Handstand Shoulder Angles Explained

The quest for a straight Handstand can be a mystery at first.

It’s important to remember that the mechanics of the handstand are very simple. There is realy only 3 factors.

1. The shoulder angle.

2. The curvature or straightness of the spine.

3. The hip angle.

It’s also important to remember that if you go too far one way, the rest of the body will have to go the other way to maintain balance, this happens in all directions. For example if your shoulders and chest creep too far forward or extend too far back, the rest of the body (back, hips, legs) will be forced to change shape to compensate.

The main reason people have a banana back at first is not because their spine can’t straighten, it’s because the back  bend is a counterbalance for the shoulder position – in an attempt to send bodyweight in the other direct – as you will see in this video.

If you would like to attend the Luxury Strength and Inversions workshop at Cadbury Spa near Bristol – click here for more info.


In this first example, the shoulders are too open, the chest is pushed too far through the arms, the bum is sticking out the other way to compensate, and the hips are piking in order to counter balance the bum.


This is corrected by letting the shoulders come forward more over the hands which removes the need for the arch, and puts the arms in straight alignment with the spine. Then the hips can follow suit and straighten into alignment. (this will involve squeezing the glutes so the tail bone goes under and the hip bones thrust forward)


The other scenario with shoulders too open is that the whole body is in one big arch. This is a cool move if done deliberately, but if you’re trying to master your straight Handstand – then – again – let your shoulders come forward over your hands, this will mean the legs no longer need to compensate and they will be free to come into straight alignment over the hands.


The other scenario – and the most common – is where the shoulders won’t open into straight alignment with the spine, this tips the torso back the other way, and then the back and legs have to arch over the head to compensate. This is trickier to correct because it’s a result of not enough flexibility as apposed to too much, and so stretching will be needed in order to increase the range of motion at the shoulders.


Anybody who does find themselves in this position can correct it by pushing the ground away from them as hard as they can. This will have the effect of opening the shoulders into a straighter alignment with the spine but stretching will be needed aswell.

Wrapping the shoulders around the armpits is also a way of bringing the chest into alignment and enguaging pecs to stabilise the shoulders.

Something else to bare in mind is position is sometimes dictated by limits in strength… but that is a subject for another article!

Check out my other blog posts for more tutorials.

Additional stretching exercises will help increase the shoulder mobility and make all Handstands easier. acrolibrary.com/easyflexibility

Additional gymnastic conditioning such as GMB will help overall movement ability acrolibrary.com/gmb

A free 20 minute handstand tutorial is available from the homepage acrolibrary.com

Resistance bands, parallettes and other bodyweight fitness equipment can be found at Rubber Banditz acrolibrary.com/rubberbanditz

Ben Lowrey Handstand Classes (Bristol U.K.) + national workshops can be found here acrolibrary.com/class

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