• Andres

Handstand Technique & Alignment | Shoulders

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

This post may include some fancy words and handstand nerdiness paragraphs, but if you bear with me and reach the end of it you’ll be able to make sense of the fancy lingo and understand better some important aspects of the handstand alignment!


This is also a topic that I’d like to dissect properly, therefore it will be expanded in a new series of blog posts that will cover the next few weeks.


Shoulders are a very complex joint capable of many different movements. At the same time, their engagement and placement in relation to the hands and ribcage is one of the most important factors to how solid the foundation of a handstand is, affecting the overall efficiency of it and even the capacity to hold it at all.

Alignment Handstand shoulders Engagement

Handstands need to be built from the ground up. Being the parts of the body closer to the ground, hands, shoulders, and ribcage have the biggest influence on the rest of the body during a handstand. If the base is fragile everything becomes less solid and harder to control and balance, limiting and influencing how things such as the hip and legs can be engaged or moved around.


So ok, all of this is sounds super clever… But what is then the proper way of having a strong base in handstands and what is the alignment and engagement for the shoulders that we should pursue?


This is one of those controversial topics in which lots of people have disagreements (especially online).

Within handstands, there are many ways of doing things that “work”, meaning that you can still hold a handstand with “bad technique and alignment”. Some of these ways are more efficient than others and some are more risk-free than others, but especially some will create a better base for further development than others.

This variety of ways has created some kind of different styles of doing handstands. Which some people love to be dogmatic about.


The alignment that I preach in my posts and that I try to pass on to my trainees is heavily influenced by the contemporary circus-style of handbalance, with some added support from the biomechanical understanding of the human body. This style of handstands should carry with it a lower risk of injury and a better base for the development of the skill.


In some of the following weekly posts, I will try to break down this technique style so you can understand how it works and why I think that it should be done like that.


But in a nutshell, my current vision on shoulder alignment and engagement for handstands in relation to the ribcage and the arms follows these queues:

  • Shoulder flexion (Bringing arms overhead).

  • Elevation of the scapulas (Shoulders to ears).

  • External rotation of the arms (Hiding armpits).

  • Protraction of the shoulders (Hiding chest between scapulas).

  • Keeping thorax vertical (“Ribs in”).

  • Shoulders on top of the knuckles/palm of the hand.

All of these queues might sound very fancy, but this is because the refer to very specific movements that don’t have a common terminology outside biomechanics, so some lingo is needed to label them. Hopefully with the parenthesis description they are easier to understand.


Each one of the queues stated above will be explained and broken down in the following posts to make sense of why they are important for handstand technique and how you can understand them and train to be able to make them part of your alignment.


Let me know down in the comments if you found this post useful and what are your thoughts on this topic as well as any other handstand related thing you would like to read about!


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