Why David Beckham is head over heels for the latest health status symbol – handstands

Alice Hall
·4-min read
Victoria Beckham posted a video of husband David doing a handstand as part of a workout - NBCUniversal/ Instagram
Victoria Beckham posted a video of husband David doing a handstand as part of a workout - NBCUniversal/ Instagram

Celebrities are no strangers to expensive and outlandish ways of staying fit. But it seems that David Beckham is taking a simpler approach to his exercise regime. This week, Posh filmed a video of Becks, 45, doing a professional-looking handstand during the pair’s home workout with their personal trainer. She captioned the video  Early morning workout with my husband before adding an arrow and writing And this is impressive”.

To some, it may come as a shock to learn that Beckham's workout consists of such a simple posture. Where’s the Peloton bike? And the Goop-style ice bath? Well, truthfully they’re probably just waiting next door for when he has cooled off. But there’s something to be said for the methods of Beckham's personal trainer Bobby Rich, a former GB athlete and a black belt in judo – who seems to be a fan of getting back to basics with his workouts. A post on his Instagram shows two of Rich’s clients also defying gravity in a handstand pose. Another shows two of his judo students wrestling each other to the ground. Indeed, it seems Beckham’s in good hands. Rich counts Ellie Goulding and Guy Ritchie as some of his A-list clients. 

Could the humble handstand hold the key to getting a sculpted physique like Bex? Personal trainer Michael Garry thinks so: “I’m a huge fan of handstands, and use them as a complementary exercise in a lot of my workouts. They’re good for posture and for our core – when we do a handstand, it activates nearly all 35 of our core muscles. It can also help with stabilising the lower back muscles of the spine.”

In addition to the physical health benefits, handstands are used in advanced yoga practices – where the move is known as sirsasana – to improve concentration and alleviate stress. “This works because of all the elements involved in doing a handstand: you’ve got to focus on your balance, and stabilise most of the muscles in the body too. It’s a bit of a mental workout too,” says Garry. He adds that handstands can also reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can help to relieve minor depression and anxiety. Joe Mitton, personal trainer and founder of MittFit, agrees: "The patience it takes to practice and learn a handstand definitely helps you to remain patient in other aspects of life."

The health benefits of handstands were first recognized as part of the wider movement towards inversion therapy. The technique is based on the theory that by shifting the body’s gravity, the pressure eases off the back while also providing traction for the spine. Those who grew up in the Eighties might remember Richard Gere sparking a trend for anti-gravity boots when he was seen using a pair to train while hanging upside down from a door frame. Indeed one of the best things about handstands is that you don't need any equipment, apart from a wall.

However, Garry issues a note of caution. He explains that handstands are an advanced exercise that aren’t recommended for beginners. Pregnant women, people who suffer from wrist problems and people with high blood pressure should also avoid doing them.

So how can you bend it like Beckham? If you’re new to handstands, it’s important to build up your strength before attempting one. “The first thing I would recommend is making sure that you’re flexible enough,” says Garry. Yoga, pilates or even simple stretching exercises (there are plenty on Youtube) are all good ways to improve flexibility. 

Next, Garry recommends building up shoulder strength, through exercises like shoulder presses and press-ups. It’s also important to get used to being in the handstand position – particularly if you’re not used to spending time upside down. You can do this by progressing into “wall walks”. Keeping your hands on the ground and facing away from the wall, lift your hips up and begin walking your feet up the wall. Walk up as high as you can control, then hold for around 3-5 seconds for beginners, gradually building up as you get more confident.