Eighteen months ago, I packed up my belongings and quit my job as a full-time strength coach in favour of a full-time nomadic lifestyle. Knowing that I would not always have access to a gym on my travels, my focus shifted from working with kettlebells to mastering my own bodyweight so that I could workout anytime, anywhere. During the course of my travels, there is one bodyweight movement that I have found that I keep going back to time and again to help me stay in shape while on the road; the handstand.
I love the handstand because it is not only brilliant for building upper body strength, but it also increases shoulder stability, and wrist and forearm strength. The movement is also fantastic for core stability and strength and it is one of the best movements for creating wicked levels of balance and body awareness. The fact that this one movement packs in so many total body benefits is wonderful, but my favourite aspect of handstand training has nothing to do with its body benefits and everything to do with the fact that it is just a playful movement.
As someone who has trained hundreds of clients over the years, I am well aware that exercise programs are more successful if there is some aspect of enjoyment to them, and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy tapping into their inner child and getting upside down. It is a movement that makes people smile which in turns helps reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. The mood boosting benefits and strength building prowess are only enhanced by the fact that you can take this miracle movement with you anywhere, making it my favourite travel workout.
To start working on your handstand, try this quick 15 minute workout and you will be well on your way to nailing your freestanding hold in no time (repeat 5 times, resting as needed):
Quick Travel Handstand Workout
- Chest to wall hold – Start with 20-30 second holds and work your way up to 1 minute
- Hollow Hold – Start with 20-30 second holds and work your way up to 1 minute
- Wall Kick Ups – Set a timer for one minute, and practice gently kicking up to the wall into a handstand for the full minute
- Inchworms – 10 repetitions
For the chest to wall and wall kick ups, you can use any solid structure you can find, such as cliffs, trees, or park equipment. Anytime your hands are on the ground, actively press the ground away from you – your hands should be doing a lot of work here. While you’re upside down, do your best to try and replicate the hollow hold. It is harder than it sounds so don’t get frustrated if this takes a while to click. Just have fun playing with it.
The hollow hold is the foundation of the handstand, so don’t skimp out here. To perform the hollow, lie on your back with legs extended and arms over head. Engage your core to press your lower back into the floor and lift your arms and legs to hover without letting your low back arch. In the full position, your body will resemble a gentle boat or banana.
To perform inchworms, start from a standing position. Bend at your hips bringing your hands to the ground (you can bend your knees slightly if you need to). Once your hands reach the ground, begin walking them out until you end in a plank position. Hold this position for one second before walking your hands back towards your feet and coming back up to a standing position. Hamstring flexibility is key in being able to perform a good kick up, so don’t skip out on these.