Handstand Anatomy: How to Handstand Progression

Handstand Anatomy

Handstand Anatomy: We all have tried Handstand at least once in our lifetime. It is a standard “wish” skill for everyone, yet not so many masters it. Handstand is all about balance and upper body strength. It is done by supporting the body in an inverted vertical position by balancing on the hands.

Handstand is not easy to execute. The main reasons people fail to hold a comfortable Handstand are:

1. Lack of proper preparation:

In order to master the Handstand, strength, control, and flexibility prerequisites must be met first. Specially, strength in the core and forearm plus there should be enough flexibility in the wrist to extend it comfortably beyond 90°.

2. Lack of correct progression:

Progression is always a must for learning. People often skip the steps in-between and that results in a handstand that they cannot hold and feel comfortable doing.

3. Serratus Anterior remaining inactivated:

Trying to hold a handstand without proper Serratus Anterior development can lead to shoulder injuries.

So, having good knowledge about the muscles involved in the handstand is important so that we know which muscles are required to work on. Let’s start with the muscle anatomy behind the Handstand.

Muscles contracting while at length

All the muscles contracting need to be strengthened.

Flexors of Forearms and Fingers:

Flexors of Forearms and Fingers

Flexors of Forearms and Fingers will make sure that your hands and the ground have enough friction between them so that the body gets anchored and secondly the flexors of the wrist resist the excessive extension of the wrist that might be damaging.

Muscles contracting to hold position


Triceps holding position

The triceps is an extensor of the elbow. It will work against gravity to lift the body up. Its strength is crucial for lifting body weight.

Pronator Teres:

Pronator Teres position

Pronator Teres pronates the arm. It is important to pronate the arm in order to execute the Handstand. Balancing on the supinated arm can severely injure your wrist.

Pronator Quadratus:

Pronator Quadratus positions

Just like its above-mentioned brother muscle, its function is to pronate the arm.


Trapezius position

Trapezius helps the arm to get vertical. It stabilizes the shoulder blade and pushes it upward and outward against gravity (elevation and outward rotation of shoulder blade also called scapulohumeral rhythm).

Serratus Anterior:

Serratus Anterior position

As discussed earlier, Serratus Anterior is one of the muscles that can rotate the arm up, and without it, the arm can never be vertical. So, its strength is especially required during a Handstand.


Infraspinatus position

Infraspinatus provides stability when the arm is abducted vertically up or while you are performing a Handstand.

Teres Minor:

Handstand Anatomy

Teres Minor is also a rotator cuff muscle working with Infraspinatus and other muscles to stabilize the shoulder joint.

Posterior Deltoid:

Posterior Deltoid position

Posterior Deltoid extends the arm maintaining the balance on the two hands while executing a Handstand.

Anterior and Middle Deltoid (If the Torso starts falling):

Anterior and Middle Deltoid position

If the balance is not maintained as a result of too much extension, the Anterior Deltoid flexes the arm at the shoulder joint countering it. Also, the Middle Deltoid abducts the arm taking part in overhead abduction.

Intrinsic Muscles of Hands:

Intrinsic Muscles of Hands position

Intrinsic muscles of the hand abduct and adduct the fingers normally as well as flex and extend them. In a Handstand, finger abductors will be important as they increase the surface area of the hands by abducting the fingers.

Cervical Extensors (If the head is going down):

Cervical Extensors position

To prevent the head from hanging down, the Cervical Extensors will extend the neck during the Handstand.

Rectus Abdominis:

Rectus Abdominis position

Rectus Abdominis is the Flexor of the trunk. It will make sure that the body doesn’t fall back and will hold it vertically.


Obliques position

Obliques will also resist the backward fall as well as the lateral tilt of the body.

Transversus Abdominis:

Transversus Abdominis position

Transversus Abdominis stabilizes the lumbar spine which is important during the Handstand Anatomy.

Psoas Minor:

Handstand Anatomy

Psoas Minor is a weak trunk flexor and also a leg flexor. It will help by resisting gravity and maintaining the balance of the part of the body away from the arms.

Psoas Major:

Handstand Anatomy

Psoas Major is also a leg flexor. During the Handstand, the legs have to be straight and the gravity tries to pull them down posteriorly. Here, leg flexors like Psoas Major will help to shift the weight anteriorly by flexing the legs.

Spinal Extensors (If torso falls anteriorly):

Handstand Anatomy

Spinal Extensors come into play if the Torso is falling anteriorly. They erect the spine shifting the weight to the back and pulling back the body from falling anteriorly.

Adductor Magnus (Ischial fibers):

Handstand Anatomy

The Ischial Fibers of Adductor Magnus participate in the extension of the hip and it is particularly important when the legs are falling forwards. It helps in holding the Handstand Anatomy.

Other Muscles (that become temporarily active to prevent falling):

Other Muscles position
  • Latissimus Dorsi: Extends the arm, also horizontally abducts it.
  • Hamstrings: Participate in extension of hip.
  • Gluteus Maximus: Also extends the hip.
  • Quadriceps: Flexor of the hip.

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