Handstands and Hypertrophy; Will HS Practice get you Jacked?

This is an interesting question I get fairly often, about how much of my physique came from my handstands and what kind of hypertrophy gains can be expected from the practice.

As usual, the answer is not a simple one.

Here are a couple points to consider:

-Handstand is a technical discipline. That means to do it right is to perform the skill in a way that is the most efficient and least physically demanding. More skill gains mean less physique gains.
-Handstand is a bodyweight discipline. While anyone can learn it, being as light as possible does carry advantages to skill gains.
-Flexibility is also an important aspect of the skill work and while this is not always the case, being more muscle-bound generally equates to being less flexible.

In terms of my own practice:

-Handstands have held a place in my own physical practice for the last 14 years or so, though I definitely did not follow what would be considered today’s standard progression.
-Apart from handstands I have practiced many different disciplines which all contributed to my physique gains.
-While handstands have been a factor for me, it is far from the only one.

General points to consider:

-Everyone responds to training differently, so two people doing the same workout will see very different results from it. The same goes with a skill-based physical discipline like hand balancing.
-In high level hand balancers, you will see similar development in shoulders, wrists and forearms. However it should be noted that many of the world’s best handbalancers don’t have impressive physiques(from a bodybuilding or weightlifting perspective). Likewise, many “jacked” handbalancers I can think of learned their skill when they were more skinny, then hit the weights later on to bulk up, and of course kept up with their skill work.
-Kind of a repetitive point of this article, but there is not always a direct correlation between strength, skill, and muscle mass.
-You should do handstands because you enjoy it. If you do it for the physique gains you are in it for the wrong reason. It might take a really long time to see noticeable muscle from your handstand practice, or it may not happen at all.
-There are much more effective ways of building up your upper body than a handstand practice, though I think it is a valuable addition to your program. My original handstand inspirations were the old time strongmen who used to practice HS in addition to their normal weight training.


What should you focus on to get more physique gains from your handstand training?

-Handstand pushups are fantastic for building the upper body in pressing .Freestanding ones are even better because you get the added benefit of balance corrections and stability work.

-Handstand Walking is a fantastic shoulder conditioning exercise that has much less of a skill/technical component compared to static balance. It’s an easily accessible move that offers the benefit of one arm support with full bodyweight at higher reps/distance. Also this one is fun to do. It is a staple of conditioning/warmup in not only gymnastics but martial arts like wrestling, judo, and capoeira.

-Press to handstand also trains the shoulders in a very unique way and will definitely help to build the delts, traps, and upper back.

-Long endurance holds are excellent for a pump in the shoulders and forearms(when free balancing). It can also be debated that the extra bloodflow to the upper body can help even more with recovery and building up the musculature.

-Feel free to add in some pulling work to balance out your physique and strength levels.


Conclusion

The intention of a handstand practice is to get better handstands. Physique gains may or may not result from it, but are by no means guaranteed. If your priority is hypertrophy, you’ll be better off with a bodybuilding based strength/conditioning program and adding in some handstand work on the side for added gains.
If your main goal is handstands but want to get more jacked, place more priority on the movements I listed above and maybe include some more bodybuilding style work 1-2 times a week.

Interested in learning more of a no-BS approach about handstands and other physical arts? Check out my handstand ebook and my workshops all around the world.

Common Handstand Mistakes: The Mini Planche

Today I want to talk about a very common handstand “mistake” that I notice all the time in adults. That would be the mini-planche.
To the uninitiated, a planche is a gymnastics pose that is in its essence a horizontal handstand and is accomplished by leaning the shoulders really far forward past the hands. The balance component of this posture is quite easy because the center of mass is low and the weight is spread out far from the point of balance. However, this pose takes tremendous upper body strength to be able to hold.

 Shoulders past the hands to counterbalance the legs.

Shoulders past the hands to counterbalance the legs.

 Even further lean with legs together.

Even further lean with legs together.



Why is this important? Well when learning to balance their handstands, a lot of adults will unknowingly and instinctively lean their shoulders a bit forward, as if towards the planche. I can understand completely why people do this: they sacrifice balance for strength. The straight, vertical handstand takes the most skill and precision to balance. Taking the weight out of the center line lowers the center of mass and creates a small counter-balance, meaning the balancing movements with the hands and wrists don’t have to be as precise.

 Mini Planche in a handstand can be a very subtle thing to spot sometimes. Notice the angle of the arms in this photo in relation to the vertical line. In most cases it will be more obvious than this to spot.

Mini Planche in a handstand can be a very subtle thing to spot sometimes. Notice the angle of the arms in this photo in relation to the vertical line. In most cases it will be more obvious than this to spot.

 Compare it to this photo where the arms are completely vertical as they should be.

Compare it to this photo where the arms are completely vertical as they should be.




Advantages of mini planche? Easier balance. Decreased likelyhood of an uncontrolled fall.
Drawbacks? Leaning forward puts more stress on the shoulders and wrists compared to keeping the arms vertical. It may not seem like much, but can accumulate over time, especially if training at a higher volume.

At the start of this article, I wrote mistake in quotes because it’s all about perspective. Though I don’t personally teach it this way, applying this technique can help a beginner to build the sensation of balancing on their hands faster. However, once we get to a more advanced level, finding a resting position in a handstand becomes more important. It is very difficult to be able to rest and relax in a handstand if the arms are not vertically aligned. The habit of planching will make it more difficult to increase endurance and work capacity, as well as learning skills like press to handstand. It will especially make one arm handstand more frustrating, as slight forward shoulder lean is a major cause of body rotation in one arm shifts.
I generally recommend learning to balance with the arms vertical from the beginning. Over the long term it’s better for your body and skill progressions though it may take a bit longer to initially learn to balance.

How do we fix the mini-planche? It’s all about perspective. I generally find that most people who end up building this habit are not aware of it. In other words, they think they are vertical when they are in fact leaning their shoulders forward. This means that if you were to place them in a vertical position, they would feel like they are falling towards the heels of their hands.
The best way to get rid of this habit is to develop control and awareness in a variety of positions of the shoulders in relation to the hands. By developing opposite extremes, it will be easier to find a resting position in middle ground.
We are looking to understand 3 position: shoulders above the hands, shoulders in front of the hands, and shoulders behind the hands. Once you learn what all of these feel like, it becomes much easier to give yourself feedback and make the proper corrections.
Vertical becomes a middle ground as opposed to an extreme range of control.
Check out this video to see what I mean:


Of course this exercise is quite advanced and can be scaled bu using a spotter, or working the forward and back elements separately against the wall before combining them.
Check out my youtube video below to see some more basic versions of how to fix the mini-planche. You can skip to 6:35 for the practical solutions, before that is theory.


Still working your handstand balance? Check out my ebook so you can develop a deeper understanding of the process.

Is One Arm Handstand Worth Pursuing

Interesting question I got in one of my live chats recently, something along the lines of "is a one arm handstand worth pursuing?"

First off, I can't answer that for anyone else as you will have to find your own answers. I can, however, add some thoughts about the process so you can more easily find your own answer.

Cons:
-It will take a long time. Way longer than you think. Don't even try to put a time frame on it.
-It will take a lot of commitment and sacrifice, meaning it may be difficult to also train other skills/disciplines with the same intensity.
-You have to be a little bit obsessed.
-Many people develop overuse injuries during the process because of the high volume demand.
-The process is very frustrating and repetitive.
-Be prepared to review your basics because they probably were not good enough.
-Inconsistent progress with very few aha moments.
-You'll probably want to quit as some point. Many people who undertake the journey don't ever "arrive".
-Very specific as far as skillsets go. Being able to hold OAH may not help you too much with learning other physical arts.
-Little Chinese girls warm up with your maximum efforts.

Pros:
-Looks really cool.
-Feels as cool as it looks.
-Top level party trick.
-Welcome to the elite. This is something that only the tiniest fraction of a percentage of the population will ever be able to achieve. The cool thing is that almost anyone can learn this, but it's the few who are willing enough to put in the years of work.
-Feels amazing once the work you put in starts to pay off.
-Fitness goals directed towards improving a skill are far superior to spinning in place in a hamster wheel.

So is it worth it? It has been for me. I put in a lot of sacrifice and this journey has taken me many places, literally and figuratively even though I still wouldn't call myself a "hand balancer".
Will it be worth it for you? You'll just have to find out...

A couple important qualities a good teacher should possess

So I personally love to attend classes and workshops for no reason. There's always something to learn, and even if it's in a subject you are already familiar with, a different perspective can always be helpful to see.
Even if I despised the class, I can still learn about what not to do as well as learn about myself based on my own reaction to the experience.

In this age of gurus and occasional charlatanry it can sometimes be difficult to discern the BS from the stuff of real value.
Here are a couple things I look for in a teacher truly secure and confident in what they do.

-Have a logical and specific reason for doing things a certain way. Always ask why. Questionable answers include: "we've always done it this way", "it's what my coach had me do", "Don't question the system". If they cannot explain why they do something, that smells strongly of bullshit.

-Admit to not knowing something. Momentarily being in a position of authority does not make anyone's knowledge absolute. There is no shame admitting this, to me it's actually a huge mark of confidence and humility. Nobody knows everything, and in essence everyone knows something you don't. Personally I find my own teaching experiences just as educational for me as for the workshop attendees, if not more so.

Last one is probably cliche, but a good teacher should embody what they teach. They should live it. What they teach should come out of their own experience.
It's easy to regurgitate information out of a book or generic "teacher training" but it's a bit more difficult to use your own experiences and observations as your guide.
If you are looking to teach something I think the most difficult part of the process is gathering enough experience and figuring out how to apply it. If only you could learn that in a weekend certification.
Unfortunately it takes years of mistakes, experimentation, and implementation.

Coming soon: The Yuri Method(TM) Weekend Certification of how to acquire experience

Honest Marketing

Going to be honest here, sometimes it's difficult to keep a no-BS approach within the fitness/movement/whatever industry. Luckily I'm not a good salesman and have no marketing team or skills, so I have to rely on my wit and striking good looks to survive.
I don't teach or belong to a system or method. I will not be certifying anyone, I make no absurd claims of my work, and have no time for grandiose charlatanry.

So here is a realistic sales pitch my of my workshops:
-I give tips and suggestions based on my knowledge and experience. I don't actually know that much but my memory and retention is well above average.
-I make no guarantees on what you will learn(there is potential to learn a lot but that's up to you)
-As an acrobat/handbalancer/mover I consider myself half mediocre on a good day(though probably higher level than most people have the patience to get to). The journey I took put me at a massive disadvantage for actual skill development but made me a much better teacher. I'm still trying to always learn more and improve however I can. I say this because the best athletes are often not the best teachers, however some people teach who barely do the thing themselves.
-If you are looking for a pragmatic way to approach hand balancing, acrobatics, "movement", bodyweight strength, flexibility, etc. as an adult I think I have something to offer.
-If you enjoy mysterious pretense and like the smell of bullshit, I am not your man. There are people out there who can serve you better.
-I highly favor individuality and critical thinking over group hive-mind type situations.
-My ultimate goal as a teacher is to encourage people towards individual self-awareness. The physical arts are just something I use as a vehicle towards approaching this.
-Don't look up to me. Being like me should not be anyone's goal. I have my own shit I'm dealing with(just like anyone else) and still have a long way to go in my own self-improvement.

Anyway, that's the overly romanticized version. Now who wants to join me in learning how not to fall on their head when attempting handstands?

How the worst seminar I ever attended made me a better teacher

Random fleeting thought about the power of experience and perception:

I remember very well what I consider the worst workshop I've ever taken(shall not be named). It was on the expensive side, not too favorable teacher/student ratio, almost no actual instruction, moved through exercises so fast no one had time to get anything, most of the exercises themselves were overly convoluted and not that useful, seminar was trying to peddle a product rather than focus on the experience, etc.

Really, I considered the whole thing a self-centered masturbation fest. The instructor talked about themselves for the whole first hour of what seemed to be a rehearsed speech(and seemed to enjoy the sound of their own voice). After lunch, the assistant talked about himself for a good 45 minutes.

Granted, I took the seminar out of my own curiosity as an outsider to the community it was geared towards. Most of the people in attendance seemed to really enjoy the event. Were they that far indoctrinated within their community? Or maybe they attended for much different reasons than I.

Anyway, this seminar made me think a lot about peoples' motivation and reasoning and how it could differ greatly from my own.

Lastly, this seminar gave me a lot of motivation to try to better with my own teaching that I try to deliver(by my standards anyway). The lessons I learned from this day were all negative, but they have stuck with me.
I'm not saying I do better than this; but I try my best to uphold my own standards. No doubt(just by statistics if anything) that there are at least a couple people who consider my workshop the worst they've ever taken.

So I pose this question: was it really the worst seminar I ever attended? I may have learned something very different than the other attendees, but I still learned a lot.

Every experience has something to offer, It's just in how you perceive it.

A few real thoughts for those considering learning OAH

Want to learn one arm handstand? Here are a couple thoughts that might either motivate or discourage you, and I've left out the fake motivational "you can do it" rubbish I hate so much.
This is based on my own experience from people who think they are ready.
Even though these thoughts are handstand specific, they can apply to any high level skill once you are at that level. 

-Your two arm handstand(along with other basics) is probably not good enough. Work on it more. Every aspect of it should be completely trivial.

-If it takes you more than one try to catch a balance on two arms, you have way more important priorities than OAH.

-You haven't, don't, and probably are not willing to spend enough time in fingertip supported OAH. Accumulate time and strive to make the fingertips as light as possible. Get to a point where holding this is almost as trivial as two arms.

-You'll have to be ok with working the same drills drills and exercises every day for months at a time. That's the reality of the training.

-There are no a-ha moments. It's going to a long, slow, drawn out, methodical process without any guarantee of linear progression.

-Consistency is king and persistence is queen. There is nothing to celebrate until you can hit intended skill with similar accuracy on a consistent basis. This will keep you way more honest than internet validation.

-Be prepared to work and sacrifice. Just playing around occasionally might be enough to maintain the skill but not to build it.

Anyway, just a few real thoughts on what it takes. In all honesty, many people who come to me thinking they are ready for one arm work are not. That doesn't mean they can't play with the concepts, but it might be better to put priorities elsewhere.

Hand Balance and Pulling Strength

Should pulling be a part of your hand balancing practice?
Well like many other things the answer is subjective depending on what you are trying to achieve.
The first thing to note is that no amount of pulling work will have any direct benefit on your hand balancing. 
In fact; being strong in pulling movements can actually hinder your handstand progress. This is because being a strong puller usually comes with other baggage such as tight lats and forearms which can make it more difficult to create a better line with which you can find a resting position in the handstand.
Hanging on the other hand can be useful for building shoulder mobility and decompressing the body.

The answer I give here is of a similar theme that I often give. It's about assessing your goals and figuring out what you are trying to achieve.
Are you training to solely specialize in hand balance? You don't really need to do any pulling, though I personally would not give the advice to avoid it completely. 
Generalist physical culture enthusiast? By all means, experiment with a bit of everything, but know the demands and costs of the disciplines. I can progress in pulling with 1-2 sessions per week but would see very little progress if I did the same with hand balance. On the same note, heavy pulling sessions can have a negative impact on your handstand skill work because of how the body responds.
Climber, aerialist, pole dancer or other pulling dominant athlete? I think some basic handstand work is valuable in balancing out the shoulders and help prevent injury,

Personally I've always included some kind of pulling work in my physical practice, as pushing strength came easier to me. I've also never called myself a hand balancer; have performed as an aerialist, and enjoy the combination of pulling and pushing to balance out the upper body(aesthetically and functionally).
What are your thoughts on balancing out a handstand practice with pulling strength?

Why I don't use the word "good"

A bit of personal philosophy today.
I almost never use the word "good" to describe something, regardless of what I am talking about.
This falls in line with my thoughts about positive thinking in general, but I find it interesting how specific language and word choice can impact our perspective on the world.

I don't use "good" because it is dangerously close to falling into a trap of complacency. See, when you call something good, it's not far off from being labeled "good enough"(for government work). When something is good enough, it no longer needs improving and then progress can stagnate.
I dislike the idea of goals and destinations, because I have watched too many people lower their standards in order to "arrive" rather than continue looking at the path ahead as they tread onward.
I also don't take compliments well, so this is a way to rationalize it. This also invokes my early days where I received too much positive feedback for the absolute garbage I was doing. It made me develop an ego where later it was difficult to handle advice or criticism. Now I've transformed into the opposite, where my self critique is often much harsher than what others would dish out while I shrug off and negate any form of compliment.

Rather than "good", these are my levels:

-Terrible: Usually denotes some kind of technical failure.
-Not good: Usually denotes potential for risk.
-Better: A sign that things are in the process of improvement.
-Not bad: High Praise

So terrible and not good are on the negative spectrum while better and not bad are more positive.

Of course, this style of thinking is not for everyone. Personally this logic makes sense to me and it's what allows me to keep on learning as I go.
What are your thoughts?

Quantifying Years of Experience

So recently I watched a promotional video for a business where one of their selling points was "over 100 years of ... experience".

Now I know for a fact this business has not been around for a century; nor has the market for such a business.

My next series of questions then would be concerning the mathematics of this conclusion and where the line would be drawn.

 

What qualifies as a year of experience? Can I round up? Do I add up the collective experience of my employees? If I am somebody's student, can I compile their years of experience onto my own since I learned from their mistakes? If I am a coach, do I only count my years of coaching or can I add my years of training/competition? If I am an athlete/performer, does the timer start the first day I set foot into the gym or only when I start competing or performing on a proper level? If I inherited a trade from my family, can I add that that ancestral experience onto my own number?
What if I take time off of my trade; do I have to stop the counter or can I keep it going? If I learned part of my trade as a child, does that count since children follow a different learning process compared to adults?
Can achieving a certain level act as a multiplier?

 

Hope you can see why I would be suspicious of anyone who lists their years of experience as a selling point; it's too easy to manipulate the math. It's the small dogs that bark the loudest.

I think some things are better left unsaid, and experience should speak for itself. If your eye is sharp enough, you can tell someone's experience through their attention to the finer details.


What does experience even mean?
I don't believe that doing something for x number of years necessarily constitutes that many years of experience. I also don't believe that time spent learning a skill as a child equals the amount of time of learning the same skill as an adult. Continuing, I don't believe being coached and strictly following someone else's process of equal to the experience of following your own process. Learning a trade for the enjoyment of learning it versus having to do it to make a living are also unequal in my eyes(dependent on some factors). I also think years of experience teaching and being a student don't hold the same value.

 

Experience is about trying things, then reaping the rewards or dealing with the consequences and making the necessary adjustments.
Making mistakes is massively important, but even more so is learning lessons from those mistakes.
Years of repetition are not equal to years of experience.

Basically, unless you are continuously modifying, changing, and hopefully evolving I don't believe that years of action are equal to years of experience and should not be presented as such.

 

 

Of course I'll have to call myself out as well, trying to be as objective as possible(feel free to skip if you don't care about my personal history):


-As an athlete, I did play some sports and ran around outside as a kid but wasn't super active. I would start my timer probably around age 16-17 when I started to enjoy and care a bit more about performance, health, and fitness. I'll say this timer hasn't really stopped since I have continued to stay active; but I wouldn't count any of my pursuits as a kid into this number.
 

-As a teacher I would say my journey started at around 18/19 years old when I attempted to take over the unofficial capoeira club at my university because there was noone else at the time.

However, I can make several distinctions in here; first when I taught just to try to build a community for my own personal enjoyment; second when I taught for work mainly coaching kids gymnastics and other classes; third when I transitioned into working for myself doing workshops and seminar around the world for adults.
Also I can note that I took breaks during times that I had other non-teaching related jobs.I can also say that during my time teaching, I constantly experiment with different methods to continue to try to understand more about the learning process itself.

 

-As a performer I would probably start my timer also around 18 years old, my first "proper" performance with a real audience I can remember was being part of a capoeira piece for a show run by the school of dance at my university. During university we did some performances and then I became a cheerleader as well; which meant during football or basketball games there was an audience of several thousand people.

Moving to Las Vegas gave me a lot more opportunity to develop myself as a performer and be a part of some amazing shows, but still there was never a time when I was performing on a regular basis.

Even now, I would love to continue to develop myself more in this aspect but teaching all the time gets in the way of that. Not that I'm complaining as I love teaching and it's a kind of performance on its own; but I often get the question when I am teaching abroad for weeks at a time ""are you performing anywhere?" The answer is not really because that requires me to be in town and available.
So in short, I have been performing for years but many breaks and I still think I have a lot to work on in this aspect.

 

-As a businessman... my weakness. I would start my timer when I quit my regular job and started working for myself full-time. Maybe a little bit of freelance work beforehand but this was the main shift.
I was very naive when I begin this enterprise and this is the area where I learned some of my harshest lessons on trust and the general nature of some people. I've dealt with grown millionaires who displayed the maturity of children in the playground. I've dealt with people who can talk all day about their grandiose plans but don't deliver; likewise with promises. 
Though to not stay on a negative note I have also met some amazing people that I have been able to base some of my own decisions and protocols off of. 
I think I have managed to do ok since I've been completely on my own in this regard and have seen reasonable growth without sacrificing my ideals and integrity. 
Constant lessons being learned here; and though I am lucky to enjoy what I do for a living the business end is the least enjoyable part. 

 

-As a student? Never stop learning.

I couldn't count the number of people I have learned from or been inspired by whether it was directly or indirectly. I am grateful to them all for the positive and negative lessons.
I've definitely had periods of time where I stagnated in my learning process or let my ego take its hold, but I am doing my best to shed all that and try to see the lesson and learning experience in everything.

 

 

Hopefully you have enjoyed reading my rant on years of experience as well as a little bit of my own personal history.

 


Sincerely yours,

Yuri Dmitrievich Marmerstein

Over one million years collective multiplied athletic, business, ancestral, ethereal, cosmic, spiritual, coaching, teaching, moving, learning and existing Experience

The Yuri Method(TM) of how to not be completely useless and make something of yourself(results not guaranteed)

Since anyone these days has the opportunity to be a self-professed expert on success, life, and the universe, I have decided to hold my own free webinar. Right here in this very post; and you don't even have to sign up for anything(other than follow me).

Here is the Yuri Method(TM) of how to not be completely useless and make something of yourself(results not guaranteed):
First off, know that you are nothing and your existence is fleeting as best. As a drop of water amidst an infinite ocean.
With that said, try the following:
1.Find something that genuinely interests you
2.Learn more about it
3.Try it
4.Make mistakes
5.Learn from your mistakes
6.Try again and make new mistakes. This is progress
7.Learn more
8.Keep trying and learning until your ability level matches your standards. This might take a while and your standards might change over time. This is ok. Reap the rewards of your success or accept the consequences of your failures and learn your lesson. Both of these are equal in the long term.
9.Use your knowledge and ability to help those at lower levels than you achieve their own progress(optional step but it can be fulfilling).
9a. Join a community of people with the same interest. This step is optional, but some people enjoy it. Personally I've had a couple bad experiences with communities, so this has made me naturally suspicious and more inclined to be the lone wolf(most of the time anyway).
10.Repeat the process with something new to you. 
11.Continue until expiration

A couple extra thoughts:
-The new year is trivial. Resolutions are fleeting, promises are broken, words are wind. Having the drive and taking the time and effort to improve yourself should be something embedded within your consciousness(if you take it seriously). If it takes a NYE resolution to start or break a habit, so be it, but my recommendation is to permanently continue working on yourself for the long haul. Every experience, good or bad, is an opportunity to learn something.

Never stop learning, never stop doing, keep at it until you expire.

Happy New Year

Regards,
Yuri

P.S. As always, don't take my advice too seriously. Following the Yuri Method(TM) may result in existential crisis. There will be side effects. Results not guaranteed.

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Thoughts after a failed internet argument

So recently I made the mistake of replying to a thread on the internet while attempting to give advice and use logic.  
Needless to say, it didn't go well.  It could have continued as a conversation about handstand technicalities, but my logic was met with a personal attack on myself and my teaching style(which I completely accept) and eventually a comment on my appearance.  
I won't bore you with the full conversation, but let's say I am once again put off by trying to help people over public forums on the internet.  

When I saw the argument was turned to being about me instead of the subject in question, I tried to end the argument and concede internet superiority, after which this classy gentleman pulled the LOTR card and called me Gimli.  
I'm not mad.  I fully respect peoples opinions and perspectives when there is logic and reason behind them.  It's just difficult to help sometimes in the age where everyone is an expert/guru.  


First off, Gimli was my favorite character in LOTR(apart from Tom Bombadil) so I don't take that as an insult but rather hilarity.  

Anyway, before I get side tracked I want to address the grievances against me.  It's more of an internal dialogue for me, but since I can express myself better through writing this might help some of my readers might learn more about how I teach.  
Luckily I mostly view the world from a negative/realist(none of this optimism/positive BS) point of view so this makes it easy to anticipate potential negative backlash(since I am more harsh on myself than anyone else can be). I hate receiving compliments anyway.  

Below are some of the grievances about my person and my responses to them:


-"Spends countless hours on Bailouts"
It's true, the bailout of the HS is a big part of my curriculum, especially in my beginner workshops.  Not being able to bail out safely is something that holds many people back from developing their freestanding handstand as it creates a psychological limitation for the skill.  I often see very fast results in students' handstand from just working on bailouts, as it gives them more confidence in their entry and takes away the fear of falling.  
Now I understand that this might be a trivial concept for intermediate and advanced practitioners attending a mixed level workshop.  I never thought much of bailouts myself(I learned it naturally from years of actual falling) until I started teaching adults with no prior inversion experience.  
To keep the higher level students entertained, I try to offer different challenges and perspectives within the context.  In addition I offer advice on how to teach this to beginners, since teaching cues and perspectives are also something that many of my workshop attendees are interested in(I take the time to ask).  
In an advanced workshop, the bailout is not something I touch on since I assume participants can already do it and have the control to not need to use it.  

-"Does not like presses very much"
I think this may have been taking out of context.  I think the press to HS is an incredibly valuable skill for anyone to learn, even if they are not handstand obsessed.  The combination of strength, flexibility, balance, timing, and control needed for a press is a huge achievement and it is worth anyone interested in the physical arts to pursue it.  
However for most people the press takes more energy than kicking or jumping to handstand.  
The original thread was about one-arm handstands, which is a very specific skill.  When learning this, I generally discourage students from using the press to go into their one-arm sets.  The reason is mainly for efficiency since you can save energy in the entry that can be used for additional one-arm training(you'll need it). The press can(and should) then be trained separately in the practice and eventually combined with the OAH work.  
The main reason I give this advice is because I have seen too many occurrences of people wasting energy and tiring themselves out quickly by trying to press into every OAH attempt.  
No right or wrong here, just viewing the skill from a specific perspective.  If your goal is OAH, the more reps you can do the better you will be.  

Of course there are also times when the press is the safest method of entry, like doing HS on something high or unstable but once again we are talking about as very specific context here as to why not to use the press.  


"Versatility"
I had also recommended the OP to avoid training OAH on mats and stick to hard floor or blocks.  The reason is that the mats change the weight distribution in the hand and dampen the sensation a bit. This may not make much difference for two arm HS but will make the OAH more frustrating to learn(even more so than it already is).  
Part of the conversation before it turned into the typical internet troll stupidity was about doing the HS on different surfaces to build versatility.  I am absolutely for this, in fact I wrote an ARTICLE about performing the HS on different surfaces and how it leads to different adaptations and a better understanding of the skill as a whole.  
However, for initial OAH training it will be a lot less frustrating if you can give yourself consistent conditions as there are already enough variables to worry about.  
The progressions here are skill-specific so being versatile is a good thing.  However no amount of versatility will get you to balance on one arm as it's something you have to specifically work on.  
This is why it is so rare for gymnasts to be able to do OAH, even though their versatility in HS is very high.  To get better at OAH you need to specifically work on it and there is no way around that.

-"Does so much other stuff"
I think this was a personal attack on my varied training, as some handstand purists see other training as a negative thing.  
The fact is that I have never called myself a hand balancer.  There was never a time when i trained only handstand, though there was a period when it was my main focus.  I have always trained in multiple disciplines, I just found handstands to be especially interesting.  
I think it broadens my perspective(and helps teaching people of different backgrounds) to train HS alongside with many other disciplines, but I understand how someone with a more narrow state of mind can see it as a negative.  
I am also well aware that my handstand level is quite mediocre, especially compared to some of the people have had the opportunity to train with.  That's why it is best not to compare but still maintain a healthy dose of realism as to where I stand.  
I think what I do have under my belt is the mistakes I have made in my journey, and the years of practical experience from teaching people of different backgrounds and abilities around the world.  This allows me to see certain perspectives that people with a formal background or narrow minded purists(not using this as a derogatory term) would have trouble expressing.  
Teaching to me is less about personal ability and more about communication and managing expectations and standards of your students. 
I believe the path I took in learning my skills may have been detrimental in my development as an athlete but was invaluable in my development as a teacher.  

I also believe the ultimate goal of a teacher should be to make themselves obsolete, so I try to think more in terms giving students concepts to develop and apply for themselves in their own practice rather than doing the work for them in the moment.  I think being largely self-taught also helped me to see things in this way.  
I understand this can also be a polarizing point of view if someone is too accustomed to a particular teaching or learning style.  No problem there.  Sometimes we have to take classes or get lessons to see what doesn't work.  A negative lesson is still a positive one as you learn what not to do.  

-"Would be pretty boring if we all looked this same"
I guess this is an attack on having people follow similar progressions towards their skill work.  

In response, Yes it would.  Except we do all look the same.  We all have two arms, two legs, head, torso, etc.  There's a cliche Bruce Lee quote here, something about 'when people have 3 arms and 4 legs, then you will see some different fighting styles".  
I think it is important to make creative variations of skills, but it is equally if not more important to build a base of technique to build that from.  That base technique is going to look similar(though never completely the same) for pretty much everyone and there is reason for that.  
After technique can come individual style.  

Also, one more cliche quite to add: "There is nothing new under the sun".  It's all been done, and probably before your lifetime under shittier conditions.  
With few exceptions, nobody is really doing anything "new" or unique in the realm of the physical arts.  It might be unique to you, but not to the world.  
I think what allows people to be unique is to put their own perspective and style behind what they do.  
There's nothing wrong with following a set standard, at least for a certain amount of time. 


-"Gimli"
This was the final retort.  
Yes, I am bearded. As is the dwarven character in Tolkien's novels.  This is a connection noone has made before (cue sarcasm).  
It is also very relevant to the original conversation and a super classy move(more sarcasm if the native English readers dd not catch it). 
I love being bearded and hate my face, so it's a win/win situation for me.  Beards are a long time symbol of manhood, wisdom, and virility.  Plus the ladies love it(wink wink).  

I will insert a couple of my favorite beard quotes just for grins:

"He who hath a beard is more than a child, and he who hath no beard is less than a man"
-Shakespeare

"There are two kinds of people without beards, women and children"

"It's better a Jew without a beard than a beard without a Jew."
-Yiddish proverb




The gentleman also eventually went on saying he was biased because he did not enjoy my seminar.  This is also perfect fine with me.  I try to do my best in helping everyone get something out of my workshop.  
However, I am well aware I normally work with a mixed group as far as ability, background, expectations and intentions for the class.  No matter how good I am, I cannot make everyone happy.  
I tell participants to keep an open mind, but I have no doubt that occasionally some are offended or disappointed by my language, delivery, skills, point of view, class organization, etc.  
As I say, I do my best but can't win them all.  Only can learn from experience and continue to improve.  

 


Those are my thoughts from this experience.  If you made it this far I hope you enjoyed the read.  

Until next time, you have my axe.  

Gimli out

A Few Thoughts on Hand Balancing and Wrist Injuries

Of all the questions I get, probably one of the most common has to do with wrist pain or injuries regarding hand balance practice.  
Common answers(not from me) might be "deal with it", "circus is pain", "welcome to hand balancing" or "get good, rookie".  
Due to this being a complex subject, I will attempt to give some thoughts, advice, and perspectives to aid people in their training.   Hopefully this article can help people prevent or better recover from their wrist ailments.  
With that said, there is still a lot to be said bout the subject that is not covered here.  It is a few thoughts based on my experience.  


Remember that hand balancing is a low-impact practice, so the goal is to find a technique such that the physical stress is minimal.  
Also I have to use the common disclaimer that if you think you have a serious injury it may be worth seeing a medical professional.  

KNOW YOUR INJURY
This is something you should keep track of, the more details you know about it the better.  Ask yourself these questions
-Is the injury acute or chronic?
-Did the pain begin without warning or only after a particular attempt/session?
-Did the joint receive an impact or did you catch yourself from a fall?
-Any noticeable swelling/inflammation?
-Does it hurt throughout the day or only when you train?
-Does the pain lessen or go away after you warm up?
-Are there any specific movements or positions that cause you more pain/discomfort?
-Is it a sharp or dull pain?
-etc.

This is very general but the idea is to give yourself a better understanding of your injury so you can have a more thorough protocol of what to do about it, both for the present and possible future occurrences.  
Next, we have some common causes of injury that are not obvious and often overlooked.  

CHECK YOUR TECHNIQUE
I cannot stress how important this is in creating a more sustainable practice over the long term.  Honestly, this is the number one thing you can do to save yourself many grievances later on.  

Many people when learning to handstand find it easier to planche their shoulders slightly in front of their hands.  Sometimes this is really obvious but other times it can be more subtle and difficult to catch without a sharp eye.  
In a well-aligned handstand the arms should be completely vertical to the floor.  When the shoulders lean forward, it places added stress on the wrists.  

Watch what happens to the wrists in the video when my shoulders go forward. Someone people use that as their base handstand position.  

While this may seem trivial to some, it can catch up with you in the long term after thousands of sets over months or years.  

PHYSICAL ACCLIMATION
Here is another massively important concept that is not often discussed.  Hand balancing places stress on the body it may not have otherwise experienced, and the majority of that is focused on the wrists.  
As an adult learning this, it may take some time for the body to fully acclimate to the new stress.  If you push too hard or too fast before you are ready, it can result in injury.  
This applies to beginners first learning to handstand, but also is important to remember during training for more advanced ability levels that call for higher workload.  

This is especially important when handstand practitioners begin to train for their one arm handstand, which requires massive amounts of repetition to make progress.  I have heard the same story too many times: HS training volume is massively increased to work OAH and it results in some nagging overuse injuries.  
Take your time to acclimate, and make sure your technique is good before you do.  

Practical application of this concept:

-See above point.  Check your technique, and exaggerate the concepts for OAH training or any time you add additional complexity to your practice.  Even if you think you fixed your bad habits, there is a good chance you will see them again once you start working harder skills.  
-Take the time to warm up properly.  This allows you to develop a better connection through your hands and the floor, which will result in better balance.  Plus a thorough warm-up can place controlled stress on the hands in positions you may not want to visit during your actual handstand practice.  This helps speed up the acclimation process.  
Check HERE for my wrist sequence I teach for hand balance.  
-Know when to back off.  Your body will give you signals, and it is beneficial to learn how to listen to them.  Keep in mind, backing off does not necessarily mean no training, it's more about knowing how to modify the training to avoid certain stressors.  
-Endurance work at the right time will help to increase blood flow to the upper body.  This can actually be quite helpful for prevention and recovery.  Be careful as a beginner though, as doing too much endurance can start to encourage bad habits.  Learn good technique first before trying to do too much.  
-Over a long term, it's generally better to be overly conservative with training efforts.  Leave a little bit of fuel in the tank so you can do it again the next day.  
Don't take this the wrong way though, there will still be plenty of moments where you will have to push hard to overcome a plateau.  


BACK OFF OR MODIFY THE TRAINING

If you know that you are injured or have tweaked your wrist, simply continuing to train like you were before is not the best option. 
One option is to back off training while focusing on rehab and letting your body heal.  Yes this sucks if you were used to training a certain amount, and you'll probably lose some progress during this time.  However, handstand "gains" are usually measured in years so taking a few weeks off is pretty trivial when you consider the long term. 

If you are too addicted to inversions to simply stop, there are a few other options to consider.  

-Parallettes or incline blocks reduce the pressure on the wrist compared to floor or flat blocks/canes.  Even rings handstand is an option here, though that's a completely different skillset.  
-You can train balances that don't require putting weight in the hands, such as headstands or forearm stands.  Just be careful.  Exercise control and make sure to protect the injured hand if you have to bail.  
-Work on attributes that will help your handstands.  This can include for example the hip and shoulder flexibility work that you've been meaning to do more of.  Especially if you are on the way towards more intermediate and advanced skills, this is a good time to prioritize your flexibility training to help you when you get back to training.  
-Do some research.  This is also a good time to learn more about the theory of what you are doing.  Watch videos, read books, observe trainings, etc.  
This is a way to still "train" without any physical stress.  

-Actually rest, as much as I hate to say it.  This one can be the most difficult to do.   However, the chances of aggravating the injury and making the recovery time longer can be quite high if you are still using the injured hand.  
I remember I suffered a pretty bad wrist sprain in Spring of 2010.  A couple weeks following the injury I attended a tricking event with the intention to take it easy, not use the hand, and only do leg related movements.  
At one point I landed off balance and out of habit went straight to do a windmill to stand back up, placing both hands on the ground to push off of.  At this point, my wrist was still in the early recovery stages and was not ready for such pressure.  So through an accidental reflex I set my injury recovery back another couple weeks.  Lesson learned.
Getting back on topic, if you are accustomed to a regular training schedule, a forced rest can actually be quite beneficial.  Just make sure you find something to do with your extra time and energy.  



EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES and OTHER THOUGHTS

What you do outside of your practice, or even years before it can also be significant.  
If you are a climber for example, chances are you have very tight forearms from the grip-heavy demands of the activity.  This means that you would probably have to spend more time on warmup/prehab in context of opening the wrists to get a more effective handstand session in.  

In contrast to that, a musician might approach the training differently.  This is a discipline that can also place a lot of stress on the hands, but the nature of the work will be very precise and delicate.  A musician would have to focus their warmup/prehab on building more resilience through their hands to handle the loads(usually the flexibility here is already well developed due to the nature of the work).  

To follow that thought, anyone who relies on their hands to make a living would also need to make some modifications.  Whether it's a musician, surgeon, craftsman, etc, being overly fatigued in the wrists can interfere with their work.  An injury can put them out of work.  
This means the training approach needs to be a bit more conservative in order to progress in handstands while still maintaining the quality of their profession.  

Past injuries is another thing to consider.  Maybe when you were 12 you fell and broke your wrist, and maybe it was no bother at all to you until you started training handstands and noticed it would fatigue quicker than the right.  This is just one example but I have seen many similar cases.  
These are all details to keep in mind.  Even if they seem trivial, they usually play a role in the big picture.  
Be aware of the risks you put yourself in and if they are worth the goals you have set.  
Perhaps you only train handstands for the physical benefit rather than the pursuit of the higher skills.  This approach will most likely result in less risk of injury but the practice itself is also not as deep or rewarding.  


PREVENTION AND RECOVERY PROTOCOLS

First off, learn to identify warning signs.  The wrists have a lot of sensory receptors so it shouldn't be too difficult to develop a connection to feel when you have to back off or add more prehab exercises
Most of the techniques I will list can be used for prehab, warmup or recovery.  None is necessarily superior to others, it's about having options to work with.  Remember if skill acquisition is the goal, try not to get caught in the trap of over-preparation.  However, if the skill you are working on requires certain physical attributes, make sure they are taken care of.  

With that said, here are some ideas on how to take care of the wrists:



-Keep the wrists warm.  I have had really good results with simple terry-cloth wristbands(neoprene work also, but you will sweat more through it).  You can wear them during training as a minimum, but if you want the full recovery benefit, just wear them all the time.  Many times in the past when I had tweaked my wrist, I simply wore the wristbands continuously for a few days straight(even slept with them).  Those of you with a 9-5 job and more social obligations than I have might not be able to pull this off, but I'm throwing the option out there.  
I also try to avoid anything that offers extra wrist support, as it can actually make the joint weaker over time as your body grows accustomed to relying on the additional support.  
Nothing fancy here, the thought process is that a warm joint gets more blood flow, which provides nutrients and flushes waste.  Since the wrist is an extremity, it won't receive as much blood and keeping it warm will help with the recovery process.  

-Movement.  
I love the sequence below, but this can even be something as simple as opening and closing your hands for 100 reps several times throughout the day.  
Like the above, this is going to keep the wrist warm and increase the blood flow to the joint.  Honestly, you should probably be doing this even if you have no interest in handstands.  

 

-Grip Work
This one is not necessarily handstand-specific but there is still some carry-over in training some old fashioned grip strength.  This can be anything from trying to crush foam balls, grippers, fat grip pullups, trying to crush walnuts in your pinch grip, etc.
I would also count various leverage related training tools in this category, such as clubs, hammers, mace, or cast-iron frying pan.  

-Banded Finger Extension
This is a fantastic complement to any grip work to create a balance in strength.  I keep a couple rubber wristbands in my car and use them for resistance as I work on opening my fingers.  
An equipment free alternative would be to pretend like you are going to flick something, but instead of letting said finger go, focus on resisting against the thumb to create a powerful isometric contraction.  

-Gyro Ball
This looks like a toy(it is in some sense), but it is actually a very nice grip workout. A couple minutes with this, and the wrists, forearms, and fingers feel pretty good.  
I also found this very useful when performing as an aerialist.  Usually backstage at gigs they don't have anything to hang from, and this is a great portable way to prime the grip before performing.  
The gyro ball can be a bit frustrating to learn how to start.  Be patient and eventually you will be able to start it by hand easily.  

-Rice Bucket
Amazing tool for training the hands. Essentially the rice acts as a viscous fluid, so it resists any movement you make.  I stick my hands in the rice and try to keep moving them for a couple minutes, after which I have a massive forearm pump.  There are a few specific patterns I use, and also leave some room for creativity in the movement.  
This is a great way to increase blood flow an strengthen the hands from every angle and has been one of my top injury recovery tools.  

Apologies for the sound quality, but this is an explanation of both the gyro ball and rice bucket.  

-Compression band
This is another quick way to get more blood flow to the wrist.  The idea is to wrap tight enough to restrict blood flow, but not completely cut it off(not a tourniquet).  Once the band is wrapped, take some time to stretch and move the hand in various ways, 1-2 minutes should be enough.  If you feel numbness or tingling that is a good sign to remove the band.  
After removal, the blood rushes into the joint and it feels quite good.  
As a bonus, this can also fall under the category of soft tissue release.  




-Soft tissue release
This is a topic I will only go into briefly as to go into it with any detail will warrant an article of its own.  
Regular soft tissue release of the forearms, and even the upper arm can make a big difference when it comes to relieving pressure on the wrists.  It's normal for this musculature to accumulate tension just from regular training, but even more so after an injury as the muscles will tense up to protect the joints.  
To release the forearm flexors, my favorite implement is my knee.  The extensors are a bit more complex, but I generally use my fingers, a thai massage stick, or the countertops of my kitchen to get the job done. I find guasha/graston type techniques helpful for both flexors and extensors of the forearm as well.  
It can take a bit of time and practice to learn what to feel and how to work on yourself, but this is a valuable skill for the long term.  
It is also very helpful to have a friend release your forearms, especially the extensors.  This can feel very invasive and uncomfortable but many people tend to shy away from using enough pressure on themselves to produce real change.  

-Hanging from a hand loop
This is something I only got exposed to after my introduction into the world of circus as you don't see the concept much outside of it.  
I love hanging in general, but I think there is a distinct value when it comes to hanging from a loop versus hanging from a bar/rings.  
By nature handstands are an exercise that compress the wrist joint, so the benefit of hanging from a loop lies in the joint distraction that it provides.  Here we are literally pulling the joint apart to create space in it.  There are alternate ways to do this, but none quite as effective as it is difficult to get the proper force and leverage.  
Hanging from a loop feels fantastic on the wrist after a handstand session, and there are some shoulder flexibility benefits than can also be attained here.  
The idea is that the loop wraps around your wrist so you can hang from joint the wrist without engaging the musculature of the hand.  On an aerial apparatus, this increases safety since the artist flying can effectively lock themselves in as opposed to hanging on.  This greatly reducing the chance of a fall(accidents can still happen) and makes it possible to perform longer sets and harder skills since grip is no longer the deciding factor.  
With that said, you don't have to be an aerial straps artist to take advantage of this concept.  You can use the straps from your rings, TRX straps at your local gym, karate belts, or even the ratchet straps from your car. With that being said, make sure you are being safe and take it slow.
The benefits of wrist distraction can be attained without your feet even leaving the floor.  
Final thoughts: yes this is similar to the rubber band sequence I use, but there is specific benefit for the wrist in hanging from a structure that has no give or elasticity.  



CONCLUSION

Chances are that in your hand balance practice you have encountered some wrist pain or injuries.  The best way to think about this is from a perspective of prevention and maintenance.  Ask yourself: "what can I do to avoid injury?"  Ultimately it will be a combination of technical assessment, good warmups and recovery work, and knowing how to modify the training when you feel something is off.   
If you end up being injured, make sure to learn what you can about it to come back stronger and avoid any future grievances.  Follow a recovery protocol and take your time to ease back into training.  
The above are a few ideas on helping you to deal with your injury, but they are based on my own experiences and are not universal.  Even personally I am still experimenting with new methods and techniques all the time.  

As always, if you are unsure of anything please see a medical professional.  



//SELF PROMOTION
Since this article is free and I have bills to pay I am going to end with the necessary evil of self-promotion.  This way I can continue to put quality information out there without being overly pretentious or putting out clickbait articles that use a lot of words to either say nothing or state the obvious(don't forget about regurgitating information that has been written and rewritten hundreds of times).
Notice how this article is not titled any of the following:
"The Ultimate Guide to Wrist Injuries" "Heal your wrist injury with these 10 tips from a professional acrobat" "Must-Read if you have ever suffered from a wrist injury" "Top tips to build bullet-proof hands and wrists" "This is what happens to your body after 30 days of wrist protocols" "got wrist pain? you won't after reading this article" etc.
It's your support that helps me to put out quality information while keeping things real.  
 
Interested in learning handstands as an adult?  My ebook "Balancing the Equation" breaks down the process to help you develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of the skill.  Handstand progress not guaranteed.  


Also, I travel around the world teaching my approach to developing handstands, acrobatics, and other movement or physical arts based  skills and attributes.  If you are interested in learning from me in person, check out my upcoming events here:
http://www.yuri-mar.com/events/

Let's be real about One Arm Handstand against the Wall

I want to talk a little bit about one arm handstand holds against the wall; the benefits, the flaws, and where they stand in a realistic skill progression.  



I think there is a common misconception that OAH against the wall is somehow a progression for the freestanding one arm handstand.  This is simply not the case despite the many benefits of the exercise.  
It makes sense to me why people might think this way, and I think part of it comes from ignorance and lack of appreciation of what it really takes to balance a freestanding OAH.  

When it comes to balancing a regular two arm handstand, the wall is quite a valuable tool.  It can help to help feel what it is to control the balance while minimizing over-stimulation and frustration.  
Even still, the progression is not as direct as wall HS -> Free HS. There are many steps and details along the way which I discuss in MY EBOOK

So where does a OAH against the wall come into play?  If your goals do not include the freestanding one arm balance, this can still be a very useful exercise for conditioning work, endurance, and coordination.  It can be implemented pretty early on once you are solid with two arms against the wall and know how to bail out when needed.  

Here are some benefits of OAH against the wall:

-Creating better support structure through the uper body
-Increasing strength to prepare for more advanced skills
-Enhancing endurance work by allowing to switch between arms

If you are working your true one arm handstand, the wall variation has different uses:

-Increase strength and endurance in one arm holds
-Learning to understand the weight shift from hand to hand while taking the balance one of the equation
-Improving form and technique for the one arm position
-Using the wall as a tactile cue to detect hip rotation

So now that we got that out of the way, here is a very important concept to understand:

NO AMOUNT OF OAH WORK AGAINST THE WALL WILL EVER TEACH YOU HOW TO BALANCE ON ONE ARM
Sorry if this breaks your world.  Balancing a one arm handstand can take years of specific training, and no amount of wall work or fake one arm social media photos can change that.  

Take a look at this one arm handstand progression video I made over 4 years ago:



See where the OAH wall work is? Almost at the bottom rung of the actual one arm training(you can do it much earlier than this in your practice, but it needs to be done in a very specific way for true OAH).    
While I may have a different perspective now than I did then, I still agree with the ideas and progressions in this video. 
Use the wall to help learn how to shift weight, build strength, or correct imbalances/faults.
I also prefer the work be done facing the wall since it encourages better form and build a more realistic alignment for freestanding one arms.  
Other than that, the bulk of your practice should be freestanding if you are at that level.  

Here is the final takeaway analogy from this article:

THE FREESTANDING FINGERTIP SUPPORTED ONE ARM HANDSTAND IS THE EQUIVALENT OF THE WALL HANDSTAND ON TWO ARMS

 This is where the majority of your OAH skill work should be spent when learning it

This is where the majority of your OAH skill work should be spent when learning it



Summary:

-Do OAH against the wall.  It's good for you and will help to build endurance, strength and awareness.
-Once you get higher in skill level however, it's uses become more limited and specialized. 
-Since it takes away the element of balance, the wall supported OAH is mostly only useful as
 assistance work when it comes to the true one arm handstand.  

Final thoughts:
This whole article is a massive oversimplification, but I want to help clarify things and give people more realistic standards to have.  
If your goal is to learn how to balance on one arm, please give the skill the respect it deserves.
 

Some Ideas on Spotting Balancing Skills

Spotting balancing based skills can be a tricky subject. The difficulty and complexity lies not in spotting the skill, but how to do it in a way that encourages the student to learn it on their own(the ultimate goal of any teacher should be to eventually make themselves obsolete to their student).

Take this example of my spotting and helping to cue a student in her negative straddle press, which is an important step in later learning to press up. 

Spotting balancing based skills can be a tricky subject. The difficulty and complexity lies not in spotting the skill, but how to do it in a way that encourages the student to learn it on their own(the ultimate goal of any teacher should be to eventually make themselves obsolete to their student). Take this example of my spotting and helping to cue @_smillz_ in her negative straddle press, which is an important step in later learning to press up. The negative press is something she can already do to some degree, so why not just spot this student for heaps of presses? Well one reason is because my main focus here is on technique and quality. Quantity of repetitions is still a major factor, but when teaching adults I put that at a lower priority. If I spot someone for multiple reps before they perfect their single, often times it is me who is doing most of the work. Also, working through fatigue in a skill-based movement too soon can be detrimental since it can destroy those movement patterns we worked so hard to build. On top of that, if I am working with a student who I do not see on a regular basis I want to give them a greater conceptual understanding to take home and help develop their practice. The press HS is a combination of many factors including strength, flexibility, and coordination/timing. When I teach this I see just as many faults in the coordination as with the strength/flex. Coordination and technique is something that can be improved or at least better understood in one session. Strength and flexibility require more long-term efforts to see a difference in. This leads me onto my point. Here are some of my considerations when spotting someone for a handstand related skill: continued in comments so please keep reading



 The negative press is something she can already do to some degree, so why not just spot this student for heaps of presses?
Well one reason is because my main focus here is on technique and quality. Quantity of repetitions is still a major factor, but when teaching adults I put that at a lower priority.

If I spot someone for multiple reps before they perfect their single, often times it is me who is doing most of the work. Also, working through fatigue in a skill-based movement too soon can be detrimental since it can destroy those movement patterns we worked so hard to build. 
 On top of that, if I am working with a student who I do not see on a regular basis I want to give them a greater conceptual understanding to take home and help develop their practice. 
 The press HS is a combination of many factors including strength, flexibility, and coordination/timing. When I teach this I see just as many faults in the coordination as with the strength/flex. 
 Coordination and technique is something that can be improved or at least better understood in one session. Strength and flexibility require more long-term efforts to see a difference in.

This leads me onto my point. Here are some of my considerations when spotting someone for a handstand related skill:
-Assuming safety or fear are no concern, I try to be as lazy as possible when I spot. The goal is for the student to learn the skill for themselves, so overspotting here is only boosting both of our egos. 
 -Try not to hold, but rather guide them through what they need to do. 
 -Don't let the practitioner try to lean or push against the spotter. This is not only working incorrect movement patterns but also builds reliance rather than independence. 
 -It is more effective for the student to make the correction in their own body through verbal cues rather than my physical intervention. This helps them with recollection when they don't have a hands-on spot. 
 -Try to help the student be aware of their own sticking points and what is lacking. The current example is the moment I place my knee into Sara's shoulders to signal to her she was not pushing enough to maintain the stacked position, thus pointing out a place of collapse in her press. 
 -Never take someone off their balance point. I see this all the time in people spotting presses or HSPU where they allow the balancer's weight to fall behind the heel of the hand. This completely changes the movement pattern and would have resulted in an automatic failure had the practitioner tried it themselves using the same technique. 
 -It's not a necessity, but being able to already perform the skill you are spotting is helpful. If not, at least try to have seen enough of the movement to understand it well. 
 -Keep it real. Encouragement is important but I don't like to give false hopes either. The development of most skills takes a lot longer than people expect or set their goals towards.

As always, I end with a disclaimer. These are some of my opinions based on personal beliefs and experience. No wrong/right here. There are a plethora of ways to successfully spot these skills, you just have to be aware of the perspectives, constraints, and learning processes of the students you are working with.

Still versus Wobbly Handstand

Please watch the following video and compare the two handstands you see.  



Both are freestanding handstands and both accomplish the same goal of maintaining the center of mass over the base of support. for a given amount of time  However, the way this goal is accomplished is very different between the two examples.  

I want to offer an in-depth explanation of what is going on in the two clips, as well as some insight of how to incorporate that knowledge into one's handstand practice.  

As a little bit of background, the only way to hold a perfectly still handstand is to be supported by something(like a wall or a partner).  A freestanding balance involves continuously making corrections to avoid falling(I hope this is starting to become common knowledge).  
The difference in what the balance looks like depends on how those corrections are made.  

STILL HANDSTAND
The first handstand you see is what I would call a 'still" handstand, even though that's not completely accurate.  See there's no such thing as being perfectly still in a handstand. Even a handstand that appears to be static is still in constant motion.  
The reason this pose can appear to be motionless is for two reasons:
-The parts of the body with which the balancing corrections are made
-The speed and amplitude with which the balancing corrections are made.  

In this balance, the corrections are being made solely through the wrists and the fingers.  Finely adjusting the weight distribution through the hands allows the whole body to be controlled in this fashion.  Also because the movement is coming from hands, it allows the other major joints in the body to stay locked out.  This gives a much cleaner aesthetic and is generally a more efficient way to hold a balance.  

This brings me to my second point: to create a still balance by only using the hands for correction requires a high degree of accuracy and precision.  This is because the hands have a relatively small surface area and thus do not offer much leverage in terms of manipulating the center of mass.   
This method of balance also generally requires more corrections to be made in a smaller time frame compared the other technique we are going to discuss.  To give you some idea of the speed at which corrections through the hands can be made in real time, check out the first 30 seconds of this video of mine from a few years ago;


Of course on one arm the balance is much more complex, but the idea is to see how adjustments to the balance are constant.  

The above points are also what make a still balance more refined.  It generally takes longer to learn and is not always the intuitive path when first learning.  However, this is a good long-term goal to have because as you improve you can learn to make smaller corrections and less of them.   This will save a lot of energy for learning the more advanced balances.  


WOBBLY HANDSTAND
I admit that my demonstration here might be somewhat exaggerated, but that's something I did intentionally to make my point easier to see.  
The wobbly handstand changes the shape of the body in order to manipulate the location of the center of mass.  This can manifest as flexion/extension of the elbows, shoulders, back, hips, and knees.  
My hands are still active by all means, but the balance corrections are not isolated to the hands.  
Usually this kind of balance is characterized by a distinct "sway" or dramatic moments of catching a possible fall. The main cause of this is often a lack of accuracy or precision; people unable to make rapid fine-tuned adjustments through the hands find it easier sometimes to make bigger corrections through their bodies.  It allows for a balance to be maintained while accounting for a slower reaction time.  
This is also more common in students who tend to favor their attributes like strength or flexibility over technique.  

The downside is that balancing with the body takes more energy and can slow down the progression towards more complex movements.  
Aesthetically, it can look unstable or chaotic.  This isn't necessarily a negative depending on the intentions of the performer.  

I actually believe that learning a handstand that wobbles is often a necessary step towards eventually building up to a still handstand.  As time goes on and awareness/control increases, the student can begin to "trim the fat" so to speak and learn to isolate their balance corrections.  


FINAL THOUGHTS
-The still handstand looks much more "professional"
-You can build a ton of strength and control through bigger movements of falling and catching yourself. 
-Some apparatus like rings or canes have a built-in instability.  The still technique needs modification in order to be successful in these cases.
-Keeping the weight spread out sometimes allows for more wobble, while having more weight over the center forces more stillness due to higher need for accuracy in balance.  As examples, a split or stag two arm handstand is more likely to wobble compared to a straight handstand.  Likewise holding a candle style one arm handstand generally requires more stillness compared to a straddle one-arm.  
-Fighting for the handstand is an important part of learning how to balance, but a long term goal should be to learn to hold it without having to fight. 
-Even my still handstand moves quite a bit if you look at it from the right perspective
-Though true stillness is an illusion, it's a nice direction to head towards
-The still balance is an amazing display of control, but an unstable chaotic handstand might be more interesting to watch because of the fight/struggle going on.  


One last disclaimer:
I am not writing this article with a preference for either technique.  I want to help people understand the theory behind each method and the value they can have in their balance practice.  

Ultimately it's good to have the versatility to understand both methods of control.  

Interested in learning more details behind the process of learning a handstand?
Check out my ebook here:



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