Handstand Progression: Abs, Delts, And More

Body Sculpting Series with Nina Marchione

Nina Marchione is the program director of Sculpt by SOLACE at SOLACE New York, a professional-level athletic studio in the heart of Manhattan. She trains people to help them sculpt their physiques, and is sharing some of her best exercises in this three-part series to help you sculpt your own.

“Be able to laugh at things and yourself and not take yourself too seriously.” – Nina Marchione

In the first part of the series with Nina Marchione, we learned how to tighten and tone up the glutes with three simple (yet surprisingly difficult) exercises. In part two, Nina shares how to tighten the core, build upper body strength, and boost your mood with her handstand progression.


FitnessRx: What are the benefits of doing handstands?
Nina: There are several! The main ones are that they:

• Build upper body strength (shoulders and arms)
• Build core strength.
• Help improve awareness and balance.
• Boost your mood due to the blood rush to the brain, which gives you energy and helps reduce stress/cortisol.

FitnessRx: Awesome! I cannot do a handstand (yet), but am curious if those same benefits apply to doing a forearm or headstand?
Nina: Yes!

FitnessRx: That’s great news. How many days a week do you recommend doing handstands? How long will it take for someone to progress from a head/forearm-stand to a handstand?
Nina: Once you get comfortable being upside down, you’re close to being able to do the full handstand. If you are scared of crashing, you can twist onto one arm and do a crooked cartwheel to come out of it. To really get them, practice at least five days a week. This can be for just 10 minutes. It will help take the fear out of being upside down and getting further away from the floor. Once the fear is gone, you’ll be able to stay in it and “play.”


FitnessRx: That sounds doable. I’m so excited to try this on my own! What does your progression look like for someone working their way up to a handstand?

Nina: Here are my exercises for someone working their way up to a handstand:

1. Plank to Pike with Stability/Yoga Ball, into Side Planks on Floor

Start in plank with feet on ball and hands on the floor shoulder-distance apart with fingers spread wide for stability.

Lift your hips up into a pike position, using your abdominal muscles and drawing navel up toward the spine.

Hold for five seconds, then return to plank.

Repeat five to seven reps, then come down and do right and left side planks on the floor.

In side plank, be sure to line the supporting arm and wrist under shoulder with the opposite arm extended to the sky (shoulders stacked) and keep the legs and glutes squeezed tight, lifting your bottom hip away from the floor, engaging your oblique and stabilizing your core. Hold for 40 to 60 seconds (as long as you can) and switch sides.

Repeat all of this from the plank to pike on the ball.

2. Handstand Wall Walks

Stand at the wall facing away from it. Place hands on the floor in plank.

Start to walk feet up wall and hands toward wall. Be sure to keep your arms shoulder-distance apart as you walk into the wall, trying to get all the way into handstand with chest touching the wall.

Walk hands back out and repeat as many times as you can before taking feet down.

Try to get 10 to 12 reps total (this can be broken up; you do not have to do it consecutively!).

TIP! If you fall forward when you’re at the wall, try to do a forward roll or cartwheel out of it.

3. Handstand Shoulder Shrugs/Shoulder Taps/Foot Taps

Stand facing away from the wall and take your plank. Walk feet up the wall as you walk hands under the shoulders toward the wall.

Once you are in a straight line with hips stacked over the shoulders, start to press into hands and shrug shoulders up, then drop them back down— note that this is a small range of motion. Do this five times.

Shoulder taps are done in the same handstand position with the front of your body facing the wall. Once you are stable through the core, begin to lift the right hand off the ground and try to tap your right shoulder. Repeat on the left. Do as many reps as you can before coming out of the handstand. MODIFICATION— if you are not able to bring your hand off the floor, you can lift only to your finger tips then switch sides (finger taps).

From this handstand position, you can also begin taking your feet off the wall— start with one foot and then take the other off (if you fall you can cartwheel out or do a forward roll).

Important tip for handstands: Always keep fingers spread as wide as possible so you have more surface area to balance on, and press into your fingertips for grip and control.


FitnessRx: Thank you, Nina!

Photos by: Lisa Haefner

For more on Nina and Solace:
SOLACE New York Facebook: /SOLACENewYork
Website: http://www.crossfitsolace.com/nina/
Nina Instagram: @ninammarchione
SOLACE New York Instagram: @SolaceNewYork


Rebekah Kathleen Clementson

Rebekah is an NPC bikini competitor, Nutrition53 sponsored athlete, and Delfin Spa sponsored athlete. She is a middle school health and physical education teacher, as well as a certified ACE Health Coach. Her goal is to share ways to make the fit lifestyle seem simple and inspire all women become their best self.

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