The handstand challenge: will practice make perfect as deadline nears?

With just one week of training left, health editor Jeanette Wang dives straight into holding the handstand after a quick warm-up and wrist stretches

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 June, 2015, 6:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 June, 2015, 6:27am

There's a research-backed theory that if you practise any skill for 10,000 hours, you'll master it. If that's true then it was perhaps unrealistic to set myself the challenge of holding a freestanding handstand for five seconds after four weeks of training.

If I practised for an hour every day, it would take more than 27 years to reach 10,000 hours. That means I'd be pulling off the handstand at age 60 - if my joints still hold up by then.

Nonetheless, I remain optimistic. The goal, after all, is just five seconds. (Flukes happen.) Besides, I'm being guided by a very experienced and encouraging gymnastic movement coach, Amy Ridge of Pure Fitness.

With just one week of training left, we dived straight into holding the handstand after a quick warm-up and wrist stretches.

First up were handstands against a wall for 60 seconds each time. These were done in two ways: facing the wall and back to the wall.

The wall-facing handstand is ideal, Ridge says, because that's when the body is in a straight line. "When you have your back to the wall, you tend to have a bend in the back," she says.

It is, however, much easier to get in and out of a handstand with your back to the wall - just kick up, and bring your legs back down.

With a wall-facing handstand you need to start in plank position facing away from the wall, and then walk your feet up the wall as you walk your hands as close as possible to the wall. To get out of it, do a forward roll.

Supported by the wall, holding a handstand for 60 seconds wasn't difficult. Assured that I had enough strength, Ridge moved me to the mat.

Up next were handstands with assistance from Ridge, who used just light touches on my legs to help me balance for about 20 to 30 seconds at a go.

"Balance first from fingers and wrists, and then from the shoulders by opening and closing them," Ridge reminds me. "You're not gripping hard enough with your fingers - you know you're doing so when you see the whites at the tips."

WATCH: Jeanette Wang gets closer to her goal

The cues for the perfect handstand position ran through my mind: kick up while keeping body tight; lock arms, open shoulders and press up; tilt pelvis forward and hollow chest; squeeze butt and thigh muscles; point toes; spread fingers wide; keep head neutral and gaze towards the hands. Breathe.

There's a lot to remember, but knowing Ridge was keeping me from falling helped me focus on maintaining the correct body position.

But soon, she made me go solo. She placed a thick crash mat to cushion my fall - and instructed me to fall flat onto the mat with the body still straight and tight. Out of about 20 tries, I manage to hold one handstand for three seconds.

"You have to try and fight for it more," Ridge says. If I feel myself falling forward, I should close my shoulders. If I'm falling backwards, open the shoulders.

It's easier said than done. I found myself rolling out of the handstand once off-balance.

Ridge urged: "You just need to practise more."

I do. With one week to go, let's hope that 10,000-hour theory doesn't apply to handstands.