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S2 Episode 76: The Stalder Press


In this episode Emmet and Mikeal discuss the Stalder press and all things low pressing.

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S2E76 – The Stalder Press

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Transcript of Episode 76: The Stalder Press

EL: Hello, and welcome back to the Handstandcast with me, Emmet Lewis and my glorious co-host Mikael Kristiansen. How are things going Mikael?

MK: Glorious!

EL: Yeah. How are things going? 

MK: They are going. Same as yesterday, as the chef used to say on the cruise ship I worked on. Um, no, not too bad. Still caffeinating, waking up early morning podcast is…Early morning? What the hell is the time? It’s not! 

EL: It’s 12:00!

MK: It’s still early morning for me. Like, I haven’t actually had a significant amount of caffeine yet. Slept kind of bad. Can’t complain. Other than that, been here in Ireland, I’m still sitting in front of Emmet in the same room. I’ve been in Ireland. I don’t know how long have I been here? I don’t know. Two weeks, three, two weeks, three, something like that. 

So yeah, can’t complain about that. I’m going to go to my hometown in a few days where it’s going to be glorious autumn colors just for a few days before I head back to Stockholm. So yeah, how about yourself?

EL: I don’t know. It’s just been. Yeah, same shit every day, but different shit, but still same. It’s going to. I’d like to say I’ve done something interesting over the last while, but we’ve just been fucking putting the grind in on some new work that will be announced soon enough I suppose that’ll be cool.

MK: And walking the dog man.

EL: Walking the dogman. Yeah, walking the dogman every day. Every day he needs his walk, every day he gets it, every day he bites us.

MK: He ate my origami paper. It’s my own fault, but he was basically in fiend mode as young dogs suddenly just get zoomies. And I had left my paper. It was quite far in on the table.

EL: I think it was hanging out.

MK: No, I remember I put it-

EL: I think it was just like how you put your coffee on things…

MK: And then he just like, snuck up and grabbed it and rest in pieces. It was only, luckily one fourth of the large square I was making, but it was a bummer because I had to do the entire mega boring process all over again. But then again, that’s what I’m here to do.

EL: Yeah, as everyone knows, when you have a young dog, basically, once it hits about eight o’clock to nine o’clock, suddenly it is zoom and crazy time, and our dog is not the exception.

MK: Know Jesus Christ like completely like all wholesome and calm and like 9:30 blitzed out of your mind by things, by things, destroy!

EL: I’m like, you know, equal parts sad that he, like, ruined your hard work. But I’m kind of it was very confusing when that happened. It’s like, oh shit, he’s got it. I thought he had a scrap of paper. Oh, no, it’s the full sheet. Yeah, suck it, Mikael.

MK: It’s all crushed. But yeah, we got through it. Made another one. Now we are in the process of folding a T-Rex skeleton. Yeah, it’s going to be lots of suffering in the next couple of weeks.

EL: Yeah, I look forward to seeing the end result of it now that I’ve seen-

MK: Me too. I just hope I can actually figure it out or I think I can. And I wrote the Korean guy who is the designer, and he said I could ask him for advice if needed and on the skull and figuring that out. That might actually need a bit of assistance to see what the fuck is what, because it’s very difficult to make out. 

But as usual, we have a theme, don’t we? Now we are three minutes and 58 seconds into the thing, according to the box. And yeah, we still haven’t talked about handstands.

EL: We haven’t even like, we haven’t even done any conspiracies this week. We should probably do that. Anyway, our theme this week is Joe Rogan.

MK: Bro, Jogan.

EL: And Alex Jones. No, our theme this week is Stalder press and low pressing and stuff based around that, I suppose. I know we’ve covered high pressing, as we call it, and we’ll cover the link and the full thing, the full shebang and a few training techniques, bit of insight, everything else. So, first kind of thing I think is interesting just to throw out there is Stalder press is a weird movement because the name comes from a high bar move or an asymmetrics bar move where a Stalder is like a swinging straddle up to handstand if I’m right. It’s kind of got called, you know, the Stalder press on the floor via that because it’s the same kind of action.

MK: I wonder where that actually happened because I do know, among others, Yuval Ayalon, he mentioned that, yeah, this was never actually called that from when he was doing gymnastics. I’m not sure I can quote him on it, but I do seem to remember that.

EL: And I remember saying, like, I can remember when I was in circus school, it was called an endo press.

MK: Also, that is a high bar move, isn’t it? Yeah. But that looks more like an alter press in that sense.

EL: So it’s just kind of one of those things, I suppose. A bit of a meme on these names. And once again, back to this whole, do we actually have a set terminology for these things? I remember, say, a normal straddle press. Like when I was learning the coach and also in circus school, other places in both the circus goes in. It was called an elephant press.

MK: Yes, I’ve heard of that.

EL: I finally found the answer for why it was called that because elephants can’t jump! So, you’re not allowed to jump in it. And that’s why it’s called that. Maybe it was a kid’s name.

MK: I’ve also heard people like use… I heard someone call a press to handstand with your hands together, like hand on hand kind of style, that that was an elephant press, which would make sense since it’s kind of a trunk at one point, I don’t know. But I think the naming thing is, it’s quite interesting in that sense. In gymnastics, all of the moves even endo, though, is the name of a person, like the last name, as they name things in gymnastics. I would assume the same with Stalder, since it’s like it’s not a word that relates to a specific movement like a pike is relating to a certain shape, but like a Stalder is more just like a move that or like a name that got adapted or like adopted. And I’m wondering, actually if it’s the internet that is responsible for this name taking over? I’m not sure.

EL: You see a lot with gymnastics moves as well, like the, let’s say, a korbut. So korbut  in circus, everyone calls it a Corvette, like the car, but a korbut is like named after, I think it’s Olga Korbut, if you don’t know, is from a standing back flip to a handstand into a swing on high bars. But you can do it on hand to hand, either from a handstand to standing like feet to hands or feet to hands to hand to hand, and just call that but then everyone goes because it’s korbut and then change the Corvette. So it’s like, oh, Corvette.

MK: Yeah, I’ve seen the same happen with other like hand-to-hand moves as well, where like the names are either Russian and so on. And then the names get bastardized. I mean, figa is a perfect example of that, since you have figa in Russian means kind of an insult, but then like it sounds, if you say it in a British accent, it sounds like the word for figure. I’ve also heard people write it like that f-i-g-a, as if kind of a figure. So uh, and since there is no kind of official naming of them, I assume that like it just does what language does, and it just slowly evolves and develops in various ways. 

EL: It’s definitely like I say, there’s a lot in the flexibility world, but the arguments over mobility and flexibility and how it’s actually defined and then how it’s actually used in a cultural context in different sort of subcultures in that zone. So, it is kind of interesting because there’s definitely been times when I’ve been to other gymnastic coaches or older gymnastic schools to see what they’re doing or just do a bit of training. I go, “Oh, let’s do solders or some endo rolls or something.” They’re like, “Oh, what the fuck is that?” Oh, we call it this. And it is like, even in gymnastics, where they do have set names for the movements. A lot of times the translation of like a preparatory movement, which might be part of the same value. I guess Stalder press will be called something different because they haven’t. They obviously know it’s an important thing and similar to that move, but because it’s not, you know, Stalder on the bars, or whatever. And then it’s just like, “Oh, Stalder Press? No, we call that Endo Press.”

MK: Yeah, I remember the French guys in school. They used to call it endo and in French press to handstand is monte en force, which is like mount by force, which I think is a really cool name for it because you mount the handstand through power. And regardless of how perfect your press is, you’re not jumping, which means you’re applying strength into the floor from your arms instead as you go up.

EL: It’s the muscle thing. I see this, I think a bit from American gymnastics where they call moves that you do by strength “muscle” or this is where you get “muscle up” from. It’s short for muscle uprise, like basically like, you know, used strength to do an uprise, whereas on wings like an uprise, it’s kind of a swinging move with straight arms. But everything is called the muscle moves. Now it’s missing a hyphen rise. So there’s your tidbit trivia for today.

MK: But onto the press itself, then I mean, this last wording detail: I always called it a straddle L press, because that’s what it is. You do a straddle L, which is like a very, quite defined term. And then you lift from there.

EL: Even then, like L-Sit, you know, even that term is not universal. 

MK: Yeah, true. 

EL: That’s like it comes from American gymnastics, when circus school is like a pike sit and like other British pike sits. But then terminologies evolve and other stuff changes. So it’s kind of, yeah, it’s interesting. I always find this kind of stuff interesting.

MK: Yeah, definitely. And um, let us talk mechanics of how do you do the thing? Well, you push hard and then you go up. Thank you for listening to my podcast.

EL: So, I suppose we work on it. On a fucking… Sorry, I’m swearing here. I shouldn’t do that. Maybe I should!

MK: I swear all the time, Emmet.

EL: Don’t make me hit the button. On a side note, we’ve got a compliment that someone really likes the use of the sound pad, so the sound pad will be coming back to me. I’m very happy to hear that, and I suppose we should define a Stalder press just so people know what we’re talking about. So, it is a press starting in a straddle L-Sit with legs very nicely pointed and toes pointed and all these kind of pretty details. And then you would, with muscular force and straight arms with no bending of elbows, push yourself up into a handstand from that position, passing through a straddle. That would be the classic Stalder press.

MK: Yeah, I think it’s broken up into a couple of zones in terms of like what is actually going on both mechanically and how it feels. And I think it is one of those movements that for many people is kind of mysterious or just feels incredibly impossible. And the funny thing is like whereas the standing press feels impossible for certain reasons, like, of course, the press from the straddle L-sit or an L-sit, you just have a much longer range. You need to travel and you need to have a different challenge in the bottom of it. Yeah, and that makes it that both those factors make it so that even more people find it to be incredibly impossible looking or impossible to do. And you basically have the bottom part when you’re sitting in in the straddle L-sit. And of course, you need to be very comfortable there before you’re going to lift. I think that is a classic thing I’ve seen. 

Like, “Yeah, I want to do it.” And then like they have maybe have some strength in the other parts of the press, but they cannot hold a very, very comfortable straddle L-Sit. And it’s just like you can’t expect yourself to lift from there unless you have a solid position and with solid position on this, what I primarily focus on is like, how is your shoulder position and where do your thighs or where are your thighs in relation to your elbow? So, when you’re in a good straddle L-sit where you have the ability to actually lift up, your shoulders are pretty depressed, like your lats are pretty much turned on and you will see kind of a rounded upper back and then the inner thighs or like close to the knees will be resting above the elbow joint. And this is a very significant factor for being able to lift. 

So, if, for example, if you sit on the floor and in a pancake position, you have your hands in between your legs and you’re going to lift into a straddle L there very slowly. Of course, your legs will start by your wrists and they will slide upwards on your forearm and before they kind of reach that above-elbow position. And you, of course, need to lift your legs like strongly from the hip flexors and abs and so on. But if you are in a position where the legs are low on the forearm because you can’t stop there, like if your shoulders are not like fully depressed, like your legs will stop on your lower, on your forearm. 

And if you’re going to lift into a handstand, the first thing you will need to do is keep that downward pressure and you push. And the first thing that happens is that your legs go to that kind of above elbow type of position because that is actually the take off point for it. Because if they are lower, you will basically need to just lean forwards extremely much and literally enter like a low straddle plunge to be able to get the legs off of the elbows. So, like making sure that you’re like, have a strong kind of established position with, yeah, properly the upper back being rounded and legs above the elbow is crucial.

EL: Yeah, I think it’s one of those things. You see this a lot. Because if you’re kind of flexible and kind of strong, it’s quite easy to hold the wrong type of straddle L for this. Where you see this for people where the shoulders are elevated, the back is almost straight and then the legs are kind of parallel to the ground. They’re not pointing diagonally upwards. And you see this and it can be a bit of a false friend where you’re like, “Oh, I can do this but then I can’t actually exert leverage to press myself forward.” 

That traps people a lot because you can be, you know, I’ve seen people with like significant times 30, 40, 50 seconds in these kind of holds and like they have their own benefits to some degrees, but they’re not the translation into the ability to press. 

Before we move on, I’d like to actually just talk about the zones of the pressing for the low section of the press because in our press program, in the manual, we talk about that there’s four main zones in the press, in the shoulder press from the floor up to a handstand and then one transition zone. 

And in the Stalder press, which we’ll get on to a bit later, what happens basically, is there’s two zones before you get to the transition between the low press and the high press. I define them as there’s the point where the shoulders are going to travel forwards from your starting take off position and basically your hips and shoulders, if we were to look at them, would replicate the tuck planche alignment or very close to it.

Once you’ve reached this point, which will be dictated by the amount of forward leaning you have here, one by flexibility, but also just the length of your arm. People with longer arms will have a more significant lean angle forward, just like in planche, just like in other stuff that involves a lean, than someone with shorter arms or someone who is shorter in height. Then once we reach this point of maximum forward lean, then the arms will start to, as the hips will go… Basically, if we think the hips are starting like, say, around your wrist or lower forearm, and then as you go forward, they will lean and you will articulate the hips up in line with the shoulders or close to it. 

Once they reach that point, the shoulders will need to travel back towards the hands while the hips are coming up and the legs are coming back towards the heel of the hands. So, these are our kind of two zones and they bring a slightly different focus to the training that you could either do in separate stages or you could do in one exercise that will cover both. 

But for a lot of people, understanding these zones and figuring where you’re weak will be helpful. So, it’s kind of one of the things like in our programming, like I’ll program the same way for this. It’s like like having an okay tuck planche, is a very useful thing for this starting strength and the ability to go from like an L-sit to a tuck planche. I think you’ve demonstrated this on your Instagram quite a bit.

MK: I have a bunch of videos online showing that connection.

EL: It’s in press as well, because doing just an L-sit first the very zone. An L-sit to a kind of L-sit press with the hips height and then just bending his knees into a tuck planche and showing, OK, here’s an L-sit. Here’s a tuck planche. Nothing changes at the shoulders and hips, just the legs go from straight to bent.

MK: Yeah, yeah. Like as the hips kind of go to shoulder height. That is where you are literally in a tuck planche, it’s just that either your legs are straight and you are either in a mid-Stalder position or you are in tuck planche. So the amount of lean is very similar. It feels like a tiny, tiny bit different, but not much like it’s very similar in the feeling, particularly in the upper body. And the tuck planche is very indicative of your starting ability to do any of this stuff. And most of the time, and I also check this with a couple of like hand balancer friends that I know is just like people that I know who can L-sit press and look, can you tuck planche? And it just shows itself that, yes, they can.

It’s not a problem to hold. They can’t, of course, extend much further because like, it’s exponentially harder once you straddle planche but they are easily able to tuck planche simply as a result of having worked on their L-sit to handstand. 

One friend of mine from Vault, basically she worked a lot on presses before, and she hasn’t worked a lot on presses the last couple of years, but she can still do it and she can still tuck planche, even though she has probably barely ever trained at tuck planche. So, for her, the carry over came from just loads and loads of work on the actual pressing. But I think for most people, you have quite a lot to gain from working on the tuck planche because it’s a thing that, like everyone will need if you want to go up.

The straddle-L itself, is just like the one thing I want to mention on that before we kind of travel upward in the press which is the part which is more kind of optional and a bit depending on your body, because it’s flexibility related and that is how high you’re able to get in your straddle L. 

Because you do have like a mega high straddle L or people basically put their arms up in their armpits, kind of like very often they set it up a bit on bent arms. Then they straighten the arms and then they lift. I call this kind of a cheat press in a sense because you’re getting through the tuck planche part without having to tuck planche it at all. Yeah, and very often I know many that can get up if they are allowed to set up in that kind of mega high straddle L thing before they press. But if you ask them to, for example, start in a lower L-sit or lower straddle L, or on the other hand, do handstand lower down and go back up, they cannot do it simply because they are circumventing this kind of hard stage. But people that are that flexible when they do a kind of quote unquote proper straddle L again, like thighs touching the top of the elbow. Very often, what you will see and which is a very kind of beneficial thing, is that you’ll see that the legs start pointing upwards.

So, the straddle L is no longer like parallel-ish with the floor, but you can see a significant upwards angle on some people and that offers you a very beneficial leverage as you’re starting to push because as you’re starting to push then with your legs on a diagonal, your feet and your calves and so on will start traveling downwards, basically giving you, effectively giving you a swing, which allows you to bring the hips up more quicker. And that is like one of the parts where, like high levels of flexibility is super useful for, Stalders. It’s basically the same kind of swing that you can use from an L-sit, from an L-sit, it is accessible for most people to do outside rock of it forwards to bring the weight front and then use that momentum to pull backwards. 

It’s essentially the same, but since in a straddle-L, you are locked on your arms, you’re basically not able to utilize that type of movement unless you are just mega flexible. For me, I’ve never been able to do that to any significant degree whatsoever since like, I have a decent pancake, I can go flat. I can go pancake is pretty alright. But you need to be like, you need to have some really well-developed pancake for this to be a significant portion of your actual Stalder press.

EL: I think that one’s interesting because it’s definitely one I would advise to people when they’re learning if they’re flexible and prescribe that kind of technique to get some success. But it’s interesting what happens in that if we look at the kind of mechanics of it. Because my arm, my legs are essentially making a pivot point against the arms up high, you’re basically using the weight of legs to counter-lever the hips up as they go down. And then by the time you’ve gone through the tuck planchet, kind of -ish section, then you basically don’t have to do that section. You’re already in to zone two. And then you can obviously have a different type of strength, but it’s a different pushing vector. 

Speaking of the pushing vector, it’s one of the things with the tuck planche. 

There’s essentially two ways of doing tuck planche. Now there’s one where the goal is to maximize the lean. Everyone thinks they’re leaning, but if you’re quite strong, you can do the tuck planche via a lot of depression strength and downward force into the ground. And that’s kind of what is happening in the Stalder because we’re not — we are leaning forward, as I said, there’s a point of maximum lean, but the goal is actually exert force down straight into the hand. And it’s one of the things that stops people in tuck planchet. People might have a very strong torque plant using this technique, but then have just hit a hard wall, basically by transitioning to a closed hip straddle or one of these kind of straddle variations. So that’s one of the things to watch out for that there is these two flavors of tuck planche. It’s still a tuck planche, but there’s a slightly different

flavour to it. 

MK: Yeah, I’d say that. Like if you’re tuck planching to go forward into harder planche variations like the further front you go and planche, the more angle your arm has. And like to some degree, at least you will feel more kind of chest activation in that type of planching. Not necessarily. If you have like a mega hollow, you’re not like chesting it that much, but you will feel like your pecs doing at least something, whereas in like in a tuck planche, that relates more to kind of Stalder and like lifting your ass upwards, you’re not really getting much like significant tension into your pec muscles. Yeah. So would you want to think in that type of tuck planchet. You’re still compressing hard, like you’re trying to be small in this type of planche because you’re trying to be small in a press, whereas like in an actual planche, you’re trying to lengthen yourself to the degree that you can and then like it puts increasingly more pressure into the biceps and stuff. 

Whereas for like what we’re looking for, we’re looking for like a good crunch from the abdominal section to keep the knees tight, like pressure from the arms you feel are kind of the front of your delts. But the intention is lift the sternum and subsequently the hips so that, like the pressure starts transferring from or the how to say not the pressure, but the perceived effort of the pressure at least will start transferring from the front of your delts into more your trapezius region.

Because of course, your trapezius, everything is working at the same time. But you’re basically… You can say it like this if you can do both the normal press and a Stalder press thing and you basically max rep on a standing press, you will start feeling that, yes, your delts will be tired, but your traps will start getting pretty fried, while if you do like, for example, L-sit to kind of like you press the L-sit into a standing position and you don’t continue all the way into a handstand and you just rep this out, you’re going to feel your delts being much more fried than your actual traps because you’re working from from your arm is by your side kind of depressed until the arm is almost overhead, but you haven’t really entered into that kind of fully flexed position where the trapezius are working very hard. So there is a definitive difference in the sensation of where you’re actually working the hardest, at least.

EL: Yeah, definitely. I think just back to the pancake thing. I think the flexibility on the Stalder press is a very interesting thing because obviously it has to do with length of legs and stuff to be able to pass hands. But it’s kind of one of those things I remember say, when we were doing the retreat in Turkey a couple of years ago, remember day five of the retreat Mikael came in kind of fatigued from training. First thing in the morning, which, let’s face it, isn’t Mikael’s optimal time for training. And I’d seen you hadn’t warmed up. You hadn’t warmed up your flexibility. And you know, when you came in, your pancake was like you had a better 45 degree lean or 60 degree lean. 

MK: Like, it wasn’t amazing. 

EL: It wasn’t flat or it wasn’t like anywhere near what you can do once he’s warmed up. I was just like, “OK, Can you Stalder from this position?” And you could immediately just rep it out. And that was, one, it’s kind of this thing of like Mikael, if you look at his flexibility pattern has an incredibly close matching of his active flexibility to his passive flexibility, whereas a lot of other people might not have as close a matching. So when–

MK: This is basically how I get around–

EL: Yeah, well, it’s just kind of it’s interesting that like, oh, even with like this, what would be considered if you speak to other coaches and get what you need oh you need a flat pancake that would make it easier. It’s like clearly there was no flat pancake. It was just not happening at that time in the morning, like we were only up like 30/40 minutes at this stage. Yet you could still do it because there was such a close match between your hip and flexibility and extension strength. 

And this is one of the things I always think about in Stalder press is it’s building a certain amount of resources in the body that if you can, you need to sort of have. It’s like a vent diagram that you need flexibility, you need active strength in the flexibility, the flexibility and the ability to hold your legs and position. And you need strength to the upper back and you need a certain, you need to basically fill the bucket with these kind of resources so you could fill them with “I have a lot of strength.” That fills 50 percent of my bucket. I have twenty five percent flexibility and I have 25 percent active flexibility. Ok, that gives you a Stalder.

MK: It could be a very good video game, what’s it called, analogy to this.

EL: Yeah, exactly. I kind of, you know, I’ve been thinking about settlers of Catan as a way of explaining this. You need resources which you mine via rolling dice and then you get resources and then you’re able to build things on your go. But you don’t always get the resources at the same time. So you might end up with an excess of one thing, but you still need something else. You have too much wood, but you have no clay…so you can’t build any roads. But eventually, like you get some clay and then you’re able to build a road and this kind of thing. It’s interesting because it’s, you know, its flexibility is always good and having a good range of motion and a nice pancake is good. But if your active match is closer, then you can get away with it. Having less strength and the more flexibility you have to certain degree means you need less strength because you’ll be less resistance against yourself. And it is kind of one of the things that you can look at is like if you’re pancake is better, then as you kind of press, you’re able to keep the legs on the other side of the pivot point at the hands. That means you’ll have this kind of swing we’re talking about in the cheat press. We should come up with a cooler name with that. Should like, I think we should find out who done it first and then name it after them. Or we could name it after, like-

MK: Probably three thousand years ago.

EL: Yeah, I feel like we should call it the Millinger after Stefanie Millinger because when she done those 500 presses or something in a row-

MK: 308 in a row or something crazy…

EL: Yeah. I think in honor of her, we can call it the Millinger Press because she used that style of press doing it. So, yeah, so you got your Millinger Press, which is not a fake press. That’s a different type of press. And then you can do that but when you can keep the legs, you still have this kind of effect going on by able to keep the legs on the other side of the pivot point, you have less mass coming onto the straddle planche side of it because you see this with, say, the more calisthenics athletes or the very strong gymnasts who have very good planche skills where their Stalder press will basically before the hips have started to go above the shoulder line, the legs are almost like true into a kind of wide straddle, and they widen the legs out, and generally it’s just like they have an excess of strength, so then it’s very easy. Yeah. And then what? 

I coach people to do a lot when they’re learning Stalder, if they have good flexibility, is your legs starting to panic and say there are a hundred and forty degrees apart. And what happens is you want to as you’re, I tell people to get their leg hair in contact with their arm hair as they’re doing the press. So, it’s touching at all points. So, as you come true, then you narrow the legs to keep this contact going and try this out. If you’re just learning Stalder and having problems getting it because it means less mass, more mass will stay on the side of the hands on the pivot point, so you have some sort of counterbalance going on. And then when you cross into from the second zone, enter the transition between low and high press, then you’re basically telling cueing a lot of people to end up in the takeoff position with the feet that you would if you’re doing a press on the floor. 

So, I generally queue people I want big toes in line with little fingers are just outside that zone. And that means the hips will also be the highest. Now this requires more compression strength and obviously compression strength is my thing because I teach flexibility, so this kind of gets you through it. But then the other way of doing that is just like, you know, closed hip straddle plunge, essentially, which was basically what you defaulted to when I gave you the challenge to press when you were not warmed up.

MK: Yeah, I mean, that’s how I’ve always done it. I’ve never done the narrowing of the legs. I know a lot of people that do it, and I’ve seen that, like both in acro gymnastics and all kinds of places. So I think it’s a good option. For me, what always has been the most intuitive thing to do is just I push down, I pull the legs towards my body and I keep opening the legs. 

But you can also see I was thinking about I saw yesterday, some Ukrainian girl probably can’t be more than maybe 12, 13, 14. Was like mega beast acro gymnastics doing like, yeah, can probably one arm press four repetitions, easy game. And just like she does a Stalder press and she has this omega flexibility. So, the straddle has, like the legs are super high. As she starts, the legs are pointing upwards. She drives, she pushes downwards, the hips travel up and when she can straddle so widely that that kind of the pancake kind of opening from about when the arms or when the feet start passing the arms out to kind of her straddle, it’s so wide that like she literally ends up in that like super duper split with the legs so that like she can basically like there is almost no way to have less lean forward in the shoulders at any given point in the press than she does. Also, she’s a child. So, like the proportions in terms of head weight versus hip weight is also pretty beneficial.

But yeah, it’s just like to put it like this if she does a normal handstand and opens her leg to a wide straddle and then keeps pancaking that straddle. It’s so flexible that the legs stay basically entirely on the side of her body, even kind of in a wide pancake. So, it’s, of course, entirely unreasonable for most people to expect to get to that level in terms of only the flexibility. But I think it’s a good yeah, like you said, feel like you need to fill the bucket to 100 percent and whatever you put in there will count. 

And I think it’s interesting also what you said with the planche athletes and I keep thinking about this one friend of mine from Norway named Issac, who is just a monster at planche and like calisthenics strength in general, really fucking solid. You should check him out on Instagram. I’ll will link the thing to his thing. But he basically, when he does like an L-Sit press to handstand or a Stalder press, he leans significantly more than I do. He’s more flexible than me, for sure he is. So, but the thing is he can do chair splits, no problem. Like he has a video where he plays guitar and like a full split on chairs. He has a great pancake, all of that. But the thing is, he has so much power in the front of his shoulders.

So for his body at this current stage, it’s just more effective for him to go front and use where he has the most power. Yeah. And what I have been thinking about in relation to this is because if we compare that press to this, the Ukrainian girl I was talking about, she, I would say that her absolute efficiency to coin that term, is higher because if, like the de facto energy that is used is lower in relation to body weight and so on because of the ridiculous angles that she can pass through than this guy Isaac can. Um, but the relative efficiency for each individual is like, is, relating to them, so for him, this is effective for what he has. And this, I think, is very important when we look at these things and the further you get into like really, really, really advanced stuff like you will need to kind of go for your relative efficiency, I think to a higher degree, because you might not be able to expect that your body can move in the exact ways that someone else, but you might have just like a slight variation. 

I’ve been thinking a lot on that on myself in terms of like, for example, one arm pressing, which is like at the limit of my capacity. I do a couple of things when I do that, which I see that other people don’t do or they do things that I don’t do and so on.

And it’s just like my body needs to solve the problem. And if I cannot solve it in the exact way the other person can, like, I need to bend my arm at a certain point where someone else might keep it straight and so on. And I think this has to do with this, this idea of the relative efficiency. What I have at this point in time requires me to do a certain pattern. Whereas you could say that then this, like the ideal form, would use less energy. But then again, if you cannot access that form by any means at the current point in time, should you then just stop doing it or find a way to solve it? 

So I mean, there is a bit of a give and take there, and if you relate this back to the Stalder like one thing that someone might do is start bending their arms, for example, at a certain angle, which is something in like these types of presses is something that we in general recommend not doing because of the particular pattern that we’re trying to replicate with this straight arm strength relating to the actual handstand reconcile. 

Uh, but yes. Again, just these two ideas of like the absolute efficiency, the optimal way of doing a movement versus like the optimal way to do the movement for you at this point in time.

EL: Yeah, yeah it’s definitely like it’s kind of like once again, like with form breakdown and other stuff like non perfect form. Perfect form only happens when you filled the bucket completely, and that takes a while. So, if your bucket is ninety five percent full, then your form will break down in some way, shape or form. Hmm. And some weight your form will break down in some way, shape or form, anyway. Uh. What was the other point there? I want to go back to. Oh yeah. So, the adaptation of form, one of the things you see a lot with generally haven’t seen it so much with guys, but I see a lot with women and I used to kind of coach kids as well. And one of the things they would do is use the bike. So, we always go, we have the spine in a kind of mild flexion if we think about our start position and then we’re going up to a roughly straight-ish, you know, maybe a bit of flexion still remains if we’re hollow in our hands. But then you see this form a lot with kids where they go through the legs, pass the hands and then they articulate the back into extension. So, they arch the back. 

And that’s basically it’s kind of interesting adaptation of form because if you look at it, one or two things is happening, there are two things happening. One, the mass of the hips is getting closer to the pivot point, so there’s more weight stacked vertically. But then the other thing happening is you’re reducing the length of the back, sometimes quite significantly. So, the leverage you’d have in the horizontal distance of the back has been reduced by 15-20 percent. And that means they’re able to access their strength a bit more. And it’s kind of a classic one.

MK: You see that a lot with children like all those small girls that can’t handstand, but they can just rip out Stalders as they pass their hands. They just like put the but out and then the legs fly up quickly and then like either they start walking or fall over or just go back down to straddle and do it again. 

EL: Yeah. So, it’s kind of, you know, it’s not textbook form, but I always like, it’s always interesting. Like, here’s a problem solver, and they’re clearly strong. They’ve got good strong backs and other stuff. So, then it was like, OK, well, I’ll just use my flexibility to pull me up into this movement. 

So, it is kind of an interesting way, and I kind of adopted this cue as well of trying to get people to, like, put their sacrum on their head as a way of cueing it. That could be an interesting way of like if you’re making contact points in the body or trying to look for zones you can hone in on, like that goes overhead and then just let the legs do what they want. Obviously, it’s going to be different for everyone, and maybe we’re all not like four-year-old girl gymnasts who can do a whole hundred Stalders, but it is kind of interesting.

MK: Yeah, like one thing I was also thinking about, like just going back to these zones we’re talking about like, OK, so you have a straddle L, you push out a straddle L, you enter into kind of a planchey zone and then you want to travel from that planchey zone into something that looks like a handstand. And that is like a hard part for many to crack because it’s like the tuck planche itself, at least like you can work on the strength for a tuck planche, even as a complete noodle if you grab a couple of chairs. You sit in a tuck, tuck L sit basically, and you push down as hard as you can and you try to bring your hip up. You are at least working on that type of action. 

But the part above the tuck planche is kind of tricky which is where also the planche style push and the press style push starts being different. And this this would like you said that the legs stay on the other side of the arm is very significant at this point because if you go into a tuck planche and you want to lift yourself on the tuck planche into handstand, you can do that by simply, you push down but at the same time, you kind of push forwards. And the feeling of doing that kind of tuck planche press is like if you grab a heavy dumbbell and you just do kind of a forward straight arm lift to above your head. What’s that called again? 

EL: Front raised. 

MK: It feels like that. If you feel like you’re dealt. You feel your biceps quite a lot when you do that type of press with Zumba. And it’s very similar with the tuck planche because your hips are still far away from your shoulders and the shoulders need to pass back towards where your hands are and the hips need to travel upwards. And since there’s nothing contra awaiting you on the other side like your hips, there is basically just one trajectory your hips can travel through. And it’s very, very little you can do to shorten that trajectory compared to when the legs are still on the other side of the hand as in L sit or and isn’t in a straddle. So, when you do that part from an L sit or straddle, you will feel that you’ve quicker transition into sort of more kind of a trapezius feeling as you as you pass upwards. 

And this zone is very significant and kind of tricky to work on. And like one of the main things that we do for this is either basically one of the main hacks as well for the for the Stalder press. I despise the word hacks in terms of these things, but here you literally have one that is just working from an L-sit instead of a straddle L because it allows you a little bit of that rocking forward sensation I was talking about. You don’t need to be mega monstrously flexible to access this. It’s kind of as close to conventional strength training as you can do in handstands almost where you just again, you grab a couple of chairs or a couple of boxes or some parallel bars. You go in an L sit. You rock a little bit forwards. You push as hard as you can downwards and you try to bring your hips as high up as you can. And you basically work on this for reps like ideally, you want to be able to land behind your hands on the same surface as your hands are on. That might be unrealistic at first. So, there are several steps of progression in terms of that, but this helps you to get into that zone easier because you are allowing yourself, you’re not using a massive swing, but you’re rocking a bit. So, when your hips travel, travel backwards, you can go through this kind of lower zone with a bit of speed than you end up being able to apply force higher up in the range. And this is super useful to kind of just get the sensation of where you’re trying to travel, get some force production in there and you’re starting to build that kind of middle range and the tricky part of passing your hands. You’re starting to build that from the bottom.

EL: Yeah, yeah, that’s kind of that’s one of the mainstays, I suppose, in our press program. It’s kind of interesting, actually, the very first way I learned to build strength for the Stalder press was a from a coach in Belfast Circus community circus called Hillis, who’s one of the acrobatic coaches there. And he was teaching me this way just on chairs, chairs or on bars or whatever. But his way was like, OK, you’re going to do an L sit, swing towards a V sit and then drop down and use the momentum to kind of push through kind of like it was almost like a push press version of what you’re saying. So, you’re building momentum. And then as you get stronger, it was like, OK, now you’re going to press to V-sit or like into depending on your flexibility, if it allows a V or a kind of altered straddle L and then press higher and just build the strength and the eccentrics. 

And that way, it’s kind of fun to try if you have some space because it can give you… Like a push press, it can have some transference to your actual press because it gets you through the harder zone and it begins to show you the trajectory you should be pushing. And then obviously you can reduce momentum as a way of progressing. The other thing with the L-sit press, what I like about them is that you can build the upper back strength in the torso strength needed while you’re working on your flexibility, and getting your flexibility, filling your bucket.

So, you’re filling your bucket in three different ways. I think flexibility, general range of motion and this at the same time you’re training and then eventually it kind of comes together. And that’s one of the things I find, what I always find interesting about like Stalder presses versus, say, a standing press. A standing press, like the first time most people do a standing press, it’s going to be ugly. It’s just going to be like legs will bend, feet will do weird things. You’ll shake, weird stuff will happen. 

By the time someone’s got to the Stalder press, the point they can do it. The first repetition of a Stalder press is normally very good. It’s very rare that you’ll see it because like you built the press, you’ve got that section of that half of it done by this stage, hopefully. And then by the time you’ve got to the ability you fill the resources, basically, you’re able to build your city in Catan. You’ve got your stone, you’ve got your brick, you’ve got your wood and then you’re able to just like, you have everything there ready to go. And that’s one of the interesting things like, you know, obviously, we talk about adaptations of form and everything, but it’s still generally if you follow the path we kind of lay out, I see it with your students as well, like when they start the press generally, the first Stalder press they get is generally pretty good.

MK: Yeah, it’s at least not terrible. I think it’s also like at least if you have a very strong standing press, which I think is the kind of… it’s not like necessarily entirely necessary to begin working on it. But by the time you’re able to complete a Stalder press or at least in the vicinity your standing press is probably there for reps, which means that like if you just get enough drive through this bottom part to get on top of the shoulders and you just have enough energy to complete it like it’s usually not as bad as it might seem for the first reps, for sure. 

EL: Definitely. I kind of would like to talk a bit more about other exercises we use just to kind of wrap up the cast because we use some interesting ones. So obviously we both use the straddle L-press is kind of interesting because you can use it for building the L set press through the hands. So obviously, depending on your flexibility levels, you can use it for L set to tuck planche so you can either press or set up at the outset, bend the knees and then press into the tuck planche. You can keep the legs straight, press the hips up in line with each other and then bend the knees to tuck planche so you can do it in two different ways to the top lunge. Then you can also keep the legs straight.

And what I like about this one is you can very easily measure progress. So, if you have an adjustable surface that you can raise and lower, obviously going lower to the floor will make it harder because you have to compress more. But you have to press up higher. The other way of doing it is to basically put you blocks or stackable mats. So every time you go in, you don’t say three or five reps in your sets and you’re going to go up to two mats and then we can do five reps. You’ll put an extra mat. And the other thing what’s nice about this is you can begin to cheat a little by bending the legs and then straighten the legs out and do a full eccentric. So, you’re getting a kind of the eccentric grooving of the movement while also compensating for your lack of strength on the concentric by not lifting as high.

MK: Yeah, the thing that I like a lot is just basically L-sit and then you use a bit of rock. You drive through as hard as you can and you do that on parallel bars or in a couple of chairs or blocks. And as you reach the kind of the top point of where you’re able to go with straight legs, you can, for example, like you bend your legs and try to get them on top of off the box’s bars or chairs or whatever you’re on. So you’re basically trying to sneak yourself to get the legs on the same surface your hands are on. 

And in the beginning, that like it might look a bit more just like a swing, and that’s what you kind of want to avoid. You just want to make sure you’re working hard and in the kind of push, but you lift, you start bending the legs to get them on top of the bars. You then, after you landed, you straighten the legs, you lean forwards into kind of the part of or the lowest part of a regular press and then you negative down to the L-sit from there. Since that kind of it gives your body also the idea of where you’re trying to go, you’re trying to go on top of these bars and over time your hips will go higher, so you need to bend your legs less, you need to swing less. And in the end, you end up doing L-sit and basically pushing yourself all the way into kind of a straight arm, straight leg hover. And that is kind of the key stage to be able to master, to be able to, yeah, to make it through that middle section and an interesting part with this as well is that you’ll see we mentioned this many times in the cast, but like you’ll see monster beasts on their hands like pro hand balancers who can’t do L-sit to standing press at all. But they’re killer on their hands.

And then you’ll just find some like random calisthenics trained person who’s just done a bit of this and a bit of that and a bit of tuck planche. And they can very easily go from L-sit to standing press, but they can’t press the rest of the way or even do a standing press. While these hand balancers can rep out standing presses for days but can’t do the lower part. So there is there is kind of little carryover in between these two significant zones of the low and high press, and that’s basically like the shoulder work is entirely different. 

And most of the time, like I remember particularly one guy I was working with who he couldn’t stand in press, he’s in handstand but couldn’t stand in press at all. But L to standing was perfect. It was flawless. He had the good L-sit, but he just had a very good strut like a tuck planche but he was a strong upper body. 

The bottom part can be said to a large degree for many people to just be like a matter of some upper body muscle and strength unless you just have these very good leverage in terms of your flexibility. But it can be quite easily solved in terms of building a bit of strength. And like everything in terms of pull ups and dips and tuck planchet and push ups and stuff will net you more for that press than it will for any kind of actual vertical hand standing ability.

EL: Yeah, definitely. There’s definitely a very strong if you look at like calisthenic guys, who are super strong, not as technically trained or not as technique focus. They might be in the circus world or gymnastic world, but a lot of them like you see them repping out 10, 15 Stalders sometimes. OK, well, you just do it via that kind of planchey technique. So, it is kind of an interesting note. 

One of the things the last exercise I talk about is the Range of Motion Press. 

MK: Yes, this one is useful. 

EL: So, as you know, hopefully by the time you have got towards working towards the Stalder, obviously can work in the same time. Hopefully you should be able to do some standing presses.

One of the ways we find to train this zone, the mysterious transition point between the high press and low press is the range of motion press and what range of motion press is: a press where you’re increasing the range of motion of the pressing. So you go down your hands, your feet go towards your hands and then you start letting the toes go past the wrists as the start. And this is kind of nice because you can increment this quite nicely. It’s like, OK, I normally tell people to use yoga blocks here where they’ll put some blocks either side of the hands to control the depth. So, when I’ve lowered down, I’ll touch, you know, I’ll go two centimeters past the hands, then touch and then press back up. OK, I can do a few reps there. Ok, I’ll go five centimeters. And this kind of way will train that transition from this kind of pro traction and elevation strength to pro traction and depression.

MK: Yeah, yeah, it’s a huge one.

EL: It’s kind of very interesting because it’s accessible once you can press and then at the same time, like it’s kind of interesting just for watching people who are very good at pressing. A lot of time they can build this up quite easily, but then they don’t have the resources for zone two, one and two of the low press. So, then it just goes down. It’s very controlled to about the fingers, when the feet get in line with the fingers, or the lateral malleolus are in line with the fingers. Then all the strength goes. They just kind of fall into it. But training this is quite a useful thing to do.

MK: Yeah, I think one of the main things to know about this part is also that like, unless you can do it on an elevated surface, don’t bother working it on the floor yet because you’ll need to compress significantly more. 

You’ll need to be both strong enough in the shoulders to support a very, very low leg position with very little lean, to do this on the floor compared to doing it on blocks and stuff. Because I like the lower you go with the legs, the more your shoulders might compensate for this. And yeah, make making sure that you can just do it on a couple of blocks where you are allowed to dip a little bit further can be useful. And then as you get better at it then you work it on the floor. And just as a general note to people wanting to to do straddle L, the press on the floor, it’s just like, make sure you’re really good on bars first. Just make sure you have a couple of reps then you will actually find that it’ll be significantly easier to do it on the ground, just as a result of again being very good at the press. And like just your body knowing it well. And again, like the press that Emma talked about that I would do without any warmup and with barely any pancake ability at all. I like on floor or on blocks. It doesn’t make any difference for me because I’m able to to… Like my shoulder articulation is good through the entire movement and like the shoulder depression and protraction part in where I need to lift the legs high in the bottom is so well developed that it’s easy for me to pass. But if it’s not easy for you to pass, make sure that you just develop a good press first and then like look upon the floor version as a result of that same with the outside press to know. Like, unless you’re monstrously flexible, no point working on L-sit press on floor unless you can do at least three on bars, I would say. 

EL: Generally, there’s also progressions on bars that people don’t really know about or use where the L-sit press on to be like… When I get people starting to do L-sit presses on floor, generally we’ll be doing L-sit press to handstand on parallel bars or raised surface. You’ll put a stick behind your hands and then you’ll basically use the stick as a guide for the compression that if you hit the stick, obviously you’re not compressing enough and then you’ll move the stick closer to the heel of hands until eventually you put it in the bend of the wrist on the other side. So, you have to put it there or figure out where it gets on and put it on for you. And then when you can compress and do go through that, generally, you’re good to actually start doing it on the floor. So that’s kind of a nice way of sort of measuring progress. Like, I’ll start like this stick is 15 centimetres from my hand. I’ll move it in 10 centimeters. Ok, press there. All the way until it’s eventually resting on the wrist. And then it’s like, OK, you have obtained got your compression and you’ll be able to probably make a good attempt at this on the floor.

MK: Yeah, yeah, just a little finishing up about that. The Range of Motion Press, like there are several people I’ve taught the full Stalder by mainly focusing on the range of motion part because again, if you have a little bit of if you have a decent straddle, you have a little bit of tuck planche strength, you have some flexibility.

You can kind of be there by a little bit of rocking or a little bit or whatever you can drive your hips very far up, but like you can’t pass the hand stage by basically focusing on handstand lowering as far as you can and back up and having focus on that middle part, you can make sure that like just develop the strength that is needed there. So when you reach that point, you have something to work with. 

Now I remember very clearly a girl I worked with when I worked in the circus school in Copenhagen. She got it and we were basically just working, lowering down press back up or lowering down, press back up in the classes. And I was occasionally doing like L to standing with her as like finishing conditioning for some of the classes and within a couple of months, she I mean, so obviously she’s in circus school, very, very highly talented body and so on. She’s like a hand balancer but she was lacking this part and we just worked a lot on this. And like I remember very clearly that the day she cracked it, she was doing it on this. 

They had these like dumbbells that were, you know, these like basically just a solid cylindrical blocks that used to be screwed onto a dumbbell. And we would always like… They were on the floor unscrewed and she would always just do it on those. And I remember the day we were like… I was spotting her, lowering her down and she went really deep. In the straddle or towards straddle L and I was about to spot her and give her a little bit of help up, but just she just drove through it very easily. I was like, OK, I think you’re going to rest two minutes and then I think you’re going to just try to do it. And she was like, quite hyped. And then she went for it. And by the point she came into that zone, you saw she struggled, but there was more than enough energy left. So, she just like, completed the press. So, it’s a very useful tool. 

Again, I think for anyone working on the Stalder, it’s very body specific. It’s something that will take some people a ridiculous amount of time. So it’s just important to have modest expectations when working on it because there’s a lot of things going into it. And as Emmet eloquently said, you’ll need to fill your bucket with various things. And for some people, you might need to leverage certain of those elements more than others, depending on yourself. But neglecting any of them will probably just make the journey for you hard or harder for you.

EL: Yeah, definitely. There’s always that kind of thing of like also, you know, if we imagine blank template human 101 comes in and has very little strength, very little flexibility, very little active control of flexibility. Then you can fill all the buckets but then human 2 comes in and they have loads of strength. Then understanding, OK, I don’t need as much flexibility if I can use more of my strength. Yeah, I see it. So, it’s always kind of assessment of yourself and what your own proclivities are and how you can adapt the technique in the goals to that.

MK: It’s basically the various ways you can play fallout. You can have heroic strength and just go and like, punch everyone in the head. Or you can have a heroic charisma and just fool everyone.

Yeah, I think we will wrap it up there. There’s a lot in Stalder. I have to hit the sound button once because it has been requested and hopefully, I hit the right button.

Button sound: “Why do you make me do this Emmet?”

MK: Why do you make me do this, Emmet?

EL: Anyway, you guys have a good week. We’ll be back next week.


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