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As part of a body weight circuit, I have been using the plank as the abdominal component. Additionally, I have been working on doing handstands, in preparation for doing handstand push ups.

  1. How well does a handstand compare to the plank for an abdominal workout?
  2. Can I replace the plank with the handstand?

Currently I am doing wall-assisted handstands, but I will progress to free-standing.

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Handstands are mostly skill work, rather than strength work (other than right at the beginning) -- you are learning to balance, to make small adjustments in order to stay upright. Therefore, it cannot replace the plank. If you are looking for ab specific work harder than planks, consider ab wheel rollouts or L-sits.

Additionally, you'll want to do handstands before strength training, so that you are as rested as possible. Generally, one would set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and do as many handstands as possible, rests included in the time; alternatively, spread out during the whole day. Daily handstand work will also allow for more progress -- skill work should never be too fatiguing. For more information on handstands, check out this thread on Reddit.

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I'm a handstand noob. I find that my wall-assisted handstands involve my abs to a lesser degree than planks even with good form (tight glutes, abs, straight trunk). With handstands, I find it much easier than with planks to fall into a cheating position where I'm not contracting my abs. I do not find my handstands to be a tremendous ab workout and when concerned with my abs I do other things for them.

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This. When in a handstand position, your abs are basically contracting just enough to keep balance and position, even when unassisted. In a plank, you are constantly contracted to work against gravity. You get much more stability from your skeleton in a proper handstand than you do in a plank position. (Handstand is basically just vertical walking, you don't contract your abs all the time for walking either.) –  JohnP Nov 6 '13 at 14:46
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  1. It doesn't. Handstand has very little to do with abs. Proper handstand has VERY little to do with the engagement of any muscle group. By proper I mean perfect handstand - extended elbows, straight body. But even in an imperfect handstand I doubt you can feel the abs working at all. I never did feel them, even in my beginner handstand days.

  2. Considering the aforementioned - no both exercises are not replaceable in the essence of your questions.

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Mmmmm, I might beg to differ. Even when standing, the muscles controlling the toes up through the lower leg are activating to keep balance. In a perfect handstand, the muscles in the fingers/forearms are taking over this role. And yes, that is nitpicking fine details. :) –  JohnP Nov 6 '13 at 18:41
    
I understand your point, however think of the perfect handstand as one where you won't be leaning forward having the need to flex your fingers. Once in a handstand try finding your balance where you are exactly in the middle of it. Meaning you are not leaning forward nor backwards. Then you just flex your body in order to keep everything like that. After that there is no way for you to get disbalanced unless an outside force is involved. –  Arthlete Nov 7 '13 at 22:32
    
@Arthlete "Finding your balance" and "flexing your body", which you recommend as the approach to eliminate the need to engage the muscles, both involve the engagement of muscles. –  Dave Liepmann Nov 10 '13 at 14:36
    
Yes but you see nobody creates a workout on just the flexing of the muscles. Why? Because it's not much of an effort. I thought that was pretty obvious on its own thus I did not explain it. If you need more confirmation go and look up some popping dancers. They flex their muscles continuously every second but that doesn't develop their muscles in any way. Maybe it could help them develop some endurance but nothing more than that. –  Arthlete Nov 10 '13 at 16:32
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