Arm Balance Like a Baby

Learn to arm balance.  Save a face plant.  Look awesome.  ( image source )

Learn to arm balance.  Save a face plant.  Look awesome.  (image source)

Why Arm Balancing?

Because we can only stand on our feet for so long...

Besides giving your legs a break, arm balancing does a lot for your body:

  • Develops arm/shoulder strength
  • Connects your core strength to your arm strength
  • Adds movement variability (gives your body options)
  • Improves your vestibular system
  • Develops functional flexibility/mobility
  • Improves shoulder stability and motor control
  • Gives you something to post on Instagram

What You Need

It's important to make sure you have the necessary physical requirements before attempting arm balances.

Besides a green sweat suit, you need 3 main things:

  1. Adequate wrist extension 
  2. Core & shoulder stability 
  3. Overhead shoulder mobility (3 examples - 1, 2, 3)

Keep in Mind...

The number one goal of arm balancing - don't face plant ( image source )

The number one goal of arm balancing - don't face plant (image source)

Besides trying to avoid an embarrassing face plant, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It's about controlling your center of gravity over your base of support.  In other words, you're trying to shift your body over your hands instead of trying to forcefully pull your body over your hands.
  • Make sure to keep your elbows unlocked
  • Don't hinge at your lumbar spine and rely on osseous support
  • Breathe and try to feel the movement.  It's an intrinsic flow that gets you there, not an external goal of trying to mimic a posture.
  • Start slow and be patient.  It takes time and practice.

6 Beginner Arm Balancing Exercises

I am by no means an expert on arm balancing.  I can barely do a handstand.  But what I can show you is how I've been able to cultivate an arm balance practice from almost nothing.

Here are 6 progressions that can help develop the ability to arm balance.

1) Quadruped Knee Lift

This is great way to teach your body to use your arms and core to manipulate your body position.

Focus on pushing with the arms (not the feet) and using your core to lift the knees just a inch off the ground.

2) Crow Pose

This exercise allows you to start working on arm balancing with minimal risks.  It doesn't require a great deal of shoulder or hip mobility.  And the low position decreases the the stability demands.

The key is to slowly shift your weight forward.  It's not pulling up to your hands or jumping to your hands.  It's just a forward shift.  You can start by keeping one toe on the ground until that becomes comfortable.

And make sure you err on the side of falling backwards, not forwards.

A video posted by Aaron Swanson (@aswansonpt) on

3) L-Shaped Handstand

This allows you to work on developing your arm strength and stability with the safe support of a tree or wall.  It'll teach your body to use your shoulders in a fully flexed position to start to support your body weight.

From here you can progress to wall walk ups.

4) Feet to Hand Float

This progresses the arm strength demands and adds a dynamic stability component.

It may also help you touch your toes easier.

5) Monkey

This takes a little more strength and core stability.  Plus, it progresses the arm balance into the frontal and transverse planes of motion.

6) Pike to Headstand

The elbow position takes out the forearm musculature and forces the shoulders to take up all the stability demands.

This exercise should be a later progression to avoid excess force on the cervical spine.

It will also allow you to develop the ability to achieve an arm balance such as the handstand or headstand without a reliance on momentum.

Bottom Line

Arm balancing is a great addition to your movement practice.  This is just an example of a few exercises that can help you enter the world or arm balancing.  Once you get these exercises down the paths for progressions are unlimited.