Press Handstand Progressions

Are you on the #QuestForThePress? Is a press handstand on your list of goals?

This post has drills and conditioning exercises which help you find that elusive floating feeling, and work the right body mechanics of blocking from the shoulders, and engaging the core. Use these drills to help set a strong foundation for your press handstand practice. Also, consider incorporating the conditioning at the end of this post to strengthen your pressing muscles!

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Press Handstand Drills

1 – Float to split handstand with a chair

The float to handstand from a chair is a good way to get the feeling of floating into handstand, even if you press handstand is not quite there yet. A yoga mat is a good sticky surface to place your chair on so it doesn’t slide. Alternatively, place the chair against the wall so it doesn’t push away from you. With both hands on the ground, step your feet up to the chair and get into an “L” position, or an elevated downward dog with your your hips stacked over your shoulders. This may take some adjustments. This position is also called birdie on a wire.

From here extend one leg over into a split position and use the counterweight of that leg to help you float the leg which is still supported by the chair. Try it on both sides.

2 – Lazy press (“puppy press”)

The lazy press or puppy press can be done with straight legs or bent legs, and can be done with or without the arabesque at the beginning. This example shows the arabesque start and a straight leg position. To perform the lazy press put both hands on the ground and stack hips as close to body as possible while keeping legs straight. Arabesque one leg (non-dominant may be easier), and then sweep it down to so it is parallel with the floor. Setting up this way gets the hips compressed and stacked high over the shoulders, which is harder to do when the leg is simply lifted from ground to side. From here, lean forward and put weight into the hands while pushing out of the shoulders and coming up on pointed toes. The high leg that is parallel with the ground may drop slightly to help see saw the leg on the ground up to straddle.

3 – Straddle Press from Blocks

The straddle press can be done from elevated surfaces, like a chair, mats, or yoga blocks*. The higher the surface, the easier it should be. In this example foam yoga blocks are used to elevate the feet. Rearrange the distance of the yoga blocks* so you have your straddle in the optimal position. The best position will be one where your hips are folded close to your body with straight legs, stacking your hips as closely to over your shoulders as you can. In this example, the width of the yoga mat worked well, but it will be different for everyone.

One option is to curl the toes under in a pointed position to help position your hips high and over your shoulders. When you are ready to press lean forward and put weight on your hands while pushing out of your shoulders. Engage the low abs and compress your hips in and up, then lift your legs up in straddle. Travel to straight handstand if desired. Be cautious about coming down; only attempt to land on the blocks if you are slow and controlled. Otherwise, land next to or in front of them.


After you’ve completed all your handstand skill training, try the following conditioning exercises. The conditioning in this post focuses on exercises which engage the core, hip flexors and shoulders; the main components of pressing to handstand. Every time I complete a handstand practice I go through versions of the exercises on this list which has made pressing to handstand easier for me overtime, and I hope it does the same for you!


1 – Single Straddle Leg Lift

The single straddle leg lift is appropriate for beginners or for anyone whom the full straddle leg lift is not accessible. Perform the single straddle leg lift by sitting in a straddle, placing a hand on either side of one leg and lifting that leg by engaging the core while pushing gently into the floor with the hands. Keep legs straight and toes pointed. Alternate sides.

2 – Straddle Leg Lift

The straddle leg lift on both sides is more challenging than the single leg lift. Perform the (both legs) straddle leg lift by sitting in a straddle, placing both hands in the center of your straddle. Lift both legs by engaging the core while pushing gently into the floor with the hands and allowing the hips to fold. Keep legs straight and toes pointed.

3 – Straddle Hip Lift

The straddle hip lift is the reverse of the straddle leg lift. Perform the straddle hip lift by sitting in a straddle and placing both hands in the center of your straddle, then lift the hips while leaving the feet on the ground by leaning forward and pushing out of the shoulders. Keep legs straight and toes pointed.

4 – Full Straddle Lift

The full straddle lift is the most difficult of the exercises. Perform the full straddle lift by placing both hands at the center of the straddle. Similar to the hip lift, lean forward, push out of shoulders and allow the hips to fold while also engaging the core and pointing toes up off the ground. Hip compression as well as pike flexibility will enable you to get your feet off the ground. If this is not accessible, try it off an elevated surface, such as between to chairs or mats.



Press Handstand Circuit

Consistency is key. Whenever I am training handstands I go through press drills to improve my press handstand. I try to do press training every time I train handstands, usually at the end of my workout.

My exact press handstand circuit  is: 10 Straddle Leg Lifts, 10 Straddle Hip Lifts, 10 Full Straddle Lifts and 10 Straddle Press Handstands (from ground).

This circuit can be adapted with other drills and exercises on this list.


So, did you say you were on the #QuestForThePress? Will you be adding any of these drills or conditioning to your practice? Let me know in the comments ->



I share fitness inspiration for the daring and every day ways to get better on my blog, AcroCafe by Eliannah. I’m passionate about alternative fitness and doing what makes you feel alive.

Life is better upside down!

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