Denver Straddle Press and Beyond

Awaken owner Crystal Hatch, practices her straddle press in Denver.

You’ve made it. That’s what the handstand stalder press says. If you can successfully, or even partially execute this sweet Denver fitness skill, you’ve accomplished one of the benchmark moves of a serious gymnast.

Every gymnast or athlete dreams of performing this stunning and highly technical skill, but few can execute it at all, let alone perfectly. It requires the highest level of core engagement and compression, shoulder and trap strength, hip power and mobility. There are many moving parts to the handstand stalder press. We are here to break them down piece by piece so you know which muscle groups to target, what drills and exercises can help you progress and the Awaken gymnastics classes in Denver that will get you closer to achieving your own.

With Denver fitness classes like Foundations at Awaken,

these stalder press drills work on compression and strength.


Help us, lower abdominals, you’re our only hope. There is no press handstand, and especially no stalder press handstand, without the utmost lower ab engagement. As you can see from the video, the stalder press begins from a straddle hold on the floor. To do this move, you’ll need strong, flexible wrists, engaged hip flexors, and most of all beastly lower abs. Performing a 10 second straddle press hold on the floor is the first progression in the Denver stalder press journey and the only way to get there is by trying it over and over again. Practice makes closer to perfect.

Practice Drill: Straddle Hold

Start in a straddle position with your hands spread wide on the floor. You can point your fingers out to the side instead of straight in front of you, if desired to take some strain off of the wrists. In one movement, shift your weight forward, stacking shoulders over wrists and lift your legs off the floor as much as possible. At first you likely won’t be able to lift your feet off the floor. In this case, bounce your feet off the floor either one at a time for a few seconds each, or together. The abs should be doing the work here, not the hip flexors. Thinking about pulling your belly button toward your spine will help you keep the effort and energy focused in the right place. When you can perform three 10 second straddle press holds, you’re ready to move on to the next progression.

Some other exercises that can help develop the compression muscles needed for a stalder press are hanging leg lifts on the stall bars, L sits, and manna work. At Awaken, Denver’s best gym, the Foundations Two classes begin L sit and straddle hold work, and Gymnastics classes focus more on core compression through leg lifts on the stall bars. Gymnastics Level 2 classes will develop manna skills and offer more advanced press drills. The coaches will help you progress to attain your desired level of Denver fitness.


Equally as important to a proper press handstand is shoulder and upper back strength. In a stalder press, these muscle groups are responsible for lifting our entire body from a sitting to handstand position and back again. Every bit of upper body strength helps here, but there are a few exercises you can focus on to train the body for this specific movement.

Practice Drills: Tuck Press

The first step to getting a press anything is lifting and holding the body off the floor with the arms. To perform a tuck press, start on your knees with your hands by your sides, fingers spread wide. Press down with your hands and lift your shins up off the floor. You’ll need to shift forward in order to do this, so you may want to tilt your fingers to the sides again. At first it will be quite difficult to lift your legs off the ground, if not impossible. To practice, lift one leg at a time or use paralets. It can help to have a spotter lightly spotting the feet as you lift. Even one second of lift time is significant here. Aim for 10 seconds three times in a row or one 30 second hold.

Hollow Back Press

The Hollow Back Press takes you from a handstand into a pseudo planche push up and back to a handstand. Watch out, Denver fitness scene, this move looks cool and requires serious strength. It is a highly advanced skill and requires mountains of upper body strength, but the spotted version is a great way to develop stalder press strength.

Begin in a handstand with a spotter on each side spotting the shoulders and legs. Bend the elbows to lower yourself toward the ground while leaning as far forward as you can without your wrists coming up. Your legs will lower with you until you’re in a pseudo planche push up position. From here, push back up into a handstand - your spotters will help you. Practice these in sets of three to build strength.

Other exercises that will develop the shoulders and traps for a stalder press are push ups, pseudo planche push ups, head or handstand push ups, tuck handstand holds and frog leg drills against the wall. Foundations One and Two classes at Denver gym Awaken will develop beginner upper body strength through regular push ups, Gymnastics Level One will cover some of the other push up variations and tuck presses, and Level Two classes will provide opportunities to practice more advanced skills like Hollow Back Press and tuck handstand holds.


The last piece of the stalder press puzzle is strong, mobile hips. In order to get from a tent position to a handstand position, the toes from pointing toward the ground to pointing at the ceiling, the hips have to open all the way, lifting the legs above the head. A couple exercises will target the specific movement and muscles needed to do this.

Practice Drills: Straddle Press Against the Wall

Stand with your feet more than shoulder width apart, facing the wall. Place your hands a couple inches from the wall with fingers wide. The closer your hands are to the wall the more difficult the exercise will be, but the further away your hands, the more strain on the wrists, so play around and see what feels like a good balance. Lean your shoulders and back against the wall and get on your tippy toes. Slowly lift your toes up off the floor into a handstand. If you cannot lift your toes up, a slight jump without bending the knees too much will help create some momentum. In a stalder press there is no jumping, so the goal is to lift the legs with momentum coming from the upper body rather than jumping, but one step at a time. Perform the negative as slowly as possible to develop control in the hip flexors and core.

Spotted Straddle Press

This is basically the same exercise with a human wall. Your spotter will stand in front of you, where the wall would be, and block one shoulder with their shin. The spotter places their hands on the outside of your thighs and helps to lift the legs off the ground into a handstand position while you push with your shoulders and lift from the core. On the negative, the spotter will switch their grip to the inside thighs to help you slow the negative until your feet gently touch back on the floor or you slowly return to the straddle hold position of the stalder press.

Denver Fitness Classes Gymnastics Level One and Two at Awaken will provide

practice opportunities for these drills.

The stalder press is a highly advanced skill which takes years for even full time gymnasts to perfect. But it is 100 possible for any dedicated athlete, and Awaken gymnastics facility provides the most comprehensive press handstand classes in Denver. In the meantime, many other skills will become easier because of the strength you’re developing through these drills, so don’t wait to initiate - practice practice practice! One day soon, you’ll have what you’ve been working so hard to achieve.

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