At first glance, walking around on your hands probably doesn’t seem all that “functional,” but the trend in CrossFit today is to expect spending a fair amount of time upside-down, so you might as well get used to it! A lot of people make a very common mistake on the road to being able to freely handstand without support that makes life tough on them in the long run.
In CrossFit, most people will be exposed to the handstand position first in the form of handstand pushups during WOD’s. This is where the mistake happens. In an effort to be fast, most athletes will kick up to the wall so that their back is facing the wall and they’ll knock out their reps. This all but forces the athlete into a bad spinal position. Take a look at most athletes when they are in the classic kick-up position. The biggest problem you’ll notice is that the lower back is usually hyperextended and their abs pretty much shut off. No good!
This is bad positioning for the lower back itself, but that kick-up position basically insures that the athlete will have very little core control and coordination between their upper and lower body. As they attempt to move away from the wall and do free handstands and handstand walking, this translates to big problems.
The solution for this common problem is simple, but it’s not fast and it’s not sexy and it’ll slow you down a bit in WOD’s. Get upside-down using a wall-walk, where you end up facing the wall, instead of the kick-up favored by most CrossFitters. Facing the wall totally changes your balance point, so you are able to get your hands much closer to the wall. If you do your wall walks correctly, your chest and belly will be able to make it right up against the wall, too, and your shoulders will be in their optimal position. The athlete’s body ends up straight as an arrow from hands to feet, with the feet pointed and the core locked in and engaged.
As you move away from the wall, if you’re used to this positioning, you will have the necessary shoulder mobility as well as the “muscle memory” and proprioception that helps keep your upper and lower body coordinated. These are highly necessary elements in getting static handstands and walking on your hands, which you can expect to see in pretty much every competition these days (plus, it’s fun!).