(function(w,d,s,l,i){w[l]=w[l]||[];w[l].push({'gtm.start': new Date().getTime(),event:'gtm.js'});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0], j=d.createElement(s),dl=l!='dataLayer'?'&l='+l:'';j.async=true;j.data-privacy-src= 'https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id='+i+dl;f.parentNode.insertBefore(j,f); })(window,document,'script','dataLayer','GTM-5GSGBTH');

S2 Episode 75: Magic Pills


In this episode Emmet and Mikael discuss magic pills and the various types of magic pills available.

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.

S2E75 – Magic Pills

Love the podcast? We’re 100% coffee fuelled, so if you’d like to help keep us going you can easily support the Handstandcast by buying us a coffee here:

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

This podcast is brought to you by Handstand Factory, and is produced by Motion Impulse. To keep up with our weekly episodes, and help us spread the word, make sure to follow and subscribe to the Handstandcast wherever you listen to podcasts!

Love the podcast? We’re 100% coffee fuelled, so if you’d like to help keep us going you can easily support the Handstandcast by buying us a coffee here:

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

Transcript of Episode 75: Magic Pills

EL: Hello, and welcome back to the Handstandcast with me, Emmet Louis, and my degenerate and caffeinated co-host in chief Mikael Kristiansen. I feel like I need a title.

MK: Yeah. Um yeah. What can you be? You can be the I mean, you’re already splits wizard.

EL: So yeah, but like, you know, Master Majackal is your formal title.

MK: Yeah, you can be the wizard of Myth and Magic.

EL: The Splits Wizard of Myth and Magic. I like it. I like it. It’s good. It’s good. So as usual, how are things going, Mikael?

MK: Yeah. Today I’m really tired and just woke up and felt like three trucks ran over me and then backed over me again. I slept really well, though, but yeah, just really smashed today. I think it’s because I’ve been training several days in a role just like nonstop. And yeah, it just hit me today. So sat out in the sun, like soaked up the last bit of sun. I’ll probably see for the next, I don’t know, six months, seven months still here in Ireland. So, I am at the sitting like about a meter from me and…

EL: We’re actually holding hands right now.

MK: Oh yes, we are like basically going to start a ritual of summoning an old God and so on. But yeah, it was sunny outside. It’s still sunny outside. It was incredible. I don’t know, sitting in the sun and thinking that, look, this is the last for this year, approximately. So other than that, can’t complain. Um, how about you? What have you done today?

EL: I have basically argued with the internet people. Had to cancel a podcast because our internet service is down. And then I got the old runaround on customer service.  Was like, “Yes, we’re fixing your internet right now, and we shall see.” Will it get fixed? So we’ll see next week. We’ll also be just uploading via my mobile data.

MK: Yeah, but that’s the thing I fucking. Ok, so Internet, OK, I understand it’s complicated. But why. There’s only one thing that happens. It either works or it doesn’t, and there is no explanation as to why. You run the troubleshoot. It doesn’t work. You call the fuckers, it doesn’t work. You reset the thing, it just doesn’t work. And it seems like nobody knows why. And maybe like it just seems that are a little fiends living inside the cables that just decide like, OK, fuck you now it doesn’t work. And then that’s the end of it.

EL: Yeah, right? Yeah. Basically, it’s kind of like those like Old World War II Gremlins, what they see on the plane, dismantling the plane as they’re flying. But still someone in your router just randomly poking the circuit board to make it stop working. 

MK: Fucking frustrating. It’s like the only thing that’s worse is Bluetooth. At least like WiFi is kind of like it’s very useful because you can’t run around with cables everywhere, but Bluetooth is just worse. It’s just like you plug it in or you click the fucking thing, and it just doesn’t connect. No one knows why. No one knows how to fix it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it don’t. And you have a fucking jack cable that just works magic. Perfect. The technology’s been there forever, but no, let’s Bluetooth it and make it not work.

EL: Yeah, they’re it’s amazing. Fuck, Bluetooth. So, anyone who knows I play Clone Hero and I have a Bluetooth guitar for it. Holy shit. Getting that Bluetooth guitar to connect to the laptop? It’s impossible. It literally just like it runs on a WII remote and you just have to keep hitting the buttons at the right rhythm on the WII remote to make sure it’s still in pairing mode till hopefully the thing works. If you hold it too close, it doesn’t work, or too far away, it doesn’t work. It has to be like Goldilocks distance. You’re smashing the buttons and walking further and like trying to find that sweet spot where the Bluetooth signal density is strong.

MK: It’s so dumb. And I mean, I understand what’s nice about Bluetooth. That’s not the thing, but why? Why? Why is it just a piece of shit? Like, why is it like that? 

EL: I don’t know. I think if you just got like a four-meter cable for most times, you’re using Bluetooth headphones that would be just fine. Yeah, exactly. Like a Bluetooth headphones. Well, I can only walk four metres away from my phone before it stops working.

MK: Oh, Jesus Christ, what was that? I keep it. Well, yeah, yeah, that’s the thing, like, yeah, cable tech works. So yeah, sometimes I’m just like. And yeah, that’s the best thing with fucking Bluetooth phones like I would never buy one of those because I’d fucking lose them in a nanosecond. So, I would literally need some sort of cable to keep them together. And then like, yeah, well.

EL: We could get you like a Bluetooth headphone piercing or like pierce your nose or something and then run a cable through that phone so it’s always just attached to your head.

MK: That’s not too bad of an idea. That’s a great idea. And then you can install in my pillow some sort of like wireless chargers, which is also a piece of shit tech, by the way, at least from what I’ve seen. Anyway, like topics, we are not a Wi-Fi podcast. Are we just ranting? 

EL: Yeah, we should be. We should be a Wi-Fi podcast. Why technology makes us mad. We’d probably have more listeners. Yeah. Do you think technology annoys you? Would you like to be a Luddite? But anyway, we suppose we are actually going to be talking a bit about technology today. We are going to be talking about the advanced technology of magic pills. And yeah, it’s kind of one of those things, I suppose, if we just look at, if we zoom out a bit and look at the greater fitness industry or, you know, humanity as a whole, there is always, yeah, just the concept of the magic pill. This one thing that is the cause of all your problems. And if you take this magic pill to stop it, suddenly your problems are gone. 

And it’s kind of like, I suppose we’re going to got to this topic from our own sort of talking about things we see in the community, all this stuff and like, it’s just can be a bit epidemic where like there can be simple solutions presented to problems that are slightly complex or possibly almost like there is one way only of doing something. And it’s kind of like, it’s one of the things we talk about a lot that, you know, if you’re obviously following the podcast that there is many ways to do things and like, we obviously have our way of doing things, so we build through experience. But at the same time, we don’t say it is the way and that there is not other ways.

MK: Yeah, I think like, I mean, the old, the closest we can get to a magic pill in this context, is like if you do not practice, then nothing is going to happen. So that will be like an extremely generalized pill. But I think the problem with the magic pills is that they’re very often offering to be very specific. And I think by the nature of kind of marketing and all of that stuff, which basically is about seeming special, seeming as if you have something extraordinary or special to offer, then then this kind of becomes a thing. And I think, of course, within the fitness industry. I mean, I do remember like back in like the TV shop days where like late night TV, just having like fucking yes, some like shit ads for whether it’s like these electro stimulant things on for your muscles or some sort of supplement, or even like a vacuum cleaner that cleans your floor in like this magical, super special way. And it’s just like, it’s solutions for problems that already have solutions in a way. It’s just these ones, propose to do it faster and more effectively. I think nowadays they are more known as like “life hacks” or like “bio hacks” or like any kind of hack where you’re essentially taking some sort of shortcut is at least one very common variation of these kind of magic pills.

EL: Yeah, there is this trend. Obviously, it’s in fitness as a whole, where we get, I don’t know, nonmainstream or slightly contrarian people or contrarian thinkers. And then someone who has developed in a certain way and they’ve done, you know, an amount of training using normal sort of methods, but then suddenly they have invented a new true way. And this is the only way. A lot of time it’s maybe a different explanation of “You must do it this way because I’ve come up with a new” Possibly the practice is the same, but the explanation is… But then it kind of attracts people because it’s like, oh, this person is very, very passionate. Like the person presenting the pill is always generally very passionate about what they have found and always kind of like presents that. It’s almost like that lone genius archetype that people are playing into. And this is like, you know, I don’t go too into the conspiracies, but like “What the mainstream doesn’t want you to know or what I have found out.”

Whereas if we look at most of our kind of advancements in training and other stuff. It’s iterations based on like practice that has been done before and just refinement. And it’s not like, you know, “This one device will fix all your problems.” “This other device will fix all your problems.” “This technical cue will fix all your problems.” It’s always kind of interesting that people who, I don’t know, it’s almost a level of discernment, but then it’s also a level of jadedness with like, let’s face it, you’ve been taking the magic pill of consistency, or you haven’t been taking the magic pill of consistency and you want to replace it with like, yeah, let’s call it. Yeah. You end up swallowing a load of blue pills when you think you want the red pill. Hmm. I will not be using that conspiracy where, you know the red pill is consistency. Yeah, that will break you free of the matrix. And the blue pill is what will keep you trapped going in circles in some way.

MK: Yeah, I think it easily becomes this kind of thing. Or I think this is a tendency not only in training, but a lot there where since it correlates with marketing and all this or that you want to reach a certain goal and you’re very passionate and very focused and you really want to reach this and you’re constantly looking. Is there some sort of way that I can reach it? Is there a secret? Is there a specific method that will solve all these problems more easily than by simple consistency and acceptance over more generalized principles? Such as, yeah, you will need to spend a long time. Not everyone learns at the same speed. Perhaps not everything will fit for everyone. And I think this is one of the things, like the magic pill comes and says, “Oh, well, this actually fits for everyone.” 

EL: Yeah.

MK: Or, if you just apply this principle, then it’ll always get better. And I think that, yeah, the more grandiose the claims, the less likely they are to be true in a sense, unless again, they have to do with these on the surface things such as, consistency, such as like, for example, if you train handstands, if you do zero conditioning, you might be losing out on something. But then if you do only conditioning, you might also lose out on something so like having a balanced approach, whereas you have someone that says that again, you only need to do this for X amount of time and that is going to solve your problems. Or you need to focus on exactly this body part because that’s going to solve all your problems. And there’s one thing that I’ve thought about in terms of the kind of the creation of these types of myths is that, um, I was thinking that because everyone will have a different learning process, everyone will experience different things at different times when they learn that that is a given. Like how the world works. 

And let us now say for me, like some of the cues that I use, for example, I like to use. Yeah, so you want to like feel your trapezius pushing and so on, which I think is a relevant, uh, cue which I’ve spent some time kind of refining. Is this something that seems to work for people? Yes, it does. Might not always, but like it’s a useful thing of fun to use, but at the same time, like the reason I use it is it because it is ultimately universally true? Or perhaps it’s that when I learned my hand balancing in my specific way, the point in time when things started clicking was when I found this to be a thing, and perhaps that was a piece of the puzzle that I was missing or that helped me get in touch with the specific sensation that I needed.

And then I then extrapolate this to everyone and that I think can be an issue when thinking about these things. And again, I still believe that pushing from your trapezius is on average, a very good thing to do. But if I would say that’s OK, but this is the only thing, is the main, most important thing blah blah blah. And keep this as some sort of elevated axiom everyone needs to follow. Then I’m just taking what was my part of the process, which might not be the thing for other people. Because like, as we’ve talked about before, there are people that push way too high. There’s very many of them that like go to the one hundred percent of their push as they’re trying to do two arms because they’ve learned that, oh yeah, you need to push high so suddenly, like, well, this for this person, it might almost be totally the opposite. You actually need to not spend 100 percent of your push power as you kick up, for example. So, yeah, just this idea that as we develop these thoughts that to us or to the individual that is, then the teacher seems to be the ultimate thing that can actually just be almost circumstantial in certain situations.

EL: Yeah, I think it’s kind of interesting for me because I don’t say I’m in the fitness industry, but I always straddle the lines for what I do and teach. And there is kind of a process that I’ve noticed where, like coaches can build a bias, like when there’s an explanation bias, the way you prefer to explain things. Let’s face it, you’re not really going to change that because that’s kind of a preference. That’s fine, but it kind of goes like: If you start looking at students or methodologies you’ve applied, there’s a kind of survivor bias, whereas like if I work with a coach and their coaching methodology doesn’t really work for me, they’ll drop off in six, twelve weeks. They’ll be like, OK, I just don’t get on. It doesn’t work the cueing thing. But then you end up with a group of people who will cluster around your cueing and coaching style, and maybe you have standards, maybe you decided like, I want people to do X before you can do Y. And then the people who have success kind of begin to show, oh, this was working, whereas you’re kind of not, we’re not like, this is why we have the scientific method is to remove all these things or be able to assess them. It’s like it is difficult to do a training thing. Obviously, it’s like, oh, you know, I find the people who can train five days a week get best results. So, you have to train five days a week to get handstand, to get one arm. It’s very good to be able to train a lot. But then there could also be factors like if someone can train five days a week, it possibly means they have their life, the whole outside of their life, aligned to being able to train five days a week. It’s not possible for a lot of people have a social life and other kind of things or work or things. So, then it’s like, oh, well, I can do my five to three hour sessions a week. And then also, I have the ability to do all the soft things that go around the gym, which, you know, look after diet. All these kind of things would align more. And then it’s like, oh, the method is successful. Is that the method or is it the selection for the people? 

MK: Yeah. 

EL: And that’s kind of  — I think that’s where a lot of these kind of magic pills and magic methods come in and say, “This is it. It has to be done this way.” Why? Because everyone who survived through my sort of coaching filtering process has got results this way, whereas you’re discounting like the forty percent or fifty percent drop off rate you had over the years. So, people are just like done a bit, didn’t work for them, found something else that worked for them. 

MK: And I think this is very much the case because I mean, if you follow that line all the way to the end, you end up at a cult, kind of. Basically, because you’re creating so much of this kind of internal feedback loop towards this one person or this one group of people that control the narrative. So that, I think literally those people will then start like not only believing that, OK, my method and my way is correct, but that it goes to the delusional stage, which obviously is rare in circles talking about, yeah, just training. 

But I mean, the social phenomenon is the same like you create an insular circle and then you get feedback in a certain way. You basically, by bias, start favoring certain views and discarding others. And just being aware of this, I think, is super important. And yeah, notice if something isn’t working for someone, it might not be because of them. It might be because of you and like one thing I was thinking about a lot when I was teaching in circus schools, was this that like if because then it’s a different context then if you’re just like teaching someone either online or like in kind of a more casual context. These people are going to be professionals and so on. Many of them were kind of forced to work on kind of quote unquote basics, which didn’t really bring them much further because they had then certain limitations. But then you had like high time talents and other things. But if I’m the coach here and I’m going to force them through this very narrow kind of gap, and that will be the filtering process. Like I might actually lose out on their talents because they might spend a year getting through that gap. And if I tell them, oh, well, but unless you can do that, you are per se not qualified to do more or other things.

This guy who could fucking pull his legs off the ground and from a bridge to Mexican perfectly. And then it was other things that he was not good at and I was like, “Hey, but this guy should just get really good at this!” Particularly in circus, because like he needs to have an act. He needs to have a vocabulary that he can use in an act that needs to be specific and this is useful and impressive. And the more unique it is, the better. So why he should be subjected to having to kind of conform to this, to this arbitrary standards that were set by? He had a very old school coach before is kind of useless. And I think that this can be important in general because ultimately, I think like a teacher, depending, of course, on the on the context on what the trainee wants to learn and so on, you’re trying to guide them. But if you’re just basically going hard mode the world: “This is what you have to deal with or else you don’t pass my quality.” Well, the person might like, then you might need to kind of discuss the back and forth. Perhaps you’re not actually wanting to get — perhaps it’s not good to aim for one arm right now because you don’t have the time commitment. And then it’s better to maybe work on these things and later on put into that so that, like the coach can more act as kind of guiding through what they actually want to do rather than imposing from above. This is what you have to deal with.

EL: There’s this kind of thing that I think about a lot, or maybe not a lot, but I think it’s common in fitness, it’s common in handstands. The idea of standards as a Magic Pil. That you have to obtain certain standards before you do something else and as coaches we do need to have certain standards. We do need to go like this is the thing. But then the standards actually have to kind of be flexible in terms of the person in front of you. This is, I suppose, where magic pills get it is like they’re inflexible. Yeah. And that is like, we’re always dealing with unique individuals and shades of gray and past training issue issues and, you know, different baselines, different learning styles, all this. 

So it’s cool to have, you know, you want to do a one-arm handstand. Well, you need to be able to do X amount of presses and a two minute freestanding handstand. And, you know, that kind of thing. And you know, these kind of standards, and then you can work on the one-arm. Whereas other people, as we know, have been very successful at the one-arm without those standards. Maybe, you know, that’s the thing. Standards are good, and they’re definitely good to have a set of standards/things you think people need to work on based on your experience and the way you coach.

But then at the same time, when the standards become the be all and end all that like, you know, you can see this in fitness at the moment, like there’s the knee influencer trend at the moment. Has anyone spotted that? Where it’s like obviously off the back of the whatsername, the (verify name) guy who is the knee, the knee dude. He will fix your knee pain by obtaining certain mathematical standards. And if you don’t obtain those standards, you know, then you will have knee pain. And if you obtain the standards, you won’t have knee pain. And like, you know, he’s obviously got his own basis and works for a lot of people. But then it doesn’t work for other people. So, then we go, OK, well, the standards aren’t universal. You know, I’ve dealt with enough people get in touch with me going, I’ve tried this thing, I’ve achieved the standards, I still have knee pain. Can I work with you? And let’s see, can we do something about it? Fine. 

And then, you know, I know other people go like, I followed this person’s program, I had knee pain for ages and it was great. It fixed everything. So we can kind of see, like even just there and sort of more general fitness that has a bigger uptake. You can always see that there is, you know, I don’t know, I have no numbers and no actual statistics, but maybe 50/50 of people who get success with the standards and people who don’t or 80/ 20, even or whatever.

MK: And like on top of that, also, it’s just important that like if you follow such a thing and you’re interested, you’re engaged, there is a high likelihood that that baseline pill of consistency is going to be in there. So, then we end up at again, like the kind of scientific problem with a lot of these things and within manual therapies, from what I understand too that like commitment, placebo, et cetera, all these things kind of feed into this. So, it becomes increasingly difficult to knowing, OK, was it this particular parameter that mattered or was it a combination of many things? And maybe also importantly, you did a bunch of stuff? 

EL: Yeah. 

MK: So yeah, it’s certainly kind of tricky. And I think also like a little bit in terms of that with standards, I would like to reiterate back to that point I had before. Like, for example, let’s say like a coach has experienced that. Yeah, like by the time I hit five minutes handstand on the wall, I started being able to do X Y Z. So therefore, I will then say five minutes on the wall is a standard because that gave me and perhaps even other people a certain baseline. Certain standards like five minutes on the wall is obviously a lot, a lot of time on the wall, which…

EL: A lot of you Chinese. 

MK: Fair enough. But yes, that will give you. You will be overqualified in terms of the ability to hold your weight for a lot of stuff if you can do for five minutes. But then again, is that necessary to move towards other skills? You know what I mean? Like that is the thing. So I think being kind of more lenient with a lot of those things is useful so that you’re able to kind of, you know, basically work with more people. 

And again, I think we also come back to that like the kind of the ghost of sports and performance within this that, like you will as a coach, perhaps have these like high standards like, oh yeah, but if you train this, it must be because you’re trying to aim for these particular high level skills. And in reality, that is very seldom the case. And I think it’s funny because some people know, OK, yeah, yeah, I never want to do like jumping around the one-arm. But I like to press, and some people know that. And like by the time they get there, they might go further. Some people think they want to jump around on one-arm, but they don’t know what time it takes to get there. And they might just stop before they get that far. And that’s fine. But to have the ability to kind of, OK, well, this this is where we are. This is what we’re working on. This is what potentially can lead you in this direction. And I think that is like a more reasonable approach to having such things rather than just be like, OK, well, if you want to work in this way, then you must follow this narrow chosen path. 

And again, if you are a competitive gymnast, if you want to be like a circus artist competing at Cirque du Demain. Ok, well, you probably have to go down a quite narrow path. Yeah, and train in a specific way and aim for certain things. But like, not like there are, there is like a margin of people that that are even aiming for that kind of stuff. So that’s where I think that, yeah, the coaching thing and kind of the dispensation of magic pills needs to be a bit more self-critical.

EL: The two or three minutes chest to wall handstand and that’s the thing. The other thing is like magic pills come and go as memes as well. Like I remember when I was first coaching, it was coming from gymnastics bodies and other people kind of who influenced that circle. Possibly, maybe he didn’t have such high standards on it, but whatever. And it’s just like it was a thing in the community that you need this before you can start doing handstands. Before you can start balancing. And like, there are so many people I met over the years who just stopped hand standing because they couldn’t obtain that standard. 

And like, you know, even within our own sort of personal circle, you could imagine if we told Elise. So, Elise is the producer of most important handstand thing. Have you here doing the voiceover at the end of the cast? And if we told her “You have to do two minutes chest to wall handstands for five sets before we allow you do handstands.” How long she would last in that training?

MK: She’d last a half a set and go, “Fuck this, this is no fun.” And she would never return. This is not her thing.

EL: Probably would be good for her, but it’s still just not her thing. It’s just like, she’s just not going to do it, and it’s just not her personality type. And then it’s kind of it. Then it goes like that filtering thing because you can find people and you can definitely find people who got the two-minute chest to wall standard for learning handstands and then became really good on the back of it. So, then it’s kind of like, oh, this is the magic pill for beginners. You have to be able to do this before you can do that. And that’s the kind of thing you have to watch out for. Success obviously leaves clues, but you also have to factor in is the success in spite of this? Or is it success for personality type?

MK: Also, I think what a lot of this kind of cueing can also miss out on a lot is this stuff of different bodies because I remember I’ve seen this a lot, uh, many places where you have this. OK, well, this is how you need to do it and this is how you need to understand the movement. And when you understand that, then this is going to work because I can do it. And I think I think one of the best culprits of that is like tuck jumps and presses and that stuff where you have the people who just have favorable whatever it is and they learn it fast and then you have the people who just like, like one lady I worked with, she had she worked for like over a year to get a tuck jump to handstand and she was like killing herself over it. She got it in the end. But for her, it was a massive amount of work, whereas you have someone else who just comes in, never done a handstand before and just presses the handstand perfectly. You’ll have these two outliers, while most will be kind of more in the center of the bell curve, obviously. Yeah. But uh, like if you have, then such a cueing or such kind of a strict system where there is seemingly one A leads to B automatically, then then you’re going to miss out on a lot of people or you will start needing to find explanations or dig after explanations. Which then also might like feed into your bias and you think, “Oh, well, that this person isn’t training it correctly” Or whatever. 

And I think it’s really important to be kind of careful of those pitfalls because it’s like people are different. It’s just not this thing where everyone can be expected to follow the exact route. And of course, there’s like there’s so much to be said in in favor of following a similar route because we know that like if you want to learn the handstand, like if you spend the whole day playing badminton, you’re not going to learn the handstand from it, for a stupid example. But like, you need to do something that is very close to doing a handstand, obviously, right? But we can’t be too anal about, OK, this one. That’s the one that will solve your problems. And if that doesn’t work for you, well, you just need to work a bit harder because I think the working hard thing easily becomes kind of a get out of jail free card. Yeah, if you have too kind of rigid a structure.

EL: Yeah, I can definitely think of a classic one of I’ve had one client who trained with me for quite a while. Very nice guy. And he was just to give a kind of overview. So he was doing online coaching with a group who had them training 10 sessions a week. AM session and PM session 10 sessions. Split it out. Two rest days. Yeah, five days in a row or something like that. He also worked as a builder. So, a very physical job like just up early in the morning, had to go training, then go to work, then go back to his little train and then go home, then eat and sleep.

It worked for a short while and then it stopped working and this training was very rigid. I’m sure some people can probably guess what it is. There was only one way. It was just presented as this is your program. This is what you do. And then it wasn’t working for him after a certain point, after the first initial six weeks and then the next six weeks it tapered down. Then after that, like, he still go to quite a while and it just kind of slowly ate away at him and he couldn’t do the training. And then the answer was like when the results were coming in, it’s like “You’re not working hard enough.” Whereas like, I trained this guy, like you could not accuse them of not working hard enough. Like he put it, like rigid. Done literally like everything you think about that would make you successful in the gym. Journaled all his sets and reps. Ate very well. Tried to get as much sleep as possible, you know. Tracked his heart rate in the morning. All these kind of things like every kind of fitness thing you can think of tracking. But then because the training wasn’t working, then it was like, “Oh, well, you’re just not working hard enough.” “You need to work harder in the sessions.” 

And, it’s like, well, no. Then I swapped him into a five day a week training. He was one of those people who just have to train. I would prefer to put him to three days a week, actually, but it was like five days a week was our medium, one session a day. And then he started getting results again because he was working hard enough. He was just working too hard, actually. And that kind of can feed into it. 

I know from some particular school of coaching, which I’m not going to name, where tuck jumps, tuck jumps onto a bench like one of these kind of gym benches was the gold standard. You had to be able to do a certain amount of tuck jump hold for three seconds straight now to three seconds down to tucks to three seconds, and then you have to be able to do twenty reps of this. And that was it. That was before you could do any other handstand stuff, you just had to do that. 

And, you know, as we said with tuckjumps, a lot of people just don’t get them. And then as it would result in the school, it was very physically and athletically competitive among the student body was the way I would describe. It’s very well big specimens, very good, very physically talented and generally suck that in. But then the people who are like, OK, instead of just going over the top twenty reps of this, they would spend like hours a day working on this one thing to get it right to pass.

Like by the end of it, they might have been doing like three hundred attempts spread out over the course of the day of doing this skill, like twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there, or do something else twenty minutes later. And it just wasn’t working. And then they were told, “Oh, you’re just not working hard enough or too weak.” And that’s probably a big cue, if you know the two weak cue, you know who I’m talking about. Anyway, it was just like, oh, it’s like, well, actually, maybe just not. It’s not a good choice for an exercise for this person. And it’s kind of funny because like I know some of the people who are training it. Mainly girls who just didn’t have a favorable hip structure and size for tuck jumps, but because they had amazing splits and pancakes, their straddle jumps were just like chef’s kiss, you know, there’s not a fault. Like no toes pointed, knees pointed, shoulders stacking properly. Everything, right. But no, no, you won’t let these straddle jumps in class or as prescribed because you couldn’t do the tuck jump standard.

MK: Yeah, yeah, there’s way too much to that. And like, there’s one thing that I also thought about in terms of this, which I’ve done a lot myself and I, which I think a lot of people that are into this type of training might do. And that is like because as you get into your practice and as you train over many years, you might not like work directly with anyone and you work yourself and you start analyzing and micromanaging and trying out different methods and different ways. And maybe this and maybe that. And oh, if I change my technique like this, what about if I have my weight here in the hand and you start to fiddle around loads and loads and loads with all of these kind of cerebral details where you spend so much time up in your head thinking about, oh, now it felt like this, now it felt like that. And what you’re doing instead of going in and repeating, trying to do the things because obviously again, you need some standards. And like now, I’m now I’m talking about like people who are reasonably experienced who try to refine what they’re doing. So, like you feel, need set you, you think and you focus and maybe this, maybe that, maybe this, maybe that and you’re actually putting yourself in a state where you’re never actually just like being focused in the moment, allow the body to do what it does and try to do it as well as you can with your focus on it.

But instead you go, OK, but if I go up and I put my shoulder there and then I put my there and then I push like this and I breathe twice and then I release like, if you have this kind of thing, you’re constantly going to be like shifting it back and forth and trying to to do a process. Because ultimately, what you’re trying to do when you’re balancing is you need like you want it to feel as if you’re on a bike or if you’re just standing on your feet, that is the level you want. It’s the impossible standard that you’re trying to move towards, where it is intuitive one hundred percent. And then yes, you need a bunch of technical cueing and all this so that you end up in a favorable placement for your body so you don’t need to use so much energy. But as you’re there, you need to learn to be there to focus on that. And yeah, biking, walking, etc. this is the approximation. This is what you want to want to get towards, and you’re not going to be constantly analyzing your biking technique as you bike because you’re in balance on the bike because you can bike. And here we are basically doing biking, but extremely difficult and complex and strength and all that crap.

So but yeah, I’ve done this a lot. I’ve done a ton of times where I’ll try to shift this or try to shift this. What if I want to do a figa if I shoot my hips back like this? Or if I do it like that? Or now I’m going to try to change my training in this way, and then I’m going to do this that day and this that day. And then like, you end up like you’ve done two years of training, but you’ve done like fifty-four different programs, quote unquote, which is never a program. So, it was just you fiddling around trying to look for a magic pill. I will get it strong enough if I train like this, if I train like that, if I do two days like this blah blah blah blah blah, all this stuff. 

I, at least from my experience with the way that I’ve trained, like very little of it has carried over to any actual, tangible experience that I use other than the experience of this didn’t work particularly well, like literally because I’ve tried way too many things and way too many approaches. And what you end up with is rather basic at the end. And I think that that is like kind of where it ties into the magic pills as well. In the end, it comes down to you and consistency with the practice.

EL: That’s kind of the other thing, I suppose on the magic pill side of things, but the pills take time to work sometimes. You can’t just take one of them. It’s like any kind of medication, I suppose. You just have to like, take enough of them. Now here’s me speaking in favor of magic pills, but it is like, you know, it is definitely worth investigating if a coach says this is the thing. 

The people who have a magic pill in any kind of thing will have a magic pill because they’ve seen it work. If it didn’t work, then they are a snake oil salesman. So, it’s not impossible that this person’s magic pill won’t work for you. And that’s kind of this where things get a bit nebulous. But the problem is you have to take enough pills for it to work. And if you don’t take enough pills then it’s just not going to work, and that’s kind of what we see with program dropping, program jumping and other stuff. It’s epidemic in fitness. This is like, “Oh, I’m doing whatever diet. I’m doing keto diet. I’m doing Long Beach, I’m doing high carb, low carb.” They’ll all work if they’re based on sound principles but, you know, one of them might work better for you. Just even just pure psychology. I prefer eating this way or prefer training this way. You do have to try them out, but you still have to give them time to actually show some kind of training adaptation. And you know, I can remember this even from my fitness training days in like, say, T-Nation. Like, you know this, you know, I’m not embarrassed to say, but like, I used to get a lot of training programs off T-Nation when I was first starting out because they put a lot of free stuff up and it was for the undiscerning newbie to fitness, it was very, everyone was very compelling.

MK: Like better than what you would have done yourself at that time.

EL: Yeah, it was like one hundred percent better than what I would have made myself in terms of like, I’ve never been in a weight room before. I’m only like three or four months, but there was like definitely a phase of me just going like, “Oh, this week I’m doing Joe the Franco’s vertical jump program because he said it would fix my vertical job.” Next week, I’m doing Christian Thibaudeau’s Vertical Jump program, which is the exact opposite of Franco’s program. And you know, then you realize how they’re just writing the articles, basically clickbait you into going like, “Oh, heavy singles is the only way to do it.” “Loads of volume is the only way to do it.” And then for the discerning person, you’re like, “Oh shit.” Fomo kicks in basically. Fear of missing out on a magic pill. And as we know, if you start combining random pills together as well, like it’s a recipe for disaster. I spent most of my teen years doing that and it’s, you know.

MK: Particularly if you get all your pills on the street.

EL: Yeah, that’s the other thing. Like a lot of the internet is basically like the shady corner, like, oh my god, I just realized that the internet is like that drug dealer you were always warned about that hands out free samples, though I’ve never gotten free samples myself in the past, I have to say that, but it’s like, “Oh yeah, kid, try this.” And you see on Instagram someone will put it, and I’m guilty of this as well. I put lots of stuff up for people for free to try. It was like, you know, oh, try this technique. You go, oh, that technique hit hard. Better get more of that. And then, you know, it’s kind of that kind of thing. It was just like, oh, yeah, like, you know, try this and try it out. And then like, obviously, like, say, from the T-nation days, all the coaches would have, you know, an e-book or a manual they were selling at the end. And I was like, “Oh, try this one phase of my thing program. Oh, that kicked in. I better buy the whole thing.” And suddenly you’re down like ten grand a year, buying training programs and swapping programs every three weeks because you just like, can’t follow a fucking spreadsheet. Whereas you could have spent like, you know, fifty quid on a good program that was good as long as it was sound principles. And then you just go, OK, boom, I’m just going to follow this and stick with it and see if this magic pill works for me. And you don’t really know. You know, I do have a strong belief. You don’t really know if the magic pill is actually working until you’ve done it for about six months almost or if the program is working.

MK: Yeah, I think there’s another one like that. It’s very, very connected, I think, but kind of more on the kind of nocebo. Nocebo effect side of things, and if you don’t know what nocebo is, it’s the opposite of placebo. Basically, the idea of you think you’re sick and then you become sick and that I’ve seen a lot. I think that is even more festering in like the general fitness community than it is in handstand. But it’s this idea that unless you do this in this particular way, you will get injured. Yeah, because there is a quote unquote perfect technique and then there is a flawed technique. And then if you diverge from the narrow-chosen path, you are going to get injured. And again, in the same way as with the success of people like the coach who says, oh yeah, but that person is injured. Oh yeah, that’s probably why, because the person does not listen like that or that they’ve seen someone get injured or yeah, that must be because they strayed from the technique, etc. So as if there is a certain method of doing this that will keep you safe, like the entire bullet-proofing nonsense, which of course, if you train and you are strong and stable in various positions and then you challenge those positions within a reasonable degree and then you don’t hurt yourself and then you call yourself bulletproof, whereas, what you actually are in is just pretty good shape. Yeah, that  might be the case. And what frustrates me in terms of handstand with this is that like all of the talk of this perfect technique, then it relates to the straight lines and kind of the stacking and all of that stuff, which as we know is effective both in terms of learning and in terms of aesthetics. But um, it’s not like we take the idea from architecture. Like these, like a straight built building is good because it’s straight and then the body must also be straight and that is safe and the curve is unsafe. And this is nonsense. Like there are, of course, within certain degrees you need to pay attention. But like, I think the best example is the old school like vaudeville era acrobats and all the arched handstands back in the 1920s. And stuff like if you look at what a lot of these people were doing, they were not athletes when they were fifteen that were retired when they were thirty. But like Paulinetti, for example, in the True Art and Science of Hand Balancing. He started hand balancing at the age of twenty-six and he was in his prime in his forties. Yeah, so like. And because a lot of the people that that like it wasn’t, it wasn’t just the same kind of, I mean, I wasn’t there because I can’t say it exactly, of course. But like, you can see that many of the acrobats were basically this was their professions into kind their middle age and towards 50, and they were not doing things as we were. And like, like, why weren’t they all injured? Like, why weren’t every single one of them injured? If this principle that we need to do it in this particular way or else you get injured, if that was true, then all of them would be injured. And instead, you see fucking like, I have a picture on my computer of this old school guy from an act who is doing like he’s doing, like he’s lifted his wife I assume it is on one arm and then he does a one arm planche on the other one by using her as a counterweight. And he’s just like insane or people doing this like super high up stuff or like someone walking a roll (inaudible) or having like a guy on standing on his head on one arm. 

And like this, we have to account for just that point of that, like the body is pretty adaptable and pretty amazing at dealing with whatever pressures you put on it if you allow it to develop well, and injuries will not directly correlate to doing quote unquote right or wrong in all contexts. And in some, it might be like I don’t know much about power lifting and stuff like that, but I assume if you’re going to max out your shit based on your capacity, you might want to concentrate extra on doing everything correctly. But if you’re just going to pick up a box and you can like deadlift 300 kilos, I mean, you’re probably going to be OK by just grabbing the box and lifting it up.

EL: Yeah. Then it is like that thing of over specialization as well, actually kind of kicks in with athletes and other stuff. Like I remember, I was on a bodybuilding forum one time and people were comparing the times when they’ve torn their pecs. And the vast consensus people have torn their pecs was when they were moving house. And these are all like big, strong people. But at a very limited range of exercises. And they all tore their pecs, was the consensus, where the most kind of peck injuries that happened was kind of a poll. And yeah, of just like, Oh, where? It’s like, oh, I’ve got very strong in this range. And now, because I’m moving outside the range, then I will tweak something. So it could be like a case almost against too much technique because it’ll put you in a very limited range. Mm-hmm. And you could say, we need to be able to outside the range. So this goes back the bullet proofing. One other thing I have about bullet proofing is like, I know a lot of people who’ve been seriously fucking injured from bullet proofing exercises like seriously injured. ACL tears from like doing stupid like knee rehab, knee rehab kind of stuff you just like, well, maybe, yeah, that’s the problem. It’s like, but they got a lot of people to fix their knees from bullet proofing knee exercises. Yeah, it’s always shades of grey, and I suppose that’s the interesting thing that keeps us going back. It’s like there is no one true answer, but there is answers. Yeah, and maybe the answer for me is not the answer for you. Maybe the red pill for me is actually the black pill.

MK: I think it’s interesting and like what you say also with this, yeah, being able to move in various ways and so on, like it’s certainly healthy. It’s certainly great to be able to do a bunch of different things with your body. I mean, like me and now having smashed my body in this shit for like 15 years, it feels great to do other exercises. It feels like it’s kind of on an intuitive physical level, it feels smart in a sense to move in other ways than I only do. And but the point is perhaps that there isn’t. It’s very difficult to find just like a specific equation to this. Like, you must do exactly this much of this and this much of that. Approach it rather with kind of, a grey-er angle. And it’s OK. Well, it’s good. Like if you’re doing loads of handstands and stuff like that. Yeah, it might be great for you to do some pulling work and some pull ups and some rows and some of that. Is it going to destroy your entire career and your body forever if you don’t? Probably not. I don’t know loads of like pain free hand balancers who don’t bother doing pull ups, but like, might it be a good, well, good idea and an investment of your time over time? Yeah, sure, I think so. But yeah, it’s, we cannot, since none of us within this, particularly, it’s very limited range of hand balancing kind of training, we don’t have any like large long term studies with thousands of people and like comparative data and like all that stuff. We don’t have that. So, everything kind of becomes to one degree or another, speculation.

And yeah, I think that is a very frustrating answer because I feel it’s also in relation to these magic pills is like it’s something a lot of people want. Yeah, and I have also wanted that and sometimes I’m like, “Fuck, I wish I found a way to just train this.” So, it always worked like that, yeah, like, it’s there. There is a want for consistency and understanding of the world, but the world is a really confusing place. Just as a baseline. And yeah, the constant search. I mean, I’ve worked with people who were like on a constant search of, “Yeah, but there must be a way to make this feel so easy and effortless every single time because I experienced it once.” But like this person said that if you think like that, then then that should lead to this. And then, yeah, that must be the way or the words were very lofty and so on and so on. And then you kind of miss out on all the complexity and kind of the grittiness around it or people coming to you and telling you. Oh, yeah, but when you’re going to do a press, you just need to suck up your stomach like this and then lean forwards and you take two breaths and then your legs go up like, well, like you’re mega flexible and you weigh fourteen kilos. There’s many things that kind of play into it, which is really important to not get too carried away with with these kind of perfect solutions because they’re very, very, very rarely perfect.

EL: Yeah, I think that’s the kind of thing it’s like you need, when taking some magic pills, I think you need this level of optimism, to buy this is the pill that will fix it. And maybe it will. Like, you know, we could define the pills we have. Like the technique pill, the strength pill, the flexibility pill, the over complicated explanation pill, the technical understanding pill. There’s a lot of different pills out there. But like if you took one pill, you have to have hope, like, yes, this will be the one that will do it, and I’ve committed to it. I go all in and take a whole bucket of them and then see. And then you go, “Oh, maybe the flexibility pill wasn’t what I needed or maybe needed a stronger dose of it. I don’t know.” But where am I going with this analogy? But I mean, well, you get what I’m saying because like if you go in, it’s like you have to placebo yourself into thinking this shit will work anyway. But at the same time, you should be aware of like, I’m taking something.

MK: Of course, your degree of commitment is something that is important, but ultimately just ends up with consistency, right? Like that is what it comes down to, and that is why I love that analogy of like you can brute force basically almost anything in at least in this type of training. And then again, not brute force just in terms of brute strength, but the brute forcing us in terms of hacking like you try enough times, your body will figure something out and that might be extremely inefficient, particularly when things are very, very, very complicated. 

EL: I would love to see someone just skip two-arm handstands completely and just go straight to working the one-arm kick up. Yeah, I’d love to see that. It’s totally experimental. Take someone obviously someone who is strong, let’s say, a calisthenics athlete, someone who’s pretty good at calisthenics is pretty strong. Generally, in pretty good shape. And I want to see them skip two-arm handstands and just go, “I’m just going to kick up to one-arm handstands.” And see how long — you’re going to need someone who likes a grind. So probably someone who plays wow or something like that and just goes like, OK, I’m just going keep trying kicking up to one arm handstands on both sides, and I’m just going to spend three or four years going out and see, do they end up with a one arm handstand? In the same time scale it would take someone who started going, “I’ll do two arms, I will get my presses, I’ll get shapes, I’ll go the kind of more traditional route to it.” And see, does it work faster or not?

MK: Like, it’s funny you were talking about that because I did see there was some guy…

EL: We could add the brute force pill as a pill.

MK: There was a guy that had these… Kaizo Mario. So, he basically went for, I think, because I mean, for those who don’t know, Kaizo Mario, basically like a bunch of people that have hacked Super Mario World and Super Nintendo made ridiculously, impossible difficult hacks of the game.

EL: Let me add a bit to that as well. It’s not just impossible hacks, they’re very, very difficult. But people decided life wasn’t hard enough, and they needed to suffer more. Yeah, so they made these things to make yourself suffer with.

MK: Yeah, it’s extremely brutally difficult even for kind of people who have played these for years. But there was a guy that had never played any Kaizo hack before at all. He maybe had played the original Super Mario World or he was a gamer, but he decided to go for Storks as his first hack. So, Storks is the name of a hack that’s made by a guy named Morsel, who makes ridiculously complicated, very difficult and hard to read…

EL: Very fast as well.

MK: Yeah, and like, that hack is like, it’s not the hardest one out there, but it is very, very hard. And like just starting on that, I think he had spent several hundred hours and he had barely cleared like the first level. And that would actually be kind of comparable because like a person kicking it straight up onto one arm, like there is so much shit you’d have to figure out, like to an extreme degree. So, it’s like almost impossible for the body to get enough kind of biofeedback to be able to sort out this problem. And a little bit the same for him because like, you barely know how this game works and you’re going to solve, like extremely complicated, very precise, really quick movements that like take pro players of these games a hundred hours to beat sometimes. So yeah, I was just thinking of that as kind of a similar thing. It would be basically like me if I sit down like, I don’t know how to play chess, let’s play against Magnus Carlsen. Probably a great idea. Like, what’s the rules again? I move this. How does this move?

EL: Yeah, yeah, that’s the kind of thing it’s just like I think so if anyone’s listening and they don’t do handstands. I like to imagine we have listeners who don’t do handstands. If we do, if you don’t do handstands and just listen to our podcast, let me know I’d really like to know that. Otherwise, that would be, yeah, that would make my day if we had some listeners. And then the challenge will be like, you’re just going to do a hundred thousand kick ups to one arm and stand over the next three years. Yeah.

MK: How many injuries that will take to do.

EL: Yeah. Well, this thing you obviously have to like calisthenics, because they would have a good experience on training and how it feels and early warning signs for stuff. And, yeah, also a ballerina, actually. You know, I could imagine a ballerina, someone who is like high level ballet because they’d have the flexibility that have body coordination and sensation level. I. Actually imagine them having an attempt at it.

MK: Yeah. If someone like mega-trained as a dancer. I think that would be one of the better categories to go for something like that because I mean, I would say that a B-Boy would probably be the best, but they know how to handstand. They know how to do it at least something there. So, you need to have someone who’s completely green. And I think like, yeah, ballet dancer. So would probably be one of the better, better like people at attempting.

EL: Maybe a pole dancer as well. Maybe they have enough for pole dance as well. Someone’s got to pole dance. So, there you go. We’re looking for a ballerina or a pole dancer or calisthenics person. To attempt this experiment because it’s kind of like, but this is the kind of thing it could just be. It could turn out that it’s actually the fastest way to get a one arm handstand. It could turn out like in three years you’ll have a one arm handstand versus five years if you go the other route of doing other stuff.

MK: Yeah, I wonder. It’s an unlikely scenario, but it is interesting. 

EL: The Brute Force pill, I want to see it work in this way.

MK: Omega brute force.

EL: So, I think we’ll wrap it up there. Yeah, take the finishing pill. I do have some cyanide capsules lying around here. 

Speaking of cyanide, so quick aside, so some farmer was found in the county over from where I live here in Ireland with enough cyanide. It’s just like they do agricultural inspections of your farms and stuff no big deal. And they just randomly found some in his shed on his land that I don’t even know how he had it or if he knew he had it. He had enough cyanide to kill like two hundred thousand people. Just had like buckets of the shit laying around.

MK: Holy shit. Messed up.

EL: Some old farmer, you know, close to retirement age. Well, what is he going to retire? Just like, yeah, I’m retired, and so is everyone else.

MK: Here’s my genocide shed. 

EL: Yeah. Anyway, so yeah, come over, hang out in Ireland, we have cyanide. Other than that, we suppose we’ll wrap up there.

MK: Yes, cheers.



Latest Episodes