Welcome to week 33! Handstand Clinic Week 1
This is a 6-week series designed to help you get comfortable with the idea that you CAN learn a handstand. Handstands require consistency and dedication and could take a while to learn. The key is tackle your weakest links first.
NOTE: IF YOU HAVE NOT COMPLETED THE PREVIOUS 32 WEEKS, THIS IF NOT FOR YOU. TAKE THE TIME TO BUILD YOUR STRUCTURE, STABILITY AND MOBILITY FIRST!
Step 1: Stop Being Skeptical
If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be able to do handstands, I probably wouldn’t have believed that. Considering everything that was wrong with my body, I was probably the last person on earth who would be a candidate for learning a handstand. So if I was able to overcome my physical and mental limitations to learn this amazing skill in my forties, then why can’t you?
Believe in yourself. Never train without believing in yourself. Your mindset and self-belief will make or break your handstand.
Step 2: Play the Long Game
When it comes to defying gravity, shortcuts don’t work. You’ve already come to this realization tackling the L-sit. It basically boils down to your mindset, as you know.
Step 3: Strengthen Your Foundation
As you probably figured, the handstand demands a lot of core strength.
It turns out the length of time you can hold your L-sit is the same as the length of time you can hold your handstand. Hopefully this will rekindle your relationship with the L-sit.
The handstand also requires arm strength, back stability, overhead mobility and even hamstring mobility (to kick up).
You’ve heard me say this a zillion times: You don’t necessarily learn the handstand by just doing the handstand. For most of us, we will also need to spend time building the structure, stability and mobility needed for this skill. In other words, get really connected to you muscles so you can understand how your body works.
Step 4: Understand the concept of stacking
In a handstand, you stack your hips over your shoulder over your wrists.
Step 5: Learn how to fall
We will spend time mastering how to safely bail out of handstands. This will help eliminate fear.
Do you have the arm strength to hold a handstand?
Test: If you can hold a handstand against the wall for 30s, then yes. The forearms must be actively squeezing in toward one another. The shoulder should be down so that your neck is as long as possible, or when your upside down, your shoulders should be lifting up to make the neck as long as possible. Feel your lats spread (it’s your lats that support your arms). Don’t banana back your handstand.
Do you have the core strength? More specifically, TVA strength.
Test: Can you hold an L-sit for 10-15s?
Test: Sandbag Carry: Can you carry at least 60% of your bodyweight for 400 metres without dropping the sandbag?
Do you have the shoulder mobility?
Test: Lift your straight arms overhead, in line with your ears. If you can’t do this, you will have no choice but to “muscle” your handstand, which is really hard on your shoulders. One of my biggest limitations, initially, was the fact that I ignored my tight and imbalanced shoulders.
Don't worry if you cannot do these things... yet. The whole point of the handstand clinic is to work on these prerequisites so you can enjoy safely learning how to do handstands. And now you know why I had you do the L-sit clinic first 🙂
For handstands: I do something called "vertical breathing". I direct the breath vertically up and down. The breaths are shallower and more concise. If you breathe horizontally, it makes the back arch. For a proper handstand, the TVA will pull in and flatten and the scapulae will remain depressed (no shrugging). First learn how to do vertical breathing in sitting. Learn to breathe up and down without displacing the body. Then try to do it during a handstand hold against the wall.
Always squeeze together your inner thighs and torque internally. This will help you engage your pelvic floor and TVA muscles.
Wrist & Hand Tips:
In order to increase the amount of time you can practice handstand daily, you must increase your TVA strength first. If your TVA is weak, you will dump all your weight into your wrists.
- Distribute your bodyweight through the perimeter of your hand: 60% on the inside and 40% on the outside.
- The palm of the hand should not be flattened completely against the floor. Rather, use you palms like a suction cup.
- Use your fingertips to regulate balance. Spread them. All of the control I need to hold myself up comes from my fingertips.
- Don’t collapse into your hands. Actively push! Get angry at the floor.
- Preventing wrist pain: wrist pain is usually the result of training to much to quickly. Refer to the wrist routine from week 2 if needed.
Remember to do Nasal Breathing for both your inhalation and exhalation. When holding challenging static movements, you must resist the urge to hold your breath. Breathe in and out EVENLY through your nose in a slow and controlled manner. Nasal breathing isn't just having air travel in and out of your nose. Feel the core (TVA) connection to your inhalations and exhalations.
For isometric holds: Breathe in and out evenly through your nose.
For concentric movements: Exhale through your nose and feel your TVA engage.
For eccentric movements: Inhale through your nose
I do give you my suggestions for breathing in the video demos.
WEEK 1 EXERCISES FOR CORE
I want you to get really comfortable generating total body tension. The better you get at this, the more it will feel and look like you weigh 10 lbs when you move.
I made a real time CORE Blaster Routine. Do it with me. I made progressions for you. Grab a glide disc. It's fun and challenging and consists of:
V-Ups, Hollow Body Tucks & Hold, Superman Lifts & Holds, Side Hollow Body Holds, Plank drags
WEEK 1 EXERCISES FOR OVERHEAD OPENING
Strongfit T-spine Opener:
Grab a 5 and 8 lb dumbbell and do this real time routine with me.
5 right, 5 left, 5 bilat and HOLD the last rep like it's a handstand.
Do this with me in real time! It's more fun!
Pronated grip. The ultimate goal is 60s.
WEEK 1 SHOULDER STRETCHES
Shoulder Stretching Routine:
Do this real time routine with me. Grab a yoga block. It consists of:
Rear delt, Shoulder ER, Shoulder IR, Cow Face Pose
WEEK 1 HANDSTAND STRENGTH & CONDITIONING
Finger & Palm Drills:
Grab a massage ball and do this with me. It consists of:
Finger Pushes: 10x
Ball Pick Ups 10x per hand
Sandbag OH Presses and Hold
from week 26 ... the overhead sandbag hold is an inverted handstand ... if you think about it! There is tremendous value in this exercise for finding lat engagement in the overhead position.
From week 22. This helps build back stability strength, and it will boost your confidence in your ability to do arm balances!
WEEK 33 TRAINING PLAN:
*When doing the exercises this week, think about the carry-over effect they have with a handstand hold. This will help you focus!
Day 1: Sequence #39
Day 2: Rest or Sequence #36 (week 29) ... a strong pelvic floor is game changing for handstands!
Day 3: Sequence #40
Day 4: Rest or Sequence #36 (week 29) ... a strong pelvic floor is game changing for handstands!
Day 5: Sequence #39
Day 6: Sequence #40
Day 7: Rest or review exercises from previous sequences, or do a sandbag carry (#SandbagCarrySundays)
Sequence 39: Handstand Clinic (week 33)
- Core Blaster Routine
- StrongFit T-Spine Opener Routine: 5 R, 5L, 5 bilat and hold the last one like it's a handstand. REPEAT 2 more times.
- Hanging Hold: 1 set of 60s if you can, otherwise 2 sets of 30s, or 3 sets of 20s.
- Sandbag Overhead Presses: 3 sets of 8-10 good quality reps. Don't let your low back arch. Keep your elbows tucked in. (week 33)
- Finger & Palm Drills: Finger Pushes: 10x; Ball Pick Ups 10x per hand
- Sandbag Carry: (week 4) Grab your heaviest sandbag and walk with it as far as you can. Focus on total body tension, the same feeling you would have in a handstand. When you drop the bag, then pick up the next heaviest sandbag and walk with it as far as you can. When you drop the bag, then pick up the next heaviest sandbag and walk with it as far as you can. This week's goal: get to 400 metres with less than 4 drops, whilst feeling extremely connected to your pelvic floor, TVA, glutei max, inner hamstrings and lats/pecs. Nasal breathing will help you walk farther! Don't avoid doing this. Loaded carries are a HUGE gap in most people's training. The fact that I can carry my bodyweight for nearly 300m explains why I'm so good at generating total body tension and holding handstands.
Sequence 40: Handstand Clinic (week 33)
- L-Sit Prep or L-Sit: hold 30s (or as long as you can), 5x (from week 1)
- Shoulder Stretching Routine. Hold each stretch for 30s.
- Overhead sandbag hold: 3 sets of 30s holds. If 30s is too easy, use a heavier sandbag. Pretend you are holding a handstand. (week 33)
- Crow (week 22) - 5 attempts, hold as long as you can. If you need to, scale with a yoga block under your forehead.
- Dog Push-Ups: 3 sets of 5 controlled reps. Hold the bottom of the push-up for 1-3 seconds if you can. (week 2)
- Tripod Headstand: Play for 5-10 minutes (week 18)
On day 7, post your CROW. Post your COW FACE POSE on both sides (so you have baseline photos ... it will only get better!)