A press handstand is one of the coolest ways to show off your crazy gymnastics strength and control. It’s also one of the TOPS skills. Before you can learn to do a press handstand, you should have mastered a regular handstand.
A press handstand is a handstand done starting from either a standing or sitting position. If you are going to be starting from a sitting position, you should be sitting on the floor with your legs in a straddle and your hands on the ground in front of you. If you are going to start in a standing position, you can be in either a pike or straddle stand with your hands on the floor in front of you. Then you will need to lean forward with control and transfer the weight of your body to your hands.
As the weight is transferred to your hands you can slowly raise your feet and legs off the ground in either a pike or straddle position. Most gymnasts straddle their legs up. With control raise your legs until they are straight over your head in a handstand. While you are raising your legs, your shoulders will move past your hands, and then as your legs rise, they will move to straight over your hands.
Here is a video of 5 drills you can do at home to improve your press handstand:
And we’ve also put together a PDF of 12 Drills to Help you Learn a Press Handstand.
How to Do a Press Handstand Step by Step
1. Sit on the Floor in a Straddle Sit.
Your hands should be flat on the floor in between your legs with your fingers spread out. Lean forwards over your hands and as your shoulders tilt forward, transfer your weight from your lower body to your hands.
2. Pull Your Lower Body Off the Ground.
Use your stomach muscles to pull your legs off the ground, while you are leaning your shoulders over and past your hands. All of your weight should be on your arms as your core muscles lift your legs.
3. Raise your Legs into a Handstand.
Slowly raise your legs up until they are straight over your shoulders in a handstand. You can either straddle them up or pike them up. As your legs rise, your shoulders will move to straight over your hands.
Once your legs are straight over your head you will be in a handstand. To hold this with control you need to make sure your legs and shoulders are stacked over your hands so that you form a straight-body position. From the handstand position you can reverse these steps to lower yourself back into a straddle sit onto the floor, or you can kick down from your handstand.
Muscles You Need to Strengthen for A Press Handstand
Arms: Your arm and shoulder muscles are providing most of the strength needed for a press handstand. They are what give your press handstand control and hold your body up.
Core: You need strong core muscles to lift your legs from the ground up over your head.
Exercises You Can do at Home for a Press Handstand
Handstand Hold: Having the strength to hold a handstand is an important part of the press handstand. You can practice holding a handstand without any support, with someone holding your legs or against a wall.
V-Ups: V-Ups work to improve your stomach muscles and they also mimic the motion of pulling your legs up off the floor. To do a V-up, lie flat on your back. With your legs squeezed together and arms over your head, lift your legs and torso simultaneously off the ground. Touch your hands to your feet, and then lower your torso (with your arms next to your ears) and legs to the ground simultaneously to complete the repetition.
Push-Ups: Push-ups are a great, simple exercise for improving your arm strength that you need for a press handstand. To do a push-up, get into a straight-body plank position with your shoulders over your wrists. While squeezing your core and butt, bend your arms. You want to focus on your body position and only go as far down as you can while still maintaining control of your movement. Raise your body again by straightening your arms to complete the repetition.
Kettlebell Deadlifts: Kettlebell deadlifts are a hip-pulling exercise just like a press handstand. In the press handstand your hips are pulling your legs up over your head. To do kettlebell deadlifts, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Place a kettlebell between your legs, in line with your ankles. With a straight back, looking in front of you, bend from the hips, and reach down to pick up the kettlebell in between your legs. Your shins should be vertical and your lower back should be flat. Then pushing through your legs, return to a standing position.
Press Handstand Drills
All of these press handstand drills are shown in the video above.
Tuck Planche Holds: A beginner drill for learning a press handstand is to hold a tuck planche position. The planche position means that your shoulders are slightly past your wrists as you hold your tuck.
Handstand Lower to Sitting: One drill to practice the control you need for a press handstand, is to basically do the reverse. You can kick up into a handstand and then straddle your legs and lower yourself into a sitting position.
Press Handstand against Wedge Mat: As you are learning a press handstand, doing them against a wedge mat that is against a wall is helpful so you won’t hurt yourself if you fall forwards. You could also do this against your handstand helper at home.
Tools for Learning a Press Handstand
Handstand Helper: A handstand helper is useful for practicing and mastering your handstands at home. They allow your gymnast to practice against a door with a padded surface.
Kettlebells: Kettlebells are helpful for doing strength exercises.
Parallette: You can use parallettes for press handstand drills.
Wedge Mat: When first learning a press handstand it’s useful to do them against a wedge mat.
If you want to learn how to do a press handstand, the first step is to develop the muscles you need. You can strengthen those muscles with the exercises we’ve listed in this article. After that, practice some of the press handstand drills and you will be on your way to learning how to do a beautiful, controlled press handstand.