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What is Hand Walking?

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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Hand walking is a method of human locomotion in which an individual propels his or her body while in an upside-down position, settling the body's weight into the hands. This unusual skill is often seen in gymnastics, acrobatics, and circuses. Hand walking requires an exceptional amount of strength in the arms, and experts are often able to move around with just as much grace as if they were walking on their feet.

Before tackling the art of hand walking, professionals recommend a rigorous program of bodyweight exercises, specifically arm strength training exercises, such as push-ups and pull-ups. When the arms are sufficiently strengthened, the first step is mastering a handstand. A handstand lays the groundwork for hand walking, giving the individual an idea of how it feels to support the body from this new vantage point, how to develop coordination upside-down, and how to distribute the body's weight evenly throughout the arms and hands. Shoulder and wrist balance are also key aspects of a solid handstand and play important roles in properly walking on the hands. The ancient art of hand yoga, or mudras, can additionally help maintain balance as well as instill a sense of calm.

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Control is the watchword of successful hand walking. At first, experts suggest taking very small steps, lifting the hand up off the ground slowly and placing it back down an easy distance ahead. This slow approach to hand walking ensures a cultivation of steadiness and control over the motion of the body — which, in such a curious position, will usually want to flail about and fall over. Taking it at a snail's pace in the beginning guarantees smoother, quicker steps in the future.

To further perfect control of the body, professionals advise a variety of techniques. One is to simply walk on the hands, stop, start walking again, stop, and keep repeating the process. Another exercise involves walking in new directions: backward, to the left, or to the right. Particularly seasoned hand walkers can test themselves by putting on some music and attempting to dance on the hands.

Though hand walking may seem to be a uniquely human skill, there are certain animals that give the appearance of walking on their hands. Cats and dogs, for instance, can be trained to walk on their front legs. There is also a certain breed of skunk that, when attacked, can walk on its front limbs to better propel its spray toward the enemy.

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