How to do an elbow stand in 5 minutes
How to Do an Elbow Stand
The elbow stand is a great posture to learn for beginners of yoga and gymnastics, and a prerequisite for harder movements like handstands. While they may appear difficult if you’ve never done one before, they’re actually much easier than they look—the most important components are getting comfortable in an inverted position and learning to balance using the whole forearm.
Performing an Elbow Stand
Find an open space on flat ground.To get into an elbow stand comfortably, you’re going to need some space. Find an open, flat section of floor that’s big enough to accommodate the length of your body. That way if you lose your balance while holding the elbow stand, you won’t have to worry about colliding with any obstacles nearby.
- Start learning the elbow stand on a carpeted floor, or outside on grass. This will give you a softer surface to work with until your forearms are conditioned to the strain of the technique, and it will hurt less if you fall.
Get into position to initiate the lift.Start in a standard downward dog position, or in quarter dog, kneeling with both knees on the ground and your weight over your hips. Place both forearms out in front of you with palms flat on the floor (this is known as "dolphin pose"). Your forearms should be parallel or in a slight “V” shape, tapering toward the hands.
- The forearms are used as the base for the elbow stand. They should be roughly 10-12 inches apart to provide maximum stability and put them in the best position to make balance adjustments.
- It’s important to be low enough in your starting position to be able to get both forearms on the ground in front of you without the need to contort uncomfortably.
Kick one leg up behind you, followed by the other.Walk your feet up as close to your elbows as you can can and get up on the balls of your feet to prepare to push off the floor. Swing your first leg up behind you to begin lifting your body into a vertical position. Allow your other leg to come up behind the first. Once inverted, your head should be in alignment with the rest of the body, positioned between the forearms with your gaze fixed down on the hands rather than to the rear of the body. Extend both legs toward the ceiling so that the body is completely upright. Straighten your knees and point your toes for proper alignment.
- Learn to get a feel for how hard to kick up with your first leg. Not kicking hard enough will cause you to fall right back down into your starting position, while kicking up with too much force might make you to overshoot your balance point and can potentially lead to shoulder injuries if the arms are wrenched behind you.
- Keeping the body perfectly aligned from head to toe will make balancing easier by preventing any awkward displacements of weight from pulling you down.
Maintain your balance using your forearms.After you’re inverted and upright, you’ve completed the hardest part of the movement! Now all you need to do is hold the position by maintaining your balance. Keep your body tight and use small adjustments of your forearms to keep the body from falling off its axis. Take advantage of your base by using the entire forearm to keep balance. This will feel unusual at first, but is a very stable position as long as the body is kept in line.
- If your body is leaning too far forward, press with the palms to counter the movement; If you find yourself falling backwards, tense the core by squeezing the abdominal muscles and thrust your elbows into the floor while extending your shoulders.
- The straighter you can keep your body, the more effortless balancing will be.
Building the Necessary Strength and Stability
Practice headstands.It’s recommended that you master the basic headstand before moving on to the elbow stand, which removes the crown as a balance point. Try doing a few headstands a day during your training sessions and work up in short intervals until you can hold the position for a minute or longer. The headstand makes use of the same muscle groups as the elbow stand and also serves as good inversion practice.
- Bridge the gap between the headstand and elbow stand by doing yoga headstands, in which the forearms are also used for base stability and balance.
Get used to being upside down.If you’re scared of getting inverted or becoming disoriented once you’re in position, you may need do some conditioning to get yourself used to being upside down. This can be accomplished by simply spending more time with the head below the body. Inch your way up into a steep dolphin pose, practice basic headstands against the wall with a pillow support or hang off the edge of your bed until inversion is no longer intimidating or uncomfortable.
- You can also perform elbow stands against the wall to build up the amount of time you’re able to spend inverted under tension. This will take the balance aspect out of the movement and allow you to focus on building up the shoulder and core strength necessary to hold the elbow stand for longer.
Stretch your neck and shoulders.You should always warm up and stretch lightly before any type of physical activity, but this goes double for complex and challenging postures like the elbow stand. Stretching the neck and shoulders thoroughly prior to practicing elbow stands will ensure that you have full mobility of the muscles, making it easier to get into and hold the position. Stretching also reduces your risk of injury by making the joints more supple.
- Stretch the shoulders and neck independently by putting them through their maximal range of motion, or by transitioning through a sequence of other yoga postures.
Perform push ups to increase shoulder strength.Shoulder strength is an essential function to the stability of the elbow stand. To build strength in the shoulders, perform standard push ups and push up variations that target the muscles of the shoulders specifically. While doing these exercises, concentrate on moving your weight in a slow, controlled manner.
- Pike and Hindu push ups approximate the positioning of the body during the elbow stand particularly well.
- Holding handstands against a wall will also be useful for building the necessary supporting strength in the arms and shoulders.
Hold static positions to condition the core muscles.The shoulders support your body, but the core does most of the work in keeping your body in a straight line and maintaining balance. For this reason, core exercises like crunches, V-sits, and leg lifts should be utilized. When performed statically, the core muscles will spend more time in a contracted state, which translates directly to the constant tension of an elbow stand.
- To perform static core exercises, begin the exercise normally and then hold it in the hardest portion of the movement (for crunches, this will be in a full crunch; for V-sits and leg lifts, the legs should be kept at about a 45 degree angle to the body, etc.)
- Incorporate core strength exercises into your weekly training following your regular workouts.
Adding More Challenging Variations
Pike into the elbow stand.To add another degree of difficulty to the elbow stand once you’ve got it down, try entering the posture from a pike. Rather than kicking up one leg at a time, keep both feet together and bring them as close to the forearms as you can. Then, lean forward to place your center of gravity over your forearm base, engage the core and lift both legs off floor, keeping them together as you extend into the inversion. The piked entry is an intensified technique that requires loads of upper body and core strength to pull off correctly.
- The pike shifts emphasis to the frontal abdominals, meaning that your core muscles need to be quite well-developed.
Enter the elbow stand from a standing position.The simplest positions for entering into an elbow stand demand that you be close to the floor, so doing an elbow stand from a standing position means that your technique, stability and balance must be spot-on. Start in a walking stance, with one foot slightly in front of the other (the leg you intend to kick up with should be in the back). Bend at the hips, reaching down to place the forearms on the ground as you lift with the back leg in one continuous movement. The technical complexity of this variation makes it ideal for beginning to learn handstands.
- It may be helpful to “catch” your weight with your hands before resting the forearms on the ground in order to compensate for the added distance between your body and the floor.
Practice separating your legs.When you feel like your ability to balance in an elbow stand is coming along, you can gradually relax and separate the legs until they’re flared. Bring the toes of one leg horizontally toward the floor with the knee straightened while letting the other fall behind the body so that the sole of the foot is pointed ahead of you. Split leg inversions are typically reserved for high-level yoga practitioners and demonstrate superb understanding and control of the body’s balancing mechanics.
- Staying upright will be made much more complicated, as the legs now must move independently to offset one another’s weight.
Perform a scorpion elbow stand.One of the most advanced techniques in yoga, dance and gymnastics, pulling off a scorpion requires that the practitioner arch their back to bring the feet as close as possible to the back of the head. This will be especially hard while maintaining an elbow stand. Scorpion inversion demand great flexibility, agility and strength. Once you’re able to achieve this posture you can consider yourself as having mastered the elbow stand.
- To successfully perform a scorpion, the neck, back, hip flexors and quadriceps must be warmed up and limber. Make sure you’re on an intensive stretching regimen to build up flexibility before attempting the scorpion.
- This technique places the neck and back in an awkward position, making falls potentially dangerous. If you find yourself falling, always come out of the posture by gradually straightening the back and bringing the hips down until your feet rest on the ground beneath you.
QuestionHow can I get more strength in my arms?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou just need to work out and eat well and keep practicing.Thanks!
QuestionWhat's the best way to keep my balance.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you feel that you are going to fall forward, towards your head, press hard against the floor with the palms to redirect the alignment of your body. If you're falling backwards, toward your stomach, dig in with the elbows and extend the shoulders. Keep the body tense and straight and try to reach up to the ceiling with your toes.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I'm not able to do all of this?Mallory MyersCommunity AnswerJust keep practicing, working on your strength and flexibility. Then, eventually, you will be able to do it.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the teaching points of an elbow stand?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAllow person to take up lazy cat. Allow them to place palms and elbows on the floor. Assist in lifting one leg up. Once the person has the main gist of the move, allow the person to kick up into an elbow stand, but assist there's a risk of falling over.Thanks!
QuestionHow can you stop being scared?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust relax, take deep breaths, and if possible, have a spotter help you.Thanks!
QuestionDo I have to be able to do a handstand to do an elbow stand? I also can't hold my legs that long in the air.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou don't necessarily have to know how to do a handstand, but it would be very helpful to know how it feels.Thanks!
QuestionWhich is harder, a handstand or an elbow stand?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI can do both and I would say an elbow stand is harder. It also hurts worse if you fall out of one.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I can't do push ups and the pike position? I have my elbow stand, but I can't seem to separate my legs.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStart your push ups with your knees on the ground and if you think you're doing well do 1 or 2 real push ups.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the safest way to fall out of an elbow stand without doing a back bend?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTuck your head in if you are about to fall. Landing in a back bend is more or less the only option, but if you can, try curling up into a ball and do a forward roll out of it.Thanks!
QuestionIs it safe to do an elbow stand if I have hypermobility?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, it should be safe, but you should keep an eye on your joints and make sure you aren't extending yourself beyond your limits.Thanks!
- To come out of an elbow stand safely, simply place your feet back on the floor beneath you. If you lose your balance and are about to fall forward, lift your elbows as you tuck your chin and roll smoothly down the length of your back.
- Have a spotter help you get into position and assist in stabilizing you as you get a feel for the technique of the elbow stand.
- While physical strength plays a role in mastering postures like the elbow stand, technique is far more important. If your technique is impeccable, your body will naturally find the most advantageous leverage positions for support and balance, so you won't feel like you have to muscle yourself up.
- Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest and do some recuperative stretching on non-training days to keep your body healthy and prepared to learn new skills.
- Inversion movements put a lot of strain on the shoulders and spine, and because of the positioning of the neck and back, falling can result in injury. Make sure that you have practiced techniques for safely exiting an inversion should you find yourself losing your balance.
- Do not attempt an elbow stand or any of is variations if you experience chronic joint pain or have suffered from a previous shoulder, back or neck injury that might be aggravated by strenuous training.
Video: How to do an Elbow Stand
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