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7 abs exercises to help you nail your handstand press


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Photo: Stocksy/RG&B Images
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If you’ve ever fallen into the vortex of workout vids on Instagram (so, everyone?), you’ve no doubt stumbled upon the unicorn latte of #yogagrams. Better known as the “handstand press.”

If this is the first time you’re hearing about this killer core move, here’s how it works: Instead of kicking up into a handstand, you begin in a forward fold, fire up your belly, then (bam!) your toes float off the ground and you’re in handstand. To no one’s surprise, the move requires an epic amount of strength.

“When I first started practicing handstands, I was most intrigued by the press and decided to work on it in tandem to working on my handstand,” says Allison Born, yogini and triathlete behind the Instagram account @allykborn. “As I was learning to press, I was constantly humbled and reminded of how much stronger I needed to be, physically and mentally.”

“Honestly, because I can press to handstand, I no longer doubt things are out of my reach, on the mat and off the mat.”

Nowadays, Born goes upside down with an enviable grace that’s pretty magical. And while she allows that incorporating this move on the mat has given her asanas a new lightness, she says the best benefit actually starts once her daily practice is over. “Honestly, because I can press to handstand, I no longer doubt things are out of my reach, on the mat and off the mat,” she says.

Intrigued yet? Here’s the best part: Literally anyone can add this skill to their playbook. Seriously. First things first, though: You’ll have to kick your abs work up a notch. Below, Born shares the exercises you need to master before achieving the elusive handstand press (and yes—it’ll be very cool to post on your Insta).

Roll out your mat and keep scrolling for Born’s 7 drills you can do right now to prep for handstand press.

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Mat Walks
All videos: Ally Born

1. Mat walks

Place your hands shoulder-width apart and feet a foot or so behind them. While pressing into your hands and leaning slightly forward, try to float your feet toward the hands. “Do this drill up and down the mat as you build strength and the drill gets ‘easier,'” Born says.

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Crow Wrist Taps

2. Crow wrist taps

This drill is a great way to be playful while building strength in the core,” says Born. From crow pose, AKA bakasana, engage your core and tap your toes against each wrist.”

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Headstand Pike Work

3. Headstand pike work

Set-up for headstand, lift your legs up together to full headstand (AKA sirsasana) and lower back down slowly. “Alignment is key in this drill,” Born says. “Make sure to get your hips directly over your shoulders, keep a strong neck, press out of your shoulders, and breathe.” Once you can nail 10 of these in a row, you’ll be well on your way to handstand press.

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Shoulder Protraction

4. Shoulder protraction

In a forearm plank, dip into your shoulders and press back out of them, rounding your back. “Besides core strength, this drill builds strength in the shoulders necessary for stability in your press,” explains Born.

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Hollow hold to boat pose

5. Hollow hold to boat pose

Start by making a hollow hold on the mat: Press your low back into the mat, float the legs, and ignite your core. Lift up to boat pose. Lower back down slowly and repeat.

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Slow Lowers from Handstand

6. Slow lowers from handstand

“Sometimes it’s helpful to approach a challenge from a different angle,” says Born. Solid life advice, right? Well, apparently it also applies to handstands. “Rather than trying to press to handstand, try to lower slowly from handstand,” she says. “You’ll notice that to lower slowly, you need to shift the hips slightly and keep the core engaged.”

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Sock Slides

7. Sock slides

“Put on a pair of socks and get sliding,” says Born. From high plank (on a non-carpeted surface), lift the hips up as you drag your feet in toward your hands. This move is called a pike. And there you go!

Here’s why one yogi says the practice goes way beyond the physical and 5 brilliant tips for getting bendy at home.

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