Beginners Guide To Life Upside Down: How to Start Handstand Training

New to handstands? Try out these tips and turn your life upside down.

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10 Progressions to Get Your Stalter Press

A stalter press (also know as a straddle press or just a stalter) is the movement from any upright static hold (straddle, pike, etc) to a handstand position. Most commonly it is from a straddle to a handstand. Though it is sometimes called a press, that term can be vague as a “press” is the terminology used to describe any transitions on hands, i.e. press from croc to handstand or press from arch to flag. 

A stalter is one of the hardest skills to get as a hand balancer or acrobat, but it really steps up your game and credibility. Not to mention, all of your transitions and mounts will be so much easier if you understand the movement pattern and weight placement needed for a stalter.

I always tell my acro students that they will sink or swim based on their straddle. The reason for this is that the hardest part of a stalter press is learning to properly compress your body. Check out my post on straddle drills to develop great compression. But, if you’re ready to graduate from your straddle work, or you just need to mix up your training, look below and check out these 10 stalter press progressions!

Some helpful terms:

Power Press– the movement starting from standing with your hands on the ground and pressing your legs to a handstand without jumping

Planch– a static hold where your body is horizontal and your toes are lifted off the ground with all of your weight on your hands. (Like a push-up position with the feet lifted off the ground)

Candle stick-a static hold when on your back with toes and hips lifted off the ground pointing at the sky. This can be supported on the back of the neck alone or with your arms bent up adding support to the lower back.

A little note on the planched stalter technique…This is a method of staltering to handstand where athlete begins a stalter and passes through a planch before coming the the handstand. This technique can work for VERY strong individuals who lack proper flexibility and core strength for compression. This technique needs a lot more strength as there is more weight farther from the center of mass. It also creates a more abrupt change in weight distribution which is a big problem for hand to hand. Finally, it will be much harder to progress to more challenging stalters like 2:1 or 1 arm stalters in the future.

Stalter downs

Skill Level: Beginner. (I’ve used this before for straddle drills but this is a GREAT stalter drill as well.)

Technique: Stand with your legs apart and your hands on the floor between your legs. Lift your toes about 1 inch off the ground then lower yourself into a straddle hold.

What this develops: One of the cool things about your brain is that if you learn a movement pattern in reverse, your brain will learn the forward movement pattern much more quickly. Another benefit is that your muscles are 1.5 times as strong during an eccentric contraction (one where the muscle is lengthening) than during a concentric contraction (one where the muscle is shortening). Meaning, if you are not strong enough to press up, you are likely strong enough to press down. This allows you to work the same movement pattern and muscles for a stalter up even though you might not be strong enough to press up…yet!

Wall assisted power presses

Skill Level: Beginner.

Technique: Stand facing a wall then widen your stance and place you hands on the floor about 6-12 inches from the wall. Lean your weight forward and rest the back of your neck or upper back on the wall. Lean more weight onto the wall until you feel your toes begin to lift off the ground. If this feels stable, try to raise your toes through a middle split position into a handstand.

What this develops: This helps shape the stalter. Meaning that your body will learn a movement pattern better if it recognized familiar shapes. Wall presses shape your body to learn to keep the head tucked in as the weight is rocked forward and to use shoulder and core strength to lift, rather than upper back and neck (<—which leads to a planched stalter).

1,2,3 toe taps

Skill Level: Beginner-Intermediate

Technique: Widen your stance and place your hands on the floor between your legs. Ideally, your feet should be about 6 inches behind from your hands. Lift your weight onto your hands and tap your toes on the ground three time, once 6 inches away, once in line with your hands, and once about 2 inches in front of your hands. Now do the same thing in reverse.

What this develops: This is a great drill that combines training your body to compress in on its self with shoulder strengthening to hold your body weight while compressed. Make sure to keep your head tucked in as you move forward or the result will be a planched stalter. 

Lifted hip leg raises

Skill Level: Beginner-Intermediate

Technique: Sit on a tall chair or lean your bum against a wall. Widen your stance and place your hands on the floor between your legs. This will feel pretty awkward. Now rock your weight onto your hands while keeping your bum on the chair or wall. Raise and lower your toes forward and down repeatedly.

What this develops: This is a quad killer! Your muscles have ideal ranges of movement that they function best within. Your quads do not function well when your hips are completely flexed. This drill will train your body to keep your legs tight and straight through the stalter press.

Windshield wipers

Skill Level: Intermediate

Technique: Widen your stance and place your hands on the floor between your legs. Power press your legs up to a handstand. Touch toes together for a moment then lower them until only your big toe touches the ground, then raise them back up and together. Try to get a few in a row.

What this develops: This helps strengthen your shoulders, wrists, and core. The drill puts your body through the proper body position for the second half of a stalter while practicing balancing during a dynamic handstand.

Push-up drag to handstand

Skill Level: Intermediate.

Technique: Wear socks!! Get into a push up position with your toes turned under. Rock your weight forward and drag your toes toward your hands, straddling them once they reach 6 inches on your hands, then lift off the floor and power press into a handstand.

What this develops: Shoulder and core strength! It also is great for balance work as you must maintain a stable platform while purposely throwing your weight off center to create the forward movement.

Split drag to handstand

Skill Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Technique: In either a right or left split, place your hands on the side your hips are open to (the opposite side as the front leg). Press down through the floor and drag your toes toward your hands then off the ground to a handstand.

What this develops: This is a step up from the push-up drag as your bum is beginning closer to the ground and therefore more accurately mimics a stalter press. This is a great compression and core strengthening drill

Counted handstand press downs

Skill Level: Advanced

Technique: Starting from a stable handstand, move your legs apart and into a wide straddle. From this point count down from 5, pressing your legs toward your hands then lowering into a straddle by 0.

What this develops: This is a wonderful control drill that will strengthen all your stabilizing muscles. Many stalter downs are a controlled fall caught haphazardly in a straddle. This drill will help strengthen all your stalter muscles.

Press and roll

Skill Level: Advanced

Technique: Do this on carpet, a mat, or something soft if you can. Sitting on an inclined plane (<—easier) or the floor (<—harder), place your hands on the ground between your legs and lift your heels off the ground. Begin to stalter up to handstand, and when you get stuck roll forward.

What this develops: This puts all the drills together and should be your first drill when attempting to stalter from a straddle. This is great because naturally as the weight rocks so far forward, the shoulders, neck, and head raise up to protect the face and head from hitting the ground. By this point we know that a planched position stalter is poor technique. By rolling out of the attempt, your body is learning to tuck the head and neck and lean into the forward momentum, rather than fighting it.

Candlestick wind-up stalters

Skill Level: Advanced

Technique: Lay on your back on the floor. Lift up into a candle stick with your hands above your head. Roll forward, opening your legs to use the momentum to propel yourself up through a stalter press and into a handstand.

What this develops: This is deemed the “cheater” stalter because you are doing all the work of a stalter press with only a little help from some added momentum. Slowly remove the roll and soon you’ll find yourself pressing like a pro!

Don’t forget the flexibility!

No stalter training regiment it complete without flexibility work. Make sure to work on your pancakes and middle splits every day and keep up with my blog to get some great flexibility guidance to add to your training.

Happy Training!!