Handstand Walk | A Progression That Works For All Athletes

Handstand Walk: A Progression That Actually Works!

Imagine the following. 

You're at the gym, and you and your friend decide to practice handstand walking. Your friend does the following - 

Kicks up into a perfect handstand, walks 100 feet, and gracefully lets their feet fall back to the floor. 

“Wow, that was easy - and that was my first try!” 

(Said no one ever.) 

For most people (including myself) handstands don't come that easily - and walking can be even harder. In fact, they can take a lot of work.

While handstand walking might not necessarily be a “foundational movement”, it sure is fun. And it’s also beginning to show up more and more in competitions…

Spoiler alert: Open 2018? 
(update - totally called it!

If you’ve ever tried (and failed) at handstand walking, then you probably know the feeling… complete incompetence.

I remember trying for the first time…

*Kick Up*
*SPLAT*

handstand walking drills

No matter how much muscle or determination you may have - there is absolutely no way to learn handstand walks without one thing:

Practice.

Not just any practice. You need to be smart, as it’s is nearly impossible to practice handstand walking as a “scaled” movement.

With box jumps, you can lower the box. With snatches, you can use a PVC pipe. With pull-ups, you can do negatives, banded, or jumping. And with handstand walks… you fall. A lot.

So, today I am going to teach you the exact handstand walk progressions that I used to go from this guy:

handstand walks - bad form

To this guy:

handstand walking - good form

Ready?

Here is my 5-Step Progression for learning Handstand Walking:

Step 1: Nose-to-wall holds

Yes, nose-to-wall. This is different than the traditional HSPU hold with an outward-facing body position.

When you climb up (this is called a “wall walk”) try holding a handstand where only your nose and your toes are touching the wall. This will naturally keep you in a stronger hollow body position and will allow you to support weight in your stable shoulders, and not on the wall.

Handstand-walk drills

Tips:
- Focus on keeping a tight core.
- Keep your feet together and pointed.
- Nose should be touching the wall (forces you to keep head neutral).

Benchmark:
Try to accumulate 30 seconds+ unbroken holding this position. Remember to breathe! I like to program these handstand holds in my warm-ups on a regular basis.

Step 2: Shoulder Taps

When handstand walking, you never actually have two hands evenly planted on the ground. Instead, your weight is constantly shifting from one arm to the next as you move forward.

It’s just like standing vs. walking (on your feet). Sure, standing is great, but when you walk you are shifting weight from one leg to the next.

The shoulder tap drill allows you to practice this weight shifting in a controlled environment. You are learning how to shift weight from one arm to the next while also maintaining strong shoulders (and balance).

Tips:
- Start by shifting your weight and lifting one hand off the ground very slightly. No need to reach all the way to your shoulder immediately.
- As you get comfortable, lift your hands higher and higher. Try to transfer from one hand to the next smoothly, with no pauses.

Benchmark:
Work up to consistently stringing together 15-20 unbroken shoulder taps before moving on to the next handstand walking progression. I love to throw these into an EMOM.

EMOM 8 minutes:
1 “Wall Walk” (walk up into the nose-to-wall hold)
16 Shoulder taps

handstand - wall touches

Step 3: Hip Touches

This is pretty much the same thing as shoulder taps, except you are demonstrating an extreme level of control and precision. You are isolated on one hand for a much longer time which teaches you how to maintain body control while upside-down in a handstand position.

Tip:
Focus on keeping your core tight! Otherwise it is very easy to lose the hollow position and fall to the floor.

Benchmark:
Once you can string together 10+ of these in a row, you will be ready to kick some serious handstand walking butt!

how to do handstand walk drills

Step 4: Off-wall Handstands (Holds)

Now that you have established lateral (side to side) balance, it’s time to work on vertical balance (staying upright).

In this step, simply use your feet to kick away from the wall in order to hold a handstand. The best part is that the wall will give you a “safety net” for your feet to come back down. Practice holding for a few seconds at a time and slowly increase.

Sidenote: when you first try this, find a spotter to make sure you don’t fall forward. Otherwise this can get ugly and turn into some really awkward forward rolls. 🙂

Tip: Start with your hands slightly further away from the wall so that they can stay in place for the off-wall handstand hold.

Step 5: Handstand Walk Aways

This is where it all comes together! Kick your feet off of the wall and allow yourself to be “pulled” forward by your body tipping past 90 degrees. Don’t over-reach your steps. Feel your balance slightly falling forward and then follow that by walking your hands forward to keep up.

Tips:
Take short, choppy steps instead of long reaching steps. These short steps will help you keep your balance and move forward without falling!
- Keep your feet together and SQUEEZE your butt. This glute activation will help your body stay rigid while handstand walking. If you are loose, you’ll come crumbling to the ground.

hand stand walks off the wall

Step 6: Try Handstand Walking!

After getting the hang of handstand walk-aways, you are ready to “go RX’d”! Get out there and try some handstand walks! Don’t be afraid to practice all of these progressions on a regular basis to keep your skills sharp.

I hope that you can apply this simple progression to your training. If you do, you will see major progress! Sooner or later you’ll be walking upside down through your house, gym, and local grocery store (yep, I’m guilty).

Looking for some more free training? Can’t get enough of being upside down? Check out our free ​Handstand Walk guide here.

The best way to practice handstands is with a friend, so make sure that you share this post with someone you are going to practice with!

Last but not least, feel free to leave a comment with any questions - whether they are around handstand walks or any other movements! We are here to help and can’t wait to help you achieve your fitness goals.

About the Author Ben

The CEO and Head Coach at WODprep, Ben is passionate about helping fitness athletes of all abilities get their competitive edge and learn new skills! He's currently living in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two dogs, and whenever possible the two love to travel and explore new places around the world (and meet new WODprep athletes).

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  • Hanne says:

    Ooooo I was wondering about this the other day 😀 Will try it out for sure.

  • Maria Jedkvist says:

    Starting right away to learn hand stand walking

  • Nic Schilling says:

    These are some good ideas. I have over 60 seconds that I can do wall holds, however, moving away from the wall seems like a big step. The shoulder taps and hip taps seem like a good and new progression I’ve not heard of before reading this blog post. Thank you.

  • […] Prediction from Coach Ben: Will handstand walks make their first ever debut in the Open for 2018? We’ve got a blog post on that to help you out. […]

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  • Anna says:

    How many seconds should I try for with the off wall handstand hold?

    • Kait, WODprep HQ says:

      Hey Anna – start with what is comfortable for you, and then slowly work up. If 2-3 seconds seems attainable, start there, and then once that becomes easier, work up to 5-6 seconds, etc.

  • […] your partner will begin to step backward and, simultaneously, you will walk your hands forward using the support of the PVC pipe. Remember, your heels will be slightly in front of you to help propel you forward. It’s […]

  • Andy Lau Jia Yang says:

    Do you face the ground while walking or looking back? This is a little confusing. How to navigate while hand walking?

    • Ben says:

      Personally, I look at the ground between my hands, some people would suggest looking slightly behind you in order to stack your shoulders more. I like to see where I’m going a little bit.

  • Jonny says:

    I`m 57 years and practising this is so hard for me. Do you think I`m too old ? I`m so impatient on this. Can do some kipping HSPU`s, about 3 strict but no handstand walk.

    • Ben says:

      You are not too old! There are several masters athletes in the 60+ division that can handstand walk better than I can. It’s all about starting with small, easy steps and spending more time upside down. Don’t try to take too much on right away. Personally, I’d keep working on that strict HSPU strength, as the stronger and more flexible you are there, the more stable you will probably feel on your HS Walks!

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  • Julie says:

    How often would you work on the handstand progressions? I love the EMOM idea!

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