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S1 Episode 8: Q&A with Emmet and Mikael


In the Handstand Factory’s 8th episode Mikael and Emmet answer a few more questions from listeners. They cover a range of topics from the benefits of training handstands, to whether or not training oversplits is a good idea, as well as providing advice on integrating Handstand pushup training into your program (with the exercise progressions), a very effective pancake compression drill and how to use that flexibility in your press.

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.

S1E8 – Q&A with Emmet and Mikael

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Transcript of Episode 8: Q&A with Emmet and Mikael

EL: Hello, welcome back to another minisode with the Handstand cast from Handstand Factory.  I am your host, or co-host, Emmet Louis, with my good buddy


MK: Mikael Kristiansen.  That’s me, I forgot who I am.

EL: If you know Mikael, he runs off coffee and it’s been a few hours since he last one.  He needs a recharge.

MK: So is life

EL: What sort of Magic card do we need to play for you?

MK: Wrath of God.

EL: I have no idea what it is, but someone play it if you’re listening.

MK: Destroy all creatures, they can’t be regenerated.  Two white manna, two neutral.

EL: It is true, he said in the last podcast he knows all Magic: The Gathering cards.

MK: Not anymore, I used to.  Back way back, before there were ninety billion. However, let’s get to it.

EL: In this minisode we are going to answer some of your questions.  Our first question comes through: What is the benefit of training handstands?

MK: So, let me blow your fucking minds by saying: it will teach you how to handstand.  Tumbleweed…

EL: Mic drop.  We’re done. What’s the benefit?  It’s to build a fucking skill. At the end of the day, it’s a thing that is almost infinitely rewarding.  There’s a very clear reward for your persistence in it. Always something new to be found.

If you want to go into the details, you can.  If you don’t want to worry about details, you can as well.  You can just work on your artistic side. You can earn money doing it, once you get good at it-

MK: Sometimes.

EL: Don’t crush the circus dreams.

MK: It teaches you the skill itself.  Sure you can pull out your ass that there are other things it will help you with.  If your acrobatic practice requires handstands…let’s say you’re a gymnast or dance breaking or do capoeira or hand to hand, it will likely help you.

But it’s a rather specific skill.  Unless you tailor it to those disciplines as well, it will not necessarily make you amazingly much better at it.  It’s its own thing. It’s not going to help you do that many other things, except getting good at handstands.

Which is good enough.

EL: You get to a stage in your training where you train for the sake of training.  You don’t question, because you just do. It’s just what you do, you enjoy it.

MK: It’s an interesting activity between cradle and grave.  That basically sums it up.

EL: Got to kill time somehow, may as well do some handstands.  Either that, or meth. Those are your two options: handstands, or meth.

MK: Next question: how to balance hand balancing training with handstand pushup training?  For me, handstand pushups are part of my hand balancing practice. I like to train all parts of being on my hands, except Mexicans…

It entirely depends.  Some people will be able to be spectacular hand balancers, and never have done a handstand push up in their lives.

Handstand pushup is a specific strength move.  As long as you already have a hand balancing practice, as in you’re actually ready to work on a free standing handstand pushup.  This means you have a handstand, and a reasonable degree of control over it. Then you program your handstand push ups, more in terms of progressive overload.  Make sure to train your technique before that, and of course you don’t do handstand push ups every single day.

EL: It’s like a normal strength exercise.  Twice a week, somewhere between 3-10 sets, with whatever rep range you’re working on.  It’s quite straight forward. The path to handstand pushup is very linear, compared to most other skills.

If you’re able to do normal push ups, maybe some dips, then you can do the pike ones.  You do the L, eccentrics with the wall, concentric with the eccentric with the wall, then back to the L (a pike shaped handstand push up with your feet on something to reduce the weight).  Get some more range of motion there, try free standing. It’s straightforward; it just takes some time.

If you have a hand balance practice, like aiming for the one arm, your handstand pushup would count as a bit of conditioning.

If your practice is an hour and a half of one arm training, or drills leading to one arm, then your push training will be 20-30 minutes towards the end.

It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a nice skill to have.  It’s very impressive.

MK: It doesn’t really translate into hand balancing skillset.  It will help you do certain strength things, some moves on one arm.  But it won’t help most of the hand balancing vocabulary, I would say.  But good skill to learn, so if you like that kind of thing, get on it.

EL: If you intend on working towards the higher level of handstands, it’s going to take a long time.  Might as well work on it. It’s like Pokemon, gotta catch em all.

Next question.  In tuck and straddle, my butt sticks out, and I have some curve in the lumbar.  Am I a bad person?

MK: Short answer is yes.  Long answer is yes. And you deserve to live in a house made of poo and fire next to Sauron’s tower.  The end.

First of all, most people have an ass.  If you are an actual person, you likely have a butt involved.  Since you have hips, and if you are working on….any person, regardless, if you’re working on things like tuck or straddle, your hips will likely be behind you.  Your feet will be in front to some degree, at least in tuck. It will in straddle if you have some degree of piking in the hips.

EL: There’s also curves in the lower back.  If you tune into the tuck life episode, you see we talk about this a bit more, on why you might end up curving to get a shoulder positioning.  There’s more in depth there, but the short answer is: it comes down to choice. Are you choosing to do that with the lumbar, or is that the only way to solve the problem of tuck handstand, or straddle?

These are things to solve.

MK: As you’re straddling, if you don’t have a perfect 180º flat split, your feet will go slightly in front of the body.  It’s not a problem that your hip is then a little bit over. There’s weight in the feet, and in the hips. The fact that you have a hip joint, and have legs – these two have to counter balance each other to some degree.

What you should be looking for is if your shoulder is creating compensation patterns.  If you even look at the best hand balancers, and see them from the side, on one arm, most of the time you see the feet slightly in front of the body.  The butt is sightly on the other side. If you trace the line from hand to hip, that would be intact.

If this slight piking of the hip that tuck or straddle can cause makes the shoulder move forward, then you might have compensation patterns you should look into solving.  Or maybe the hip forces you to shift the shoulders behind the hands into a micro mexican – keep an eye out for these things. Otherwise, it doesn’t make as large of a difference as it might seem.

EL: Next question, and I suppose this is for me.  When would you advise for/against over splits, and how would you train them – middle?

So, I’m pretty convinced most people can get significantly flat in middle split.  What I am completely not convinced on, and I have my reasons for it that other flexibility coaches might argue, is not everyone’s hip structure is the same.  In some people, they always have a bit of a gap in middle split, without converting it into a super wide straddle.

Now, I am very confident I could put anyone I chose to, even Mikael, completely flat into a middle split.  Anyone can be flattened into middle split, crotch to floor. What I am wary of, and what I would caution to be careful is, at a certain point you max out what the muscles can lengthen to.  Then we start pulling bone, ligaments, joint capsules under load. We are uncertain about how they actually adapt long term to physical training.

You can see this if you go into dance science, which is very interesting.  We see there is an injury epidemic of labral tears in the dance world. It is, and this is speaking to physics as well as my own experience, linked directly to flat middle split.

You’re always going to be able, for most people on the bell curve, to be able to get your inner thighs flat on the floor.  Would you be able to get all flat and all down? That comes down to your parents, who your parents were, your genetics.

I have a version of the hip test to test whether you can do overspilt or not, and if I’d let you train it.  It’s tricky to do if you’re not there. In general, it’s also one of those things: do you really need an over middle split?  If someone came and said I’m about to get a million dollar contract with Cirque du Soleil, but I need an over middle split.  Great, let’s do it, then deal with any issues when your career is over. But if you do this as a hobby…I know people performing at the highest level, in Cirque, without a flat middle split.  They’re…pretty good.

I know people all around the circus world who don’t have it flat, but have god tier over split in front splits, super bridges, all this kind of stuff.

If you look at a lot of middle splits you see people have a lateral deviation of the knee cap, to get the flat shape.  So it becomes a bit banana on the leg shape. It’s like pushing the knee into valgus from a different angle. I’m against that.

I’d get you the split, get that nice and comfortable, and then worry about the over split.  It can be a bit beneficial to do some over split-like drills maybe, but it’s not for everyone.  It depends on your bone structure, and what’s going on in the joints. Unless you get things imaged we can’t really tell.  We can guess, but a labral tear can be a nasty thing. If you can avoid that, and it means your split is 3cm off the ground and not flat, maybe it’s a better thing.

But, personal choice and all this.  Next question.

MK: How do I prioritize goals after being comfortable with tuck, straddle and diamond two arm?

If you’re comfortable with that and can stay up for a reasonable amount of time, meaning 30+ seconds consistently and your kick up is good, then the first questions I would ask depend slightly on your alignment and how comfortable that is.  Can you tuck jump to handstand? Can you straddle jump to handstand? Can you cartwheel into a handstand?

Challenge it in various ways.  If these get ups are doable to some degree, start working on pressing.  If you have straddle and tuck, it means you can move in space to some degree.  Then you can start moving downwards and begin to build a negative press. There are tons of exercises for developing that further.  Essentially use that capacity of the open leg position of the straddle, and the tuck. Start developing range with that so you build towards press to handstand.

I think that is basically the general thing you get the most out of.

EL: Once you can do the shapes by themselves, start linking them.  Start playing around. Even with those three shapes, what order can I do them in?  Can I pick a random order, and go tuck straddle diamond straight diamond tuck….

This is learning to play.  It’s not just making the shape your own, but your own from every angle.  Then you can enter and exit how you choose. It’s one thing people get stuck on.  There’s not only 4-5 things to do, there is an almost infinite variety of things to do.

We cover a lot of this in Keep Pushing, but a lot of it comes down to play.  Think outside the box, what have I not seen before? Try that and see if it works for you.

Next one.  How to translate the flexibility of a passive pancake to the active flexibility needed for. a negative press?

Negative press is one of the things.  Also, work your compression work. There’s fancy technique you can do, but just lifting your legs off the ground in a pancake is very effective.

There’s many isometric techniques, and other stuff to apply.  But it’s also, what can help is if you do some compression work before the negative press, to get the sensation of: this is what it feels like when these muscles turn on.

Then when you go upside down, try to actively pull the legs down, and select a target.  For me, when I do straddle press, or negative, I’m thinking about how I can see my wrists.  I look at them and think, pull your legs to your wrists. Just like how you close your eyes and find your nose, you can get your legs that way to cue the activation.  There are a few ways to think about it.

The other way is to stay active in the position.  Start to control it where you feel it’s easy. When it gets heavier you’ll be guiding it into the line, not just passively falling due to gravity.

MK:  One thing that you need to think about is you want to use the flexibility for a press, and likely in the beginning for a negative press.  You need to start working negative press. That is practically the only way to apply it directly.

The best advice I have there is try to absolutely crunch your legs towards your body.  If it feels like your entire midsection is a towel being twisted, then, yay you! You’re kind of doing it correctly.  There’s often a powerful sensation as you pull your legs down in the abdomen, in the beginning.

Some people feel it in the low back, some in the upper back.  Essentially, if you can do all the leg lifts in the world hanging from a bar, but not able to do a press down, then you’re not conditioning these together.

As we mentioned in an episode, compression is a concept that requires two forces.  You need two opposing forces. In the press handstand that will be the shoulders. As you pull the legs towards your abdomen, your shoulder will start to lean forwards.  You need to resist that force going forwards. What you will feel is you will perhaps lower legs slowly for 10-15cm, then come to a point where everything suddenly collapses.  You either fall forwards, or fall to the floor.

This is not because you’re not able to pull your legs closer to your body at that point.  It’s that you reached a point where your shoulders either fatigue, or do not have the force required to keep your centre of mass over your base of support.  The legs have to drop.

You need to condition this specific movement.

EL:  You see this happen a lot with people who have quite a flat pancake, but don’t have the upper back strength to resist the compression in the hips.  It’s a classic. The face goes forward.

I’ll leave you guys with one compression exercise to try.  Don’t hate me. Sit down in your pancake, or your pike as well.  Put a weight across your shin, or hold it in position. Use this to life up as hard as you can against that.  At the same time you pull forwards with the abs; don’t rock backwards. You get a two directional force from abs and hip flexors.  Do this for 10-15s, do the other side for 10-15s, then lift the legs up and down for compression. Keep the toes pointed, keep knees locked.  Hold every rep for about 2s. Thank me later, curse me out as well.

It will give a lot of cramps, but it’s a taste of some of what we teach in the program to develop compression, as fast as possible.

So, we are going to wrap up that minisode here.  Thank you for tuning in to our minisode.

If you have more questions you would like to address to us, go to handstandfactory.com and use the contact form.  Use the title ‘Podcast Questions’ when you send them in.  You can also send them to us on social media, Instagram under @Emmetlouis and @MikaelBalancing.  Find us under @Handstandfactory, as well.

If you’re interested in learning and putting all these concepts together, we do have the programs available on Handstand Factory, which keep this podcast running.  So check them out.

Other than that, thanks for tuning in.


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