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S2 Episode 73: Shoulder Flexibility


In this episode Emmet flies solo due to having Mikael locked in a box and discusses shoulder flexibility in relation to handstands.

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S2E73 – Shoulder Flexibility

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Transcript of Episode 73: Shoulder Flexibility

MK: Hello and welcome back to the handstand cast with me Emmet Louis and unfortunately my degenerate co-host Mikael Kristiansen is not here this week. He is off in Norway doing Norwegian things. Oddly enough he has his mic with him but recording was difficult for him because let’s face it, he is in Oslo, and Oslo is full of degenerates so he’s off practicing degeneracy with other degenerates in the degenerate capital of the world. Although I do think Oslo is very wholesome I think it’s not actually degenerate at all. Very nice place if you ever visit it. If not, start saving now, if you’re not Norwegian I will say that now it is one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been and I don’t understand how they do it. But anyway. Oslo is nice. Visit Oslo maybe visit Mikael and stop slacking get back on the cast! Other than that, let’s get to it!

So first off, bit of housekeeping, so, as most of you know, who probably follow us on Instagram, you probably would’ve seen that the venue we host our retreats on called TADAH. TADAH stands for Till and Deniz Artist Habitat. Till and Deniz are two friends of ours that we know through the circus scene. We met Till many years ago at a juggling convention when he was explaining TADAH was – how to describe it – it was the family home where the grandparents lived. The granddad was a well-known Turkish artist whose name I do not actually know. So, they had this family home built outside Antalya. It was pretty big, meant to be one of those multi-generational homes so it had a lot of space. And then the parents of Deniz, they moved away, and I think they moved to Germany although I’m not certain on that. They moved away from the home but then Till and Deniz decided to move back into the home to look after the grandparents for a short while and then also convert it into an artist habitat. So, they built a training space. I remember meeting Till and they had just decided on this plan the first time I met Till. He was in EJC the European juggling convention in Ireland, and he was explaining his plan. As you know, or if you’re involved in the circus scene, you meet a lot of people with a lot of plans and it’s you know, not every time someone follows through basically. So you know, you probably heard, this exact plan or similar kind of plan about six or seven times during that whole convention. And that was just one week. So, you know, I dismissed it. But then the next juggling convention I met up with Till and randomly we met him in the cue going into the place and he had flyers for his venue that they had just opened so we were like, “Okay, cool, so it’s actually happening!” Which is very impressive.

So, then, over the years they basically converted this place. They built a training hall, they put in a swimming pool, a massive permaculture garden and just this year they built all these – you might’ve been following on Mikael’s stories – he was there for quite a while helping out with the build of a village of bungalows. It had dorms and smaller rooms. He went down and built loads of wooden dorms. Till himself is a very good and artistic builder. A lot of it was recycled building materials and things that they’d salvaged and made into something nice and unique, and Deniz was the brains behind the operation in terms of organizing, getting everything up and running. We ran one retreat there just to test it out. And we’ve ran them before. It was one of the best organized retreats that we’ve ever come across in terms of the hosts sorting out so much stuff and just being on the ball. So obviously we shifted the whole retreat business to them. It was very, well  – it was awesome! The people who are listening in and have been to the retreats can definitely testify.

Unfortunately, the wildfires in Turkey literally torched everything to the ground barring the steel frame of the training hall. That means all the trees, all the permaculture garden, the chickens, probably some of the other animals around, there were some cats, a mainstay in Turkey anyway – the cats probably as well. The whole new village and their multi-generational family home is gone. So, they’re reset back to literal zero in terms of everything. Let’s face it. They lived there. Everything was there.

They were away in Germany when this happened just visiting Til’s parents as far as I understand so they had basically a bag of stuff each and two young kids, two twins and some of the twins’ clothes. Everything was else just hard reset. It’s like when your computer borks and you have to reinstall windows or something or whatever you use. So, they basically lost everything. They also lost their livelihood. They lost all the thousands of hours of work they put into this as well. And they lost the community in general because it was an artist habitat and they would do retreats like our retreat. They would do volunteer and people would come and stay and train and exchange work and all these cool things. So that’s all gone as well. So, the community lost something too.

They are doing a fundraiser obviously to help with any way, shape or form. So, us here at Handstand Factory we are also doing a fundraiser. The goal on the fundraiser is there is a link you can find it on our Instagram bio or you can find it on TADAH’s bio or you can find it on our post and we are doing a live Q+A session of the Handstand Cast, me and Mikael. We’ll be in the same room and Mikael will be over in Ireland so it will be even better. Will it be even better? Of course, it will be even better because we’re in the same room and that makes everything better. So, we’ll be doing a live Q+A with us, answering your questions, doing a bit of a chat, all of these kinds of things. It will go on a bit longer than normal than a Handstand Cast.

We’d like you to basically step up and donate something to this to get access. There is no minimum donation! Whatever you can afford! In this kind of situation when you’ve been reset to zero, anything helps. So, if you can spare something I know it’s a challenging time, if you can spare something, please send it to their – it’s not a GoFundMe – but it’s one of those things. You’ll find the link in our Instagram or in the show notes. And then if you screen cap your donation and let us know that you’ve sent it, we’ll send you the link to join the call. If you can’t make the call but you want a question answered: send us your questions! You can even send us a bit of a forum check. We’ll make it special if you do. This is your option, and we’ll also send out the call. We will put it on the cast, on the stream, in a bit, later. But if you want that access and the community chat. For the people who have done these Q+A sessions, they’re good fun, it’s nice to meet everyone. Generally, there’s a lot of people training in the background. So, we can all chant form advice for people like, “Point your toes! Point your toes, please!” and all that. “Point your toes” – that’s the only cue you ever need for a handstand, as we all know. Anyway, kicking my desk here. That’s my pitch. Every little bit helps and I’d really appreciate it. I’m sure they would as well. And you know, it’s grim, it’s really grim.

You know obviously there’s a lot of other stuff going on at that part of the world at the moment so it’s all a bit grim lately isn’t it? This timeline has gone really weird. I think since Harambe that was the pivotal switching point for this timeline and everything has just gone a bit weird now. So, we need to Harambe the white to come back in this time of need. Anyway, enough memes.

The topic of today’s cast is – because I’m flying solo – I thought I would do shoulder flexibility for handstands. I think this is an interesting topic to talk about as usual. We’re going to – you know – I’m going to ramble, basically. You might want to take some notes or listen back as usual. Because I will go into stream of consciousness mode and hopefully there is some useful details.

So, many years ago I wrote an article probably about ten years ago at this stage about how I fix arched back in a handstand. I put up some videos. It’s one of the most popular articles that I’ve written not that I write that much. I probably should write more. But it was one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written in terms of constantly getting referenced. Constantly getting questions. Loads of spam in the comments obviously. So, you always know it’s good when you’re getting the anti-biotic spam, spam of the moment, Viagra spam and all that. It was good. The bots of the moment decide this was worthwhile then it must be good.

In this article I outlined how I would go about fixing if someone had banana backed handstand and couldn’t do a straight line. Now, I probably wasn’t super clear in this. It’s not – it’s basically, what you’re looking for when you’re fixing someone who has an arched handstand and wants a straight handstand is there’s a few kind of areas you need to think about because is it that someone is in an arched handstand because they can’t, that’s the maximum range of motion will allow and the body has to compensate in one way or the other or do they have an arched handstand because they just are unaware of the positioning required to do a straight handstand and that’s what they default to? Or is their upper back not strong enough? There’s a few different ways and this article is geared a bit more towards people who couldn’t get into the handstand, but I think maybe I’m going to use this as a bit of framework for what I’m going to talk about today.

If we have someone who is in a more banana-archy handstand, the American handstand, we should stop calling it banana-handstand and call it the American handstand with its curves and flowing lines which is much more aesthetic than the European straight, phallic handstand. Anyway. On this point if someone can dm where that quote is from as well. Weeklong bragging rights if you can.

In this idea of thinking about handstands and where I put it in this article I – my thinking and the way I treated now has gotten much more stream-lined and much more succinct. And I’m going to talk a bit about that. The first thing we need to do is we have a person and person comes to us and goes, “I have an arched handstand, how can I get it straight?” The first thing we would do is we got to have some kind of assessment system. We have to think, “Okay, this person, can they do a straight handstand and just don’t know how or is this handstand they’re displaying, is this their straight handstand? Is this the limit of their range of motion?” We can basically interrogate the person the first stage of meeting a new client or a new student or even just someone you’re helping out is the interview stage. Where we are going to ask some questions. It’s like, “How long have you been hand standing? What have you done before?” You know, this kind of things we’re going to… “Oh I’ve been doing handstands for three weeks.” Maybe you just don’t have the skills? That puts a tick in the skill side of things. A lack of positional awareness. Or they could go, “I’ve been doing handstands for two years and I can hold for forty seconds but my handstand has always been arched.” So, then I would go, “Okay, is it still a lack of positional awareness or is it a limitation somewhere else in the structure?” So, these things, it does come down to history. Where did you learn to handstand? “Oh, I learned to handstand at a CrossFit box.” Okay, cool. Or “I learned to handstand with a handstand coach.” And they still couldn’t get it. Or “I was doing adult circus classes.” Or “I was doing gymnastics.” So, then we get a bit of history where we go, “Which environment did this person learn to handstand in and where did they get their values and their determinants towards their positioning?”

Everyone in CrossFit wants to arch and wants to walk and that’s okay. That’s for the purposes of CrossFit. So, then it’s like, okay this person hasn’t really been exposed to the training environment that places value on a straight handstand, holds it up on a pedestal and possibly also doesn’t have that group facilitated learning that happens almost unconsciously by looking at people who can do the skill in the correct way. So, we’re beginning to build up a picture of this person. Then the next kind of thing we can begin as part of the interview process as a coach depending on which formula if it’s in person or if it’s on video or things is you can start making, I don’t want to say assumptions, but you can start gathering data on the person’s physique and general fitness abilities like is it you know, biceps. Max Shirt-off, who is just jacked, swole, shredded. The training history.

I’ve been training handstands but also I do body building and I’ve competed in body building.

Okay we’re going to get a hint of what this person might be tending towards due to previous training history or we talk and we have Yoga McYoga-Pants. We have Yoga McYoga-Pants and we say “oh cool.” We look at them and maybe they’re not as muscled and they’re slimmer build or they tend towards a slighter frame because let’s face it people do generally select their training activities partly towards the physical avatar that training activity presents them. What appeals to them. There’s a bit of that. A bit of self selection. A bit of “Oh you know, I’m big.” A big, tall guy.

Para lifting would suit me better than going to a yoga class or vice versa.

So, we have this kind of idea. It’s like, okay, we have body builder dude who maybe or may not be working overhead as much as they can. Maybe they’re doing some shoulder press and military press but maybe they’re not spending a lot time working over head whereas our person from yoga maybe they are working overhead a bit more. Maybe even if they’re just doing sequences involving downward dog and these kinds of positions. Like ok, cool. Then we can also begin to get a sense – and this is not always accurate. You do have to test for it. It’s like, will this person tend towards, we’re going to be very binary here – the stiff type or the loose type. And this comes down to how they’re moving. How their joints are moving. Also, flexibility. Could be hyper mobility. These kinds of things. You know! We have two people. I am admitting right now I am being incredibly binary for the point of example, but it is shades and other stuff. But it helps clarify things.

Then we have two people that we have an idea what their physique is like. We have an idea of their training history. We have an idea of things they have done in the past and then we also have an idea of what is their potential movement vocabulary. So, this is interesting, and we could give it another counter-example. We could have someone who is hyper mobile but has been into body building. We could also think that body building, not to rip on body building, the movements are very simplistic. Once you learn your basic set of movements, you don’t really – unless you’re fucking around with stuff you see from Instagram – you don’t really change your movement a lot barring a couple variations. Swap a dumb bell instead of a bar bell to do a different type of row. But at the end of the day it’s basically the same movement just slightly different variables to keep things interesting whereas if we had someone who came from contemporary dance and they had a much wider selection of movements they’ve done over the year and possibly more finite control and more available texture to their movements and more general body sensation. I always think that performance disciplines have this expansive global body focus. The whole body can be in the frame at once whereas in strength sports it can be almost a bit more point focused where it’s like I’m focusing just on my bicep. So the body builder type could have very good individual muscle control but they might not have the global expansive vision of the body that could go in. so we’re building up a bit of a profile. How we could or how I would approach this kind of issue. So we have this profile of this person. And we go, “okay, ticking some boxes or selecting some kind of tests and other stuff we want to do to confirm the things we’ve seen in the interview stage. This is the thing. The interview stage an atmosphere but then you still have to open the window and see if it’s raining. You don’t just think “oh yeah it’s raining.” The mistake I’ve come across a huge amount is you’ll find field sports athletes who are super tight in the quantitative range of motion. They can’t touch their toes. Splits is not even a thing. Can’t get their arms up past their ears. But they could be hyper mobile. They could tick all points on the scale. You can’t just go, “Oh, it’s this.” And that’s what we’ve seen. “Okay, I’ve got a hint of this, I’ve watched for it and I need to check this out.”

So this is our thing. We’ve done our interview stage and now we want to get into this person goes, “I want to improve my shoulder flexibility” or they will say something like “mobility.” The semantics of mobility are always quite interesting because I’ve given my definition on my other podcast, Bendability, check it out, but in terms of general usage, when someone goes “I want to improve my mobility” they generally mean “I want to improve all factors of my flexibility.” So, this is your time to flex as a coach.

Well, actually, what you mean by mobility, is you want to improve your (inaudible) flexibility, active flexibility, your static and dynamic flexibility.

Oh my god I didn’t know so complicated!

Yes, because I have my glasses on and I am so smart!

Anyway, we can sum that up by we want to improve our mobility, and this is what they might say. So they can be like, okay cool. Me as a coach can translate this just like we can translate most other things when someone goes, “Oh, I want the beach body.” Well, I don’t go on a beach. What does a beach body look like? I actually don’t go on beaches I despise them but I bring my dog there now and then. But you see a range of bodies on the beach so it’s kind of a bit associative. But what we know is what you want is the BayWatch look. A bit of muscle. Lean. Or the classic one you get when you’re training men in normal gyms. “I want Brad Pitt Fight Club.” It’s like, okay, we just want to be lean and a bit of muscle. Or I want to look like Ronnie Coleman. It’s like, “ten grams a week, let’s go!”

We have done our interview stage. We have some things we want to check out. So, then we need some actual tests for determining: Is there a limitation in pure range of motion or is there a limitation in control? Or is it something else? So, generally, at this stage then I would go, “Okay, let’s see what we can do!” I would generally if someone is doing an assessment, we would do a general assessment using the wall, it’s very useful for this. And there’s another one using the floor. And there’s another one lying down. So, just talk about them.

The first assessment you want to see where your bigger limitations is – is using the wall. Now you would perform a chair sit and this is on my YouTube channel but I want to talk more about it. You would perform a wall sit. You would sit down on the wall and you take the torso into the most textbook alignment this person can do with handstands. Spine all the way flat, chest hollow, sternum sunk. Then, the first thing you want to look at or one of the first things, you want to look at them all but the first thing is let’s test external rotation. To do this, we would bring the arms up in a T position. Arms at the side. Bend the elbows at 90 degrees or thereabouts. We would flex the wrist so they’re out of the way and then we would ask the person to externally rotate and go, “Can they get their forearms to the wall?”

Because we also assess the morphology of this person like if we had someone with stacked forearms like big blacksmith forearms, maybe they’re not going to get the wrist bone on that side of the arm against the wall because their forearms will be in the way. We can also bear this in mind. Okay, it’s not an exact quantitative test but it’s a very good test. So, okay, if they’re super skinny they should be able to get the forearm along the wall. We got this. We got the base.

If we externally rotate and their arms are not in front of their eyes or not in line with their ears, it will be a nice base target for this. Then we go, okay, this person has external rotators that have not been exposed to this overhead position in the correct manner. So, we can think, well maybe they are training external rotation, but they haven’t developed the active short-range strength in this position to actually pull themselves deeper into the external rotation or it could be tight. It could be tight as in lacking quantitative passive flexibility. So, this gives a hint. Or a mark. Do they pass/fail? Yes/No. How big a difference. We would also at this stage begin to look asymmetries and generally we’re looking for asymmetries. If we were to put some quantities on this. If we had more than ten degrees of asymmetry then we know okay, we got an asymmetry we need to sort out. It’s not really “sort out” because… We’ll talk about asymmetries in a second. It’s not really sort out but it’s something we want to make sure improves or catches up. We’re never going to be perfectly symmetrical, but we can be close to it.

So, then, the next test we’ll do is we will get them to bring their hands down on the side. Externally rotate from the shoulders and protract slightly and make fists. And then, with this, just let the forearms do whatever they do and you’re going to lift the arms up over head keeping the shoulders down. You’re going to pay attention to what happens. Does their back come away from the wall? You want to also look at the rib cage. And see what happens at the rib cage. Do they keep the ribs in the exact alignment you have set them up in or does the lower back arch away first? Or does the ribs flair out? Or do they as they get up to chin level, do the top ribs flare out? Because this will give you a hint about what exactly tight. If the lower back flares first, this is a skill test as much as anything else so if you get people to repeat it, that will change a bit but gives a general picture. That would generally indicate that the lats are going to be the first restriction we want to work on. If they keep them down, and then it flares as the arms come up to about chin or eye level in that diagonal line looking from the side then we go, okay, maybe the chest flares from the floating ribs upwards. Then we can actually make an assumption that maybe it’s the pecs that are tight or lacking in range of motion. So, then, we also continue to this half-step and then we put the arms against the wall and we are as high as they can and then we get them to elevate their shoulders as high as they can and then we see what happens there. One of the things is you don’t want to tell people what you’re looking for because if you tell people someone the point of a test they’ll try to achieve the test or do it with more tension than we’re looking for.

Now, because we’re working in the gravitiy neutral plane for these rotations, we can also get an idea of can this person pulls themselves actively into it. What you’re also looking at, which is very subjective, you’re looking for ease of motion. How easy do I move if you’re doing this test for yourself, or how easy does this person move? Do they get up to get up to chin level and then you see them working very hard to try to pull against the wall? Or do they just lift casual pace no glitchy movement and it just goes up there. So that gives you an idea of what is the holding tension in this person. It could be quite high or it could be quite low.

So we have this picture. We’ve tested external rotation. We’ve tested for lats and pecs. Depending on which boxes we have ticked we can then begin to select exercises and ways of training it. Now, personally over the last ten years I’ve changed a lot about how I approach overhead flexibility. And most of the time, depending on – sorry I’m getting ahead of myself.

We also have another type of person who let’s say I was talking about someone who might be stiff, or type or inflexible as their descriptions. And then we also have a type of person who could be flexible. So if the person achieves these tests well then we shift the focus of the test just to see what’s going on because we need to get our data. So if they achieve them then it’s very easy. Then the easiest to do it is to get this person to lay down on a bench with the knees bent up and the hips bent and flatten the spine out and then we will basically looking to the ceiling repeat the tests and see how far behind the ears the arms will go. So that will give us a hint and this will give us a hint for our asymmetries as well. And that’s what we’re looking for. Okay, cool, if we had a person whose shoulder range of motion was well past the head but couldn’t display a straight handstand, then we know it’s more a strength issue than it is a range of motion issue.

So, once we’ve done our interview, we’ve done some basic assessments, then we also want to see what this person can do skill-wise. We’ve asked them to do some handstands. Just do your handstand there. And maybe they can’t do a handstand. And that’s fine. It’s to get an idea of like okay we have a person who is flexible, can hold a handstand for twenty seconds but can’t do a straight one, so we look at their handstand and we’ll probably see that the technique needs to be refined so we need to find a way for coaching technique in a way that also transfers to this. That also builds strength so we’ll talk about flexibility person first.

Flexibility person generally needs to focus on the active flexibility so flexibility in their ranges of motion becomes a strength exercise so we’re literally trying to develop strength. One of the ways that we would do this. I’m going to give two techniques. One of the techniques are really with people who are in more flexible type is a technique I call Chest-to-Wall Perfection. What this means is we’re set up chest to wall. You will help this person find the perfect alignment. The perfect alignment is also subjective but we’re trying to get as close to the textbook line as possible. Shoulders open but not too open. So generally looking for the center of the shoulder when looked to the side. Directly over the balance point of the hand. Shoulders elevated to a certain degree that doesn’t cause arching in the lower back. Everything tight. And you know, we can move them around or we can cue them auditorily visual demonstrations if needs be. Once they have this position in they are going to perform chest-wall holds. But not just a normal chest-wall hold. The goal will be to squeeze the living shit out of everything. So, this will be like, an ultra high-tension hold.

Now if you’re doing this right, you shouldn’t be able to maintain the tension for more than ten seconds so it is a really – it’s a whole body asymmetric and traction. What this does is it follows this law of the body. What fires together wires together. So we’re trying to educate the body through tension of everything firing together at the same time to groove this position. So, we would do, you know – this is one of the things. It could be treated as a repetition former. We obviously have to go like if someone can only hold 30 seconds chest to wall then we know okay we’re only going to really get two of these contractions in with a 5-6 second break before they need to come down or possibly even less. So, just bear that in mind. If someone can hold 90 seconds chest to wall then we can a few more of them in but this idea of finding this perfect alignment and not just holding it in a more relaxed manner which we would want to do in our handstands – we are going to ramp up the tension. Literally everything needs to go.

We also need to look as coaches we need to spot the blindspots that the person can’t feel and can’t contract. Is the soles of their feet contracting? Is one leg contracting harder than the other? Is one leg when they contract externally rotating? One leg is staying in the position it started in. you need to watch out for this because if these things are happening then you need to cue to opposite contraction of what’s going on. Right leg starts to externally rotate as it contracts. Okay you need to also screw it back in to the neutral position with internal rotations so this is the whole co-contraption. The whole body co-contraction is what we’re looking for in this. This one I really like because it’s really good and it’s really short. It really works very well as a warm up exercise.

At the same time what we also want to look at is things like it’s also comes down to the person’s skill. If they’re still very new at the handstand then we can’t do a lot of these but tuck handstands. When the shoulders are slightly more closed I mean very slightly more closed than they would be in the straight handstand using the wall. So everyone has seen these. Toes are more tucked. Me and Mikael are quite fond of. That is also treated like a strength exercise. We’re trying to keep three to five sets of twenty five to thirty seconds time on the tension. Is what we’re looking for. Obviously that can be a lot so then we can also think we don’t count just the time, we count the working time in this asymmetrics. So it takes ten seconds up to the wall, five seconds down. They’re only up for thirty seconds. Then they’ll only be doing fifteen seconds of work and vice versa. So we have to work out for that and make sure things are working quite nice.

We also have to watch for this person because when they are going into it their default will be to push the shoulders open and they need to be cued to keep the chest down, hollow but also be using the muscles of the back.

That’s why I say you set up with the shoulders slightly closed because as you push you’re pushing into the ground and slightly backwards to engage the shoulder flexors. This will hopefully cause some quite severe damage to this person. If not, if can. This will be one way of training this because we know we have a person who has a range of motion that can achieve this straight line but they can’t display the straight line. Then at the same time we could also train prone external rotations as a strength exercise. So, in this goal we’d be doing external rotations incrementing the weights just as we would with normal strength training. A small amount of weight every time you hit a 6-8 rep inch. To do this we’d lay face down. Pull our arms up to ninety-degrees of the elbow, shoulders in line. And we want to as coaches and people assisting out or just looking at yourself in the video, we want to make sure our scapula are replicating our handstand position as best it can.

We want to avoid it being depressed. We want to avoid it being retracted. But we want to be slight or retracted. We want to be slightly protracted, and we want to be elevated. So, we’re doing external rotations with the scapula in the alignment that we will ask the external rotation to display the strength. We can also do shoulder flexion raises in this position. So, this is the exact same set up. I want to make my handstand line. I don’t want to do the reverse where I can internally rotate the arms and let the arms come out in a diagonal and pull them out in that way. It’s useful for range of motion development but for handstands we’re like okay we’re going in this plane and this is what we want to do.

At the same time, we could add some pauses into this, the person has the range of motion, so we don’t really need to go beyond or train it. We can treat it like a strength exercise to begin with. That gives you a hint on how we would approach it with that.

Also we have our development work on the skill and the physicality of the handstand. Then we would have our accessory exercises for the end of the training but for the main course of the training, once we’ve done … It depends on how you’re structuring your training. But you could do chest to wall training as the warm up. As the warm up for the skill warm up not the warm up for the body. Then we could do our kick ups, our holds, our spotted holds or just our own holds trying to find the adjustable perfection, body tensegrity, integration that we had from the wall in a balance situation.

Obviously, balance will cause a bit of waving in the body so there is … it’s not going to be one to one transfer exactly but it will transfer. Then, we could go, okay we have done our warm up. We have done our skill session. Now we are going to do our strength development work which will be the tuck and stands at the wall or the tuck wall slide with that slightly closed but it’s a normal position. Slightly closed but then over the duration the contractions goes to a more stacked shape vs. starting too open. Then, at the end of the session we could do our external rotation work on our shoulder flexion lifts.

I’m going to throw one exercise out that is from the angles of strength training that people have forgotten it. And I will give some bragging rights if someone sends me a video of this or tags me in a video on Instagram. Called the The Upper Back Deadlift. The Upper Back Deadlift is done with getting some weights. You put the weights on a bench or so that you need to be higher up for this. And you would if I remember what the criteria for the Upper Back Deadlift is, 93 fold at the waist I think, but I can’t remember.

So, you would put the weights on a bench in front of you, which is slightly higher up, raised up on a box or something. You replicate, you fold at the waist, 90 degrees. So, you’re kind of in a good morning position or half a pike or one of these kind of things. Then you grab the weights, lock the arm straight, make all your good, handstand position in the torso, and the arms, and then you attempt to stand up without arching the back.

So that is the Upper Back Deadlift. And that is a sneaky exercise from the bygone era of strength training. And it’s very difficult. So, uh, yeah. Bragging rights for someone who sends me a video or tags me in a video for that one. Even I could make a bragging right badge or a pin I could send out to someone. Anyway, so yeah. Let’s see that. And uh, yeah, I look forward to seeing it.

So, that could be also another choice to train the sort of isometric strength of this movement for a bit of fun. What we just take all our normal ones and build up strength in these positions, and that will hopefully begin to transfer over.

Now, we would also look at whoever is tight or has stiffness and what we generally mean when we say, I’m tight or I’m stiff is that we are lacking overall range of motion for the desired activity. They might have a subjective feeling of tightness because the feeling of tightness doesn’t actually correlate to the range of motion. You can feel tight, but still have great range of motion and you can feel loose, but have very limited range of motion. So, they’re not exactly not correlated, but not causative. If that makes sense. For this kind of more tight person, we have a different way of doing it.

And what we would do on this is we want to think about, OK, for our warmup. We actually want to obviously do a normal, good quality warm up. But we also want to do some type of stretching exercises that reduce the resistance to motion. So this is where we could actually have sort of a more relaxed, passive stretching methods in our warmup so we could do something in our warm up where we would do a side lat stretch or a peck stretch or a partner pack stretch or a woolpack stretch or something like this to actually reduce the tension that stops us in the line.

Then once we have reduced this or increased the range of motion via relaxation, then we could also do something that facilitates our ability to enter the end range. So, what this might look like is, oh, we have decided it is lots on a person. We will do a standing lat stretch. Then we will do shoulder flexion raises with a concentric quasi isometric technique. What are concentric quasi-isometric technique is -is very simple, is you lift up to your end range shoulder flexion, with weights or without, generally no weights and then attempt over a period of time to lift higher and trying to find a second gear.

So, it’s kind of — it’s kind of one of these ones that it’s like, there’s holding at your end range, and then there’s this intent to go beyond it. And this would be very useful for this type of person, because we’ve, you know, reduced the restriction coming from the lats or the pecks.

And now we’re trying to get them used to finding the ability to contract the muscles into the more typical line position. So that would be one way to do it. Then at the same time, we still want to look at what they are doing. So, this could be one of these ones at the handstand stage. We could do just the wall perfection. But we would do it in a position where they are more stacked. And what this might be would be the Diagonal Wall Drill.

So, we could do the Diagonal Wall Drill. Even if you think you’re more advanced than you are, you can always go back to your basic drills and re-perfect them and find new details in them. So, we would find this detail, because if we think of the diagonal wall drill, some of it is vertical. If we split the force directions of the diagonals up. There is  vertical force and there is a horizontal force and there’s kind of a force normal to the diagonal angle, which means right angle to the diagonal angle. And that force going in that direction basically is assisting them in opening the shoulders. And this is what we have in the very early stages of training in the PUSH program, the assisting and opening the shoulders.

Now, this person, because we’ve reduced the tension in the lats or the restrictions in the lat coming from the lats or the pecs, we’ve given them some muscles to contract. Then where we put them in, we’d set them up with the best bodyline. Perfect. So this might mean that the shoulders aren’t exactly 180 degrees flexed or exactly in line. Ninety degrees of flexion or whatever it is. But then we’re going to cue them to try to open the shoulders more in this hole. So, this could be a testable perfection. It could just be a hold for a time period, or it could be a hold with a very specific intent of getting the shoulders more up to the ears and more open as the set progresses. So we have some options there, as you can see.

Then we would do our training. We would work on all our balance drills, and we’d have an expectation to if we have someone who is very heavy muscled, or very tight or very lacking in overhead range motion, that we would then have an expectation that we would need to work on the software and the balance skill separately from the physical development and try to not worry too much about what range they’re showing when they’re doing their balance work, their kickups and their other work.

And them know that the range of motion will increase, probably take some time to get a good quantitive change so we can get a cue change with these kind of techniques, but to get a kind of permanent octave shifting or flexibility, it’s going to take a bit longer. So, we don’t want to, we don’t want to basically with the person who could display the range but is lacking the skill set, we can expect a very quick change, quick being one to two months of seeing like, okay, this person has gotten significantly better line. They’re more stacked and blah.

With the person who is lacking total range of motion is quite, quite heavily muscled, we can expect that the change could take six months. But at no point does that mean that we can stop working on our balancing, because as they get more range of motion, which is more resources to draw from, they can then display a straighter handstand. But they have all the balance skills built up to the point where say, okay, I can hold a 60 second handstand, and now I have the ability to hold on straight. I need to relearn the technique slightly. And that’s when we can shift over chess to all perfections or just spotted drills or just work on the drills, particularly swing and hold for 60 seconds. Then we they have headspaces for me to go like pay attention to your foot. Let’s try make the foot go, blah, these kind of things, so we can also give the cueing in the shape. And we can just encourage them through either auditory, visual, verbal, you know, tactile cueing to find a better shape.

So we have this kind of expectation then at the end of this tighter person’s training, which would be a mix of, uh yeah, a mix of a normal handstand to a certain degree focusing on all the things we want to work on. It also depends because like it’s people can shape change. This is a kind of thing in these positions — perfectly fine. It just doesn’t look as the verticality is installed, doesn’t look that way. But there’s no point in limiting it.

Now, with the tight person, we can also work the tuck handstand. The tuck handstand fixes everything, but we can also have an expectation that it’s just going to take a while. And one of the nicer movements for this kind of stronger, tighter type is to tuck at the wall tighter shoulder flexions. So you’re going into a tuck handstand. You’re in a placeholder position. You keep the shoulders elevated and protracted as much as you can. Then you let the shoulders close and then you push them open and hold them for a period of time and then let them go down. So three to five second holds, push, down. Now, these could be quite small reps, so they could be quite big reps. And we want to make sure when you’re doing this that you’re not letting the shoulder elevation drop, whatever that person’s shoulder elevation is at the time. It does not drop. It stays high. So we don’t want it to become a plant press. We don’t want the shoulders to become depressed or lose their elevation. So we watch out for that.

Then at the end of their training, they would have more intensive range of motion development work. So this might mean their side lat stretch or their pec stretch actually becomes an isometric stretching technique and they’re shortening ranges. So either what I would normally do on these people is we would do pecs on external rotator. So we would do prone external rotations, but we would add in the concentric quasi isometric technique. So we could also, for a bit of fun, do what I call a progressive under load ramping where we would put them close to their end range, have them perform an isometric contraction to facilitate the ability to get deeper into external rotation. Then we would give them a set of dumbbells and we would do essentially a flexible drop set where we would build our strength up into, basically, we’re looking for possibly lifting about a small bit under their current passive range of motion. So we’d be lifting up. We would do six or eight reps of that, and then we would drop the dumbbells and do one more final concentric quasi-isometric hold.

This is our progressive under load ramp that we’re using, a high facilitation technique of the isometric. We’re doing a dynamic range of motion technique, and then we’re finishing with one last static hold. This would develop the overhead external rotators quite well. Then also because we are stretching the pecs in between this, we are freeing up that range of motion.

There’s more range of motion becoming available from the passive techniques or the isometric techniques used at the front of the body. And then we’re also immediately training into this range of motion. So, it gets very gets very interesting very quickly. Does the strength build up and very quick does it develop? We still have to respect our timelines and then that will kind of make our session. So we kind of have these ideas and then, you know, you could finish with some more relaxed, passive stretching, trying to relax but generally, I don’t do a lot of that anymore. It depends. It once again always depends. What we could do this or generally what I would find on those kind of more passive, relaxed, stretching type things is like one very good session a week where everything is really kind of explored, generally gives better results than, you know, a lot of shorter sessions. From my observations, particularly when we’re doing the active kind of work as well. So, we have these kind of views or ways of organizing, training and some techniques now to play with.

And there was one thing, oh yes, asymmetry! So, asymmetries are super common with everyone, and everyone is slightly asymmetric. Now, when we do our initial interview and assessment, we are generally going to OK, we pay attention to asymmetries. We’re looking for, you know, what happens? Why does this person move different from side to side? Is it just a general physical asymmetry? Ok, that’s probably OK. Is there an injury history on one shoulder or one elbow or one hand versus the other side, or is it even a contralateral hip issue? So we could watch out for them. Or is it just like, oh, I’ve done archery. And you know, one side is more flexible. On the other side is just much, much stronger. So once again, this comes through in our training history.

So what we’re looking for in asymmetry, particularly in hunting or balance activities, we’re looking to get them to get roughly balanced out where the asymmetry doesn’t impose a form change because one side is trying to keep up to the other or twist is trying to keep up with the other or is it not an even loading going on. So that’s what we’re looking for.

Now, the first thing is we take note of the asymmetry. And then we would tend to train that side first just to get that to get the biggest, freshest stimulation first, but doesn’t really matter if it’s at the end of a workout.

But we’re also just paying attention. Those like. As we do our next round of assessments in six, eight weeks or just tracking progress, we go, “Okay, is it getting better?” Is the old arm, is there an asymmetry? Or are both sides raising ability at the same time? Okay, that’s fine. The other side will basically — what generally happens in this situation — is one side will reach its kind of limit of what the training is going to give you. And then the other side will catch up in a couple of weeks. So, you’ll have one side that will stop developing in terms of total range of motion or quantitive range of motion development. And then the other side will catch up. So that’s what we’re looking.

Now, if we have a situation where one side is getting better but the other side isn’t getting better, then we need to focus more on the other side. So, this might mean we would do basically a technical or forget we’d do one extra set per side or per the tight side.

So, we’d start with a tight side. We’d do three sets on our more flexible side, and we’d do four sets on our tighter side. And this might, then we’d also track to see it there’s a change. If it doesn’t change from this, then we’d have to look for general asymmetries in the body or maybe do more relaxed, passive work on that side. Both sides as well, but with a focus on getting that side moving. And generally, this is where you can hijack the body’s ability to normalize sides where we let the range of motion of the tighter side limit the looser side for a while. So, we try to not increase the looser side or the more flexible side of the more range of motion side. And we just work on the other side till it catches up. Another way to approach it.

I’ve given it a lot of cool things to play with I think. I’ve given my thinking on this. It’s very in-depth, really, in terms of what I’m talking about. So, there’s a lot to play with, but it’s not the be all and end all. But I’m going to wrap it up there.

So once again, thank you for listening to me ramble. We should have Mikael back at some point next week, or maybe not. I think he’s off to Handstand Extravaganza. Quite jealous that he gets to go because I’m stuck in handstand extravaganza Ireland. But it is what it is. Then we’ll have Mikael here with me for our Q&A, with questions and answers in aid of TADAH. You know, get your donations in, screenshot them and send it to us either on an email or on Instagram. We’ll send you the link. Thanks for doing it. Other than that, yeah, I’ve been Emmitt Louis. Mikael has been incredibly silent in the corner, and I will speak to you next week.


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