestive function. "Inverting your body helps stimulate your digestive organs and encourages better digestion."

Beyond their many physiological benefits, handstands double as a fantastic core move. "Holding a handstand requires you to actively use your abdominal and shoulder muscles," Fobbs says. "This helps to strengthen these particular muscles, which in turn can help improve your posture and balance."

But like all exercise, handstands don't just benefit you physically. "Some of the mental benefits include a new perspective (that some people may never experience in their lives) [and] improved confidence and self-esteem, which can encourage continued progress and goal setting," Gray says. "Inverting your entire body can be a welcomed change from the pressures of daily life," Fobbs adds. "Being upside down can create a feeling of lightness, which can lead to a more peaceful mind and less stress."

How to Do a Handstand

Before trying any of the handstand progression moves below, take note of these tips from Gray.

  • Stack Your Joints Straight: Focus on keeping toes over knees over hips over shoulders over wrists, Gray says.
  • Use Your Fingers: "Distribute your weight throughout your entire palm, and press into your fingertips as opposed to dumping all of the weight in the heels of your palm to avoid wrist pain," she says.
  • Gaze in Between Your Hands: "Keeping your arms next to your ears and a neutral spine, look with your eyes in between your hands," she says.
  • Every Muscle Should Be Engaged: "You should always feel active in a handstand, never like you're simply balancing and hoping you stay up," Gray emphasizes. "Press into the floor, squeeze your legs straight and together, lock out your elbows, actively stretch as tall as you can, and point your toes."

Handstand Progression

Unlike many other exercises or yoga poses, you can't necessarily hop into a full-blown handstand; you should progress slowly using specific moves to build up your strength and balancing skills. These handstand progression moves will help you get there.

  1. Push-Ups
  2. Pike Push-Ups
  3. Crow Pose
  4. Headstand
  5. Forearm Stand
  6. Handstand Facing the Wall
  7. Handstand Against the Wall
  8. Handstand Split
  9. Handstand

— Additional reporting by Jenny Sugar

POPSUGAR Photography | Chaunté Vaughn


It may seem like handstand is all about balance, but in order to be able to hold your body straight upside down, you need major upper-body strength. Push-ups are by far the best exercise since they'll target your arms, shoulders, upper back, and core. Basic push-ups work great, but you can strengthen other areas of your body by throwing some push-up variations into your weekly routine as well.

  1. Start in a plank position with your arms and legs straight, shoulders above your wrists, and feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your elbows out to the sides and lower your chest toward the ground, moving your whole body as a plank. Stop when your shoulders are in line with your elbows.
  3. Keeping your core engaged, exhale and press into your palms to push up to plank position. That's one rep.
  4. Feel free to modify by placing your knees on the floor; just be careful not to bend at your hips.
Pike Push-Ups
Getty | fizkes

Pike Push-Ups

Pike push-ups are another push-up variation that will really target your shoulders and upper back, as well as help you get used to being upside down. Do three sets of 10 a few times a week, and you'll really notice a difference in your upper-body strength.

  1. Begin in a Downward Dog position with your arms straight, hips lifted, and weight spread evenly between your feet and hands.
  2. Slowly and with control, bend your elbows outward, lowering the crown of your head toward the floor. Note: do not put any pressure on your head.
  3. Straighten your elbows, returning to the starting position. That's one rep.
Crow Pose
Getty | svetikd

Crow Pose

Crow pose is a great next step since it requires upper-body strength, balance, and core strength. It's like a mini handstand and a great way to get your hands and wrists used to holding up your bodyweight.

  1. Begin in a wide squat, also known as "Malasana." Place your palms firmly on the ground in front of you. Be sure to spread your fingers as wide as you can, and press into your fingertips to release any pressure in your wrists.
  2. Straighten your legs slightly, and place your knees as high up onto your triceps as possible, toward your armpits.
  3. Shift your weight forward into your hands, and see if you can lean the weight of your knees into the backs of your arms. Shift your weight into your hands until you can lift one foot off the ground and then the other. Squeeze your knees together slightly, and keep your core engaged. Keep your gaze focused on the floor about two feet in front of your hands.
  4. Try holding this position for five breaths, or as long as is possible for you.
Getty | SergeyChayko


Since handstand is a pretty advanced inversion, it's a good idea to work on the most stable inversion first: headstand.In general, training inversions such as headstand and forearm stand are helpful for learning "where your vertical is," Gray says.

(Note: Because there's so much pressure put on your neck during headstands, it's a good idea to consult with your doctor or yoga practitioner before trying them.)

  1. Kneel on the floor on a mat or other soft surface. Interlace your fingers, and tuck your bottom pinky in front. Place your hands and the top of your head on the floor so your palms are cupping the back of your head.
  2. From this position, lift your knees off the floor and softly straighten your legs. Walk your feet toward your face as much as you can, trying to shift the weight of your hips over your shoulders.
  3. Bend one knee, and tuck it into your chest. Using your abs, try to find your balance and lift your other leg off the floor so both knees are tucked into your chest.
  4. Slowly lift and straighten both legs toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold for five breaths. Then slowly bend your knees into your chest, lower your feet to the floor, and rest in Child's Pose.
Forearm Stand
Getty | sandsun

Forearm Stand

After mastering a headstand, a forearm stand is the next hardest inversion, but not as hard as handstand. Since you're resting on your forearms, there's more surface area to balance on. Be sure to do this move in front of a wall at first to prevent falling. Then move to the middle of the room, on a soft surface.

  1. Start in Downward Dog. Then lower your elbows onto the floor so your forearms are parallel.
  2. Slowly walk your toes toward your elbows. Step both feet together, raising your right leg into the air.
  3. Gaze between your palms. Keeping your legs in a split position, bend your left knee slightly and hop so both legs are off the floor and you're balancing on your forearms.
  4. Slowly bring your legs together so they're extending toward the ceiling. Think about engaging your core, and make sure your elbows aren't sliding apart.
  5. Hold for five breaths, then lower your legs to the floor and rest in Child's Pose.
Handstand Facing the Wall
Getty | Cavan Images

Handstand Facing the Wall

Now you're ready to try your first handstand — with support from the wall, of course. Start by "facing away from a wall, squatting, placing your hands down, and walking your feet up the wall," Gray says. The walking part is very important. Do not kick up to a handstand. Doing so when facing away from the wall (which is your starting position for this move) can lead you to build bad habits of arching your back and overshooting vertical, Gray says.

"Practice working your way up to holding a handstand for one minute to build strength," Gray says. You can also pause in an L-stand if you want to get comfortable with being upside down and build strength before extending your legs vertically.

  1. Stand in front of a wall on a soft surface, facing away from the wall.
  2. Squat down, and place your palms on the floor shoulder-width apart.
  3. Step your feet one at a time up onto the wall behind you. Slowly walk your feet up the wall until your legs are fully extended. Then walk your hands closer to the wall, until they're about a foot away from the wall.
  4. Work up to holding this position for one minute. To come down, walk your feet back down the wall.
Handstand Against the Wall
Getty | Cavan Images

Handstand Against the Wall

The next step in learning how to do handstands freely is to practice them near a wall, but facing the other way. You'll need to practice kicking up, so start with "dinosaur kicks," where you lever (think: single-leg deadlift) into a handstand that doesn't go fully to vertical, Gray explains. "Practice different ways to bail and fall so that fear of overkicking or side bending doesn't scare you," she says.

When you're kicking up in front of a wall, "it's important that you don't overly rely on the wall by leaning the majority of your weight and legs into the wall, but instead use it as a tool to build trust in yourself and your capabilities," Fobbs adds. Here's how.

  1. Start standing facing a wall.
  2. Step forward with one leg, and bend it to place your hands on the floor about six inches away from the wall. As you're doing that, allow your other leg to kick up behind you. Eventually, bring your front leg up to vertical, too.
  3. Try to find your balance without leaning on the wall but gently tapping it with your heels if necessary.
  4. Hold this position for as long as you can, remembering to breathe. To come down, reverse the kick-up motion, stepping down one foot at a time.
Handstand Split
Getty | Cavan Images / Anna Rasmussen Photographs

Handstand Split

Although the goal of handstand in yoga is to be able to hold your body in one straight line, it can be difficult to find that balance at first. For some people, doing a handstand with your legs in a split position is much easier. You can try it in front of a wall with your toes tapping the wall for support and, eventually, move away when you master the balance.

  1. Start standing on a mat a few feet away from a wall.
  2. Step forward with one leg, and bend it to place your hands on the floor about six inches away from the wall. As you're doing that, allow your other leg to kick up behind you and then overhead. This will pull up your standing leg so you're in an upside-down split.
  3. Try to find your balance without leaning on the wall but gently tapping it with the toes on your front leg if necessary.
  4. Hold this position for as long as you can, remembering to breathe. To come down, reverse the kick-up motion, stepping down one foot at a time.
Getty | ozgurdonmaz


After mastering handstand against the wall, you're ready to move to an open area to work on balancing without any help. Kick up with control into handstand split, and slowly scissor your legs together — or, if you want to skip the split, kick up straight into handstand. Concentrate on holding your gaze at one point on the floor below you, keeping your hips stacked over your shoulders, fingers spread wide. Hold for as long as you can, but don't forget to breathe.

  1. Start standing on a mat in an open space.
  2. Step forward with one leg, and bend it to place your hands on the floor. As you're doing that, allow the other leg to kick up behind you to extend straight toward the ceiling. Float the other leg up so it also extends toward the ceiling.
  3. Try to find your balance, pressing into your fingers and keeping your gaze on the floor between your hands.
  4. Hold this position for as long as you can, remembering to breathe. To come down, reverse the kick-up motion, stepping down one foot at a time.