Saturday, 12 November 2016

Developing a safe Bail-Out of handstand

Bail Out of Handstand Tutorial
Hey all! 

I am back with a quick overview of developing a safe practice for learning to bail out of a handstand. This post is designed as a supplement to assist the YouTube tutorial I made on the subject which is embedded after this paragraph!

For starters, this assumes a basic level of skill in your handstand, and is intended for people who are able to handstand on the wall or with a spot - but are not confident working free-standing due to not being sure how to bail out of a handstand correctly. In all honesty, if you are not able to be stable on the wall you shouldn't be trying to do free handstands, nor should you be getting people (unless they are an experienced coach who knows what they are doing) to spot you in a handstand yet. Once you can control a wall handstand and know the basic technique for a handstand then go for it! If you are not sure where to start with your handstands, have a visit of my older post Handstands for Absolute Beginners and work your way through that.

Why Learn This Technique?
For some folks out there, bailing out of a handstand is quite intuitive. This is how it was for me, there was never a point which I wasn't able to bail out of a handstand, but as I started to see more and more people learning, I found that this was not always the case, and that many people do not have a good "go to move" for when they have lost balance and this can result in a lack of confidence in getting into the handstand, and in worst case scenario, injury.

First thing I will say, is that if you are able to do a cartwheel, you will have a far easier time developing a safe bail out of handstand and so spending some time learning to do this on both sides would be advantageous. If you have been having trouble developing a good bail-out of handstand then I like to start with a "Far Side" cartwheel exit. Basically what this means, is that when bailing, you leave one hand on the ground and land on the opposite side to that. When doing near-side bail out of handstand, you would be landing feet closer to your hand and is a more advanced technique which I am not going through today.

One of the reasons I like this single hand variation of Bail-Out, is that it works when handstanding on height. It teaches you how to bring your feet underneath you, so should you be handstanding on an object, or a person, then you will be able to get your feet under you to land safely! The next thing that is useful is that when you become proficient at it, it doesn't take a lot of room. And lastly - it takes very little energy and effort once you are used to it.

A couple key points to the technique.
PUSH! Push strongly through the hand you will be keeping on the ground - this will help the rotation happen and will also encourage your legs to come down first.

Bring one leg down at a time. I don't think I mentioned this in the video, but hopefully it is quite clear what is being done. Basically, the side you are bailing towards, that is the first leg you bring down.

Placing the Targets. When placing the targets on the ground, start with them in-line with your hands and gradually move it forward. The more in-front of your fingers the target is, the more you will need to rotate to reach it. This rotation is the key to bringing your feet underneath you once you've lost balance.
When placing the target don't place it too wide. We want to try to keep the bail out of handstand nice and compact. A good rule to follow is that the further forward (past your hands) the target, the less wide it can be!

Bringing yourself off the Wall. When bringing yourself off the wall, use your top leg to initiate a loss of balance. When doing this, also draw your upperbody slightly away from the wall - if you don't it is normal to instinctively counterbalance your leg with your chest and not actually lose balance!

Time the bail! Make sure you don't get into the habit of bailing too early! Let yourself start to be off balance before you bail out! You don't want to get into the habit of

Keep your shoulder healthy. Possibly the main pit-fall of the Bail out Technique, is that if you are too firm with your hand, it can put a bit of stress on your shoulder in rotation. This shouldn't be a problem for most people, but the best defense for this is to have a nice soft hand which will allow you to rotate, without rotating so much through your shoulder.

And there we have it! I hope you get something out of this, I am looking at doing a couple more beginner focused posts, so leave me a comment or something if you have a request, and if I think I could do a post or something about it then I will get to it!

In the meantime, don't forget I run classes in Melbourne, and I run Online-Coaching too!

Plus I will be teaching at Spin Circus Academy this December and early next year!

Until next time, enjoy doing your thing!


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Technique for repeatability, safety and efficiency - or "why we learn techniques"

Picking Up where we left off
So if you read my previous post about technical aspects of the handstand, then you may have been left with a few unanswered questions. I deliberately left it very open and non-specific, to allow you to have a chance to think about your handstand and what makes it work without over stressing about form. What I want to have a look at in this post, is a few of the 'whys' behind why we focus so much on certain techniques and form. Again, I'm not going into the details of form itself, as I want to get you thinking about the things you are doing, rather than just copying what you saw in a tutorial.

If you recall in the previous post, I wrote that the benefits of technique training are to promote safety, efficiency, repeatability. Aesthetics of the handstand are a nice bonus, but it's important to focus on the other 3 points first.

Sarah M. of Portland displaying a
nice and repeatable handstand.
When learning a handstand, or any precise skill for that matter, repeatability is one of the most important factors. When trying to execute a handstand, we want every attempt to be similar, so that we can be able to control certain aspects of the technique and change what needs changing. When it comes to a handstand, just kicking up to a handstand over and over again doesn't usually provide great results, and one of the main reasons for this is that there are many many little changes to technique that go on every time. If your body position is changing again and again and again, (even in ways you may not notice) then it is very hard to develop balance and consistency. This is where learning a strict form comes in handy. By working towards a handstand position which is easily repeatable, we give ourselves the ability to make deliberate changes to what we are doing. An example of this, would be hand control in the handstand. If we are able to execute the same entry to handstand, and position every time, we can then shift our focus into what our hands are doing, i.e. balancing us. As soon as there are body changes or things that are taking our focus away from the balance, we are making it harder to allow improvements to happen in these areas we are focusing on. This applies to all aspects of the handstand, we want to create a nice repeatable base position, where we can make deliberate changes to as necessary to make it more efficient.

Now lets have a look at safety. Safety is a big deal, and beyond simply saying "don't just jump into position if you can't hold your bodyweight" (even so, I have heard of many people getting injured from instructors telling people to just kick up to handstand, and these stories make me cringe). It is another aspect of handstands which is too often overlooked.
Jess F.
When it comes to safety, we don't want to just look at immediate problems, such as a fall or impact, we also want to look at long term problems that can arise. This includes things such as wrist soreness, elbow soreness, shoulder injuries, back injuries, posture problems and such. While many of these are addressed in auxiliary work, such as wrist prep, cooling down, stretching and such; safety should be a focus of the handstand itself. When learning a handstand, certain body structural problems need to be taken into account, and this includes things like joint hyper-extensions, hypermobility through the back, wrist issues etc. The one I am going to briefly elaborate on is shoulder hypermobility. Now who has ever heard the cue, "open your shoulders" before? Chances are, you have heard it before and more than once. Opening shoulders is a fine cue for when it is relevant, however it is a bit of a 'double edged sword'. Someone who has hypermobility in their shoulders likely won't find this generic cue useful, and if anything it takes away from the safety of the handstand. By just opening the shoulders too much, it allows the shoulder to sit too deep in the joint, disengaging certain supporting musculature around the shoulder joint. This may feel fine at the time, and may even feel easier for some, but overtime, it risks causing injury. Instead, we want to use our supporting musculature, in a way which promotes long term safety, while still promoting....

While it may seem like a lot is going on here,
this is nice and repeatable, efficient and safe
The third point I want to talk about. With handstands, and any skill really, efficiency is a big deal. Maximum
output from minimal effort. When holding something like a handstand, and wanting to hold it for 1 minute, 2 minutes etc, or be able to train it for a long time, efficiency is a must. And by efficiency, I am not just talking about staving off fatigue, but also how hard you are having to work to maintain balance. A good way of thinking about your handstand is to think of it like standing on your feet. It shouldn't take a lot of effort as your weight sits nicely over your feet. In a nice handstand, your weight sits nicely over top of your hands in a nice and in a stable way, where you don't have to work hard to maintain balance. When you are able to do this - you are basically spreading the work load more evenly through your body, and allowing your structure to do a lot of the work for you. Often in a handstand, your shoulders or wrists that take the load, which means that parts of the body are working harder than is optimal. This is normal, as that is what is holding you up, but it is common to just assume that the area of fatigue is just the weak-link to be made stronger. This may be the case, but also likely, the handstand is not as efficient as it could be. By allowing your body's structure to do a lot of the work, and being precise with your balance the actual muscular effort is quite minimal, allowing more time to be spent in the handstand with less effort.

So what does all this mean? So when it comes to training technique to make things as repeatable, safe and efficient as possible nothing beats having a coach. There is an abundance of information out there with many techniques. Some are more popular than others, however it's important in my opinion to not just blindly follow generic cues. If you are trying to train yourself, ask yourself questions about the technique and whether it is the most repeatable, safe and efficient way for yourself. Cover all bases and your skill-level will climb.

For people in Melbourne, I currently run classes 3 times a week, and also teach the handstand classes at CrossFit 3039. I also teach Private Sessions at The Richmond Gym

For people not in Melbourne or unable to come to classes, consider looking into my Online Coaching packages.

In the meantime, swing past my website, follow me on Instagram, and enjoy what you are doing!

Until next time!


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Technical Aspects of the Handstand - or "Most important pieces"

So, I haven't updated this blog in a while. I guess I have been a bit overwhelmed by the amount of
information that is out there on the Internet already, and I have been hesitant to just repeat what many others are saying. Plus, I'm very much an "in-person" kind of coach, and much prefer to share information to my students person to person, not least, so that I can make sure that they understand it but also so I can convey it in an individual manner. But with the popularity of handstands continuing to climb, among Yoga, Crossfit, Movement Cultures, Fitness and so on and so on, there is getting more and more information out there and there seems to be every man and his downward dog writing a blog post on the Handstand. Everyone knows words like 'alignment' and 'tension' and 're-balancing' and if you don't, a quick search for a Handstand Tutorial will give you hundreds of blogs/videos/articles with this information to various degrees of competency (and I will discuss it from time to time in this blog.) But with so much information out there, it's easy to get carried away with over-complicating things. So in response to that, I'm going to bring the handstand down to its most basic level and hopefully clear a few things up for you, and possibly re-align (pun intended) some conceptions you may have.

Okay let's get to it!
So lets have a simplistic look at the handstand. At the most basic level, a handstand is done by keeping your body's centre of mass over top of your hands. From a physics perspective this is what needs to happen. Anything else you do in a handstand, is a matter of safety, efficiency, repeatability and aesthetics. In this post I'm going to go through a very broad outlook on the key Technical Aspects of the handstand which make it safe, efficient and repeatable.

First up, I want to have a quick word about technique. There is more than 1 way to handstand but good techniques all contain a few different Technical Aspects. It's these Technical Aspects that I want to go through. Please note, these are all for the standard straight handstand. I'm not going to go into fine points of technique, as that would defeat the purpose of this post.

Centre of mass sits over my hands
Technical Aspect #1:
Balance stays situated over the hands. Quite simply, your centre of mass needs to stay over your base of support. Anytime this centre of mass starts to move away, you need to bring it back. This can be done in a few ways, the more precise you feel your balance, and control your balance, the smaller your little corrections will be. This can be done through your wrist, your shoulders and body, and in some cases the elbows. If you find you are constantly falling the same way, then likely you need to shift some weight the other direction.

Technical Aspect #2:
Maintaining a tension through the body. Note, I don't mean this as a max tension, but just tension. Every joint in your body, is something which is a potential loss of control. Your back is one of the main culprits of this, a loss of tension  through your midsection when trying to balance on your hands can allow your back to bend without realising it which results in a loss of control and then a loss of balance. There are a few ways of creating tension through the body - my personal favourite way of generating tension is by creating opposite tensions in parts of the body. An example of this, is tucking your pelvis (like you are trying to hide your bum) while opening your hips (pulling legs in the direction of your heels). 

Technical Aspect #3:
This is a technique which is prevalent in all quality handstands. Pushing shoulders into the ground. This is one of those technical points which are important for safety and control in the handstand. No matter what technique you are using, you should be pressing your arms into the ground. This is something which will help your shoulders stay healthy and strong in your practice, and will support stability in your shoulder. One thing I'd like to mention though, is I don't particularly like pushing upwards to 100% of my max. Rather, I like to push to 90% then rest into an 80% max push.

So why do we learn certain forms and techniques?
Quite simply, Form promotes Technique. When following cues such as "point your toes" or "tuck your hips", you are putting your body into positions which encourage application of these Technical Aspects. These will also create clearly visible (if you know what you are looking for) cues which will be able to be seen via video/by a coach. Where limitations in your structure are encountered, adjustments to the form will need to be made, as long as the Technical Aspects are still met. For example - someone with tight shoulders will be unable to keep their centre of mass over their hands while having their ribs in. However, said Tight-Shouldered person can open up their thoracic to allow their mass to sit over their hands to meet Technical Aspect #1, so long as they are still creating the same tension through the front of their body (Technical Aspect #2). Sure, increasing their range to open their shoulders more may increase efficiency, but none of the 3 Technical Aspects should be taken away from to achieve this.

I will leave it there, after all I want to keep things nice and uncomplicated. When developing your handstands, focus on these technical points and it should assist you. It's easy to get over-focused on the form of a handstand when the purpose of the techniques aren't clear.

Until next time!


If you are interested in what I'm doing don't forget to swing past my website!