Handstand Virtuosity: Part 1

By Laurie Galassi

Video Article

CrossFit Santa Cruz’s Laurie Galassi, a gymnast and fifth-place finisher at the NorCal Regional, shares her coaching tips for mastering the handstand. In Part 1 of the series, she focuses on body position.

“I picked handstands because they’re the foundation of gymnastics,” Galassi says. “It’s the basis for everything else.”

This gymnastics element fits perfectly into CrossFit.

“The neat thing for CrossFit is that once you can do a handstand … suddenly putting weight overhead is easier because you can stand on your feet straight, you can stand on your hands straight, and now it’s like I’m just doing a handstand but there’s a barbell over my head,” she says.

To create the correct body position, Galassi drills her athletes with a stick to show them a stacked body position with shrugged, active shoulders and proper head placement. Next, she stretches the athletes and develops a hollow-body position. After some drills, she talks safety and has her athletes practice forward rolls for a safe exit when falling. Finally, she gets her athletes inverted using a wall walk and shoulder shrugs.

One of the barriers to mastering handstands is fear of falling.

“How do I not get scared?” she asks. Her answer: “Gymnastics is a repetitive sport.”

According to Galassi, most gymnasts start as children so that the movements become ingrained.

“For the first few times, you’re just building your comfort level,” she says.

13min 7sec

Additional reading: Why Train Gymnastics Basics? by Jeff Tucker, published Aug. 1, 2008.

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11 Comments on “Handstand Virtuosity: Part 1”


wrote …

Laurie is very articulate and super informative here... great stuff!


wrote …

Great info. Thank you


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Extremely well done, thanks!


wrote …

Excellent info on a move that I struggle with greatly.


wrote …

Nice job... All about stacking...


wrote …

Great video, very informative, excited for part II!


Casey Schmidt wrote …

Yeah, will definitely be using some of this starting today. Need to start working more skills into our programming. Makes for great warm up practice before a WOD. Ahhhh, i love crossfit!


Keith Wittenstein wrote …

Great video. Thanks, Laurie!


wrote …

If we apply active shoulder with head touching ears, is it better to perform olympic lifts with the same narrow width? But all articles and video tutorials are with wide grip in olympic lifts. What is wrong in extending results of handstand directly to olympic lift with head touching ears ? Perhaps in olympic lifting, in receiving position knees and hips are flexed to protect patella and lumbar spine. To keep the weight above the stacked vertical aligment in flexed position, arm should go behind rotator cuff necessitating wide grip. I appreciate if someone explains this difference in handstand and olympic lift.


At least two complicating factors come to my mind when thinking about lifting weight overhead as opposed to supporting weight overhead:

1) Flexibility - The proper stacking geometry is for many people at the very edge of their physiological capacity. For some of us it is actually beyond what we can accomplish, so we need to compensate in one or more ways (arched lumbar spine, wider hand position) to get as close as we can.

2) Distance - When bringing a weight from the compressed position (whether front rack, shoulder rack or bottom of a handstand pushup) to an extended position shortening the path reduces the overall work. The same principle is used in wide stance squats, sumo deadlifts and when pinching the shoulder blades and expanding the chest when benching. Shortening the path and reducing the work necessary maximizes the amount of weight that can be handled, or the number of reps that can be performed. This concept does not however apply when supporting weight as opposed to lifting it through a range of motion.



What an insightful video into developing the essential components of a handstand. I have been working at my Handstand and Handstand pushups for almost 5 months now and that video has given me the foundation and some key focal points that I believe will get me into a strong body position and increase my ability to load myself up overhead in all other aspects of my training.

thanks so much


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