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S2 Episode 47: The Kick-Up


In this Episode of the Handstandcast Emmet and Mikael discuss kicking up to the handstand. They talk about the various technique differences in how the kick-up to handstand is taught, as well as the Handstand Factory technique for kicking up. Emmet also gives his programming trick nicknamed “Kick-up therapy” which should increase your consistency in kicking up significantly.

We also launched a full kick-up online program – with Kick-Up Therapy included!

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.

S2E47 – The Kick-Up

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Transcript of Episode 47: The Kick-Up

EL: Hello and welcome back to the Handstand Cast with me, Emmet Louis, and my cohost MIkael Kristiansen.  How are things going, Mr Dark Lord?

MK: Same as last time, not much news.  Trying to stay busy, but turns out there is not that much to do.  How about you?

EL: I’d say basically the exact same.  The exciting news is we finally found a nice place to move into.  We get a change of scenery.  I know all the listeners like it a bit when we have seagull noise in the background, or a junkie fight.  Hopefully that will be gone.

Sorry to disappoint you guys.  We can probably ship some in on short term notice.

I’m looking forward to the change of scenery, otherwise it’s the exact same Groundhog Day shit going on.  Again and again.  Alas.  Let’s get on with it and do a podcast.

We’ll do a new podcast where we talk about handstands.  All we do is talk about handstands.  It repeats over and over again.

MK: Basically it.  I don’t even have much to rant about today.  Maybe that’s it.  There isn’t enough shit to rant about.

Remember a couple of months ago when people were like, I can’t wait for 2020 to be over.

Haha,  Yeah right.

EL: You’re not in 2021, you’re in 2020+1.

It’s a sad state of affairs when there is nothing to rant about.  Everything has gone a bit tame.  Trump is gone, we have a normal American president.  There are other protests and things kicking off around the world, which are notable to note, politics things.

MK: On the news, the same shit every single day.  It’s rather limited, the amount of activities that can be done.  It is what it is.  Train some handstands, now and again.

For me, obviously for everyone, I guess, it’s less motivating, 1, when you don’t have that many people to interact with when and if you train.  For us performers, there’s nothing…there are no shows.  You don’t have anything to train for.  When people were thinking, “in a while, I’ll be back on stage,” like it was a 6 month thing, you could think about keeping in shape for that.

For me, I enjoy training.  When it’s never a social activity and there’s so much of that community sensation lacking, it becomes a chore and a mindless something to pass the time with thing.  It gets extremely monotonous and it makes you focus much more on the negative and the boring and repetitive nature of the task becomes way more apparent when there is no one there to laugh with.

EL: January and February are shit months for motivation.  They’re probably great for Australians because summer is coming-

MK: Yes, cheaters.

EL: For us in the Northern hemisphere, I’ve been dealing with this the last two weeks.  I’ve been Skyping my clients or talking to them.  Basically everyone is in a funk.  It’s not unique, just a bit shit.  January is always like this.  Even when I was a personal trainer.

Gyms didn’t generally get busy until mid February.  February was the Christmas bonus as a personal trainer, when you sign up a lot of new clients.  It was not January, despite what people were thinking, unless you were pre selling in December.

Other than that, January is shit.  No one wants to come to the gym.  No one wants to do anything.  Everyone feels bad about not wanting to do everything.  Maybe there’s a chronobiology thing.  You’re in the dead of winter.  Be a fucking seed and go inside the earth.

MK: Scandinavia, at least if you go to the mountains or further north, you basically have May to August when it’s alright, warm-ish sometimes.

Then you have September and October blurring a bit together.  Then you have November, aka January.  That lasts…7 months of January, and it just sucks.

Depending on where you are, usually like Stockholm has 7 months of November.  It’s on the coast.  It’s just pissy rain.  Now it’s super snowy and quite cold for Stockholm.

It’s basically dark early in the day.  Of course it affects your mood.  You don’t see the sun much.  If it’s not snowing it’s still pretty cold.  It lasts, lasts, lasts, lasts.

January comes.  You’ve been through Christmas and December is cold…January is cold.  Then you come to February and you’re pretty tired of it all.  But it’s not done.  It’s still two months left until it gets bearable out there.

Yay, finally May comes.  You have 3 months of summer, sometimes.  Then on again.  Repeat.

EL: That’s a perfect starting point for what we’re talking about this evening.  There’s something all you hand balancers are repeating a lot and a lot and you think you got it.  But then you haven’t and you have to still keep repeating it.

That thing is: the kick up.  Our topic this evening is the kick up to handstand.  We’ll talk about everything around that.  I don’t have anything too planned.  Let’s face it, we’ve all done 10 000 of them.

Death by 10 000 kick ups.

Mikael, I’ve never done a handstand before, what is a kick up?

MK: The reason you use the word kick is because you’re going to do something with the legs, since legs kick.  To isolate a kick up to handstand, it’s basically inverting the body, while using one of your legs – or both, even – as pendulums, swinging up in the air as you place the hands on the floor, to invert your axis and turn your hands into feet, and put your feet in the air.

If you’d explain this to a total beginner, that gives a decent explanation in terms of the image.  There are a lot of details that are easy to miss, and most beginners do miss them.  It’s astounding how many people need time to understand how to kick up to handstand; it’s a refinement process.

It’s the simple nature of the task, in terms of how it looks.  The principle seems very simple.  I think that is what makes it elusive when you get into the details.  You need to push through your shoulders like this, the specific relationship between the distance of your hands and how much force you need to drive with the heels.  Are you kicking with both legs?  How is your shoulder flexion as you kick up?  How’s your balance?  Can you stay on your hands?  Are you safe with falling over?

All these things matter to a large degree when standing on your feet and trying to kick up.

I’m sure for those of you listening who are still worried about the handstand, where it might be scary or you haven’t held it yet, or your kick up isn’t there, you can probably relate to this.  When you can’t kick up it feels like a big deal.  That is easy to miss as a teacher.  “Come on, it’s easy, just a kick up.  You just throw yourself down onto the floor.”  Then the person is like, “What the fuck you mean?  Help!”

EL: I always wonder if it’s a meme in society.  If you go to the park in summer and see people who are enjoying the sun and hanging out, then start trying to do some handstands.  I’m not saying they’re doing it…or if you watch kids and they try to handstand, the first thing they tru is to kick up.

I wonder, is that a societal imprint?  Is kicking up the most obvious way to get onto your hands?  If someone has never seen handstand before and you tell them to stand on their hands, how would they do it?

Is the kick up, or tuck up, or a jump to straddle more intuitive?  Part of me thinks the kick up would be because it mimics the walking pattern.  At the same time, maybe not.

MK:  The kick up is the one that maybe allows you easiest..if you do it from a standing position, you’re inverted your body as you go.  The driving force of you putting the hands down towards the floor…it’s intuitive to drive one leg up with it.

Having watched children, it’s what they usually do.  I remember my nephew when he was a toddler, he saw me hardstanding in the living room at my mom’s place.  He went over to the cane, grabbed it, and put his head down towards the floor and would lift one leg.  That would be the baby’s immediate response.

I think it’s possibly the most intuitive pattern to getting up.  It does make sense, as one of the most foundational ways of actually getting up.

EL: I wonder.  Only press to handstand in front of them and see what happens.

MK: First they need long enough arms so their head doesn’t bump the floor and they just do headstand.

EL: Or always only kick up to one arm and not two arms.  See what happens.

MK: To get into technicalities of the kick up, I think it’s extremely important to address the gymnastics method of it, and what that tries to achieve, versus a hand balancing approach to it.

On average the gymnastics style takes a longer lunge step, places the hands farther from the legs, and swing up with the legs quite hard, possibly even kicking with both legs to make it up.

I want to come back to both legs kicking later, but in gymnastics you want to enter in the same way as a front handspring.  That makes total sense; you want to cover space and drive through the heels and keep lots of tension through the body as you do so.

If you just want to step on your hands, that is what we’re trying to push in terms of the concept.  Place your hands closer to feet.  That makes the de facto energy in terms of physics, required to invert a body, if the hands close to the feet, you need less energy to get upside down if it’s done properly.

It also allows you to put the hands rather close to you and you can activate the scapular elevation immediately.  The hand is not in front as you dive forwards.

EL: I think back to some of the first coaches I had, gymnastics coaches, even though they were teaching in circus schools.  With the kick up, for them, a lot of them had a process.  You’re trying to mimic your tumbling take off, for a front handspring or something.

What they would have us do, which annoyed me so much I ditched it immediately and never forced it upon anyone in my coaching – this idea of going through a T balance.  Start with hands overhead, hip hinge and at the same time, lift the leg so the leg and the chest are by the ground on a straight leg.  Then you’d try to go down, keeping the leg into the deepest split you could.  Only then could you bend the supporting leg, and you’d end up in a long kick up position.  You’d have to press up quite hard with the legs.

The interesting thing is, you’d almost be counter lever-ing the body, or have a pivot point around the hands.  That would be staying straight, almost, to get on top of the shoulders.  It’s a frustrating way to kick up unless you’re super flexible.  If you’re super flexible then it’s quite easy.  It was what was drilled with coaches from a gymnastics background.

It was very robotic in this manner.  Legs go up, into T balance, T balance and hands go down into split, bend knee as far as you can to place the hands, then push and go.  It was quite an interesting way to kick up.  At the same time is, once you got used to this, you would hurdle step into tumbling.  You’d try to mimic this take off position in the air, and keeping the body perfectly straight.  When you go down and invert you want the body to arrive almost straight so you can ‘block’, or punch through the shoulders to the ground and get your drive.

It’s interesting to keep the shoulders open as long as you can.  But in our style of kick up for hand balance, we go from a semi-closed shoulder to an open shoulder.  At the same time we’re trying to articulate the spine as well.

MK: It’s a very big difference.  The interesting thing is, we analyze this into these particular components but what you see with most hand balancers that were never taught any of these particular kick up styles, in terms of the specificities of the dynamics and so on –

Once you’re really good on your hands, the general way you go up will start tending towards this very effective way of just inverting yourself, rather than the gymnastics way.  That comes from the fact that your body is trying to make this effortless and spend little energy doing so.  This is the way it’s being done.

I’ve seen that on so many people.  Everyone I know in circus school and people who are good hand balancers, this is how they end up doing it.  You won’t see really good hand balancers start with their hands above the head, then bring the hands down to floor when going into handstand.  No one does that.

The only time people do that is when they are going to make a joke.  Then they do it.  That’s a rather telling thing.  Otherwise it’s never present.

The reasoning for that is very simple: your arms are hanging by your sides.  The arms are going to go down to the floor.  There’s no reason then to lift them above your head to then start inverting your axis.  As you lift arms over head, you’re also changing your centre of mass slightly.  You need to drive more with the arms down towards the floor to bring them down.

Again, this can have a point for tumbling purposes.  But for us, the point is you could…I love to compare the press to handstand with a kick up.  You can press a kick up by putting your hands on the floor, lifting one leg as high as you can into whatever split you can.  Let us now not assume you can lift it up into an overspilt or full split or anything.  You just lift the leg so it’s high in the air above you, but not even fully at vertical yet.

Then you lean into your hands, lift the other leg off, and press to handstand.  That is essentially the mechanic and method you want to imitate.

Since you want to get up with little energy spent, you push a bit from the ball of the foot and want to pull a little bit with that leg that goes up.  It makes it so the pressure of the shoulder does one part, the ball of the foot does another, and the little whip of the leg does another part.  Again, this makes it so you don’t need a lot of force from one place.

You can make it into something that’s…I love to try to make people make their kick up lazy.  You’re supposed to be as lazy as possible, getting as high as possible.  You want it to be floaty at the top.  If you kick up, you purposefully try to not balance but it should still make you stuck up there for a second or so.  You kick up and hangggggggg, then fall whatever way it happens.  That is the idea I like to work with when it comes to kick ups.

EL: I like that idea of moment of suspension and finding it.  I think you can introduce it early in the career of handstanding.  All these kicking up, walking but not aiming to kick..say someone who can’t balance a handstand but still has a bit of conditioning – all these walking kick ups or kicking up on the spot but only aiming to hit 45º, that diagonal line kick up is very nice for introducing this floating feeling.  You can experience the floating.  It does give a rewarding sensation for a lot of beginners, “Oh, I can invert myself.  It’s not a catastrophe.”

That thing is not forced – you can’t force the float.  If you force it and work too hard, it doesn’t happen.  If you get everything with the timing and the sequence right, even if you’re only coming 30cm off the ground with the foot, you still experience that: “Hold on a second.  I was there.”  Time slow down.

Like everyone who does a 10s one arm, but it’s only 3s on camera, knows – time slows down when in suspension.  It’s a joyful moment when you’re coaching people in person who might not yet handstand, when you see them actually crack it for the first time.  You are always able to tell.

MK: That moment of suspension, the most important to focus on there is to concentrate on the pressure from the shoulders and the fact that as your hands touch the floor, you are elevating the shoulders, so that you’re pushing the torso away from the ground.

If you aren’t, a couple of interesting things can happen.  One, you let the shoulders go a lot forwards and into a semi planche, because your body tries to get the centre of mass over the hands.  This is also what happens for people who lack shoulder mobility.  The actual getting up is very often a harder part than staying, if they have strength but lack the shoulder flexion.

Then, the other thing that can happen – if you put your hands on the floor but whip your legs upwards, but don’t have any commitment through the shoulders, you very often end up doing some kind of ‘snake.’

You put the hands really fast down on the floor, throw them down, kick the legs really hard.  You have no commitment and pressure into the floor, meaning you don’t feel your weight, as if you’re carrying the entire body on your hands, from the second you start kicking up.

As your feet reach the full inverted position, your shoulders have actually travelled back  behind your hands again.  They never get to that kind of shoulder over hand position we want.  They escape backwards again, because you’re not putting any pressure into the floor.

People experience this a lot with tuck jumps and straddle jumps.  For people that do that, I often recommend them to try to do a half jump.  You don’t try to jump all the way up, but as high as you feel you are carrying weight in the hands.  It’s the same we use, called the half kick up.

This is where you reach a floaty state where you feel you’re applying pressure into the floor.  You want to go to the point you feel safe and you’re doing something.  If you mindlessly throw loads of energy into the air, that’s the kick and pray method.  You kick your legs loads, and then you just hope you end up somehow in the right constellation.

It’s going to be random and take your body a long time to adjust to, compared to having a focus on one point, which is tangible, which is your hands.  Think about the pressure down into the floor, which for most people is going to do wonders.  It’s a free ticket to a 0.0001% feeling f a press to handstand, because that is ultimately what you do when you press as well – you just don’t use the legs.

EL: The way I explain it to people, to drill it home – a lot of people on the kick and pray method,  if you weigh 70 kilos and kick and pray, even if you go for it, you suddenly end up at a point where that 70kg lands fully into your structure in a very quick amount of time.

If I said to you, I’m going to jump into your arms, get ready, catch me, I could probably do it.  I mean, you could.  If I just jumped onto you without warning you, you’d completely collapse under me.

It’s this idea that when you have your hands on the ground, if you push with the intent to push away, it’s fine and will load.  If you do the kick and pray method, and weigh 80kg but are only pushing with 60kg of force, suddenly you’re going to exceed your capacity of what you’ve done.  You will get something janked you have to deal with.

What we try to do is always establish what will happen next.  Having the hands on the ground or ready and placing the hands nicely and being ready to push, then pushing at a slow point, then slowly you articulate the weight into the hands in an increasing manner.  It becomes almost analog in the feeling.  It feels like I get 20%, 30%, as the leg goes up to the ceiling.  Eventually when it’s vertical you get 100%.  If you go for the kick and pray, even when kicking with momentum for tumbling, suddenly you end up with 100% momentum on your hands upside down.  Are you ready for it?

If skilled and you practiced it, then yes, no problem.  If you’re learning and it’s new to you, it’s very unlikely you will be doing it.  This is where I’ve seen the biggest falls in hand balance, and people tripping and twisting out weird – from this actual method.  Kick up, too much momentum at the top, everything loads vertical, then one arm bends because not pushing enough, and they roll out to the side.

MK: This also brings up that other point, the kicking with two legs thing.  As in tumbling, you whip with one leg, drive through the heel.  To gather the legs you need air, so it becomes a 1-2 kick.  This is exactly what you try to achieve for a front handspring, to whip both those legs.  In gymnastics you do this drill with a kick up with back to the wall, or crash mat, and try to kick the mat as hard as you can.

This is great for that purpose.  But, here is the point.  You can do this test yourself.  If you need to kick with both legs to make it to handstand position, you have some work to do on your kick up to handstand.  You should be able to reach the position, a staggered position, where your legs are slightly apart, kicking only with one leg.  You should be able to stop there, and then gather your legs.

When you’re really good, you can kick one and put the other together at the same time.  But the point is that if you…there is an equation there.  You need a certain amount of energy to get onto your hands.  You can either do all that energy with your shoulders – a press.  You can do all that energy with your feet – you’re literally kicking into it like a front handspring.  Or, you’re somewhere in between.  Most people are somewhere in between.

The thing is, if you’re on the leg heavy side, if you need to throw both legs and gather them quickly and drive both to make it into full handstand position, this is often something that people who lack shoulder strength to keep the shoulders over hands during this transition upwards tend to do.  AKA the same people that had that struggle with tuck and straddle jumps.

Those same people will try to do a tuck jump where they don’t jump to tuck, catch, straighten, but try to go tuck-straighten immediately, and always fall back to the heel of the hand and fall down again, AKA the snake.

EL: You should put a video of the snake kick up onto your Instagram.

MK: I’ll make a new one and a rant about this.

The thing is, I think this happens because the body tries to solve a puzzle with the tools it has.  The body understands, if I get up to my hands, but don’t kick enough I can’t make it up.  So I’ll kick harder.

So you whip both legs and they make it and get together above your body, have a lot of speed, so you might fall over or you might not.  They need that speed to get there.

What you should eventually be able to do is reduce the amount of speed, meaning you need to trust your shoulders more, but it makes it a lot more precise.

As I have said before, one of the main reasons that hand balancers prefer this method is they are going to do kick up or kick up-esque entries on canes, stage, etc, where you can’t have any risk of falling over.

The best way to reduce this risk is to reduce the speed and make it more like a press.  That is where that comes in, and on average is better to get this equation of shoulders v legs, energy wise, closer to the shoulder area than the leg area.  By the time you’re good at this and strong in handstand, the split second of getting into handstand is so short that it doesn’t matter if you’re more on the shoulder side of things, because you mitigate the energy usage by effectively placing all the parts.

EL: Imagine you were to do the full gymnastics kick up to a straight handstand, for the full of your hand balance training session.  Every single shape you had to enter that way, instead of jumping to straddle or tuck – you would be out of breath.  That maybe says more about me than the kick up.

But if you did arms up, T balance, rock in, momentum, join the legs, stop it at the top, then you have to do your set, it would be…thing.

With hand balance you always want to be lazy, or conserve your energy for when you need it.  Enjoy the longer sessions.  Be more energy efficient.

This comes to a point where, staring with hands on the floor, or placing them as you kick, as a method?

MK: That is something I don’t have an answer for.  Some kick up really well with hands on floor and are terrified of doing it from standing.  And the opposite.

Very often I tell people to try both.  Ultimately I want them to be able to do it from a standing position, because again, if you can do it from a standing position, you can use your body like a scale.  As you lean forwards, you allow that forwards lean to contribute to the energy going up.  It’s certainly something that I think is good to try both with,

For precision for beginners, it’s probably better to start with them on the floor.  One thing I want people to get away from is this, “I put my hands on the floor, I’m going to do the kick up, and I will lift one leg and do the pulse, 1, 2, 3, then kick up.”  How much time and energy are you putting into it and spending leaning on your hands before doing the thing?

I get the point.  Also that mind process happens for me in unrelated things.  But it’s something to aspire to move away from.

One thing really good about having hands on the floor is you can try to put your shoulders a little bit extra in front of the hands – not planching – but put the weight 1 cm in front, then try to kick up there.  Does it help you?  Does it not?

Then you can feel, is it too heavy to put the hands where they should be?  What people tend to do instead is they put the shoulders almost behind the hands, do the snake, end up in a too open handstand and fall back to the heel.

EL: For beginners and people learning to kick up I prefer hands on the ground.  As a coach, it’s easier for me to troubleshoot my job.

Do you have the hands the correct width?  Okay, do you have your favourite mark on the floor you can place your hands on?  Are your fingers pointing forwards, to the sides?  All these things are irrelevant once you get advanced and it happens automatically.  Are you turned out?  Are you lifting your fingers?  Are you setting up in the way you intend to try out?

Just to throw out there, I didn’t know kicking up with your hands on the ground was a thing until well after I left circus school.  I went through circus, acrobatics, everything – kicking up into handstand in runner stance wasn’t a thing.  I suddenly realized, “You can do that?”

Not even a gymnastics kick up, but a normal kick up would start with the hands by the sides.  Step forward into a bit of a lunge.  Place the hands wherever they end up in a runner start, and then kick.  It was done standing.

There’s a bias here where everyone in circus school can basically handstand already, so it doesn’t really matter because all the bases are taken care of.  It was a mini revelation when I was coaching adults, that I could make people kick up like this.  They can spend time setting up and know exactly where to place the hands…

My preference is to kick up from standing.  It’s all automatic.

MK: For people learning on the wall in the beginning, it’s good with hands on floor.  Some people are worried about banging the head on the wall, or are not safe and sure on the movement yet.

Speaking of that, kicking up against the wall, it’s also a very nice diagnostic.  If you need to repair your wall because your feet are hitting too hard, or if you hurt your feet because you kick the wall too hard, maybe you should think about trying to apply more pressure from the shoulders as you kick up.

The wall is a great tool for learning kick up.  What you want to do is drive one heel, and that heel or foot to touch the wall behind you.  That is your primary goal as you’re kicking up to wall.  Then the other leg comes after.  You shouldn’t need to whip both of them to make it up.

If you do it’s a sign you need to strengthen your shoulder flexion and general strength in handstand, stomach to wall, etc.  The kick up should ideally happen with one leg.

I know many people that had fear, were scared where their leg was going.  One thing I was doing when I was teaching workshops – I hope I can teach workshops again at some point ! – was stand beside the person by the first leg they’re kicking with.  I’d ask them to kick up as big as they could, and I would tell them I’d grab their leg and lead it to the wall.  Then the body gets a map there, here is the wall and proprioception.

I’d have them do it 5, 6, 7 times, then they try it on their own.  I come back and we do a couple of rounds like that.  It’s remarkable how fast that process can be taught if it’s not just an issue of lacking the strength of getting up.  That is a huge one, and kind of an important milestone for people.

If you’re listening and want to try that, make sure your hands are not too far from the wall because then you are going to have to reach very far with your leg, which will likely lead you to arching.  It will be hard to work proper placement.

EL: One I”d like to share for people who got towards the end of this podcast.  If you’re still working on your kick up and it isn’t perfect, I have a program I give to people.  It’s called Kick Up Therapy.  Every single training session, no matter what it is, you have to do 50 kick ups.  25 left, 25 right, before you do anything.

Generally, you do this for about 4-6 weeks.  By the end of it, there’s a test you can try out.  Try 50 kick ups each side and scoring your percentages.  You have to score 90%.  Most people get within 85-90%, possibly higher.  I had a couple people get 100% by the end of this.

It’s a pretty good thing to do.  If you’re completely new to handstands it’s probably not for you.  If you can do 20-30s and your handstand is inconsistent and you miss a lot in training sessions, this is the fix for you.  When you kick up, it’s not holding the handstand.  What you want to do is make your kick up as mechanical as possible.

Everything happens at the exact same order.  For me, I start mine standing.  I step forward.  My hands swing slightly forward.  On the back swing I bend the knee and they will place exactly where I want them.  At this point I will have inhaled, held my breath, and started the swing of the back leg.  Once the swing of the back leg has hit full extension of the hip, but not beyond, which personally starts to twist me out, I push through the leg.  I push, mainly through my toes to get my leg straight.  I then push through the shoulders and feel the weight.  You’re basically getting the kick up to the point where you feel the weight and the 90º split in the leg in the half kick up.  Join the leg.  Once I’ve joined the leg, I exhale, squeeze the ground with my fingers and push myself off my balance.

This is as mechanical as you want the kick up to be.  It’s literally like playing a scale on a music instrument.  That idea of getting that rote practice.  We make it precise.  That is the exact same kick up every time.

Kick Up Therapy is the fix for that.

MK: I like that phrase.  I usually just say you need to do 7000 kick ups before it’s going to be really tight, so why not just start immediately?  That is one of the reasons to train back to wall handstands.  I know several people against training these.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them at all; if they are done correctly they certainly help with progress.

But – as we usually say, first take each part of the handstand as a separate component then put it together.  Then the kick up is the perfect part in that sense.  You need to start early, do loads of repetitions.  If you do stomach to wall handstand and spend 20s up there, that’s 20s of time in the position for your body.

When you do a kick up, even a good one, you barely spend half a second or a second, doing the motion.  Your body needs to be in the context many times to accumulate enough information to start deciphering the puzzle.

That is why you might as well get onto them.  Start by the wall, do loads of reaching the wall, reaching the wall.   This is a separate practice.  You reach the wall safely, no nuking it.  Come down safely.  Again and again until it feels safe.

Then you do the same freestanding.

Another part is the exit, which you need some degree of control over.  We won’t go into that now, but it’s necessary if you do a kick up freestanding.  You adjust so you allow your body to understand how much energy is traveling in this direction, and what it needs to do.

I have a guy I work with now, his kick ups are great against the wall.  He has a bit of shoulder flexion to work on still, but when he does a kick up against the wall it’s pretty good.  His line from hand to hip is pretty good when he’s back to wall kicking up.

But in free space, he planches it quite a lot.  I’ve been working several things with him to make him not planche as much.  It’s a typical thing.  We’re adding something to the technique, which is now do it in free space, making his entire body and nervous system and conscious methodology around it change slightly.  In this case he ends up with plancheing it more.  We work on both the wall and off, he’ll reach the same kind of handstand freestanding, no problem.

You need a ridiculous amount of attempts.  Kick Up Therapy.

EL: I remember why I invented this many years ago.  The joke of – you can kick up, that’s fine.  But it’s shit, so you need to do a thousand of them.  50 kick ups a day is basically 2000 kick ups over six weeks.

If you want a thousand reps in on each side, Kick Up Therapy is for you.  It’s a good warm up for most training.  The goal is not to do a kick up and 5s handstand every time.  The goal is to kick up, get to the top, come back out the same way.  Squeeze fingers, step out.  It’s pure drilling.

This is the kind of thing I think is missing in terms of conceptual training.  The difference between a drill and how you should do it.  A drill is to build muscle memory.  Once you can do something, first you have to be able to do the skill to a certain degree and have the strength requisites and mobility covered.  Then once you have it, you drill it, to the point where it’s mechanically done. Then you can do it.

This conscious-unconscious doing and grinding is very important.  For most other stuff we do it.  But for kick up, it seems like people….get lazy, or assume that because they kick up to every handstand they do, they get enough practice in.

Sometimes you just need to focus on it, if you can’t get 90% accuracy on your kicks, possibly more.

MK: I think it’s, for anyone who doesn’t hit more or less 10/10 handstands, it’s useful to get to the point where you can do that.  A nice thing is, since the goal is to spend very little energy per kick up, because you try to do them efficiently, it means they are not going to drain you either.  That’s why; it’s a super useful warmup drill.  It’s something you can…you are separating it entirely from your handstand practice.

Of course you do more in your session.  You might be tuned so they are going to be better as well, since you separated the tasks first and played the chords, now you go and play a song.  It’s usually useful.  The more technical you are with them, the easier it will get.

Understanding the underlying principles of why you’re trying to be technical is perhaps more important in this sense.  You’ll see a vast range of nuances and details in kick ups – some longer, some shorter, some bring legs together quicker, some bend the legs a bit…you see all these things.  You want to be able to do them with whatever form you want.

You want to make sure it’s safe, and you know where you are at all times.  It’s something that is worth working on, for anyone who can’t go and do it at any given time.

EL: The hand balance kick up, the style we go to, gives you a choice.  Once you get mostly inverted, you can segue into every kind of handstand you want.  You want to go straight to straddle, or tuck, or split – you can.  The same half kick up of each also turns into the one arm kick up.

I had one advanced student kicking straight up into one when he broke his arm.  He was kicking up straight into a Katkov, a one arm Mexican back bend twisty 90º thing.  It’s pretty nimbly but he was getting it.

It’s the same kick up.  But the gymnastics kick up just goes to one place, the handstand.

MK: I remember when I started playing with kicking straight into one arm Svichka position, I figured out how to do it when teaching a beginner class.  I was teaching and talking about bringing one leg all the way up, and then gathering the legs.  Then I was like, why don’t I try to do that when kicking straight to Svichka?

I started trying to do that and..it works.  It’s even possible to get a decent level of consistency doing such a complicated thing because the focus is on the hand, the pressure is in the shoulder.  You feel the analog pressure, the body on the way up.  You reach a handstand with legs staggered apart, then the leg is going to the other leg.  There’s no forwards force with that leg.

That is why I love this kind of kick up, or these principles, a lot.  They apply to a beginner, to me, and anyone better than me.  It is the same thing you’re doing.

If you’re doing a one arm kick up to straddle, or one arm cartwheel entry onto a cane, it’s the same thing.  You apply pressure into the floor so you feel elbow over wrist, shoulder over elbow, sternum over shoulder, hips above the torso.  Once the hip is above torso, it’s only a job of shoulders and hands to maintain that pressure, and then it doesn’t matter where the legs are.

It gives you a lot of range very early in the motion.  This is the interesting part.  You can kick up with 5% energy and press with the rest, as I talked about before.  It gives you an enormous amount feeling directly.  It’s what you need to be able to go up into the handstand on top of something and be 100% sure you’re not falling over.

This is what everyone who does stunt handstands or on top of tall things, they know they put their weight in a very safe place in the hand.  Then they just apply the pressure into that point and they’re on their hands – literally no kick or nothing.  Just getting to that point, staying there, doing whatever they want.  If they let go of the shoulders in emergency, they fall back onto their feet rather than over.

EL: Stunt handstands should be our next course.

I think we will wrap it up there.  This episode was based on a lot of questions we got on kick ups and all this.  We won’t do questions today.

If you would like to send questions in, we will either roll them into an episode or just answer them directly, please send them to us @HandstandFactory on Instagram.  Other than that, I’ve been Emmet, here with the Dark Lord.

MK: Cheers.


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