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S1 Episode 32: Q&A with Emmet and Mikael


In this Episode, Emmet and Mikael answer more questions from our listeners, exploring the benefits of learning the stalder and the potential carry over to different movements, what “rigid-flexibility” is and how to avoid it, how often to train as a beginner and when to increase frequency of training and also how to fit training around family and work.

We hope you enjoy it!

Music by Daniel Horvath

Want to have your say on the Handstandcast? You can now leave us a voice note here with your Q&A questions for Emmet and Mikael! If you have any specific topics you’d like us to cover, or want to send in questions for our Q&A episodes, please get in touch via our contact form.

S1E32 – Q&A with Emmet and Mikael

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Transcript of Episode 32: Q&A with Emmet and Mikael

EL: Hello, and welcome back to the Handstand Cast with me, Emmet Louis, and my cohost Mikael Kristiansen.  As you probably noticed, we had some dank intro music.  Big shout out to Daniel Horvath who is listening in, hopefully.  He said he likes our podcast and got in touch saying, can I help you guys out?  He recognized how jank we are, and how amateur and how we needed some style.  He stepped up to the plate and owned it.  What do you think Mikael?

MK: Yeah, it’s epic and industrial.  What more could you ask for?  I even sent him one of my favourite tracks from Final Fantasy VI when he asked for inspiration, and I think he did a good job.

EL: Yeah he nailed it.  Welcome to our Factory.  He even sent us a happy one, and we said no no no, give the dark one.

MK: It was good, but too happy.

EL: Thank you Daniel.  If anyone else thinks or feels we could do better in our podcast, please get in touch and help us out.

MK: I think you need to talk better, can I do it for you?

EL: Please just tell me what to say.  Cool.  We have another shout out as well.  This person found us before we even announced it, but we have a buymeacoffee.com thing.  He found it and bought us a coffee, so shout out to Charles who is fueling this podcast currently.  I just about a litre of coffee before this one, so I’m okay.

It’s a Q&A podsode…podsode?  As you know, if you have some questions you would like us to answer, either DM to us on Instagram, HandstandFactory.com, or to me or Mikael, whoever you’re following.

MK: Or scribble it on a piece of paper, tape it to a brick, and throw it through Emmet’s window.

EL: Throw it through Mikael’s mother’s window, if you can track that down in Norway, where he’s going to be staying for the next couple of weeks.  Nah, she would fuck you up.  I haven’t even met her and I’m terrified of her.

MK: No, she’s lovely.

EL: I’m sure she is, but maybe it’s my Irish genetics re the Norwegian kick off.  She’s a viking.

MK: She’s quite calm.

EL: That’s the problem; vikings are always calm until they rage your monasteries.

So we have some questions as usual, and a nice mix of them.  So, first question: “What are the benefits of stalder, and how do those gains translate to one arms?”

MK: The benefits are, you can now do a stalder press.  Plus one to happiness.  You can enter a handstand without jumping from almost any surface, so that is a big plus of stalder.  You have great control.  If you fall down, you can catch in a straddle L and press back up.  I remember I did that in a show with Seven Fingers, many years ago.  I was doing a turning one arm, and had to return to two canes and gather my legs to the cue in the music and drop to bent arms and jump down as the light changed.

I had just finished a turn and fucking lose my balance as I catch on two arms.  My legs fly down and I catch in the worst straddle L ever and just press it back up and was able to press my legs to the music and drop with the timing.

EL: I bet you got applause for that one.

MK: I think no one noticed, it just looked like part of the choreo.  I remember when I was gathering my legs when I came up from the stalder, it kind of went with the crescendo of the music, and I closed my legs as the drum went off.  It’s a great move to learn but it won’t transfer much to one arm.  You can be awesome on one arm and not be able to stalder.  And vice versa.

EL: The value for it gets overstated in some communities.  I know a host of people who are machines on one arm and can’t do stalder presses.  They can do standing presses, which have a lot of transfer to one arm.  It’s definitely on the list that if you can’t do that, you probably should if you want one arms.

Lately I’ve been noticing with stalder presses, doing some phases with my more advanced balancers, and getting the stalder press pumped up has a very strong transfer to 90º push ups.

I had some clients that were getting a bit too pushed into overtraining every now and then when training stalders and 90º push ups at the same time.  I dropped the push ups, because stalder is more important for their training.  I dropped the 90º to once, or once every two weeks.  And guess what?  Their 90ºs were just going through the roof, and there was a lot of cross over.  People were saying they felt like there was just more control.

Not in every case, but particularly how we teach stalder, I think there’s a good cross over between straddle planche and stalder.

MK: That I can attest to.  If you’re really good at stalder press, you get the shitty hand balancer planche for free, the very piked straddle planche I always tend to end up with unless I train it specifically.

For me, stalder is part of the solid basic vocabulary you should have, at least if your goal is to move towards the higher echelons of hand balancing.  It’s good because you have an extra way to get up, and a very strong degree of control through the entire shoulder range.  If you ever want to prep one arm, it’s kind of mandatory to have at least a reasonably good stalder press strength.  Otherwise some ranges become unattainable.

EL: Do you need it to get a one arm handstand?  No.  Is it part of the handstand vocabulary you should probably be able to do?  Yes. Definitely.  So get on it.

It’s also, it’s infinitely less work to get a Stadler press than a one arm handstand.

MK: For most, but there are some.  Stalder and all those kinds of moves are body specific, and some are going to find it a lot heavier than others.  If you’re very top heavy and have good flexibility in your hips and shoulders, it’s going to be very easy.

If you don’t have a lot of force in your upper body or lack flexibility in the hips, or have heavier legs, it’s going to take a lot more time to develop that kind of movement.

It can be really tough to learn for some.  As I’ve stated before, you do need some strength in tuck planche to get anything done with it, from lifting out of the straddle L, or even an L-Sit.  There’s a certain range you can’t pass unless you do some kind of power in a tuck planche.  There are several components that need to be trained for that move.

EL: In summation, get that stalder.  Or don’t.

I’m thinking of a few girls I know who are on machines on one arm, can do basically everything.  They can even press on one arm, but they can’t stalder.  I’m like, is it because they never trained stalder, or is it a strength thing?

MK: I think it’s a combination.  I also know people who can press one arm from standing and have no stalder.  Since the entire standing part of any press, you can get around with flexibility.

I do think a lot of it has to do with not training it specifically.  It is a boring thing to train; that is what gets some people.  If you’re going to have results with stalder, you can’t stalder every single day.  You need to overload, recover, build strength, then move on towards the full movement.  That isn’t really the way hand balancers train their hand balancing work in general.  It can be hard to program.

Also if you don’t have much lats and front shoulders, it’s a big chore to get it.  Particularly performers would rather spend time on the moves they want to, and will, perform, so it’s useful vocabulary, instead of spending an enormous amount of energy on something that would be cool to have…but do you want to put in the time to do it?

EL: Next question.  This is one for me: “Emmet, I remember in your workshop you talked about people from another mobility system who came to you and had a problem I think you called ‘rigid flexible.’  Could you talk a bit about that, and how they became to be rigid despite working so much on mobility?”

Yeah, this is an interesting one and Mikael has seen this before and asked me about it.  I think we’ve talked about it before.  There’s a lot of systems that rely on building a lot of tension in the system for developing flexibility.  I use it as well in case points but there has to be some kind of training where you use the body in a low intensity, relaxed kind of manner.

If we look at the basic adaptations from strength training, the adaptations that happen at slow speeds aren’t the same that happen at higher speeds.  If you’re training a system with a huge amounts of isometrics, heavy isometrics, and you’re wondering why flexibility isn’t expressing at different speeds, or in different manners, that can be the key to it.

The classic one is the person who has an iso split that they can do pretty cold, and it’s like they can hold 20kg and shit like.  Suddenly you put them in a handstand and it’s barely legs at 45º, but they have a nice flat split.

I remember talking about this before.  You see this in these systems.  You have to think we are looking for generalized flexibility development that can express itself over a broad range of situations.  If we took the specialized route, it’s comparing strength training for a sport versus strength training for powerlifting.  Powerlifting is very good, but you’re trying to get incredibly, incredibly specialized at the technical aspects of doing that sport.  You get really good at that exercise, you get really good at the context you perform that exercise in.  Maybe it doesn’t transfer directly to your jumping power or height, stuff like this.

It’s the same with these systems using a lot of heavy isometrics and overcoming isometrics.  There is a case to use them in flexibility development; don’t throw them all out.  I always say this in the workshops – it looks like strength training on paper, but it’s not.  The parameters, goals, intentions behind it are different.

I talk about how we have to train all three relationships concurrently.  We have to work where gravity is assisting the stretch, gravity is providing resistance to the stretch, and gravity is neutral, for a better expressibility of the flexibility.  Some people say there is no magic bullet for flexibility training.  The three planes of gravity and the velocities are the magic bullet for flexibility training.

Other than that, it comes down to thinking that we have useable ranges.  We basically, if we train and for one thing only and don’t use it, it becomes quite rigid, fixed and locked.  Remember that as well.  I got splits, or trying to work on it – maybe swing your legs around, maybe look at how to work it in your handstand, maybe think of your relationships with gravity.

MK: Even people that are able to slide into an iso split cold, when the same person does a handstand in straddle, it’s nothing.  I can’t slide into an iso split while cold, but even when I’m warm, my split isn’t amazing.  What I can express when cold, going into handstand and spreading my legs, is quite a lot more than a lot of people I’ve seen.

I’m not the best example of this, but if you see in circus, gymnastics, dance and stuff, people don’t really use that specific protocol to develop their flexibility.  They are in environments where flexibility is always used.  It ends up being trained quite often.  The individuals are young and have more than moderate talent very often.

It’s a culture for training flexibility.  There isn’t much training.  People sit in splits when they warm up, and fiddle around with it.  If you ask people how to stretch, you just get the answer “stretch a lot.”  Yes, it’s not very methodical, but if you go into a circus hall and see people doing aerials, handstands, acrobatics, whatever, and you see how they can use their flexibility and effortlessly slide into a full split, it’s very similar to what they can do in terms of their going into a stretch and what they can express in a movement.  That is fascinating.

I was very surprised when I entered into teaching and saw a lot of people in other fields that were able to demonstrate getting into a full split, but there was nothing remotely similar to it in the handstand.  I was expecting them to have their legs almost 180 when they have this enormous flexibility.

One guy I saw would use 20kg plates to get and force himself into a full split.  In his handstand, it looked like what I describe as a small straddle when doing his split in handstand.  It’s quite surprising.

EL: I talked about this in an article on the M3 site.  We have this bio-psycho-social model of people who use it a lot for pain, but it applies to flexibility as much as anything else.  We have, just to give a run down, we have your biology, your bony limits of your joints and where they can go to.  It’s different for everyone.  Fine.  We have your mentality towards the training.  Do you expect training to hurt?  Do you have an idea that you should be freely moving and it’s not a big deal to do a split?  You’re making this big in your mind, so it will be tenser.  Then we have the social aspect – if you’re in a place with a higher social value and capital on flexibility versus strength or whatever – or an equal value – you will be more flexible because of the society you’re in.  We’re societal creatures.

The analogy I used in the workshop, when I was trying to discover how to become flexible.  I asked people how they stretched and what they’d done.  “Stretch more.  Stretch more.  Do more stretching.  Do more stretching.”  But when I looked at how they actually used it, they were using flexibility in broad ranges and contexts, obviously different apparatus of circus, aerial or in their disciplines.  They’re using them at speed, they’re using them to express something.  But they weren’t thinking a lot of the time, “now I’m going to do my maximal split.  Now I’m going to make this geometric shape and transition to the next one.”

It’s a bigger intent and context for the flexibility, which means more variety.  We’re not just doing iso splits, but then you’re also doing an infinite amount of different leg inversions when going up and down your rope every single day, without thinking about it.

You don’t have to take up circus to do this, but think about how you can use it more, and in a context where you use it but it’s not the main course.  This will stop the rigid linearity coming in.

MK: Hm.  I guess that’s a good take at it.

EL: “Got a question for the podcast.  Hopefully it’s not too repetitive, but it’s about frequency.  High frequency, you mentioned in the podcast that for high levels it’s 5-7 days a week.  I am curious about stepping up from 3-4 days a week.  I find that step difficult.  For someone training in the Push program (the beginner one), is it even necessary to push for 4 days a week?  Am I better off taking that step when I start with Keep Pushing (the learning shapes program)?”

MK: I would ask the question to you, are you currently making decent progress with 3 days a week?  If so, that’s fine.  More doesn’t necessarily equate to better results, especially when working on two arm stuff.  I think you can get quite a lot done with 3 days a week.  It depends on your schedule, your ability to recover, and also how hard you train.  How exhausted are you after these sessions?  If you want to maintain a solid rhythm at 4 days a week, perhaps you need less per session depending on your current recovery capacity, and so on.

It’s entirely up to, is what you’re currently doing working?  That is a weird question.  What everyone asks themselves is, “If I did more/less/X/Y/Z, would I be getting better or faster results?”  That is always a thing.  Everyone is trying to micro manage and figure out, what is the best course of action to make progress?

It’s a chasing the dragon kind of thing; you are always trying to optimize and optimize, figure out this and that.  Sure, there’s some interesting things about it, but if you are currently making progress and things are happening when you look 3 months back, or you can stand longer or feel less fatigue, then something is happening.

There isn’t any default answer, and you did mention you find this step difficult.  That is a good signifier that maybe 4 is no point, something you can do later.  It doesn’t have to do with what stuff or program you practice, but do you feel you’re able to without that having negative impacts on the training itself?  Or are there other things in your life?

EL: It’s quite easy to get the handstand bug and want to do more because it’s fun.  One thing you can do is instead of having a formal training session, just do ten minutes.  Do 3 formal sessions, follow the program laid out.  Then another one- warm up your wrists, warm up as you want, and just play.  We talk about play sessions.  Try some stuff you’re not working on presently and do 10-15 minutes.  Be strict about that at the start, because you’ll be able to expand the session eventually.  If you do want to train 4x a week, it’s really exciting.  There are other things to work on in hand balance as well.  I don’t know what level you’re at, but there’s headstands, elbow balances, freezes from breakdancing.

We don’t have tutorials on these things yet, but there are other things to learn that aren’t directly related.  They are in a similar vein and can be fun when starting out.  Just take it gentle.

MK: Doing short sessions like 10 minutes, it’s a great idea in terms of playing with your things without too serious of an approach on those days.  Be strict so you don’t overshoot it.  To those who might be listening who are working on one arms, that is not as good of an option.  You need more time to get ready.  Your wrists might need it, so it is harder to do short sessions with one arms.  When working on it, there’s so much force in your joints.  The movements are volatile.

Also, if you are working higher level things, you might need more days a week to get through the various types of vocabulary you need to work on.  It is difficult to balance recovery with all this.  Basically don’t overdo it.  That is always just going to negatively impact you in the end.

EL: If you’re limited in time on one arm, obviously a 10 minutes session won’t do it, just doing your one arm stuff you’re working on…pick practicing balance on one arm and don’t do supplementary work.  That can be an option for limited time.

What I tell people is if you’re running out of time in your sessions, the normal program might be: warm up exercises – race through them; do your whatever, 10 sets of straddle one arm holds…and that’s it, your session is done.  Don’t do your conditioning afterwards, don’t do the other stuff you need to work on.  That’s one option.

Also, when you’re still in the realm of the Push program, you’re still building strength.  You need recovery, that’s the other thing.  3 days a week can be more than enough.  You’ll get a lot out of it.

Cool, our next question.  Oh, my tablet just died.  While I get that working…

MK: Frickin peace!

EL: It’s working again.  We have questions.  It’s a good question, and probably nearly impossible to answer: “Balancing time with practicing handstands and flexibility, while working as a professional and having a family with kids.  RIP.”

MK: Working as a professional as in working as a hand balancing professional?

EL: I think it means a 9-5.

MK: It’s really damn hard, because you don’t have so much time.  Be realistic with the amount of time you have to put into it.  Work with a realistic schedule, rather than one that’s a fairy tale.  You probably…you can’t over reach your training.  You can’t over reach your family time either, or your work, so it’s important to find some sort of balance of that.  If you try too hard and try to cram in too much training, it is going to negatively impact something else.  It’s tricky.  It’s definitely a complicated thing.

That is where efficient training, and trusting the fact that if you’re putting the required stimulus onto your body, you do have the time to recover, and to get better by leaving it alone as well.  That is a factor that is usually underestimated, I think.

EL: I’ve worked with a lot of professionals over the years in personal training, and some of the vice you have to do is…there’s the family dynamic.  Are your kids 2?  Are they 10?  These kinds of things.  If they’re 2 and have to be supervised before they go licking sockets, maybe you can’t do this.  Setting the boundaries on your own time, even if it’s 2-3 times a week, and saying, “This is Mommy or Daddy’s handstand time; I’m doing this.”

The other thing I would have people do works very well if you’re an early riser.  Get up before the kids are up; do your training then.  This is some of the mandatory rules I had for people doing fat loss back when I was doing that terrible, terrible business.

Get to the gym at 6am.  If you’re going to do this, this is the only way it’s going to work.  Something will come up during the day.  It’s 4pm, then Teresa called, or little Timmy got sick and you have to come in…

One of my client’s kids bit the other kid so badly the other kid had to go to hospital.  But yeah, setting boundaries on your own time.

The other thing.  I can remember one client who had a little daughter who was about 2.  He was learning to handstand.  He would mind her in whatever room they had in the house, different every time.  He would be doing his chest to wall handstands.

By about the third phase of training, she was doing chest to wall handstands with Daddy.  She would be kicking up.  Kids are running around doing their thing?  You don’t need to entertain them.  You can do your thing, and they will kind of learn by watching you.  Then you end up with an awesome kid, who can handstand.

The other dirty trick here is: enrol your kids in gymnastics classes, if they’re into it.  You go along and, over here, because of child protection and safety, generally adults have to supervise.  There have to be a certain number of adults supervising the gymnastic coaching and classes here, and maybe a lot of the world.

Well, you go with them, and you have access to a whole gymnastics hall with all the equipment and mats you could ever want.  You can just do your training there, mess around.

Other than that, flexibility training, you can do effective flexibility training sitting in front of the TV.  Maybe you don’t give your kids TV, but if you do and it’s family watch TV time, you can sit around and do your flexibility training.  Might not be the most focused session, but it definitely will work.

You can get good at stuff as a parent.  Who can we think of?  @EliseBalance, check her out.  Helgi.  These two people listed both have 3 children and run gyms.  They have 3 young children, and are pretty damn good.  It is possible.

MK: Again, and now I’m speaking out my ass because I don’t have kids, but I assume there is truth in this thing around people trying to be super parents and achieving everything at the same time.

I saw this great quote – I absolutely despise quotes – but there was one quote that went something like, and I’m paraphrasing; Get up Early.  Eat Healthy.  Surround yourself only with people who support you, and there is no limit to how burnt out you can become.

I don’t remember who said it.  A friend of mine posted some shit like that, and I think there’s a lot to it.  The ‘Go Get Em’ attitude, then you grind yourself into the ground.

Take care, and take your time.  There is time, as long as you don’t waste it by nuking yourself, as well.

EL: You want to build a hobby you will do for a very long time, and then you will get very good at it.  It’s better to have something you enjoy and do twice a week, when you have some Me time, versus feeling like you have to train 5 days a week and it’s just not realistic, because you got a 2 year old and a 4 year old and they’re running around the house still, not in school.

Two sessions a week, boom, off to the grandparents.

Don’t be afraid to be that parent as well, the one who goes to the park with the kids and does some handstands there.  Any little micro training you can get in…a lot of little micro trainings will add up eventually.  I know a lot of people listening will be like, “Ah, I can do grease the groove for one arm handstands.”

That’s not exactly what it’s about.  It’s about trying to fit it in.  Do some cartwheels in the park while your kids are running around.  Don’t be the parent hiding there in the corner, sitting around doing nothing.

We speak like geniuses on children, because we have so many of them.

MK: Completely from experience here

EL: I think we’re such failures, we don’t even own cats.  Someone please send me a cat.

MK: Also!  Ask someone who has kids.  They might have even more realistic answers than we do.

EL: Shout out to one of my good friends from school; he has 2 kids now.  We were having dinner with them, and they were giving it out to us.  We were complaining, saying we don’t have time to get everything done.  “I don’t think you understand.  You have so much time.  You think you don’t have time, but you don’t have two children.  No.  You have time to do anything you want.”

MK: That’s the gist I get too, from people who live in reality.

EL: Other than that, that’s the end of our Q&A.  If you want to ask us any questions, send them to @HandstandFactory, or over the contact form on the website, handstandfactory.com

If you’d like to do a bit of training with us, we have our programs at handstandfactory.com

Other than that, where do we wrap it up?  Here?

MK: Cheers.


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