The view from upside down - a step-by-step guide to mastering the handstand

This course is targeted at fitness industry professionals who want to learn, design and include handstands in their client's training program. The teaching steps covered in the course will help fitness professionals minimise the injury and maximise the performance of their clients in many ways.


In this material, you’ll learn to:

  • Explore the principles and biomechanics of the handstand 

  • Understand how structural muscles support each other

  • Explore functional anatomy of the upper body, the importance of core stability and how functional training supports overall wellbeing

  • Understand the planning that goes on when preparing for personal training or small group training for handstands  

  • Explore a postural assessment and screening for shoulder and core stability, flexibility of the shoulder and flexibility of the hip for teaching handstands

  • Learn strength exercises for shoulder and core stability and apply modifications where necessary 

  • Explore progression and regression of handstand moves for better and safe outcome  


Upon successful completion, course participants will:

  • Have an understanding of the teaching principles of the handstand

  • Learn each stepping stones and implement it to your program according to your client’s needs, goals, pre-existing injury and physical ability

  • Apply functional training to plan and deliver a basic handstand session for overall conditioning in a safe, effective and informative way

  • Apply functional anatomy and movement mechanics for functional-based exercises

  • Plan teaching techniques for individual clients, based on their posture, mobility and strength

  • Understand how to teach movement patterns for clients, exploring shoulder stability, control, mobility, balance, strength and modify their program if needed

  • How to use the variety of equipment in your fitness club to teach different styles of learning


Course creator bio

Farkas Pungur has been in gymnastics for over 40 years as a competitor, international performer and international level gymnastics coach. He has completed his master’s degree in Physical Education, with a Bachelor in Gymnastics/Sport Coaching and also holds a Diploma in Fitness.

He currently works with Gymnastics QLD as a presenter and sport development contractor in different gymnastics disciplines. He also assists in the development of personal trainers in local fitness clubs and has presented functional movement-based courses at conventions such as FILEX 2017.

You might also recognise Farkas as a competitor on Ninja Warrior Australia, Season 1 and 2.



Gymnastics has been included in some of the oldest cave drawings, ancient Egyptian tombs’ paintings, statues and in the history books since Prehistoric 40,000 BC. From entertaining art, it’s been developed through the 19th Century Army Training into one of the most watched and thrilling Olympic sports. Every corner of the globe seems to be involved with gymnastics either directly or indirectly.


In the late 20th Century/early 21st Century, many new sports emerged and started to include gymnastics skills and elements in their sports such as Calisthenics, CrossFit, Parkour and Free-Running. Even post-World War 1 army conditioning has returned in different events like Tough Mudder and Spartan races.


To get more people involved in gymnastics, the 2016 president of the International Gymnastics Federation, Morinari Watanabe introduced a time-trial and freestyle obstacle course (Speedrunning and Freestyle) to their competition calendar. In April 2018, they held the first FIG World Championship of this newly added gymnastics discipline in Hiroshima-Japan, which exceeded all expectations.


Gymnastics is a unique sport and the only sport which will develop the human body’s capability and ability across more modalities than any other sports:


  • Enhances body coordination and agility, for body awareness and balance

  • Develops posture and confident body movement, including the ability to land safely

  • Enhances creativity and builds self-confidence for sport and life

  • Develops strength and flexibility for life's constant challenges

  • Develops healthy minds and bodies for now and later life

  • Builds strength and prepares the body for an array of challenges

  • Enhances coordination and agility, allowing the body to move like lightning

  • Challenges the mind and body to reach new goals

  • Develops hand-eye coordination and fine motor skill

  • Develops spatial body awareness and peripheral vision


The handstand is one of the core skills for a gymnast to learn before moving forward towards more difficult handstand skills (eg: walk over - forward or backward; handspring - forward or backward; cartwheel; round-off; etc).


Some people think handstands are a “cool” skill to know, some think it is easy to perform, some think it is hard. The fact is, this skill needs to be taught through the correct steps with the highest safety precautions to avoid major injuries.


The teaching material in this course covers every important step to teach personal trainers how to master the handstand which can then be taught to their clients. We have provided strength exercises to help you learn how to correct your body position and move closer towards mastering the handstand.


Strength and flexibility are more important than any other movements. Once you gain an appropriate level of both strength & flexibility, this will help decrease the injury risk not just in handstands but in other movements such as a plank, push-up, dumbbell or barbell shoulder press, weightlifting movements, etc.


The handstand has made its place in the fitness industry as one of the most “wanted” body weight exercises to learn due to the popularity of calisthenics. It is also being used in the fitness industry for development of overall body strength and stability (such as wall handstands or handstands with a suspension trainer).


In certain countries around the world, correct shoulder and spinal position is actually taught in conjunction with weightlifting. The knowledge of spinal position and stability, position of the pelvis as well as shoulder position can help the weightlifter avoid lower back & shoulder injuries.


Every fitness professional should know how to teach a handstand correctly to help the general population to see the world from a different view.


 History of Gymnastics


Timeline of the world history of gymnastics and its development: 


Prehistory BC 40 000 - BC 4 000                       

Cave drawings


Antiquity BC 4 000 – A.D. 5th Century                  

Far East

- Ancient India, meditation

- Ancient China, BC 2690, Kung-Fu

- Rehabilitation exercises

- Ancient Japan, fighting techniques


Ancient Egypt

- Exercises In honour of ancient Egyptian God, Hathor

- Tomb drawing from Beni Hasan 18th Dynasty

- Acrobatic gymnastics

- Human pyramids drawings


The Island of Crete

- The Temple of Knossos (history boards)

- Greek influence

- Children games/Kids games

- City-State gymnastics prep for life and army


Roman influence

- Adaptation from conquered nations/civilizations

- Dancing and some ball games

- Chariot race and Gladiator fights


Middle Ages 5-17 Century                  

- Knights’ games

- Folk games

- Circus

- Gymnastics in the army trainings


New Ages  17-19th Century                              

- Gymnastics based physical education in the school system

- Philanthropy was the new approach in the 17-19 century towards physical activity - increasing the wellbeing of  humankind

- The development of different gymnastics systems (German, Danish, Swedish, Russian, etc.)

- 1881 FIG (Federation of International Gymnastics) funded in Liege, Belgium


Modern Ages

20th Century - FIG expends to 7 sports (rhythmic gymnastics, women's artistic

gymnastics, acrobatic gymnastics, aerobic, trampoline, gymnastics for all.

-21st century - FIG welcomes new sport Parkour and expands to 8 disciplines

Europe: the birthplace of the modern gymnastics

The Middle ages


In European history, the Middle Ages, or Medieval period, lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: Antiquity, Medieval period, and  Modern period. The Medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early (5th-10th Century), the High (11th - 15th Century), and the Late Middle Ages (15th-17th Century).


During this time, the surrounding cultures have made many changes to the development of physical activities and exercises (Asia, Persia, Turkish, Arab). During the Renaissance*, team games developed and laid the foundation of physical education in the school system.


The Late Middle Ages created its own stylised movement system. They collected and redesigned the old games into new games and freed the physical exercises from its combat role and sacred character.


The humanist revolution created the exercises, which have been designed to protect health, and collected the exercises which have been gentle and aesthetic for the body. From these roots grew competitive gymnastics.


The Christian religion, which became state religion in the name of Tertullian** (he has been called "the father of Latin Christianity” and "the founder of Western theology" ) banned physical exercises in any Christian institute.


As the Knighthood began to form, the physical exercises returned to the institutes but most of these exercises where on horses and/or in heavy armour.


* Renaissance was a period in European history, from the 14th to the 17th century, regarded as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history

** Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, c. 155 – c. 240 AD - was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa 

 Identify safety hazards



Teaching the handstand can be very challenging and hazardous. You should be aware of your clients' previous and existing injuries, and be mindful of any injuries that can arise during teaching or practicing the skill if you are not careful.


To avoid injuries, you must give enough space to all individuals. Even just kicking up/mounting into handstand can cause problems. When you are teaching handstand at the wall, the placing of the hands should be as close to the wall as possible.


The structure and control of the session must be well organised and planned ahead. A strong or muscular look doesn’t mean your client is strong enough to hold his/her own weight upside down or on his/her head or hands.


Always suspect everyone’s weakness and don’t underestimate the difficulty of the skill, even if you are able to do a handstand yourself easily.


The following teaching steps, teaching methods are not new; they all have been used and “fine-tuned” for centuries and have been collected and taught by sport universities around the world.


Gymnastics terminology


1. Arch – Convex – The front of the body is open 



2. Dish – Concave – The front of the body is closed





You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by lengthening the body with both positions:


Easy – arms at the side of the body



Medium hard - arms crossed on the chest (Note: with the arch shape=convex, place hands on the back of the head)



Hard – arms straight next to the ears


Note: In the dish shape, the lower back needs to be “pressed” to the floor to avoid lower back injury, especially with the hardest option (arms up). If the client is unable to do this, then you may need to shorten the length of the body by bending the knees (like Pilates “Table top” position - see image below):



Aim to build up the strength to hold these positions for 1 minute. In each exercise, especially in the harder options, the full anterior (concave) or posterior chain (convex) is switched on. Building up static strength will help to hold the handstand shape and will significantly increase overall posture in day-to-day life, as well as during these exercises. This means that we will potentially see less injuries during any kind of overhead, weighted exercises. Posture is very important in many weightlifting exercises (single arm with dumbbell or kettlebell, or two arms with Olympic bars). This specific strength exercise and the correct handstand position will help to improve core strength as well as the understanding of the right way to tilt the pelvis.