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Chair Handstand

Performing a handstand on a chair is one of my favorite skills to do. A handstand on the floor is impressive to many people, and a handstand press even more so – but as soon as you throw a familiar object into the mix, people tend to pay a bit more attention.

Physical Prerequisites

First, you should be able to hold a solid handstand before you even look at a chair. I'm not talking about a 3 second hold, I'm talking about a 30 second hold. Each and every handstand you do on the ground should be in control, and you should be able to come down on your feet in control from every handstand. No walking around in the handstand either.

Next, please try to get a press handstand on the ground first. The skill is possible to do without a strong handstand press, but at least knowing the motion of the handstand press will help things out tremendously.

Being able to do several handstand pushups against the wall will also help. The more arm and shoulder strength you have, the easier this will be.

I'm laying out these physical requirements because I want anyone who tries this skill to be ready and safe. You must remember that this is not a handstand on the ground. Whereas you might fall forward onto your head and shoulders in a big heap when learning a regular handstand, this is not an option on the chair. Everytime you come down, you should be in control.

Training Precautions

1. Feel free to start up against a wall, just like learning a regular handstand. Chances are that you aren't use to the arm position and things will feel a bit odd. The wall will help should you need it.

2. Use a sturdy chair. I'm using a folding chair in the pictures below, but I'd consider that slightly advanced. You want to start with a solid wood chair with a back that is not too high. If the chair back is too high, your bent arm will be crammed up against your body and the handstand will be much more difficult, if not impossible. You also don't want to use a chair that may fall to pieces while you're upside-down on top of it.

3. Clear things away from you. Yes, I realize that I'm in the middle of my room with weights, computer, bed, and/or windows to kick, but I am crazy. Clear a space around you for safety's sake.

4. Look out above! Some forget that they will be trying a handstand a couple feet off the ground. If you have a low ceiling or lights above you, find another place. Some may not appreciate footprints on their ceilings either.

5. Come down safely. When you are lowering yourself back down to your feet, try to do so in a controlled fashion. This will prevent any stupid injuries caused by slamming back down into the chair and then tossing yourself backwards onto the floor. In the event that you lean too far forward/left/right and start to fall (and you are not against a wall), PIROUETTE while holding onto the chair so that you can land on your feet standing. You may have lost control of the handstand, but don't lose control of the landing.

Alright, onto the skill.

The first important detail is proper hand placement.

Your hands will be a bit off-center. If you picture the chair as a square, then your hands will be on opposite corners. This placement is essential for balance and control. If you place your hands in the middle like you are lining up a regular handstand, then balancing will be difficult.

Make sure that the hand that is on the BACK of the chair is the CLOSEST one to you. That arm will be bent during the handstand, so it needs to be back close to you.

The hand that is on the SEAT of the chair will be FURTHER away from you. Grab around the front of the seat for greater control. This arm will be straight during the handstand, so make sure the palm is well on the chair for a solid base.

If it feels more comfortable, you can spin the chair around and switch hand positions. The right hand would then be closer to you and the left arm farther away. I'd actually suggest practicing both ways to keep your strength balanced, but it's very likely that you'll develop a favorite side.

We'll now start off with the basic way to get up into a handstand. While keeping the hand placement described above, squat up onto the chair.

The next step is where your feet leave the terra firma and things can get dangerous. If you already have a solid press handstand, this step should be self-explanatory. Press up with this different hand placement.

If your press handstand is not that solid yet, you may want to try straightening your knees to get your hips up, then extending into a handstand and/or giving a slight hop to get your hips up. I have not personally used this technique, but a number of girls capable of doing this skill have described it to me.

Whichever method you use, make sure that your legs remain tucked close to your body. If you try and extend into a handstand before your hips are over your head, then you'll be "planching" the handstand and the weight of your legs will bring you down. This is the same problem that can occur during a regular handstand press. So lift your hips completely, then extend your legs.

If all went according to plan, you are now in a handstand on top of the chair. Now for this handstand, I like to think of the straightened arm as a solid base where I am placing more of my weight. My other arm is bent to 90 degrees and works on control. Of course it has some weight on it, but it should be less than the straightened arm, so that it doesn't tire out quickly. Understand the role of each arm? Base and Control. It'll make more sense when you're there.

If viewed from the side, your legs will go straight up, or slightly bend at the waist towards your feet (the left side of the picture below).

I highly recommend you do NOT arch your feet over. That type of handstand is more likely to throw you forward off the chair if things go wrong.

If you've practiced this skill, there's a chance you might have already arched your handstand and fallen towards your backside, only to pirouette to safety. What's the big deal then if you arch your handstand over? Let's take a look at the picture below –

If you start taking your chair handstand to new heights, a pirouette off a stack of chairs has a chance to twist the top chair off the stack, making a big mess as you come crashing to the ground. By keeping yourself straight or bent slightly at the waist, any fall you have to deal with has a much better chance of coming down straight, landing you back on your feet, and not bringing the stack of chairs down.

Coming Down

When you are done, just reverse the steps. Tuck your legs in first. Then lower your hips, land in a squat on the chair, and step off. If you fail to tuck your legs and simply fall down out of the handstand, you run a good risk of smashing your shins into the chair. I've seen this happen plenty of times. This is why I ask you to be in control of both the handstand, and coming down out of the handstand. You're not entirely safe until you get down, step down off the chair, unplug your computer and stop trying crazy things you read on the internet.

Too easy? Need more of a challenge?

Try pressing into a handstand while you're sitting on the chair.

Instead of a squatting onto the chair, you're simply going to twist your body and reach one arm between your legs to grab the chair, and another one behind you to grab the back. You're striving for the same exact hand placement as the first method, except now you've got the rest of your body in the way.

Next, start pressing so that your hips start to lift off the seat. You'll have to tuck that trapped leg (my left leg in this case) so that it'll clear over the chair seat.

It's just a basic press from there, same as the last one. Bam. You're upside-down.

Now if you want to finish things off with style, come back down the same way you got up. This will require a controlled descent until you can split your legs and straddle your posting arm. In the last few inches, while your butt is hovering over the seat, turn yourself into the proper sitting position. Touch down. Smooth.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. The chair handstand is a lot of fun, just stay safe!

Aug 18, 2010 | Category: The Stands, Tutorial | Comments: 3


3 Responses to “Chair Handstand”

  1. Tennyson

    So I tried this the other day. Is it weird that I can hold this indefinitely, as well as do everything in your intermediate handstand pushups tutorial, but I still can’t hold a proper handstand?

  2. Mr. Bathurst,
    I was given your name by Lauren Muney. She is my ex wife and I am the prop builder ;-) I have a request from a performer to build some stacking chairs. I have found some details online, but would love to see on in person. I would like to see the construction details. Any details you could provide? Or a site with good pictures would be greatly appreciated.


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