The handstand walk is arguably one of the most impressive gymnastics skills programmed in Crossfit.
However, unless you’ve spent your development years hanging out upside down in a gymnastics class, most athletes have a hard time getting comfortable with the movement.
That’s why building familiarity with being upside down while improving your upper body strength is the best way to build up to an efficient handstand walk.
What is a wall climb?
The wall climb, also known as the wall walk, is one of the most commonly used exercises to practice “inverted gymnastics”. Unfortunately, it’s often performed incorrectly limiting the benefits an athlete can reap from practicing the movement.
In this article we will breakdown how to perform a perfect wall climb and how it translates over to the handstand walk.
All you need to practice the wall climb is a wall and your body, so let’s jump right into it!
How to improve the wall walk
To start the wall climb you will have to be in a plank position with the soles of your feet completely touching the wall.
Already before starting the ascent you should be bracing your core and thinking of pushing away from the floor with your upper body.
The feet should be leading the ascent going up the wall, your hands should be close behind following suit and mimicking the steps on the floor.
The key cues to focus on when climbing up the wall are: (1) small steps and (2) tight core.
The concept of taking small steps will put the upper body under tension for longer and also force you to control the movement much more than if you were to just take 2 or 3 steps to the top position.
Ultimately this means you will strengthen your shoulder girdle and scapulas and feel more in control of your handstand position.
When we cue athletes to keep their core tight we essentially want them to minimize as much as possible any rotation in the torso.
Some side to side movement is acceptable but don’t let it get sloppy.
Focusing on staying tight stabilizes the movement and will carry over in the handstand walk helping you feel more comfortable during execution.
Because these cues are so important we find that wall walks are most effective when programmed for quality instead of for reps.
Next time you see wall climbs in your programming, or choose to practice them, focus more on execution and less on accumulating a bunch of sub-par reps.
We could even debate that you may find the exercise to be more challenging than the actual handstand walk.
The top position
Depending on how comfortable you are upside down you may choose to stop more or less close to the wall.
Usually athletes who are fairly used to being in a handstand will easily be able to position themselves a palm or less away from the wall.
Those who are never to “Inverted gymnastics” instead feel more comfortable being slightly more away from the wall.
This difference is due to the balance component of the handstand as the close you are to the wall the harder it is to maintain balance. However from a muscular perspective being more far away from the wall is actually more taxing for your upper body.
This is because the more vertical you are (=closer to the wall) the more stacked your whole structure is. A stacked structure is “self supporting” meaning less work for your muscles to maintain the position.
A handstand that is slightly more leaning is not “self supporting” therefore the demands on the upper body are actually superior.
However far from the wall you choose to keep your handstand practicing this exercise can have a huge carryover to any handstand movement from the handstand walk to the handstand pushu-up and it’s variations.
The descent should look like a perfect playback of your ascent.
Small steps and tight core are again the name of the game. You can relax once you are back in the starting position plank.
- Feet lead the ascent.
- Small steps.
- Tight core.
- Don’t cut corners in order to move faster and get more reps. It’s more important that you hit all the positions in the climb.
- As close as possible to the wall is more challenging for your balance.
- The further away you are from the wall while inverted the more work your upper body has to do.
- The descent should look just as good as the ascent.
Overall the wall walk/wall climb is an extremely useful tool to get more comfortable being upside down.
It can have huge carryovers in all “inverted gymnastics” skills and should never be under-estimated as a strength building skill.
Both rookies and more experienced athletes can benefit from it.
As long as the focus is on the quality of the movement it will be a challenge for anyone.
We would argue that any athlete who can perform a high quality wall walk is also able to cover some distance of handstand walking.
Have questions for us? Reach out and one of our coaches will get in contact to clear up any doubts you may have!