EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: HANDSTAND WALKOUTS
HOW IT’S DONE: A DIFFERENT REP.
This one’s a little different to the other things in the programme — not everything can be put into neat little boxes you see and this move is well worth mastering. So, rather than traditional reps or long holds, we have a mixture of static holds and then moving between the two positions.
So, my suggestion is this, you hold each position for 10 seconds. In each set, you do 3 holds in each position (But, if you need to, you can take 10 seconds rest after the planks!).
HOW IT’S DONE: TECHNIQUE
STICK YOUR FEET ON A BOX, A BENCH OR A THING – we want your feet elevated about waist height. Assume a sort-of plank/top of push-up position and do your best to simultaneously look mean and happy.
PUSH YOUR BUM IN THE AIR – that’s that first move. Push your bum straight up into the air, as we start to get the torso more vertical.
WALK YOUR WAY IN – then take tiny steps with your hands towards the box, keeping your arms straight and pushing your bum higher in the air with each step.
PUSH THE FLOOR AWAY AND HOLD – as you get close to the box, your torso (hamstrings and strength allowing) should be vertical or close to it, like it would be in a handstand. Once you’re here, lock your arms out, push the floor away hard, push your chest in towards the box and hold.
LOOK OUT, TAKE TINY STEPS OUT – after a 10 second hold, it’s time to move towards the plank hold. So, first look forward, then take tiny steps out to initiate the move back down.
SUCK YOUR ABS IN, TUCK YOUR PELVIS – as soon as you’re half way out, pay particular attention to the position of your pelvis and spine. Don’t allow yourself to get overly extended or slide into anterior pelvic tilt or you will struggle to get back into good position.
WALK TO PLANK (OR BEYOND) – keep walking your hands out until you reach a position that is tough, but that you can just about hold well for 10 seconds. That might be in a push-up position, that might be with your hands a touch further forward underneath your eyes, or that might even be with them even further forward past your forehead.
HOLD! – then stay, pushing the floor away, holding the pelvis in a posterior tilt and staying dead still.
BUM IN THE AIR AGAIN — then to move back up, the first move is to push your bum in the air, and then to take tiny steps back up.
BAD THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN YOU MESS IT UP…
YOUR BACK SAGS — This is the most common error. Especially if you have your feet elevated too high before you have the strength or skill of tucking under the pelvis. If your back sags, if it slips into a nasty arch, if it hurts, you’ve probably done this. Naughty. The Fix: firstly improve awareness, get a better understanding of how to control your pelvis. Secondly, don’t go beyond the level you can control…if you’ve fatigued and have lost the plot, stop and rest. Thirdly, keep practicing to get stronger. Practice in the meantime by not walking your hands out too far, or by using a lower box or step for your feet, or by just keeping your feet on the floor until you have the strength to go back to the box.
YOU CAN’T LOCK THE ELBOWS — This is common, especially if you’re new to gymnastics style drills, if you’re particularly tight of bicep, or if you’re not very strong. The Fix: Just regress the drill until you can hold a good position.
YOU CAN’T GET VERTICAL — Strength. Awareness. Bendiness. If any are lacking, you won’t get your torso close to vertical. It’s still safe and worth doing the exercise in the meantime, but diligent practice and the use of an experienced spotter will help you get better over time. Don’t just work for fatigue, practice over time to improve your position.
YOU DON’T HOLD FOR LONG ENOUGH — OK, this is just a question of strength, determination and a bit of muscular endurance. The fix: practice and make sure you don’t get greedy and go for positions that are too advanced for you.
YOU DON’T LOAD THE ARMS — now, I don’t blame you for this one particularly. Why the hell would you want to go upside down and then put all your weight on your arms anyway???
Well, that aside, this is obviously just a question of strength. If you struggle for strength when you’re in the top position, you may naturally want to shift all your weight into your feet. However, you must resist this urge, and the stronger you are, the more you must subtly shift forwards and take the majority of weight in your hands. That’s how we develop real strength with this drill and get you ready for other heroics down the line.
YOU RUSH IT — This is simply another symptom of the drill being too difficult for you, or of your mind not being in the right state to take on a full set of this very demanding exercise. The Fix: slow down! If you can’t do it well, regress the drill until you can do it slowly, with control and elegance. Otherwise you’ll likely hurt your wrists or back (or face!).
YOU TAKE GIANT STEPS — We want to take very short, strong, controlled steps with the hands on this exercise–whenever we transition between postions. This takes real strength–especially shoulder and arm strength on the way back up. If you find yourself taking giant steps, regress the drill until you can control it better.
YOUR WRIST THINGS HURT — If your wrists aren’t ready, they will probably hurt on this exercise. If your upper body isn’t ready for this, you won’t push away from the floor well, and you’ll over stress your wrists and they will be particularly uncomfortable. We don’t want that. So, the fix: firstly work diligently on both your wrist strength and flexibility. Secondly, don’t move into positions you can’t control, thus you’ll never over-expose your wrists. It can take longer to develop wrist strength and flexibility than it takes to simply strengthen a muscle. That’s just howit is when working on tendon and ligament strength. Be patient, work around the weak points and add drills to specifically strengthen the wrists, and over time you will be fine with drills like this and other hand-balancing heroics. In the short term, simply rotating your wrists outwards a tad can help a little.
CATCH WITH THE ABS — as you walk out from the top position, your mind should be on the tucking under of your pelvis and as soon as you hit a good position, you’ll feel your abs ‘catch’ the pelvis and lock it in place.
PUSH THE FLOOR AWAY — at the top particularly, but also in the plank, you want to push your shoulders as far from the floor as you can. Concentrate on pushing the floor away from you actively, NEVER just passively hold the positions.
CHEST TO BOX — At the top, in the handstand-like position, one must strive to extend at the shoulder and get the torso vertical or close to it. So, when at the top, as you push the floor away and your bum in the air, try to work your chest closer to the box to encourage more FLEXION at the shoulder and a more vertical position. This is why we look right through at the thighs on this particular drill, to assist this position.
FIND THE HAMSTRINGS — if you’re not so flexible, then you’ll find them. That’s for sure. But for the more flexible, I find this a splendid cue to help you work the bum in the air and the torso vertical…
So from the plank-like position, you shoot your bum in the air and start to walk in. The sooner you start to feel your hamstring take a stretch, the sooner you’re going to be in a good position.
OPEN THE PELVIS —> CLOSE THE PELVIS — this is just another way to verbalise the ‘tucking under’ (or closing) of the pelvis in the plank position, and then the opening (and feeling for the Hamstrings) on the way back up.
WHAT IT SHOULD FEEL LIKE
AT THE TOP — you might feel a nice stretch in the Hamstrings. Your Quads might be working hard too, and that’s fine, but to be honest, they are the side-effects. This position is about your wrists, your triceps, your shoulders, your traps and your shoulder blade stability.
Your wrists: of course will be under pressure. Don’t go mad, they should feel like they are working, not getting crushed.
Your Triceps: should feel like they are ‘pulling up’. You should feel them contracting pretty much throughout this drill.
Your shoulders: again should be working throughout. Their greatest challenge is supporting you in that top position, but they are still being challenged in the plank-like hold, so you should feel them working throughout.
Your traps and upper back: in the top position, we want our shoulders elevated, your shoulders close to your ears.
AT THE BOTTOM — this bit is simpler. All that stuff going on in the top position: it’s still happening, to an extent, but it’s an easier position for your wrists arms and shoulders. What you should feel here primarily is one thing: ABS. They should be working HARD–like an extreme plank– to hold your pelvis in its ‘tucked under’ position. If it’s not, you should be able to walk out further.
You should also feel your upper back stretch and you spread your shoulder blades ala the Planche and Gymnastic Push Up.
IN TRANSITION – you should feel all of the above.
On the way up: we have more demand for arm and shoulder strength, and you should feel it, plus unless you’re super flexible, as your arse shoots up, you’ll feel an increasing hamstring stretch. Every step on the way up should be a short, strong step with power coming from your shoulders.
On the way down: there should be a bit of arm and shoulder strength going on, but the sooner you feel your pelvis tucking under, the sooner you feel your abs start to control that position, the better.
You won’t need loads of different progressions and regressions for these, half the adjustments for the beginners can come from not walking as far up into the Handstand. That works for most, but in order of difficulty (easiest to hardest) here are the progressions:
DO THE PLANK WITH FEET ON THE FLOOR — To make it much easier on the shoulders, arms and wrists.
DON’T WALK TO VERTICAL — Just walk a little way in. Only get your torso vertical when you’re used to it.
But if it’s too easy, this is how we make it harder:
DO SINGLE-ARM HANDSTAND HOLDS — with 10 seconds per arm. Shift your weights and remove the ‘spare’ hand if you feel stable.
WALK INTO A LONGER PLANK — arms out in front of your head in the plank. This increases the core challenge greatly. Make sure you keep your PPT!
DO WALL WALKS — for the accomplished only (or those with a spotter on hand), you can do Wall Walks, where you go all the way into a straight handstand against the wall, then all the way down into a long plank!
If you can’t do these, and have a good reason not to — I know they’re brutal!!, in order of preference, I would tackle one of these instead:
—> EXTRA HANDSTAND STRENGTH PRACTICE
—> EXTRA HOLLOW BODY PLANK PRACTICE
—> ANY PRESSING EXERCISE — although Push Ups and Planches may have different angles to these, you’ll still get good strength carry over.
—> OR SIMPLY FOCUS MORE IN THE OTHER STUFF! — the real magic of The Steengtb Sessions Programme apparently. This isn’t dogmatic. It’s a philosophy and a way of doing things as much as it is an exact prescription of exercises. Obviously, it’s ideal if you can do everything I lay out, but if something doesn’t suit you, you can still get most of the benefits by doubling down on other things instead.
WHY WOULD A PERSON DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
TO BUILD HANDSTAND STRENGTH & GET USED TO INVERTING — want a handstand? Great. This is a decent place to start. We’ve taken out the balance and fear (and arguably the fun too admittedly), but we build the strength required in the shoulders, wrists and triceps with this drill, while getting used to going upside down in an easy and safe way.
TO GET AMAZING SHOULDERS. TRICEPS & ABS — Because to do this drill well, in full positions, for continuous sets, that’s what you’ll need. Pair this exercise with a couple of more traditional dynamic strength moves for each of these parts and you’ll be on track for a seriously impressive uper body.