EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: THE UPSIDE DOWN HANDSTAND
HOW TO DO IT
STAND TALL AND STICK YOUR ARMS OVERHEAD – So, we are trying to get our body into a perfect handstand shape, but we are standing on our feet, not our hands. First things first, reach your arms up, get tall as you can.
POSTERIORLY ROTATE THE PELVIS – Second things second, if you can’t get your pelvis in the right position, you won’t be able to get your spine, ribs or anything else in the right position either. Then you’ll hate this exercise and get nothing from it.
So, get arms in position, and then practice tilting your pelvis forward and backward in order to get to know the movement. Next, hold still in a posterior pelvic tilt, your back should be flat, and your hips pushed forward very slightly.
FEEL ‘THE DISH’ – Correct position here, and you should be able to feel the Dish! Or to be more descriptive, you should feel your belly button drawn in towards the spine – as discussed on The Dish page – you should feel the Lower Abs working.
KEEP THE RIBS IN PLACE – Your ribs may well want to flare out in this posture. It took me a long time to learn this myself and a long time to learn to look for it as a trainer, so don’t feel bad if you take a few goes to get it down. Your rib cage should be directly lined up with your pelvis, sometimes you will feel that your Ribs will lift as your back arches. In this, you need to be mindful of both. It’s easy to think you’re lifting your chest when you are actually ‘flaring’ your whole rib cage messing up the whole of the core area’s function. Naughty.
ACTIVELY REACH THE ARMS OVERHEAD – The next piece to focus on is to reach the arms straight overhead and shrug the shoulders, just like in a perfect handstand. If you have poor mobility in the upper back or shoulders, you will not be good at this bit and will need a lot of practice as well as corrective measures to sort you out. Don’t feel bad though, this is common.
Try to feel your Biceps around the ears, arms locked straight, shoulders shrugged.
SHRUG THE SHOULDERS – I’ve already mentioned this above, but if you’re like me, you’ll need the reminder. Traps should be on, elevating your shoulder blade bony things.
TEST THE STRUCTURE – Ok, you’re in position, now what? This exercise is basically a waste of time if you are not very mindful of position & if you don’t test the structure. You can do this with weight, with time, or by ‘testing the structure’ with very focused pulses of work and stretch.
So, keep your mind on not letting your Ribs flare or your Dish relax, and then really test how far you can reach overhead and how far you can reach backwards. If you get this right, you will feel a significant increase to The Dish challenge, almost a cramp as your ‘Dish Musculature’ strain to hold you in position. I like to build up to sets of 10 reps of this so I feel I’ve really worked and gained range of motion in the shoulders.
Often I’ll feel like I’ve worked harder than I have doing Dish on the floor. If you don’t find this, you need practice your position and intention to work in order to get better.
HOW IT GOES WRONG AND HOW TO FIX IT
Pelvis in the wrong position – as previously stated, if the Pelvis is in the wrong position, everything else will suffer. The fix is simply slow practice and awareness.
Not Shrugging – It’s easy to forget this bit. If you’re not shrugging enough, shrug more. Learn where your Traps are, make sure they are engaged, learn where your shoulder blades are – make sure they are elevating. If you’re struggling, do this bit first then turn your attention to the pelvis. Also, practice The Dead Hang a lot too, there is a good crossover between these two drills.
Stiff Upper Back – Common. Too much desk, not enough activities = it will manifest as a stiff back and lack of range of motion reaching your arms overhead. The fix isn’t entirely simple, but it can be, practice a lot, stretch a lot, do lots of mobility work based around this drill.
You got no Dish?!! – This happens a lot. If you’re doing everything right and just can’t feel dish, you’re not doing everything right. Sorry to break it to you, it’s not that your so strong you just can’t feel it Go back to basics, re-engage your brain. Work on the Dish lying down, then standing, then in this exercise then test the structure. You want to be able to feel the work on demand. That means you are in control of your body.
No Intention – not testing the structure. Lets get it straight: we do this for motor control and strength. Once you can do it, there’s no reason to rest on your laurels – make it harder, make your body adapt and test what you can do.
Can’t get arms in position without losing Rib / low back position – This is the classic error. It’s caused, either by lack of skill, or by the fact that you lack range of motion over head,. So instead of moving at the shoulder, you have to move at the low back (and as a consequence the ribs come up). The fix is outlined above, combined with a lot of practice so you know what correct and incorrect feels like.
Become a Spear!! – Spears, to the best of my knowledge are very straight objects. When you’re doing this drill, so should you be. I started using this when I transitioned from an arched back to a straight back handstand, as that’s what it felt like. Like I was arrow straight but angled slightly into the ground. If you take on the challenge to get a perfect handstand, you’ll know what I mean one day.
Reach away to work Dish – As already explained. Reach away, and the dish has to work hard to stay intact.
Pelvis and ribs set in concrete; upper body tries to pull them out – A more visual idea based on the above.
Stretch your Hip Flexors – If you are in posterior pelvic tilt, and your hips are pushed forwards a touch as they should be, you should feel the magic. Encouraging people to feel the Hip Flexor stretch across the front of the pelvis has helped me and my clients improve this time and time again. Try it if you’re struggling, it may be the cue for you!
Stretch your Lats – This focus can really help you as the stretch in the arm overhead. The feeling should start in the armpit and travel way down into the stomach. Also, focusing on the Lat stretch can encourage you to feel the arms moving while focusing on not allowing the spine to move – it makes you focus on the right bit.
Show your armpits – The arms, reaching overhead, should be externally rotated. This has the visual effect of opening the armpits, making your Lats look as big as they possibly can. Show them off to improve your form on this.
Lose your neck – If you shrug properly, elevate the shoulders properly and hold the head in position, it will look a bit like your neck has disappeared. In this exercise, we want this.
More time – More Reps
Wall Handstand – Great. You can do the upside down handstand, but can you do the Upside Down Handstand upside down??
Hamstring stretch style
Get a ‘Friend’ to test you
Wrists in handstand position
Take the arms out. Practice getting the posture right without reaching the arms overhead.
WHY DO IT
This is a funny one this one. I get reactions ranging from the accusations of being a twisted torture lord, to quizzical looks of……is that it???
The thing is, it’s all about the intention, the effort, the focus and the attention to detail. It’s not a simple sets and reps exercise like a Bicep Curl. It’s closer to Yoga. But it’s not Yoga, it’s The Upside Down Handstand.
This makes this exercise a great tool, and a great starting point in learning to control your body. It’s a great drill as you shift to focus on quality work and ‘the Gymnastic’ mind-set. If you’re used to banging out messy rep after messy rep with no real thought, this is a great place for you to start better training.
ENOUGH WAFFLE: THE BENEFITS
It is a great place to start if you want to adapt to a focused technique and body control orientated style of training.
You don’t need anything.
It will strengthen your ‘Dish Musculature’.
It will help you improve your range of motion in the shoulders and thoracic spine thing. (This is good for you.)
It is the perfect place to learn basic anterior/posterior pelvic control, as well as Rib, Chest, and Spine control.
It will help train the perfect handstand – albeit while not being upside down.