How to keep your wrists healthy in handstands

Todays episode is about how to make your handstand practice as safe as possible to minimize the risk of getting overused or injured.

Unfortunately, doing handstands is all about putting your bodyweight on hands, so the risk of getting injured is always there and will always be there. For most of us, especially for those of you who start as grown ups, the wrists take a long time to adapt to this type of load that comes with making adjustments while balancing. So all we can really do is minimize the risk by taking care of 4 keyfactors, that I present to you in this video. Nevertheless, once your balancing gets better and therefore more efficient, you will also decrease the load your wrists have to deal with while at the same time your wrists have adapted to handstands over time and thereby you reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

So the 4 important keyfactors are:

  1. Load progressively: you could also say, warm up your wrists (and also shoulders) by first planking, doing half kick ups or other exercises, before you go up into a full handstand. That way you prepare the receptors in your joints to be more alert and deal better with when you have to get out of alignment.
  2. Question the exercises you do and don’t follow any protocoll blindly without checking in on if this is suitable for you: When I started handbalancing, I had rather mobile wrists which were lacking strength. But I was very eager to learn how to do handstands and I bought an online programme, which contained a lot of wrist preparation exercises, especially mobility. I did those exercises for a while and was kinda forcing my flexibility a bit too much, because at that moment I didn’t know better. When I started to work with Ulrik, my coach, he pointed out that my flexibility was enough and forcing it was not a good idea. So I stopped doing them and focused on letting my wrists adapt to the load by holding handstands and my wristpain completely went away.
  3. Learn to say “no”, if you know that you’re not prepared: there are many situations in life, where you would wanna show off your handstand in public, or do one to get a nice picture for Instagram. For most people though, directly kicking up into a handstand without having done any kind of preparation for it can cause pain and injuries. There are exceptions though and if you’re the kind of person that can do it from scratch, no problem. Go ahead. For most of us it’s not a good idea though. Unfortunately this is something I had to learn through hard lessons. Sometimes it’s just hard to keep your impulses in. What I do now is that I simply warm up my wrists every time I do handstands, no matter where and what the circumstances are.
  4. Make sure you take care of your recovery: So since I focused on improving the amount of load I could put on my wrists, they needed some good amount of time to get used to the drills. Instead of having overly flexible wrists I actually started to feel stiffness everytime I was cold and also my pinkie would get numb, because of all the tension in my forearms, shoulders and traps. I have been able to get some relief from different exercises, like using a rice bucket to move my hands around inside of it, releasing fascia with a lacrosse ball or my knee, triggerpointing, etc. By now my wrists are pretty much adapted to what I do, so it’s not such a hassle anymore.

The most important thing here is to listen to your body and find out how much load your wrists can deal with and just gradually increase it. And if you get injured, make sure that you give your wrists the time they need and try to find ways around loading them through doing other handstand related exercises (like forearm stands, headstands, mobility training, etc.) to keep your practice going despite of your injury.

Let us know in the comments below what experiences you’ve had with wrist problems and what it is that has helped you to manage them. I’m sure there’s much much more to this subject than I could cover in this episode. So go ahead and share your wisdom :).


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