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S1 Episode 4: Training at Home


Hi and welcome to our 4th epsiode of The Handstand Factory Handstandcast – a Podcast where Mikael Kristiansen and Emmet Louis talk all things handbalancing.

Q&A from Emmet and Mikael using questions submitted by our Handstand Factory followers on instagram regarding training from home, given the obvious state of the world. Including tips on staying motivated, keeping your sanity and a theoretical framework for programming your training, if handbalancing is your focus.

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.

S1E4 – Training at Home

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Transcript of Episode 4: Training at Home

EL:  Hello, and welcome.  I’m Emmet Louis, and with me is Mikael Kristiansen. Together we are the Handstand cast, supported by Handstand Factory.  We have a special cast for you tonight, subtitling it The Coronacast.

I’m sure as all of you know, there’s some weird stuff going down in the world.  We’re going to make the topic tonight about training at home, or training alone.  We have a few questions from people.

I suppose we’ve both trained a lot by ourselves, so we can give some advice on the situation.  What do you think, Mikael?

MK: I didn’t really train today much, but I just cleaned out my room.  I finally threw out a couple of old suitcases standing. All we needed was low budget armageddon for me to finally move shit out of my room.

EL: I think a lot of people’s houses are getting infinitely cleaner than they ever imagined.

MK: I don’t have much space, so I can’t do everything in here, but I can do most stuff.  Even before I started hand balancing, I would figure out a solution to do stuff wherever I was.

EL: Would you practice your breakdancing?  I want to see you do some air flares in your bedroom.

MK: There are some people that probably could, but for me..

EL: I’m not interested in the people who could do it.  I want to see you do it. I want to see you attempt it.

MK: I’d end up kicking that wardrobe.  I think I’m going to skip it.

EL: It depends on how well built the wardrobe was.  Is it Ikea? Is it quality built?

MK: It’s enough to break my leg; I’m going to skip out on that one.

But training at home, in general with hand balancing, if you haven’t trained at home yet, you probably aren’t that obsessed yet.

EL: Do you even hand balance brah?

MK: I think at one point, most people end up doing it.  Not just because they’re that obsessed about it, but it’s kind of accessible to do everywhere.

EL: That’s probably one of the advantages of the handstand.  Once you have a flat floor and enough space to kick up or straddle up, you’re sorted.

That said, we travelled a lot around Asia a few years ago.  One of the things we found was finding a flat floor to do handstands on is difficult.  There are a lot of places in the world where the concept of flat floor does not exist in their building codes.  That’s fine, they’re fully developed, but flat floors are not a thing.

MK: Especially when I was on tour, and we would have days off, because in both the major circus companies that I was on tour with for years, we would usually just stay in smaller hotels around Europe or wherever.

Often they didn’t have a gym so I would end up training in the hotel room.  I did have a couple of funky set ups. I remember a couple of times, the room was so small that you couldn’t really kick or straddle up, or anything.  There was enough space between the bed and the wall, so I would sit on my bed and put my hands on the floor and press from there, do my one arms. Then I’d put my legs back on the bed and just sit down again.  It works…

EL: I’ve been in hotel rooms doing handstands between a desk, with no option of over balancing.  You have to use the bed to trampoline up into the handstand and hope you catch it.

MK: Make it specific precision practice.

EL: It’s just that option that’s important in handstands.  Sometimes you just have to have no option of falling over. You just have to stay.  A lot of people miss that.

MK: As you become experienced enough, it is kind of like standing on your feet.  You kind of forget that you can fall. I’ve actually had some interesting falls in here yesterday.

It’s actually fucking funny.  I have my small one cane in here, that’s about 30cm tall.  Maybe even less, like 25cm. It’s just one cane. I was training jump switches from one hand to another here.  There isn’t really enough space, it’s kind of sketchy.

If I do good technique it’s fine.  I did the jump, I gathered my legs on one arm.  I can do a legs together on one arm on this cane, without touching the ceiling, if my placement is perfect.  But if my toes are pointed, the shoulder is pressed up, and my legs drift a little bit inwards towards two arms.  I touch the ceiling with the toes, and I just fell like a house of cards, and almost smashed my head into the bed.

When something pushes your toes in that position, there’s nothing you can do.  You’re not used to falling due to that either.

There were a couple others, almost as spectacular.

EL: Did you get that on video?  I’d like to see a month of blooper reels from Mikael’s training.

MK: I did, actually, but I deleted them.  I’ll make sure to keep some, as I’ll probably train more jumps some other days.  I’ll keep them for a training room blooper reel.

If we’re talking about the home training regime, at least for our listeners and useful things to think about, and there are what I assume are lots of different people at different levels listening in…I think one really good thing for people that are starting at the early stages of development, have a home situation, maybe you need to watch your kids all day.  You have limited actual training time but are home all day. Maybe you don’t have the space or equipment, or don’t feel safe doing freestanding balances, and so on. Then I think that a period like this is perfect for conditioning.

Give yourself one goal.  I can do a 30s stomach to wall handstand, ok yeah, then during this period you build up to doing a 60s handstand, if you’re able to find the time and have a wall.  You do a more conditioning focused work. When you inevitably get back to the gym or your practice spot, and can delegate a time, then you’ll have done something. If you don’t have the circumstances to do your normal practice, but try to force it, it’s unlikely going to work, or make you particularly happy about it.

EL: There are certain things you will be limited on re equipment, space, safety.  It’s a very common thing, and I’m very guilty of this myself. If I can’t do the perfect set up, I’ll just say fuck it and quit for that day.  If people are annoying me at the gym, I’ll tap out. Fuck it, the music is terrible.

Not getting caught up on that, knowing I can’t do this, this, this, but I can still get 15 min of good quality work in, and getting it done.  There’s a good question here, actually.

There was one on getting in the mindset for training at home.  I can’t find it, let me get my phone. As you can tell, we are fully prepared and scripted for this podcast.

MK: I have never tried this microphone before, but I’m really happy it worked.

EL: Any tips for getting into the mindset while training at home?  It’s tough now that the gym ritual is gone.

Well, maybe there was an author, or screenwriter, who said something that stuck with me and is what I say to many of my clients: He only writes when inspiration strikes, and he’s very lucky that inspiration strikes at 9am at his desk, every morning.  His whole thing was, he works from home, is self employed. He sits down at his desk, and starts working. He works from 9 to 5, that’s it. Just start typing.

The same thing can be said for training, set a date for yourself at 10am, do whatever you can, finish at 10:30,:45,11.  You can always do more if you feel in the mood, but if you just get your minimum dosage you’ll say you’ll do for yourself, if it’s 15-20min.  After that, you can say I did 5 handstands, boom, done.

Then day two comes, and you feel like doing loads, so you do an hour.  It’s just that idea of getting up and ready to do it. And that’s it. I’ve been doing that myself when training at home.  Six o’clock hits, I get up, start warming up my handstands, and see what happens.

MK: Touching back to what you just said.  *Cough*

EL: Mikael’s got the ‘Rona, obviously.

MK: I’m dying.  Especially now, things aren’t like they normally are.  Don’t have the normal expectations either. Maybe use that for something.  That is one of the most productive things. If you can do a 30, but can’t do a 60s stomach to wall handstand, then build that.

I’m doing similar things right now, as there are a bunch of things I cannot practice at all.  So I’m not, there’s no point even trying. I’m not going to get anything done, I will use the opportunity to readjust and do something else.  It’s not easy to do, and it’s not easy for me either. There’s loads of things I want to do. I sometimes try, it doesn’t work. The more you’re able to set something realistic in relationship to the situation you’re in, then in that regard, I do think handstands are really perfect for this kind of thing.

I’ve even told loads of my friends who don’t do handstands.  Fucking hell, just start learning a handstand. Get yourself up to a wall and start messing around with it.  You don’t have anything else to do; why not learn something in this period?

EL: Something that reminded me, our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, gave a really good speech.  I don’t like him as an orator normally, but I thought the speech was very good, for him.  He made a comment that, at a certain stage in this crisis, we’re going to ask the old people to go cocoon mode.  What that means is they lock themselves away, as they’re the people most affected by this thing. It reminded me of this really bad meme that went around about ten years ago in the fitness world called going ‘Cocoon mode.’  The idea of this was that social interactions limit you in what you can do, so you cut out all social interactions. You eat healthy, because you wouldn’t be eating out or drinking with your mates. You’d work on your social skills, practice them without being with people – I don’t know how that would work, but this was part of it.  And then you’d also get in shape during this period, quit video games, stop eating junk, blah blah blah. Then you’d emerge from your cocoon as a beautiful jacked butterfly.

He reminded me of this.  Maybe there’s a lesson here, and we should all just go cocoon mode.  Then we’ll all emerge a better version of ourselves.

MK: Everyone will arrive and be fucking glorious when this is over.  I’ll be expecting everyone to come out with long hair, and look like they’re ready for a model shoot.  I certainly won’t

EL: It will be like Zoolander 3.  In reality, we’re sitting at home in our pyjamas, eating biscuits, debating whether 420 applies to wine as well as weed.  That 20 gets incrementally smaller every day. I think it’s like 1120 now for a lot of people, from the gist I’m getting out there.

Let’s do another question.  This is a good one. We’ve got loads, but maybe we won’t do all of them.

Warm up.  If, throughout the day, I would like to do multiple attempts of doing handstands, just kicking up then balancing as much as I can, then coming down, do I need to warm up wrists and shoulders every time, or is it not required?  Or does it change over time, as when you’re a beginner you might need a little warm up, but as your practice and strength goes, you can hit handstands any time of the day, without warm up? What are your thoughts on this?

MK: In general, it’s a capacity question.  Whenever you’re working towards the higher ends of your capacity, you’re on average better off warming up and taking some time.  If you’re doing something very simple – like for me to do a two arm handstand, it’s not going to take a lot of warm up. For safety, you’d like to spend a little bit of time.  From experience, take a little bit of time on your wrists so you know how they feel before going on them. You can’t be sure whether or not they’re 100% ready before you go.

For me, the rough cut on it is, if you work on two arms, you’re likely fine unless you have injuries.  If you work on one arms and want to train those, take time to warm up your wrists and shoulders every time, because you will on average do a better work out, have a better sensation of how your body feels before you attack. You’re operating in a much higher risk zone in one arm.

EL: I think another important concept I have, I’ve termed them radar exercises.  I have a couple of exercises that I can just do, a couple of stretches where I know, if I do this, I know my wrist is fine.  I can tell very quickly by that. But if I do a little stretch or routine and feel traction in all the joints, and it feels off, then I know I have to do some kind of warm up, or it’s going to hurt.  This is particularly on the wrist I broke. You have a warmup routine that you do for a full session, and find there’s indicator exercises that give you a sensation of how the wrist is doing at that moment. Once you hone in and get used to that, then you know you can do your one or two exercises and then go on your hands.

Whereas, if it’s not that way or feeling right, you won’t get the surprise when you suddenly have all your bodyweight on your hands.

MK: That’s a good gist of it, and I really like that term of yours, with radar exercises.  I’ve adopted that one. It helps a lot if you have a couple of these in your practice, to test before doing something difficult, very often you can feel if there’s any point in continuing to practice a certain element, after having done those scans.

Is this possible or interesting to practice today?  If yes, ok. If not, maybe leave it alone. It definitely does change over time.  You need to keep a check on this.

EL: It’s also the idea that kicking up and doing one or two arm handstands is very different than doing five mini 20-30min session throughout the day.  There’s a big danger of overtraining. What you end up doing in a lot of multiple training sessions, is not have discrete sessions where you do your strength training, and then whatever else and it’s over, and the body goes into recovery mode.

Your whole day basically becomes one long stretched out training session.  You think you trained yesterday, so had 24h recovery. Not really, because you sleep 8h, then are on the hands again in the morning.  You’re slowly potentially building up cumulative fatigue, and cumulative tissue under-recovery, which leads to tendonitis.

MK: It’s so easy to over train these things.  Multiple sessions a day can work, but I think the concept is maybe the easiest to overdo things with.  You set the plan and say, you’ll do 5 there, 10 there, 5 there, 5 here, and then done. But you’re going to get excited, and then you do 7, 12, 15.  Suddenly you’re being an idiot because you’re getting excited.

Bracing yourself for the fact that you’re human and these things can happen, it’s on average a better idea not to.  If you’re very strict with these things it could work, but you really need to pay attention. It’s not just a win-win kind of situation.

EL: There’s that running joke in strength training, where people say they’re going to start doing twice a day training.  This is very effective if you look at a lot of people over the years, but the problem is if you have a basic strength program.  You’ll do two main exercises, like squat and deadlift, then 4 accessory exercises. You do that workout twice, when what you should really do is the two main in the morning, then the accessory exercises.  It’s just one workout, but you split it up. It’s not doing two full workouts, where you titrate the volume up.

You can’t do 2h of handstands, then another 2h press session in the evening.  Do that six days a week, then wonder why the elbows are exploding in two months.

MK: Classic, seen that.  Done that, too. Many times, fucking idiot.

Ok, another one?

EL: Here’s a good one: how to not fall into bad habits, how to reflect it in an objective and productive way?

MK: Don’t be an idiot.  First of all, you can’t be objective because you’re always an idiot.

It’s a good question, how not to fall into bad habits.  First you need to identify, what are your bad habits? That is the number one thing.

I can easily say what my bad habit is: I don’t fucking rest.  I’m that guy, I can’t have two sessions a day. I get excited, start doing things I shouldn’t, and do that all the time.  It’s not smart; I know it’s a bad habit. I need to reign in and say, no, I’m done now. I’m not going to do this and that, and this, and that.  My capacity for this is really high, and I end up doing too much. Either you get too tired, or the fatigue loop, or you get injured, or you get no results.  I think if it’s about being able to first identify them.

For some people, if all you need is pen and paper, and the numbers, then that’s what you do, and it’s maybe easier to avoid certain bad habits.  But then for such a person, the bad habit might be, hey I don’t have pen and paper, or a program today, so I don’t train. I’ve seen that a lot.

EL: That used to be me, it was definitely one of my own.  Early in my gym days, it was the usual: you must have a protein shake 20 minutes after leaving the gym, or it’s a failure.  Oh shit, I didn’t bring my protein today, so I’m not going to go to the gym. I don’t have my training book to record my workout.  It’s not like phones were advanced back then, and you couldn’t take notes on them. You’d have to waste your credit sending a text message to yourself.  Ain’t nobody gonna do that. i’m probably showing my age, here.

The other one on bad habits – there’s definitely an interest thing, if we’re going to be learning a skill.  There’s two things. Say kicking up, you feel like it’s about to happen but you’re constantly making the same mistake.  This is what I look for when I’m training people. I try to get them to the point where they’re making the same mistake every time.  Then I can fix it.

If the mistake is different every time, the skill is actually possibly beyond your capacity, at the moment.

If you’re making a consistent mistake, say, always turning out to the right when kicking up, then the correction for my as a coach is very quick and simple.  Just turn left, or over correct, look at hand placement.

If you have someone whose mistake is different every single time, they’re not ready.  It will be slightly different over time, but will coalesce into one big mistake.  If it’s not happening, it means the skill is probably beyond your capacity, and the bad habit will be to keep trying to hammer away at it.  Knowing when to quit is a very important skill.

MK: That’s for sure.  I think reflecting in an objective and productive way is tricky.  I don’t think there is much of an objective way. In one sense, that’s also where it’s tricky when you’re coaching yourself.  I’ve had that problem for many years where I’m basically dictating my own training. You start believing your own bullshit. You’re human, so you’re not objective.  You start making up these fantasies and stories, and believing in them. It might not be correct. That can be a problem, so to be able to call out your own bullshit, and dare to think, what if this isn’t actually working?

You can’t of course doubt too much either, but I think it’s important to know there isn’t really any failsafe way with this.  Hand balancing is a complex practice, there’s tons of things going into it. But let’s say you take a very simple practice, and let’s take something dumb like bicep curls.  For someone to come into the gym for the first time, and they can 1RM 10 kilos, of one bicep curl. If they go into the gym for three months, they’re going to bicep curl more than 10 kilos, most likely.  It’s not going to be too hard to go to 12 kilos.

If this person is close to world champion level in bicep curl, then we’re at such a level where you can’t just guarantee the progress, in the way you can for a beginner learning such a simple movement as that.

But with hand balancing, since you have many more parameters earlier on in the process, it is much harder to know exactly how it is going to develop.  Having that in the back of your mind – there isn’t any failsafe, 100% correct way for these practices.

EL: That’s what I like about hand balance, or any other skill development that has an artistic component or sense of freedom; there’s no exact way to do it, no objective way.

At the end of the day, we have different bodies, so that basically counts against us.  There’s no objective way to take this person to a one arm that is going to be the same for the next person.  We have to do it anyway.

Here’s a good question.  How do I keep my walls clean?

MK: You don’t.  Or wait a second, yes you do.

EL: You wash your feet, you flithy person.

MK: Or you can learn free standing, and you’ll never need the wall again.  Now you have another reason to just get your freestanding handstand super solid.

EL: Or you can put that Ido quote on the wall: Let them dirty the walls.  And then you can dirty your walls with impunity.

MK: Or just paint them black.  At least no one will see your degeneracy.  Could be one solution.

EL: You’d think that, but I had a studio whose walls were black.  It turns out to actually be very difficult to keep clean. I only had it for a few months.

Here’s one from – we had that rule where we were going to read out questions with peoples’ names if they’re terrible questions.  I’m going to do this in case his house mates were listening. How to not kill my roommates?

MK: Hm, well I know who his roommate is?  Why do you want to kill Edward, he’s a decent guy, isn’t he?  He’s pretty good on his hands, and a sociology student. Don’t kill him.  Maybe slap him around a few times, but be kind.

EL: That raises the question, how many people are getting into fistfights with their roommates at the moment, do you think?

MK: I’m happy I don’t get into fistfights with my roommate, because she’d probably kill me.

EL: I’d pay to see that, actually, if you wanted to livestream.

MK: She’s probably stronger than me, to be honest.

EL: Next question.  How would you program strength training combined with Push, and Keep Pushing?

One of these big questions that I’ll dip into.  The simplest thing you can do is, as you focus more and more on handstands, if that’s your thing, then the handstand is providing the movement complexity in your training.  Your training has to get simpler and simpler for strength training. If we were to look at the programs I do for people nowadays on paper, who are specializing in hand balance, it’s very simple.  One lower body exercise, a deadlift/squat/split squat cycled to what they need. Then something pushing and something pulling. That’s their program. It’s very simple, they’ll only do it once a week, as well.

But don’t neglect they’re doing presses, and one arm.  Once you’re getting into the deeper levels of Keep Pushing, you’re working a lot.  The upper back is getting worked a lot. By smashing it with a whole back, or proper deadlift workout, with the full posterior chain, then if you really want to focus on handstands, you’re putting a lot of fatigue onto the system that will affect the higher levels of your skill.  Even if you’re coming to learn the shapes.

MK: It depends entirely on what kind of strength work you’re thinking about.  It’s easy to have this Pokemon, gotta catch em all, kind of approach to having to train all kinds of movements at the same time.  When you’re learning something new, you might be better off scaling it a little back, or simplify the other aspects. If all you’re doing is standing on your hands two days a week, and a little bit, then you can do a lot of calisthenics, or weight lifting.  But if you want to stand on your hands for 5 days a week, with a lot of volume, learning some complicated things, like shapes, in Keep Pushing.

Let us say, in another case, you’re learning the two arm handstand, but it’s heavy for you at this moment in time.  If it takes a lot of energy for you to do the practice, then you might be well off not needing to put in 3 sets of pulls, and 3 sets of rows, then push ups and bench press, it might be better to scale back on those things for a period of time.  At least until you get better at the skill you’re actually trying to develop. So you need to prioritize there.

EL: It depends on how long your sessions are getting, as well.  I’ll give you guys a sample program. In Push, we are working at 20 seconds free standing, which is the level you need for Keep Pushing.  Then your skill work will come first in your session. If I do a whole workout, my skill work will be my hand balance. I will be training the stuff I’m learning, the new stuff to me.  Then I’l train my hand balance specific conditioning. If I still have time, that’s when you do your strength and conditioning.

Do the things that are most complex; the things with the most amount of thinking and correcting come first.

Then the stuff that I can do, but need to get better at, comes next.  Then my general physical preparation will come third. You have generally 30 minutes with each thing, to make a 90 minute workout.

General physical preparation counts as strength work and flexibility work, for people listening in.  That gives you a way to organize it.

The other way to organize it would be to do handstand specific days.  Let’s say you have 4 days to train a week. You could do 3 handstand specific days, so Monday and Tuesday for handstands.  Work on different segments of Keep Pushing, and your capacity. Wednesday, off. Thursday for general structure and conditioning.  Friday, Keep Pushing handstand work. This would be one way to look at it.

It also depends on what equipment you have at home, which is a limitation to your training.  If you’ve got a pull up bar and some floor space, you can basically do anything. A very simple hand balancing condition workout, for most people, would be some combination of push up or handstand push up preparation, some pull ups, not even weighted or fancy varieties, changing the grips every work out.  Then leg lifts.

IF you just did those three exercises, and got really good at them.  For leg lifts I’m talking about 10-15 reps, holding each rep for 3-5 seconds at the top.  You would be a machine. That’s all you need. It’s a very simple split, just three exercises.  It’ll take you 40 minutes to do 3-4 sets of each one. Boom, done.

MK: Also, if hand balancing is your goal, you don’t need tons of extra exercises to develop the actual work.  It’s good to do some, but as said, you need to prioritize at some point. You can have various periods, focusing on one, then the other.  Do we have any more questions?

EL: Yeah.  We have loads of questions, and the best question I got today is, what’s your favourite dog name?  This is from ‘Dogs of the World,’ so I assume it’s a spam account. But I’m going to entertain it anyway, because I like talking about dogs.

It’s much better than just, click here to see my sexy pics.  It’s, what’s your favourite dog name? Well, Dogs of the World, I  don’t know what my favourite dog name is, because I think dog names are personal to the dog.

MK: I know my favourite cat name, and that was my old cat name, Killer Bob.

EL: I have a question here I want to take, it’s a pretty good one.  I’m going to give the fast answer, though I could probably give the hour answer to this one.

What is the most underlooked concept of flexibility training?

The easiest answer to this is intent.  People don’t understand the intent involved in the flexibility training.  What that means is how we drive the body, and instruct it to achieve and express the flexibility.  It’s incredibly simple.

People think, I must go deeper in my stretch.  That’s not intent, just a vague goal. It must be like, my foot must move 1mm deeper into the stretch.  Something like this. Having a target to aim for, to move away from. This is what takes you from driving the body, going, “Relax hamstring, relax.”  It doesn’t relax because you haven’t got that level of sensitivity.

You get to the point where the body will do it automatically for you.  We’re putting constraint. I call it the Poke, Prod, and Provoke the Reaction we want, the 3 Ps of flexibility development.  It’s on my secret list of threes.

MK: There’s one I saw here to take up.  Daily exercises for beginners? That’s a really good question.  I would say that, in terms of daily exercises for beginners, it depends of course how much of a beginner you are.  Let us now say that you are a beginner, able to use the wall. By this, I mean if you’re facing back to wall, you’re able to kick your legs up and reach the wall safely with your legs.  You’re not going to die from it, and not afraid of getting to the wall. On the other hand, you’re able to put your hands on the floor, with your chest on the wall. You put your legs on the wall and climb the feet to be able to get a chest to wall support handstand.  Let’s say you’re able to do both of these. If you’re not able, I think building up that should be the primary goal.

For a home time like now, that could be a great goal.  If you cannot stand on your hands, then begin with a chest to the wall handstand.  You climb up the wall as high as you feel capable and able to. Or place your legs on a table or chair, put your hands on the floor and lean as much weight onto your hands as possible, and push high through the shoulders.

If you’re able to do a stomach to wall, and back to wall handstand, then using both these set ups.  With chest to wall you focus on endurance and pushing the shoulders high. I have one video on instagram where I do a short description of what I call the checklist in handstand.  It’s where you do a chest to wall handstand, basically explaining how to do it. You do a chest to wall, push your shoulders high. You pull the sternum from the wall, and tense your quads, butt and toes.  Doing this and getting used to that body map thing is a daily exercise you should be spending time on.

The other is back to wall.  You kick up to wall, then get practice with your kick up.  You need to get up there, so you practice that part.

EL: You kick up with good technique.

MK: If you need to repair your wall after, you should probably look into how to kick up to handstand.  When you do back to wall set ups, you don’t need to be as strict here. With back to wall, try to work on balance.  Kick your legs to the wall and work on using the grip from the fingers to pull your legs off the wall and try to achieve balance through the finger pressure.  Of course this is extremely simplified because I’m sitting here with a microphone in my room, babbling. I can’t give a very detailed set up on how to do all these things, hence the programs and so on.  You can find a lot of things about this for free on the internet. There’s loads of information out there.

But in general, use the fingers to grip the floor to get the balance when you’re doing back to wall handstand.

EL: You can’t educate the fingers to be too precise in handstand.  You can overtrain them, but learning the connection of doing something with the hand to move the body.  This is like a baby standing for the first time before walking. It’s like learning that.

If I lean forward, fingers get heavy.  There’s even the thing of getting upside down.  You have your formal trainings, the I develop my skills sessions.  You’re doing 30-40 minutes. Then you have times where you just warm up the wrists and try something for 5-6 minutes.  Just getting upside down. It could even be the day you do your leg training, you just do a couple of kick ups. Just every time you get upside down, it builds a body map of being inverted.  This enhances your balance and control of being upside down. Even hanging your head off the side of your table upside down could help.

MK: I’m not a large fan of headstands in relation to hand balancing.  It’s such a different skill. In one sense, yes, if you have absolutely no equipment, experience, or anything, then learning a headstand could also be a project during this period.

For me, if you want to be doing handstands, the primary thing you might be needing to work on is your shoulder conditioning.  So get your hands on the floor and work on that instead, if that’s what you want to do.

EL: Other thing, just to drop.  On my youtube channel, EmmetLouis, there is a video of joint rotations.  If you do them every day, good things will happen. I can guarantee you that.  If you’re a beginner, particularly if you’re not used to mobility training, or feel stiff, or are new to the movement thing – doing this for just 10-15 minutes a day will do wonders.  It’s up there for free on YouTube, so check it out.

So we have our last question, and I think it’s a really good one.  Is there a training method of handstands that does not involve reps, but is a fun game instead?

MK: I can invent one right now.  Take a shot every time you fall from a handstand.  You can do anything. This is also kind of a topic for another episode, but how do professional hand balancers train?  That’s what we do all the time. We don’t have a system, we just go in and…not everyone, but a lot of people I know who are very good will show up at training.  What do we do today? We’re kind of bored because we’ve done all this stuff before. Let’s try to jump up on this block in a dumb way. Then you spend half an hour on that, then you come up with some dumb idea you throw at your friend.  You don’t need to think sets and reps. These are useful to a degree, but they can also be detrimental. If you have too much of a fitness-y it has to be X sets, and this long hold times, this long rest times..it’s not mathematics. I’m not a fan of having a metronome.  I want to have fun, I want to focus, and experience the thing that I’m doing.

You can very easily do handstand practice where you might just kick up and do a handstand.  Perfect example is Elise of Handstand Factory. She goes, I want to do a tuck handstand right now, and she jumps into a tuck handstand right now.  That’s what works for her. Some people don’t like sets and reps, and that’s great. You can get loads done with that too.

EL: It’s important to note.  You can brute force a handstand.  You can brute force a one arm, just by constantly attempting it.  And you will get it. That’s essential what kid gymnasts do. Kids are very terrible at following cues to a certain degree, depending on the coach.

But they get really good.  Why? Because they just keep doing it for a very long time, to the point where they’re actually good at it.

MK: The term brute force, here it does apply to using strength, but to me it more implies ‘code breaking,’ where you just have a machine trying all the numbers, and in the end it’s going to break it.  It’s a little bit like that. If a body tries to do a one arm handstand enough times, regardless of technique, and the body doesn’t break, it’s going to stand on one arm. It’s not efficient, but it will likely be able to at some point in time.

EL: One thing to throw in, and it’s a concept I picked up from my coach Serge, from martial arts, is that we have two modes of training.  It applies to hand balance, and everything. It was one of those lightbulb moments. We have the correcting, honing in the practice side of things, where we work on developing the body.  Sets and reps are applicable, because we can control those.

Then we have the doing.  If you’re in a phase of thinking about what you’re doing, you’re not actually doing it, because you’re thinking about it.  You have to have something your practice where you just do it.

We have something like this in one of the programs, I think Push in the later stages.  We have the concept of play sessions. Just play on your hands for 20 minutes, do whatever you want.  Try some shapes, try different stuff. If you’ve seen a picture of someone doing something cool on instagram, try and copy it.  Try to make your version. This idea of having deformalized play structure-

MK: It’s really important.  Over time, get used to that kind of structure.  Eventually you’re going to hit that singularity where it’s going to take an extreme amount of time and effort to reach the next level.  Then you need stuff to do, to enjoy and play around with. That’s what I see a lot with professional circus artists. We have done most of the tricks.  To move to the next level of trick is going to take an absurd amount of time. A lot of people aren’t even interested. All the tricks have been done 100x better by so many people already.  There are other elements of the practice that can be fun and interesting too.

EL: Make it your own.  It’s the whole trap of the sets and reps.  It traps everyone. I have to do my workout like this.  Well, it looks great on paper, but you’re not a machine.  At the end of the day, we have to have the expectation that the body can’t have the demands on it that day.

Mentally, if you find it fatiguing to have go up and do 35 seconds, I have to set a metronome.

Dear god, I’m a coach and see so many of you send me videos with metronomes.  I appreciate you do it, but I can’t do it. I count, if I need to count tempos.  Some of us are wired differently.

MK: I remember one Russian coach.  I came in totally smashed, and he was like, It’s okay.  Body’s not like robot. Even he said, yeah, sometimes you have a bad day, that’s fine.

I know you also work in coaching with approximate numbers, rather than having to do X sets of this and that.  We’ve talked about this before.

It’s good to keep in mind that we also have a bunch of fucking arbitrary time things.  “You have qualified when you’ve reached 10 seconds.” Why the hell 10 seconds? Because it’s a two digit number that looks pretty?

If you stayed on your hands, controlled it, it felt good, then you learned something.  You did the thing.

EL: Why not 12 seconds?  I think 12 is a better number than 10.

MK: It’s not like goals or targets are bad, but to put them on too high a pedestal.  That is the point that isn’t necessarily helping you go anywhere.

EL: And then the goal becomes unbeatable.  The number of people who get stuck at 55 seconds and are trying to get their 60 seconds handstand.  They aren’t ready and just can’t break the goal. We need to take the timer away from them, or give them the wrong time, say it’s a minute and 15 seconds.  Tell them that when they come down from it.

MK: I remember a guy saying, I always fall on 45 seconds.  To him it seemed like it was a thing, I have to do the one minutes handstand, wow, such a big thing.  Then you get closer and closer, then more and more tired, then more and more stressed. But I really want it this time.  And you ruin it because you got too stressed. It’s not always the best approach.

EL: This was meant to be a minisode.  I think we’re approaching about an hour now.  Ramblesode.

I would like to thank you all for listening to us.  We have our programs available on Handstand Factory, if you want to support the podcast, and make sure MIkael and I can afford some food during this Corona crisis.  Please buy something.

Other than that, if you have any questions you’d like answering, you can DM us on instagram, you can go to the website on HandstandFactory.com and use the contact form there.

And you can reach us on the Handstand Factory instagram, or all over the place.

Other than that, we’ll get this out on Thursday.  I hope you guys are all safe, and everyone is all safe through this thing.

Remember, it takes a crisis to show the best in people.  Just train at home and stare at the floor.

MK: Train a lot, you have tons of time.

EL: Everyone, you must come out with a one arm.


  • The man capable of airflares in the tiny space which is Mikael’s room: BBoy Marcio
  • An idea of generating the training attitude now that your training ritual may have changed in encapsulated for Emmet by a quote in Steven Pressfield’s the War of Art: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”- W. Somerset Maugham
  • Now that we’re all isolated maybe we can all have a go at the terrible idea which is Cucoon mode:

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