Proper Hand Placement for Floor Exercises
Written by Bryce Smith
I work with athletes every day on push-ups, bear crawls, wall climbs, handstand push-ups, and handstand holds. Every day I see athletes with their fingers together. When your hands are in contact with the floor, the main goal should be to provide a wider base of support to enhance stability upstream, ultimately creating better, safer, and more efficient movement.
Finger spacing and weight distribution play a major role in force production and balance. Your fingers should be spread apart as if you were playing the piano. Another analogy is having your fingers spread as if you were playing that game with a knife and someone is trying to stab between each finger.
When playing that second game, you want to spread your fingers pretty wide so the likelihood of the knife hitting one of your fingers is less. This creates a wider base and provides a little more stability. Think about your fingers like the toes on your feet. Healthy feet have toes that are spread apart, providing greater balance and sensitivity. When you stand on your feet the pressure is spread across the toes, ball of the foot, and heel.
During handstand exercises, many athletes place all of the pressure on to the palm of their hand when the pressure should really be placed on the tips of the fingers just underneath the first knuckles of the hands, and on the heel of the palms. The larger knuckles should be raised and not touching the ground. An analogy could be gripping a ball. Thinking about trying to grip the floor will enhance your proprioception; which is where you are in space, and will assist with weight distribution and balance. When you drift too far forward and you feel like you are about to topple over, try pressing in to your finger pads which will push you back into balance.
This is the concept most people have trouble with because of the discomfort and lack of practice using the fingers like toes. If your weight drifts back making you feel like you are about to land back on your feet where you started, try pushing into the heel of your hand which will allow you to find balance. In due time, after learning to shift your weight between the fingertips and heel of the palm, you will find your balance point. To simplify this concept by doing it on your feet first, then on your hands with your heels on a wall, then on your hands with a spotter, and lastly work on your freestanding handstand.
Building a strong foundation is the key to being successful in anything in life. You wouldn’t build a house on a rocky or unstable surface, and as many athletes experience; it is very challenging to be a good mover if we have issues with our feet or ankles. If we are able to optimize the positioning of our hands during handstand variations, we can then set ourselves up to be successful in the rest of the handstand and attack other potential problem areas like the shoulders and hips. If you have a strong foundation, you can build and rebuild anything, but with a weak foundation, you cannot build anything that will last.