Being in a handstand is a challenge in itself, but getting inverted in the first place is no small feat. Your base requires you to engage your arms, back, and lats, as well as use the strength of your core, glutes, and quads to lift those legs overhead.
It can be tiring to practice, and trying to get into handstands over and over again can make you rely more on momentum than actually building the necessary muscle. That’s why seated straddle raises, which you can practice from the comfort of the good ol’ floor, are a great place to start.
“The seated straddle raise is really common in gymnastics circles,” says Elizabeth Akinwal, a certified personal trainer with a background in competitive gymnastics who is spearheading Well+Good’s Renew Year Movement Plan this month. “It’s a great exercise to work the entire front of your core.” This includes your hip flexors, abs, and your quads.
In a new video for Well+Good, Akinwal explains how to master this deceptively challenging move, which involves raising and lowering your leg while your left foot is on the ground.
Start in a straddle position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your hands on the floor between your thighs. Lock your knees and elbows and engage your quads, arms and back. Then, raise and lower both legs at the same time in a fluid, controlled motion.
But be warned: people make some common mistakes in this step. Make sure to keep your legs straight avoiding bending at your knees. Raise both legs at the same time, not at once. And make sure you’re not hiking your shoulders toward your ears—engaging your lats in your back will help.
Akinwal explains that the movement of the seated straddle is very similar to the handstand or toe raise because it involves the same motion.
“Part of the goal is to close that angle between your torso and your legs, so you’re getting that contraction in your body, like a compressed handstand or a toe raise,” Akinwal says. “It may look easy but I guarantee you it’s as hard as it looks.” Watch the full video to get the best tips on how to make it happen.