Written by Hannah Dykstra
If you take a look at competitive gymnastics, you will find that each level has a list of definitive skills that an athlete must be able perform in order to compete at that level. The mastery of basic skills will ensure that an athlete has the proper entry to the next level of competition. The first skill an athlete must master at the most basic level of competition is the handstand. For gymnasts, the elemental purpose of a handstand could be compared to that of a baby learning to crawl. When a baby first learns to move, they begin to develop their motor skills, strength and coordination to progress into walking, running and agility. Similarly, the development of the handstand in gymnastics develops the strength and coordination to be able to master higher level skills such as tumbling, giants, cast to handstand, etc. As a retired competitive gymnast myself, I can vividly remember the hours of constant drilling and technique work spent on the handstand alone.
Gymnastics is not a sport of brute force or strength, rather, it is a competition of skill and efficiency in highly demanding positions with incredible accuracy and consistency. Although CrossFit often involves a great intensity level to that of gymnastics, there is a certain translation from the sport of gymnastics that can benefit any CrossFit athlete by understanding the high value of proper positioning and technical efficiency. The pedestal upon which movements such as muscle-ups, butterfly pull-ups and handstand walks sit often blind us from considering the most basic foundations involved in these movements. Before you can run you must walk and before you do that, you must crawl. The handstand involves some of the most fundamental aspects of gymnastics and mastery of this movement is essential to both safety and efficiency, even in CrossFit. After all, gymnastics movements makes up more than 75% of the standard benchmark workouts seen in CrossFit.
In order to achieve a proficient handstand, you must understand the concept of alignment. Consider the the mechanics of a handstand to be a kinetic chain. The strongest chain is the chain with each link stacked on top of each other and the least amount of slack. Therefore, to achieve the strongest handstand one must act as a chain; wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, ankles and toes are all links that must be stacked on top of each other. After being stacked, a chain should also be pulled tight to take out any sort of slack creating weakness and likewise, so must our body must also be pulled tight. So how do we