This summer, I challenged myself to record at least one handstand per day for 100 days. My personal best before the challenge started was around 1:30, so I’m obviously not new to handstands, but that record was set years ago.
I was curious to see how much progress I could make by doing at least one handstand per day for an extended period of time, and 100 days seemed reasonable. Are you curious to see how I did? Here’s a video I made with all the 100 recordings I made:
Very few people knew about the challenge while it was running, so I haven’t actually received many questions about it yet, but here’s a pre-emptive FAQ and an excuse to talk a bit about the challenge.
First, though, I’d like to thank my wife for her patience and support, both during the challenge and when creating the video. I would also like to thank my parents who cheered me on and the small group of friends who gave me feedback on drafts of the video.
Handstand challenge FAQ
What was the goal of the challenge? Why did you do this?
No reason, really. I like handstands, and it’s a nice exercise in general. I had no set goal for the challenge, so it’s hard to say if I succeeded or not. I had some vague idea that two minutes would be nice, so I obviously achieved that goal.
If you mean why I posted the video and this article, then the idea is to inspire other people to do similar things. If you check the graph at the end of the video (or further down in this article), you can see that there was a long slump starting 30 days into the challenge. That felt pretty bad, to be honest. You work on something everyday and you get worse at it!
But of course, consistent effort pays off. There are always slumps; it’s the trend that matters.
You might not be where I am with my handstand, or you might not be interested in handstands at all, but I think people overall underestimate the effects of low-intensity, long-term persistence. It might seem hard when you start, but it always does. Just don’t give up and progress will come with time!
What do you think is most difficult with handstands?
Once you can stand for a minute or so, standing longer becomes an interplay between endurance and balance. You could say that it’s almost only endurance, because while it is of course possible to fall down after half your personal best, that’s extremely unlikely and almost never happened during the challenge.
It’s not that easy, though, because the more tired you get, the better your balance needs to be. Towards the end, when your shoulders and forearms start seizing up, it becomes very hard to recover balance if you wobble a bit, whereas this is quite easy when rested.
Furthermore, there’s a difference between just being able to keep your balance and standing with prefect balance. The better you stand, the less energy you consume, which means that you can stand longer. The more you need to compensate with your hands, the faster your forearms tire.
In the end, though, this is about endurance more than anything else. Early in the challenge, tired and stiff forearms were the main cause of falling, but later in the challenge, my shoulders were the weakest link.
How much did you practise beyond what’s shown in the video?
Most days, I only did one single attempt, which is what is shown in the video. If I was really unhappy with the time, I tried again, but the problem is that when the attempts are counted in minutes, there’s a sharp limit to how many you can do. I also noticed a clear alternating pattern between good and bad days, probably because of inadequate recovery time.
However, the goal was not to beat the record every day, so I also added endurance training throughout the challenge, where I did things like attempting to stand for five minutes in as few attempts as possible, with as much rest between each attempt as the previous attempt lasted. Then the same against a wall after five minutes rest. That means an accumulated ten minutes of handstand extra these days.
How did you warm up?
Less than you’d think. I spent a few minutes doing wrist and shoulder rotations, then some leaning on my hands in various angles. After that, some handstand, typically 30 seconds or so, then rest for about five minutes while doing other things, then another short handstand, then a longer rest before the first attempt.
Warming up is tricky, because on the one hand, it’s obvious that you have to warm up, because otherwise attempt two is always better than attempt one, which was the case early in the challenge. I then started doing longer handstands in the warm-up, until the first real attempt was usually the best one. Towards the end of the challenge, my warm-up was as follows:
- Wrist and shoulder rotations
- 45 seconds handstand
- 5 minutes rest
- 60 seconds handstand
- 10 minutes rest
- First filmed attempt
The sweet spot is hard to find, but this seems close for me. For the last month of the challenge, I even stopped doing more than one attempt because the second attempt was seldom and improvement over the first.
Where’s all the juicy data? I want the stats! The numbers!
Finally, someone asks for more data! Here’s a link to the spreadsheet I used. I think most of it should be self-explanatory, but feel free to ask if something isn’t clear. Here’s an image version of the graph (click on it for full size):
Why are you using push-up handles?
I find it very taxing for the wrists to do lots of handstand on the floor. The angle between the forearm and the hand is about 90 degrees, which is not very comfortable. With the push-up handles, the angle is much nicer and the whole handstand feels better. The ones I use are both the best and the cheapest I’ve tried, so I can warmly recommend them!
What’s the next step? Five minutes?
I don’t know, to be honest. I want to improve my press to handstand, which I have neglected for years. I also want to keep working on endurance, but I’ve found motivation lacking a bit after finishing the challenge. Another option is to start working towards one-handed, but that feels a bit daunting. We’ll see, maybe there will be a part two, but probably without the video, because that took many, many times longer to achieve than all the handstands combined.
I want to learn how to do a handstand, what should I do?
Safety first! If you’re not used to resting your body weight on your hands, that will take some time getting used to. Once you’re okay with that, try headstands against a wall to adjust to being upside-down. The next goal is to be able to stand against a wall.
You also need some spatial awareness and ability to move around on your hands so you don’t crash or fall on your head. Learn to roll down, take steps, walk around a bit. You can also do this while leaning against a wall.
After that, I suggest practise against an open door, with one foot in each room. That way, you can spend much more time on your hands, balancing, rather than falling down all the time. Gently tap the door frame with your feet when you fall in either direction.
A good handstand is a fairly complex position, so if you’re really interested, I suggest you learn directly from someone who knows what they’re doing. I also recommend Gymnastic Bodies for a more in-depth (but paid) guide.