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Thomas Lawlor May 10, 2020 12:00:00 PM 12 min read

Smashing the Handstand; Super Mario Style - Part 2

Over a two part series my aim is to challenge the community of FFS to learn how to handstand during lockdown.

Framing it as a real-life version of a computer game, I want you to reach the boss level of a free handstand. Unlike in the computer games, we can't just enter in a secret code to unlock new levels or skip ahead with additional powers. In the real-world, we need to build up our skills through consistent practice.

Recapping on the Foundation Levels

As I mentioned in Part 1, the handstand is a skill rather than a strength exercise. It requires time and consistency to develop. If you are a member of our Online Gym, then you should already be two weeks into the May Zoom Classes, Relative Strength programme and Movement & Mobility, which are focusing on handstand technique. So there are no excuses for having not gotten the practice in over the past few weeks.

Take a look back at the first blog post to remind yourself of the first four levels and how they work:


Level 1 - Pike Push Up

Level 2 - Monkey Stand

Level 3 - Headstand


Remember that consistency is the key here to enhancing our overall static and dynamic kinesthesia (movement) (Low, 2011).


Reaching the Boss Level


Now that you have a few weeks under your belt, I want to introduce you to the more advanced levels, peaking at that coveted 'Boss Level' where we take on the Bowser of the Handstand World - the free handstand.


Level 4 - Forearm stand

Level 5 - Wall Handstand

Level 6 - One foot Wall Handstand

Boss Level - Free Handstand


Level 4 - Forearm Stand

This exercise progresses on the headstand by making the base of support smaller, thereby increasing the difficulty to execute it.

Forearm Stand Start Position

Forearm Stand End Position


  • Fingers interlocked together
  • Make a triangle with your head and elbows
  • Place hands at the back of your head
  • Start in the tuck position and then extend legs to the ceiling
  • Make sure to have an even pressure under forearms, wrists and head

Requirement: 30s minimum before moving on. 60s is the aim.


Level 5 - Wall Handstand


Wall Handstand (2)

Once against the wall, we really want to put our attention to our wrists. These are going to help us maintain that balance. So that when we come away from the wall we are not trying to swing our legs to achieve balance but rather using our wrists.


  • Begin with your back facing the wall (you will walk up the wall, backwards)
  • Hands are shoulder width apart
  • Make your fingers as wide apart as you can
  • Walk your feet up the wall
  • Hands as close to the wall as possible (the closer to the wall the harder it is)
  • Bum tight and ribs pulled down
  • Try to push your hands as far away from your shoulders as possible
  • Turn your armpits out as far as possible (should feel a squeeze in your upper back)
  • Knees locked out and toes pointed to the sky

Requirement: 60s of good quality form.

Note - If someone was to take a picture of you from the side and draw a line through your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and ears, they would all be in one straight line.


Level 6 - Wall Handstand with one foot

This exercise will help us understand our weight disruption a lot more. This is done through the centre of the hand. Using the fingertips and the palm of your hand to control where your bodyweight is.

Wall HS One Foot hand position


  • Assume the same set up as the wall handstand (the further from the wall, the harder this exercise will be)
  • Make your fingers as wide apart as you can
  • Bring one leg off the wall, point the toes to the ceiling, squeezing the glute (buttcheek) of that leg
  • The foot on the wall should start to feel light by now
  • From here pull the remaining foot off the wall (once balance is felt in the wrists) and bring together with the other foot
  • Hold for a moment and bring back to the wall. (if you lose balance bring one foot back to the wall and try achieve balance again)

Requirement: 5 reps of 10s holds

Wall Handstand with One Foot

Boss Level - Free Handstand

You’ve made it. The boss level, now all you have to do is defeat him and you win. Your boss is…. falling over. Although it’s easier said than done, it is vital that we minimise falling over in the handstand position. Now I know this will be difficult but by falling over we are telling the body it’s okay to bail out once we hit a sticking point.


The correct way, just like Al Pacino said in Any Given Sunday “we have to fight for every inch” and every position. This is especially true when we are learning a new skill. This fight will help us establish the strength and stability in the muscles to maintain that handstand position.


Free Handstand


  • Lunge forward while placing your hands in front of you as to kick up into a handstand (insert pictures of step by step kick up)
  • Push off the back leg and bring both legs together above the body
  • Hands are shoulder width apart
  • Make your fingers as wide apart as you can
  • Bum tight and ribs pulled down
  • Try to push your hands as far away from your shoulders as possible
  • Turn your armpits out as far as possible (should feel a squeeze in your upper back)
  • Knees locked out and toes pointed to the sky

Requirements: 30s minimum


And there you have it, you’ve done it. You’ve beat the boss and won the game, congratulatios. Now when someone asks if you have a cool party trick, pull off a handstand and you’ll leave the room jaw dropped.

Remember - If you get stuck on any level, don't get disheartened; just keep practicing.

This type of skill work takes time to develop but between this Super Mario Bro style handstand that I have set you and the various Zoom Classes we have on this month, I am confident that you will get to the final boss level.


Find Out More


Get the FFS experience from the comfort and safety of your own home. Our online classes are delivered through Zoom so your trainer can give you real-time feedback.

As with all FFS classes, these sessions will be progressively overloaded throughout the month. 

We offer a number of plans, from 2 Class trial packs to monthly plans. Find out more at https://www.ffs.ie/online-gym/classes/



  • Hedbávný, P., Bago, G. and Kalichová, M., (2013). Influence of strength abilities on quality of the handstand. Int. J. Sport Health Sci, 7(10), pp.602-608.
  • Low, S., (2011). Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight Strength. CreateSpace
  • Uzunov, V., (2008). The handstand: A four stage training model. Gym Coach, 2, pp.52-59.

Thomas Lawlor

Thomas is an intern at FFS working in FFS Gyms, Ivy Exchange, Parnell Street. He is currently in his 3rd year of Sports and Exercise Science in the University of Limerick. He has a passion to help people become the strongest version of themselves through physical activity.