Wait, didn’t I learn handstands in the second grade? Aren’t they a bit too elementary for a coaching cheerleading blog?
Well, you may have learned a handstand, and it may be one of the most basic moves, but that is all the more reason to make your handstand as good as possible. In this post we outline how we teach a handstand, but first lets talk about why we care.
Handstands are a great indicator of strength in a cheerleader. A good handstand demonstrates good balance, a strong core, and strength. While it isn’t the only indicator of a quality cheerleader, using a handstand as a metric for judging someone at tryouts has helped us in the past. Aside from being included in almost every gymnastics skill, handstands are also representative of strength and technique required to hold extended stunts.
This is how we teach handstands.
Step 1: The Stand
Start with your feet together, and stand straight up. Extend your hands over your head so your arms are straight and they are going straight up from your shoulders. ELBOWS SHOULD NEVER BEND IN A HANDSTAND, don’t start here! Flatten your palms on the imaginary roof above you so that your fingers are facing behind you and your thumbs are pointing towards each other.
Step 2: The Lunge Step
From the standing position, take a big step forward with your lunge foot. If you aren’t sure which foot you are supposed to lunge with, try both, pick one that feels natural. If they still both feel the same, step forward with the left.1
During your lunge step you want to put the weight over the forward leg such that there is a straight line from your palms all the way down to your back heal. It is very common for people to arch their back. Resist this urge! Your arms stay where they were, stacked on your shoulders with the palms facing away from your head.
Step 3: Hands Down
Now that you are in a great lunge step, pivot forward on your front foot and reach out to place your hands on the ground in front of you. You want to try to reach out the same distance as your lunge. This isn’t always possible, but a good long reach will help you get your balance in the handstand.
When you are done with this step, your hands will be down and you back leg will be up in the air. This is a tough position to hold, but a good strengthening position to work on.
Step 4: Kick Up
Once you can get to the third position, hold it for a couple of seconds. It is hard, but the goal is to get stronger and better. This pause makes the fourth step a challenge. From the position at the end of Step 3, push off the floor with your lunge leg and bring both feet over your hands.
To break this down a bit further, don’t kick the lunge leg straight up, try and kick your weight over your hands. Getting your hips slightly past the vertical position will help you pull your feet over your head.
Hold the top of the handstand for several seconds before kicking down. At the top of the handstand the feet should be over the hands and the toes should be pointed.
Drilling the Technique
Once you have the basics of the four steps down you can you start drilling them. Hit Step 1, hold for ten seconds, hit Step 2 hold for 10 seconds, hit step three hold for 10 seconds, hit step 4 and hold for as long as you can.
Another drill is to start with a count and try to hit each piece on it’s correct count. Start slow and speed up over time.
One way to make it fun is to ask your cheerleaders to hold the top of the hands stand long enough to say the phrase “Mickey Mouse has really big ears”, and if that becomes to easy, add “and really nice whiskers”.
Do you have any fun handstand drills that you work on with your cheerleaders?
In the chance that you move on to a full someday, most cheerleaders twist to the left from full downs. Starting with your left foot makes twisting to the left out of your roundoff easier. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just trust me and worry about it later. ↩