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S2 Episode 60: Flexibility Experiments


In this episode of the Handstandcast we have a flexibility focused episode with Emmet, who provides novel and various tricks for the main flexibility positions. Giving you small hacks that you can play with and apply to your pike, bridge, pancake, front split and side split. He also answers a few questions from our listeners regarding overcoming limited wrist extension in the press, cracking joints and locking elbows.

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.

S2E60 – Flexibility Experiments

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Transcript of Episode 60: Flexibility Experiments

Hello and welcome back to the Handstand Cast with me, Emmet Louis, and my invisible cohost Mikael Kristiansen.

As we know, Mikael is still on his holidays at TADAH artist retreat, or Till & Deniz’ Artist Habitat, having a good time in Turkey.  Internet is a bit too laggy for us to do our normal video call, so I will do one this week, and you will have Mikael doing one next week.  Hopefully.

Do we have housekeeping?  I need someone to ask me how I am.  So, how are you Emmet?  I’m doing good.  If you’re listening in, or if it’s your first time – I got a dog last week, or month.  We have a dog, he’s epic.  He’s gone from 5.5 kilos when we got home to 8.2 kilos in about a month.  He’s gonna be jacked.

He’s a Samoyed cross Burmese Mountain dog, so hopefully doesn’t get as big as the Burmese normally get.  If he does, awesome.  I look forward to wrestling him.  I’ve seen small dogs do handstands, but not big ones.

If we have any vets listening in who might be able to advise me on the safety of that, DM me on Instagram.  If it’s too big a dog, I won’t do that.  Dogs are cool, we don’t want to hurt them.  Cats too.

I always wondered if we have more cat or dog people out there in handstand land, or an equal spread.  Or are you like me?  I like all of them.

That’s enough rambling.

I will do a bit of a flexibility focused episode.  I thought I’d give a…talk about the main flexibility positions, off the top of my head.  I will give insights, tips, tricks, some concepts to work with and think about when you are doing your flexibility training.

For me, I’d say the first position, or simplest to think about, is the forward fold, pike and hip hinge.  All in the same family, in some shape or form.

This is generally the first position that develops to a very nice degree for most people.  What we’re looking at or thinking about generally is, when I look at this position, the lumbar spine has three distinct hinges: sacro-lumbar junction, middle hinge around L3 or the Kidneys, and the sacral hinge.  Then we have the actual pelvis coming over hinge.

What we look for is that these hinges develop sequentially.  This is a key to using the Jefferson Curl to develop flexibility.  We train these hinges in a manner.  When we do an articulation based fold, rather than a linear fold where the torso is fixed and you’re trying to hip hinge, we are flexing the spine.  If there is a limitation in a hinge, or it’s not as smooth, or doesn’t flex nicely as it should, the one below it and the hip will not follow.

If someone is locked up at L3, thoracolumbar joint, or T1…you generally won’t develop a nice pike for quite some time; they’re already kind of fixed there.  Getting these hinges smooth and articulating nicely can be a great way to free up the pike.  One of the ways to do this is, if we think of the motion of the Jefferson Curl, but do a wall squat with your legs slightly high, knees bent at 60 and not 90º.

Articulate down, and use the wall to give the idea of the spine elongating in the vertical direction, and then rolls over.  You can find the bits of your spine that don’t articulate; you can focus on the lumbar for developing the pike.  Or we can do the whole spine.  Find the bit that doesn’t articulate, using the wall for feed back, then go back down.  You could do the full range of motion from back of the head, all the way down.

Or pick the section that feels locked and iron it out by going backwards and forwards over it.  Then retest the forward folds.  If you find your hips don’t roll over, getting the lumbar hinges to flex nicer first, then approaching it can help.

First tip for the pike: try it out.  Next tip: one thing is, if we think about how the body likes or tends to move, we have this global extension pattern – extension, supination, external rotation –  pronation, flexion, internal rotation.  These are the triplets around the body of the general rotational based axial movement.

In the pike, because we flex the hip, one thing that can help to get the hips to roll over is, as you go down you think about externally rotating the legs inwards.  They won’t go a lot, and you don’t want them to go massively in.  It might be 10-15º, visually tiny.  In terms of creating space and letting the hips flex better, it’s massive.

Try this out.  Do your forward fold.  Put the hands on the floor, standing version is easiest to feel this.  Look at how your knees go.  Are they pointing slightly outwards or slightly forward?  Try to turn them to face each other.

Imagine if you stuck pencils pointing forwards on your knees.  Instead of going parallel, they converge.  Try that, and rotate this in 5-10x with control, then deepen your pike and see how you feel.  Focus on the hip coming over, see what happens.

There is a bit of a bias to lots of our exercises and current cueing, towards external rotation of the hips – in squatting, booty training, everything is external rotation.  We want the ability to transition from internal to external.  This is what gives a lot of our power.

The next thing in the pike is, depending on where you feel it, it can be very nice to try to stretch in that zone first.  You feel the stretch behind the knees.  Stretch your calves first, then do your pike and see how it changes.  Does the calf sensation change?  We always play with sensation in stretches.  Or do I go deeper?  Deeper is great; focus on stretching your calves and not your pike, and save some time.

If you’re not limited on time, you can do a bit of this, then ask yourself where you feel it again.  Get precise on this, really precise.  “I feel it in the left hamstring in the middle of the hamstring, on my right side, in the piriformis.”  Something like that.

Then, you want to do a single leg hamstring stretch, or bent leg, something that hits that zone exactly on the left side.  Then a piriformis stretch on the right side.  Then try the pike again and see where it goes.  This gives a bit of precision and ways to choose precision exercises for our main stretching exercises.

Then go, where do I feel it now?  It’s a fun way to explore your body and understand the sensations it gives you, and what happens when you do one or the other.  Also, if your calves are tight – the better question is, in what circumstances do your calves give you a feeling of being tight?  Feeling range of motion, and tension and tightness, are two separate things.

If my calves are tight in X position but not Y, bear that in mind.  I can be tight somewhere.  I stretch it…is it a limitation in the position I’m doing.  If I stretch my calves, go back, and the pike feels exactly the same with no change in depth, then maybe the sensation is there but it’s not the actual limitation of the stretch.

This can apply for anything.  For side splits, if you feel it in adductor Magnus on one side, stretch that.  Go back and test…

When I say stretch that, in these circumstances, the best is static-passive-relaxed stretches in a zone where you can feel and control the breathing.

The next tip for our forward fold: perform head tilts while in the forward fold.  Extend the neck up as far as you can, with the eyes leading.  Go all the way to try to look behind yourself.  Tuck the chin to the chest, and rock these back and forwards, 10-15 times.

When you do this I advise you to not get too deep into the fold, maybe 80%.  Do your tilts and retest, see how it feels.

A lot of things I give this evening can be a game changer for you, and do literally nothing for another.  Try all these things out, and see what you get out of them.

That is some tips and things to try that are non conventional in forward fold.

The next we will look at is the bridge.  In the bridge, it’s a position that is a compound position.  You train all the bits in separate positions, then put it together.  We train our hip extension, our thoracic spine extension and spine in general, and shoulder flexion in another position.  Then we put it all together, voila.  Bridge.

Some specific limitations can only be addressed in bridge itself.  One interesting one is the Liver, which attaches close to the diaphragm.  If the diaphragm is limited, it will stop the spine from extending.

One thing you can do, and this is a flexibility cheat code.  What this is, like a cheat code in a video game, it allows the game to be easier.  You still have to play the game to finish it, but it makes it a bit easier.  We are using Flexibility Cheat Codes.

The Liver can limit the bridge.  So for this one, get warmed up and ready to bridge.  Do your bridge, test it out.  Get down on your back, and locate your liver on the right side under the ribs.  Get your fingers.  Squish all the way from your lateral side towards the middle, up and down like a pump.  You can be forceful in this.  It can take a beating; it’s fine.  Start gentle and see how your tolerance goes.

This should not really hurt a lot.  It should be unpleasant to a certain degree.  Once you get used to it, it’s generally fine.  Pain?  Don’t do it or have it checked out.

Pump the liver up and down with your fingers.  Work on all the lengths.  Get a picture off Wikipedia to see where it might be.  The advice is, try to touch your back through your front.

Do this for 5-6 minutes, even 3 minutes or 30 seconds can work.  Then get back into your bridge and see how it feels.  This can be awesome, a big change, or not.  But give it a go.

The next cheat code is the sternal fascial bridge.  We have this bone cartilage in the centre of the rib cage.  If you think about the pecs and other muscles for hugging people, bench etc, they join to side across this bony thing and this fascial area.  It’s connective tissue, and a nice thing about connective tissue is you can get very strong acute effects to your training that make things feel much better by pressing on it.

What you do here is find the notch at the bottom of your neck, and get your knuckle.  It has to be almost unpleasantly hard.  If you’re hairy you might want to grease it up a bit.  Rub your knuckle down, like you’re putting a big red mark in the middle of the chest, down to the sternum.  Do that 3-4x, that’s generally enough.  10x to make sure it’s working.  Give it a good hard scrape down with your knuckle, and then test your bridge.  See what happens.

This one you might want to record on video, because you will go deeper in the bridge and not get too much change in sensation.  But if you look at the video, you’ll go, oh wait that was really good.

We did this one at the retreat, with some other bits and pieces.  Every single person in the room did the deepest bridge in their life, in that one session.  It definitely helps.  Even some of the crazier backbenders had it.

Is it a permanent effect?  No.  It’s a cheat code.  Like how you have to put the cheat code in the video game every time, it doesn’t save.  Try that one out.

The next one to try out for bridge is interesting if you find it hard to get the shoulders or chest open: the biceps.  In particular, you want to get this area, about 4 fingers up and inside on the bicep from the elbow.  You’re going to go in and hold constant pressure in there for 90s.  If you need it and press here, and quite hard, and it shouldn’t hurt.  If it does, you probably need it.  Hold it down.  I use my three fingers.

You could put a floss band on tight there.  If you’re feeling brave, ask someone to kneel on it.  Start gentle. Then test the bridge again and see how it changes.  Is it good for me?  Does it change?  Is it nice?  Yes, no, maybe.  Try and find out.

Next, we will look at our friend the Pancake.  One of the interesting things of the pancake is this weird spot where people get stuck.  They can lean forwards, but you can’t get enough pressure forwards to do anything effectively.

We have this rule that, first we go down in pancake, then side to side.  Generally we train it standing for quite some time, until it looks like a good pancake when you take a photo and flip it 90º.

Once you get that, then sit on the floor.  Then nothing happens.  It feels like you’re there, but you haven’t got enough, or your torso isn’t heavy enough.  Whatever.  What we can do is go sideways.  We use side bending, going in and out, static hold, partner or solo stretch.

You stretch the sides first, then go forwards.  At this point it can feel like you’re actually achieving something.  This is what we’re looking for.  It can also help get the hips to start rolling forwards.

You see this a lot in pancake, and it annoys me slightly: keep the back perfectly extended, the expect your hips to flex.  Why do we have the spine extended when we deadlift?  Because we extend the hips.  In pancake, we extend the hips.

Maybe we want the head to flex.  Head leads spine, spine leads hips.  Very simple.  Maybe we want the neck to flex slightly, and the spine to flex.  That gets us down.  As we get better, that will get the hips to roll over.  Then we can straighten out the spine.  Bear that in mind if you’re limited in your pancake and trying to keep your back perfectly straight.

This trapped me in my coaching for years.  7-8 years ago I’d always tell people to keep the spine perfectly flat when you pancake.  There’s me, who had an OK pancake, and also learned off people who had god tier pancakes.  One of the “I can do it because I’m super flexible, so you must too.”  No.  We use the natural motions of the body, get the pancake, then make it how we want.

There’s also this onus to get a neutral spine in a pancake, or even extended spine.  If we really think about it, in hand balance, what are we doing with our spine and torso?  The general advice is to keep the ribs sunk, and the spine open, flexed or neutral, but not super neutral.  And a posterior tilted pelvis.  A straight spine, in many cases.

What do we do when pressing?  We go from a curved spine to a less curved spine, not pressing with a fully extended spine.  We’re looking to articulate on top.  There is this case to focus on pancake like that…

If you sit on the floor and you’re doing a pancake, and cannot lift your legs off the ground in a compression, let’s face it – you need to work on your compression.  It’s a key test.  If you can’t lift your legs off the ground, even just once, you’re weak in compression.  Training compression will probably get your pancake moving faster than stretching pancake.  Bear that in mind.

Now we will do some tips and hints for front split.

Front split is another compound position.  We get hip extension by training some stuff separately, the hamstring flexibility by training stuff separately, then put them together.

In the front split, what we generally look for is…it’s unique compared to everything else, always some variance.  Generally, your limitation of hip extension will dictate the shape of the front split.  It’s what your bone capsule is allowed to do.

Some people have generally 50º of hip extension, as a kind of bell curve max with some outliers on either side.  Doing 20, 25, 45º hip extension based on the hip joint capsule.

If we want a flat front split, depending on how much muscle you have (the more you have, the less flexing you need because the thighs will touch the ground sooner).  The thinner you are, the more flexible you have to be for a straight looking split.  Bear that in mind.

If we were to max out our potential, and we say 180º between the bones is the front split, then we need the back leg to extend 45º.  To get our 180º we need a 135º of hamstring flexibility on the lead leg to get that.  If we think about tilt and all that, 135 is a lot.

This anterior tilt means that if we look at someone upright whose chest faces forwards to the front wall of the room, generally this means, if you look at the lumbar spine, there will be a lot of extension.  What stops people is if the lumbar spine doesn’t extend, or you’re trying to keep neutral, you will have to be leaning forwards in the front split.

Get as many pictures of people doing this as you want, and if you think about them setting up in neutral or straight spine in front split, and use the angle the sacrum or pelvis is making, and project a line in what direction they will be leaning in, it’s very clarifying on what’s important in front split: a shit ton of hamstring flexibility.  This is generally the bigger limitation.

When we look to develop flexibility, generally we want to close these active-passive gaps.  Example, I want my body to go one direction, I have to move the leg in the other direction.  If I want to be able to fold my hip past 90º to 110-130º, I should be able to lift my leg up to this direction actively.

If you have trouble – and lots of people do – in an active straight leg raise at 90º, or above, then you have some work to do.  This is one of the biggest limitations I’ve discovered in splits and side splits and pancake: peoples’ active leg raises are terrible, in either front or side split configuration.

We have the Modern Methods of Mobility training, you can find our website.  We have a program where people get assessed.  We have probably done 200-300 assessments since it launched.  People are weak as shit in these positions.

Whenever we have someone who can actually do it, they’re generally aerialists or pole dancers.

An active straight leg raise is when you stand and lift the leg forward.  Straight up, like a standing L Sit.  The other one is out to the side.  Externally rotate the leg, whatever direction the toes point, lift it up that way.

You want these to be above 90º.  Why 90?  Once they hit this, the rectus femoris is doing it, and once they cross, iliac and psoas take over.  We want these muscles to be mightily strong, and this is a big limitation for people.

When the hip is going down, and when we actively pull ourselves into stretches, using muscles to maintain correct alignments of what we want to hit.  If we can’t get these positions, we need to train these separate, build strength, then apply it in the position.

If your split turns out a lot, this could be a reason.  Which leads to my next one.  The turned out split – lateral, outer hamstring is a big limitation.  It’s something we discovered on the coaching assessments.  It was a bit of a blind spot, because we don’t really train with the hamstring crossing the body.

We had to put this back into the training, and I advise you to do it.  Train the lateral hamstrings, because bringing the legs out, the adductor Magnus gets stretched more because the elongation direction is biased in all handstand training – splits, pancake etc.  The lateral one is not getting it, so outer hamstring training, even doing forward folds on a single leg and training so the leg comes to the opposite shoulder: it’s a game changer.

The limitation is weird because it crops up in strange places.  There was a common issue in side splits, people were reporting the same issue of adductor Magnus taking a hit, congestion around the knee, all pointing to the same zone.  We were doing isometrics and other stuff, but it wasn’t doing anything.

We started screening people with outer hamstring, and the number of people who stretched it and in one session had the issue resolved…obviously it wasn’t permanent and we had to repeat it.

As a good rule of thumb: if you have a limitation and find something that makes it go away, you have to keep repeating the thing that goes away and develop it.

If I stretch my calf for 40s and it makes my pike feel better, then I have to keep stretching my calves and build up my time, endurance and strength in this position to make it a permanent change.

We can use short-term acute sensations to give a longer term change.  This can guide how we pick accessory exercises.

Back to front split.  The other interesting thing is the square hip front split.  How do you know if your hips are truly square in front split?  Simple.  Take a picture from the side.  If you can see both butt cheeks, you’re not square.  There you go, simple.

If you can see part of one butt cheek, you’re almost there.

One interesting way to get front split square is not worrying about squaring the hip, but pulling the opposite shoulder back.  You might think about our archer position.  On the leg going back, that arm goes forwards and pushes forwards.  On the other side, the forward leg arm pulls back and the spine rotates backwards, which generates our squareness.

It’s a nice way to get it, to think there is always…if you turn out 30º, you basically want 60º of rotation through the torso to make the hip catch up and be square.  The rough rule of thumb is double what you need for the hips to get square in your other one.

If you need 30º of hip rotation for squareness, rotate 60 in torso.  Need 20º?  Rotate 40º.  Rule of thumb, not a fixed number.  Let’s face it, the spine rotates as well.

By the time the spine has rotated and done rotation along all its length, that’s when the hips start to follow.  It’s pulling the slack out of the system.

Now we do side splits.

In this, how do we define them?  Different places have different ways to describe it.  What I think your true side split is when you go chest down on the floor, legs out to the sides, whatever degree of external rotation your hips need to get there.  What you’re looking at is, if you look from the side, that pointy bone at the top of the hips should be slightly ahead of the thighs.  That’s the true side split for me, the true measure of side split.

The hips are tilted as they need.  Some people doing a split this way, you get a feeling of how much hip tilt they need.  Some need the lumbar really flat, almost looking like posterior tilt.  For others, if you look at the sacral angle, it can be pointing quite aggressively down to the floor with the lumbar spine making up for it.  This is basically down to individual anatomy.

What we look for in this is, this is basically as flat as you will get.  It gives the idea of your true side split, in my opinion.  There are other ways to measure it, but this is a good way for hand balance.  This position gives a very good idea of my flattest split handstand straddle going to look like.

Once we have that, we can translate that to a position where we work the active ranges.  It’s also one that gives a lot of information.  This is one way to measure, that looks nice.

If you find your feet point up, or you’re sitting up and trying to keep the torso up, if we look at the side you’re generally sitting back and into it.  That is ok.

Because you’re not sitting back into it, that hip crease isn’t over flexed due to abduction.  It gives an idea of the true side split, and a good way to measure it.

The next thing to look at is, when I lie down on my back, flex the lower spine and push lumbar into the back, I can pull my legs apart.  This position is one way to identify the best straddle handstand I could get.  This will be a clue.  If you find that your straddle handstand in this position – your legs coming apart in this position is jan – and I see people who can’t pull their legs down, and they’re the same people who have their handstand split being quite high and narrow.

Training this position, and if you find this is your weak position, and the legs barely come down, generally you want to train it with weights.  Use weights, do lifts in and out.  The key is you want to actively be pulling down as you get into the position.  Lower down, let the weights pull you, and try to basically pull the femurs into the sockets and make the butt cheeks touch over the side of the sacrum.  This is really good.

Another nice way of training this is done seated as well.  Get a band, loop it about your feet. Most of you will have seen this and tried this out.  To really kick start this is you want a yoga block, possibly two.

You’re doing a seated straddle, legs are coming apart, put the band around the feet going around the back, and put them around the yoga blocks.  This will give that resistance you want, and also the idea that you can actively pull the legs apart.

You can try it lying as well, but it can be weird on lower back.  It’s a novel stimulus.  Not the best, but like everything I said this evening – for some of you it’s the greatest thing ever that you were missing, and for others it’s a meh.

There’s a few flexibility things to play with over the next while.  I have a few questions to get to on the topic of flexibility.

One is the most Australian question I’ve ever gotten, so I will read it out first.

“Hi guys, Marshall here.  I’m a bus driver from Townsville, North Queensland, Australia.  I’m loving the podcast, been listening in the bus, and it’s taken a bit over a week to listen to all the episodes.  I started rock climbing ten years ago, and yoga after, and acro yoga about six years ago.  I’m now qualified as a climbing guide, 200 hour yoga teacher, and 100 hour acro yoga teacher.  I organize acro jams in my local community, even with my qualifications though I am probably more of an enthusiastic amateur. [EL: Everyone listening to my podcast two weeks ago – enthusiastic amateurs is what we need.  For a community to be really cool, we need them.  Once we have enough, then we get enthusiastic amateurs better than the professionals.  Awesome organizing.]. The community here is quite small, so I’ve collected people from lots of disciplines – gymnastics, cheerleading, breakdancing etc.  Sometimes we even organize weekends with the groups in a city 5h away.  I don’t mean to brag about our COVID situation but I’m heading to an acrobatics convention this weekend. [This is so Australian – so much detail that is probably irrelevant.]. Granted it’s much smaller because of COVID, and last year was run back to back with a circus convention as well.  Sorry I’m rambling.  I figured this is ok considering the way your podcast goes. [We can tell he’s been listening.]. Anyway, I’ve become obsessed with training handstands and splits, and maybe neglecting many of the other areas of my yoga practice.  I did teach myself to pike press from standing before I had any real ability to hold a real handstand.  I’ve been working a lot on basing, hand to hand with my flyer, Marcello.  Marcello comes from a breakdancing and parkour background, and is a beast at planche.  [I can tell you Marcello’s handstand is probably not going to be good.]. However, he hasn’t got the shoulder mobility.  [Ha ha ha.]. You could say he’s perfected the banana handstand.  While he’s working on getting his Federation approved flexibility, I have found all the leg work in lifting Marcello has made my legs feel bulkier and harder to lift in press.  Now I’m back to relearning press, this time refining technique, hopefully this time with straight arms.  [Big legs are awesome, you can press with big legs.  I’ve done it.  One tip I give for people who base is train relative strength without getting the volume in.  Getting really strong in doubles, triples, deadlifts.  Everyone basing should be lifting weights, to a certain degree.  2-3 sessions focusing on big lifts getting stronger: military press, squat, deadlift…these will go a long way to ensuring a lot of success.]. Finally this leads to my question.  My active wrist extension only goes to about 45º.  When I put my hands on the ground I can force my wrists to 90º.  Much more and my palm starts to lift.  [What did I say at the start?  Wrist tightness in a climber?  It’s a thing.]. I feel this is a limiting factor in getting my weight overhead in pressing.  Otherwise I have to bend my elbows.  [This is common.] I’m not sure if this is caused by my bone structure.  I have had good progress with splits, training by adding weight to the stretch.  Intuitively I feel this is a bad idea for wrists.

Is there a difference in the way you approach lengthening muscles v tendons, or the wrist joint?

Also, in the last few months of training splits, I’ve been getting quite loud cracks from my hips that sometimes run down to the backs of my knees.  I guess it’s just tendons repositioning.  There is no pain when it happens, I just want to verify it’s not a warning sign.  I look forward to hearing this question and if there are others out there with anything similar to me.”

First off, when you start getting more flexible, you start getting joint noises.  Things start cracking that weren’t cracking before.  The general rule of thumb is, as long as it’s without pain, it’s generally fine.  If you find you have to force it and there’s a loud crack and it hurts after, maybe you need to get it checked out or find the gaps in your training.

Generally, there is a process you go through8.  Maybe a click that sticks with you for life, but you have the flexibility.  It’s very common.

The wrist issue.  We have a lot of climbers who have started doing handstands now.  We can look at climbing where we develop a lot of strength and integrity in the tendons and hands in general.  We need a way to stretch them.

We have a finger elevated stretch.  We are doing these long held passive stretches to make the tendons and intrinsic muscles of the hand and elastic components relax, essentially.  They need a longer duration hold in a more extreme position to get it going.

What I recommend is plank finger stretches.  You put your fingers on a board, a book or something 2-3cm, not super high.  Raise the fingers, try to get the palms flat on the ground.  Start in quadruped then move to plank/pushup position and hold it there.  I want people to hold these for 90s.

If we were strength training for tendons we’d do shorter and more intense stuff.  You do this in climbing anyway, because of short hold grips.  In handstands we do weight shifts and corrects.

This is the opposite of that, to get things to open out and take time.  With joint capsules, it takes a while for the collagen to start moving.  It just takes a while.  These longer holds of 90s-2min are great.

The next thing is if the active wrist extension goes to 45º, I know there are a few people from FRC who say if you can’t extend to 90º, why are you doing handstands?  My reply is, then why are you asking people to load onto the floor with 70-80% of their bodyweight.  How to get down to the floor?  Do a backwards roll, I suppose.


What we do in this is..the limitations are fine.  When that came down, I asked Mikael too.  We went to all the most advanced balancers we could find, and only the hyper mobile could extend their wrists.  Yet everyone could do one arms.  So, meh.

One of the hidden gaps in wrist development is the reverse wrist curl.  No one trains this movement.  Some of my students have to have this in their training all the time, or they get wrist issues.

What you want to do is: this is 1970s bodybuilder shit.  Get a weight and train 3-4×12-15 of extending the wrists.  Get these really nice, pauses at the top, actively holding them as hard as you can, pushing the wrists forwards.

Another nice one is active wrist extensions with the hand overhead, like a handstand position.  Then actively pull back hard.  This will be basically the cramping you get in hip compression for a pancake will happen in the forearm for this movement.  Deal with it.  This will slowly get things moving.

We can deal with press differently.  Why should we limit press technique when there’s ways to work around it?  We could train the press on parallettes.  This removes the wrist limitation.  You could also turn the hands out.  Practice balancing with hands turned out 45º.

Maybe your balance will take a while to get used to, or be fine.  Turning the hands out is good on this one.  You can train press, work on wrist extension and flexibility separate.  When they catch up put them back together.


“pros and cons of locking out elbows v microbend, and which direction the elbow faces?”

Generally we always say lock the elbows.There’s no real pros and cons.  Pros are it makes balance easier and less joints moving to absorb the balance.  Pros of micro bend is they can be shock absorbers to correct your balance.  At different stages of handstand training you should work on them.

Beginners always lock elbows.  Intermediates unlock the elbows.  Advanced for two arms, always lock the elbows and let balance come from fingers.  Do them all, basically.

One arms, we tell people to lock.  But there is a wobble at the elbow when weight shifts to outside of the hand.  If you bend the elbow it stops you losing balance in that direction and gets the weight back centred.

That’s it for elbow health.  For the elbow direction, it’s very personal and has to do with how much external shoulder rotation you like in handstand.  You see people in completely wrapped around position, or open.

The elbow will go in the position it wants to.  A rule of thumb is set up your hands in handstand width, do a plank, lock out hard and see where they face there.  If that feels ok, it’s generally where they want to face.

That’s it for questions this week.  If you have any questions, DM them to us on @HandstandFactory or me or Mikael.

Next week we have a solo show with Mikael.  I’ve been Emmet Louis, we have Albus Dumbledog somewhere around.  Have a good week.


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