Handstands are cool. That’s actually the main reason most people want to practice them. Sure, you can also build spatial awareness and improve your shoulder health, but cool and fun are excellent benefits in their own rights.
And unless you’re looking to be a performer, we highly suggest sticking with those as your goals. Performers have unique needs, but if you just wanna have fun doing something cool, handstand training is a matter of three main factors:
- Safety – learning to bail and control your body
- Practice – developing the capabilities and abilities you need to perform the skill
- Attitude – keeping things fun and dealing with frustration
This episode walks you through exactly how we suggest training handstands and works together with our (absolutely monstrous) handstand tutorial.
Handstands are a skill that almost everybody can learn.
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Transcript for How to Practice Handstands Safely and Enjoyably
Andy: All right. Welcome to the Gross Mucus Breakfast podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about standing on your hands.
Ryan: Yeah, we know a thing or two about that.
Andy: Yeah. So handstands are a topic that we covered a lot on our YouTube, in our website, and a few times on the podcast too. So, in some respect here, I think that it’s kind of a solved problem, right? Everything anyone would ever need to know about handstands has been covered. But here’s a thing about handstands. Like a lot of other skills, but handstands I think is more apparent than a lot of other things, is that it’s always a process.
Andy: Handstands like when you’re in a middle of one, is a process of balancing and staying where you need to be and assessing where you’re at and figure out where you need to push a little harder or relax a little more or something. But also the process of learning one and continuing to improve it over time is also a process. It’s not a matter of just having the right information or knowing the plan. It’s being able to continually be aware-oriented to what’s going on and figure out what you need to change and what you need to do.
Andy: So, today, we’re going to talk specifically about that sort of side of learning handstands, not what to do, how to train them but how to troubleshoot, how to figure out what’s stopping your progress and what to do next.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s good man. Yeah, I’ll lead off with just saying I’m not the best hand balancer in the world, spent a lot of time upside down. If you are looking for some people that we really look up to, if you will, respect, admire, I’ll definitely check out Yuval Ayalon, Yuval On Hands, amazing. Yuri Marmerstein, -stein, did I say his name wrong? Sorry if I did, Yuri. He’s also great. We’ve also shared some Brazilian barbecue with him over dinner, that was pretty good.
Ryan: But anyway, they’re some really, really fabulous guys to follow in terms of handstands if you want to get super serious about taking your handstands to the next level. The thing is, with us, so we’ve helped tons of people over the years and for us really, it’s getting very comfortable in being on upside down and really just enjoying the process. We got a huge, very detailed article on a handstand. Just type in GMB Fitness handstand and it will pop up.
Ryan: But again, today, we’re just going to talk about really the process and some things. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate, if you’re tall or whatever. What we’re going to be talking about today is really come down to just three things. We’re going to be talking about safety. We’re going to be talking about the actual practice of the handstand and then also, we’re going to be talking about not getting frustrated because I’ve actually found that the mental side of the handstand is huge.
Ryan: Of course, this is for everything out there, but in particular, the handstand will play havoc with you mentally if you let it. And we’re going to talk about how you cannot get caught up in that, okay?
Andy: So, I mean, first to get into some of that, let’s sort of orient around some of the things that are part of handstand training that I think people don’t really recognize. Some of the things that make handstands valuable, of course, but I think if you’re training them, you already know they’re valuable, but let’s look at some of the factors involved that are not really accounted for always in the way we look at planning our training and how we’re going to practice.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. In typical fashion, people will look at their workout. You might be looking at it like getting your sweat on. You might be looking at building muscle or whatnot. But there are some other factors that come into play and things that you can train. By training the handstand, they are actually going to help you and carry over through the other things not just in your training but in your life.
Ryan: Those things for example, spatial awareness, this is a big thing. We’re very comfortable walking around. We know what’s going on around us. We know where our hands, our fingers, everything is when we’re upright and walking. But when we go upside down, literally things turn upside down.
Ryan: And so, a lot of people can kind of freak out because they don’t have that spatial awareness to understand where their body is in space. By practicing the handstand, they not only get you comfortable with that but obviously you’re going to be working on balance and full body control. And in this balance, not just balance in terms of trying to hold the handstand, but actually moving your body in space because actually, just trying to hold a handstand is not really the biggest part of it.
Ryan: The biggest part of the handstand and what needs to be learned is how to actually get into the handstand and get out of the handstand safely and finding the balance to be able to do that. We’re also looking at problem solving. When you’re upside down, can you adapt to this micro adjustments that need to happen?
Ryan: And so this is really great because by going through the process of learning how to do a handstand, you’re also helping yourself to solve these problems and that can also carry over into life really to be honest.
Andy: So, I mean, this is a thing because people ask us this question all the time and they’d say this message and they say, “I can do a handstand but I just can’t hold it.” Or, “I can’t hold it more than three seconds,” or something like that. And this is exactly what we’re talking about here.
Andy: Your entry or your exit might be part of the problem or it might be that process of adapting your balance as you’re trying to hold the position. And adapting isn’t like you just start adapting. It goes back to the control. It goes back to that spatial awareness when you’re upside down. If your eyes give you one signal, you actually need to do the opposite of what you normally think. And these things take time in training.
Andy: So for everyone who’s like, “I can do a handstand. That’s not the problem. I just can’t hold it.” Well, we’re trying to help you with that.
Ryan: And the thing too about this and if we’re looking to go into a little bit deeper if we’re talking about adapting to these micro adjustments and finding that balance, the other cool thing about a handstand is that you might be able to hold the handstand today and you’re comfortable in a particular position, let’s say you have a banana handstand, and there’s nothing wrong with the banana handstand. As soon as you start to improve and move towards that straight line, everything is shifting.
Ryan: And so, you can’t hold the handstand and well, that’s because you’re having to actually learn a new handstand each and every time that you make these micro adjustments. So, again, problem solving, not getting frustrated and sticking with the process, things that we’re going to be talking about here today in order to help you at any level of your handstand.
Ryan: Now, the other thing too is that I’m going to be honest, the handstand to me is simply just a trick that’s going to allow you to … To me, it’s kind of like the bridge to get you to be able to do other stuff. And so if you got to handstand, great. Now, you can start working on some other fun things. Handstand pushups, walking on your hands, pirouettes on the hands. There are so many different options. And so, just look at the handstand as part of the journey to other things if that interests you.
Training & Frustration
Ryan: Yeah, let’s kind of get into actually like looking at the training part of it, and I mentioned the three things and frustration can pretty much be number one up on the list. Where do you start, all that sort of thing, again, check out the article. That’s where you start. Those are the actual techniques for doing the handstand.
Ryan: What we’re going to be talking about is looking at how you can train and frustration is the first thing. If you’re always focusing on just nailing the handstand, I just want to get the handstand, you’re going to get frustrated. The reason why is as I mentioned earlier, you might have a little bit of a hold one day because you have this banana handstand, but as soon as you start changing it, the duration of the hold is going to change.
Ryan: For example, the banana handstand, you might have been able to hold it for five seconds. If you try to straighten the line, you’d fall out of it right away. If you get frustrated, “Damn it, why can’t I do it?” Well, it actually just spirals and what’s going to happen is the handstand hold you’re going to get worse and worse and worse as you go.
Ryan: So, going into this and understanding that it is what it is, in other words, what did you learn from that particular hold, look at it that way. You’re never going to have a bad handstand. It sounds kind of weird but the reason I say that is let’s say you’re taking a video of yourself, when you’re working on the handstand and focusing on getting 1% better each day with that by focusing on a single thing than just saying, “Okay, today, I’m going to work on opening up my shoulders a little bit more.” Even if you didn’t hold that handstand, as long as your shoulders have improved a little bit, great success. It’s great. It’s good. You’re good to go. You’re making improvements.
Ryan: And so, rather than focusing simply on that end goal of holding a handstand, if you can break it down and look at a single thing that day, again, it could be something as simple as like I mentioned before, slightly improving the shoulder mobility in terms of having your shoulders open a little bit more. Maybe, for example, just pointing your toes that day, cool success.
Ryan: And focus on that, those little tiny things and looking at just 1% each day improvement is going to add up to actually get in the skill of the handstand naturally without frustration. And really that is huge. And it can be this way for any skill. We could actually be talking about the muscle up or anything. But I like to look at things that way. I just look at what did you learn that day and if you focus and do that, you’ll never have a bad session ever again.
Andy: Yeah, it’s really important. It’s just I think one of the problems with the fixation on hold time for handstand.
Andy: Because what happens pretty often is someone will come to us and they’ll say, “Well, I was able to hold a handstand for five seconds before and I did what you said in this video and I could only hold it for three. Therefore, your advice is bad.” No, no, no, no, no.
Ryan: Yes, we get that all the time. And again, it comes back to the handstand as a finicky thing because again you are having to make these adjustments. Any time you make an adjustment, you are affecting that pillar that you’re trying to build when you’re in a handstand. You’re going to come crashing down.
Ryan: Those are the things to take into consideration instead of just focusing on the end goal or a particular number.
Andy: Right. And the thing is every adjustment you make, assume that it will reduce your hold time-
Ryan: Yes, that’s a good.
Andy: … temporarily.
Ryan: That’s good to look at.
Andy: Any adjustment you make. If your hold time does not decrease for at least a couple of attempts, you haven’t made any changes.
Ryan: Yeah. And the thing is, if you could’ve just seen how long you can hold a handstand, it’s probably better for you to focus more on having a little bit of a banana handstand. And you can hold that longer. And you know what? It’s good enough. But just understand that any time you make any of these adjustments, it’s going to affect the duration of the handstand, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because again, focusing on those little getting really good at like the in-between steps to get you there are what’s really going to help you in the end.
Ryan: And so, the other thing to remember, at least in our case, we’re training because we want to enjoy it. So, if you’re doing this and you’re like, “Damn it, I can’t do this. This sucks.” Well, you need to do something different to be perfectly honest.
Andy: Yeah. Giving yourself anxiety over your handstand training, it’s probably time to consider maybe there’s another goal that you could be focusing on instead.
Ryan: Let’s try to enjoy the process. So, that’s what we’re trying to do. And so, I got to be perfect doing a handstand. Doing a handstand is not going to change the world. It’s not going to solve world hunger. Maybe I don’t know if there’s a way to do it, that would be fabulous. But really let’s just look at it for what it is. It’s simply a trick, a cool party trick and unless you’re really needing this for your job, then have fun with it. Understand that it should be a fun thing.
Setting Up & Bailing
Ryan: So, yeah, let’s kind of move on. I want to give a little analogy, if you will, and I say this all the time in the seminars and things. I look at a handstand as like surfing. So for any of you even if you haven’t surfed before, you can understand this. So, look at the handstand as the process of surfing. And so, you wake up. You go to the ocean and you see the ocean and you never know what condition the ocean is going to be in that day and at your body.
Ryan: So, for example, the ocean, the waves might be rough. It might be smooth as glass and you can’t actually surf that day, okay? That’s a whole other problem into itself. But looking at that state of what’s going on with your body and thinking of it as the ocean.
Ryan: Well, in order to actually get on your surfboard, you first need to paddle out. Now, that is where we’re looking at the setup to start to get you out to be able to do the handstand. And so, you paddle out there and here comes the wave and you got to get on your board. And even though you get up on your board, it doesn’t mean that you’re actually going to be able to stay there and surf that wave. Each wave is going to be different. Each and every time, conditions are different, timing is going to be different. You might just be slightly off.
Ryan: But the thing is similar to the handstand and surfing, if you can set yourself up and if you have a process and kind of a checklist if you will of what you know you need to do in order to be successful to standing up on your surfboard, chances are, you’re going to catch more waves. So that’s the same with the handstand. So, what am I talking about there is always try and have a setup. So, first of all, instead of just jumping into the handstand, think about where you’re placing your hands. Are they in a proper position? Are your arms locked out? How are you kicking up into your handstand?
Ryan: Do you have an exit strategy? In other words, are you comfortable bailing? That’s the other thing about surfing. If you’re scared of the water, maybe you’re scared of falling off your board, it’s going to be really tough for you to try and catch these waves. So, similar to the handstand, have you spent enough time in the water being comfortable being under the water, in other words working on your bail out of the handstand so that you’re not going to come crashing down and hurt yourself.
Ryan: So that’s also something very important. So the setup, having the steps to be able to actually get into the handstand, knowing that you have the ability to be safe when you bail out of the handstand, and then also simply enjoying the process of doing it and understanding that like surfing, it should be fun. Having that in mind is going to make this a whole lot easier.
Ryan: Now, the other thing that’s really cool and if you’ve ever surfed, then you’ll relate to this, you go out there and you try and catch 20 waves and maybe you’ll only catch one wave. But that one wave that you’ve caught makes the process all worth it. And the handstand is exactly the same.
Ryan: So, even though it might take you 10 attempts to try and get that handstand, if you hold this sucker for like three seconds, it’s awesome. And so, really, really focus on celebrating that win and understanding that it is a process. It is going to take some time, but when you get into that handstand and you kind of get that flow time, really it’s a lot of fun and it makes it worth it.
Ryan: By doing that then, then you can really start to further enjoy the process and understand that it is a process. Make sure that you have that bail. Make sure that you have the setup to get into the handstand and make sure that when you’re in a handstand, you come out of it, that you enjoy it and that will just keep you to be able to practice it for as long as you can.
Andy: That’s definitely great. A lot of these small details in handstands that we talk about, they contribute so much to the psychology of where your mind is at, which in turn contributes back to the way you’re able to physically control your body. So, it’s actually this feedback loop that you’re creating with all of these details and the way we’re saying to think about things, none of these is insignificant because it all contributes together to like the physical to the mental to the physical, to the full experience of doing it that lets you be able to control your balance ultimately and hold that handstand.
Andy: So, all of these things matter and it’s seeing how they are part of a whole together, I think, that makes a big difference in this.
Ryan: Yeah. It’s huge. And so many people get so focused on what do I need to do? What do I need to do? Like the actual techniques and things, which, yes, they’re important. But like what we’re talking about right now is let’s look at the big picture. What do you really need to understand in order to have a good practice all of that handstanding? And so, again, it comes back down to have a process to follow.
Ryan: And then also, working through that fear and setting yourself up so that you’re very comfortable for when something happens. And so that’s just the thing. Over the years in teaching so many people during seminars, that’s the one major thing is people are scared to be upside down but they want to learn handstand. Okay, great. Well, let me help you to get over that fear from day one so that then you can start focusing on really enjoying the process.
Andy: Because here’s the thing, you will fall.
Ryan: You’re going to fall a lot. You’re going to fall a lot.
Andy: There’s no reason to be afraid of it. Just know that you will fall and what you’re going to do is manage that.
Ryan: Yeah, and here’s a reframe actually for that. Not even saying fall, and that is because fall typically equates to injury, this image that we have in our minds. Let’s instead say bail. If you can just keep it in terms of using the word bail, then that gives you more power if you will whenever you’re working on your handstand and know that when you actually do fall, it’s actually a bail as long as you have the proper knowledge of how to do that. And it just comes down to a cartwheel.
How to Train the Handstand
Ryan: So, let’s talk a little bit about how to like to train the handstand. So, again, this is just my take on it, the GMB take on it. And so by saying that, it’s 100% correct and there are no other answers, so listen up, everybody.
Ryan: The biggest thing that we need to focus on from the very beginning, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at for anything is what are your limitations? And so, this comes down to, for example, do you actually have a necessary wrist strength flexibility? It’s pretty amazing that people, they really want to learn the handstand and then they try and kick up. They kick up there. They kick up there and come down like, “I don’t know why I can’t do it.” And then they show us their wrist mobility, their wrists are just not at a point to allow them to be able to get upside down.
Ryan: And so, first and foremost, looking at do you actually have the necessary range of motion? Do you have that strength that’s going to allow you to start working on the handstand? A lot of people, same deal. We say, “Hey, listen. I think you should focus on your wrist and focus on your shoulders.” And they’re like, “Oh, no, no, no. I want to do the handstand.” I’m like, “Okay, I get that.”
Ryan: Just understand that you are working on the handstand when you’re working on your wrist flexibility, your shoulder mobility as well as strengthening your lower back and your core because that’s going to equate to better control overall in the handstand when you get it literally upside down. So, work on fixing that but it doesn’t mean that you can’t work on the handstand. The main thing is working at a level that’s going to be good for you.
Ryan: Recently, we had a video that went up on YouTube that I did that addresses these, are you ready for the handstand? And if you are having trouble even starting the handstand, here’s what you can do to help you with that. And these are things that we’re covering today in this podcast. It’s just the video version of that. So, feel free to check that out.
Ryan: Again, I already mentioned this but checking out what your limitations are. And for most people, rather than simply range of motion or strength issue, it’s what I’ve mentioned already and that is safety. And so, that’s why the first thing when you’re ready to do all of these is focus on the handstand bail. It’s a cartwheel, that’s it. The better that you can cartwheel out of a handstand, the safer you’re going to be.
Ryan: Now, the interesting thing about this is that typically it’s going to be your best side cartwheel. And so, you don’t actually need to do both cartwheels right and left. A lot of people asked me that question but I’ve just found it’s really interesting that the leg that you kick up with for the handstand is going to be typically your best side cartwheel.
Ryan: And so, it’s great because you’ll be working on the kick-up to the handstand which is also focusing on the control. Mind you, you’re not even doing the handstand yet. You’re just focusing on doing the cartwheel. But by kicking up into this cartwheel, you’re actually also helping you for the split leg kick-up.
Ryan: The better you can control the kick-up and do a handstand, the better you’re going to be able to hold. It’s not a Hail Mary where you’re just rolling your legs up there and just trying to hold of it. Nope, don’t even focus on trying to hold anything. First, focus on your bail and then focus on the split leg kick-up.
Ryan: Do that and I guarantee you, you will have success with the handstand. You won’t have success with the handstand if you simply just try and get upside down and hold it because again, you’re not going to know how to bail and you’re not going to have control in getting into the handstand.
Andy: Right. And so I think it’s just really important to emphasize too like the cartwheel, absolutely is a thing. The two things that are really important if you’re losing your balance in a handstand, one, Ryan mentions in every seminar that I’ve ever seen him teach. If you’re losing your balance, don’t bend your elbows. You’ll see people, their entire weight is on their hands and they start losing their balance and they start bending their elbows. Don’t do that because your straight arms are the thing protecting your head and your neck.
Andy: So, keep your arms straight. Again, think like a cartwheel. The other one is whichever of those legs you’re strongest at, just start reaching it towards the ground. Try to find the floor with whichever leg feels most natural, and that is going to again take weight off of your hands and away from your head. So, safety-wise, what do people say when they’re afraid of handstands? “I’ll break my neck.” Well, if you keep your arms straight and reach either of your legs towards the floor, it’s nearly impossible to break your neck now.
Andy: So, this is safety. This is why it’s the cartwheel. This is why this bail is what we recommend rather than rolling out or something else. Keep your arms straight. Find a way to remove weight from that side of the head by putting one of the legs down and now, you have removed the scariest part of handstands.
Ryan: It’s amazing. It’s only natural to want to get as close to the floor as possible when you’re falling. It feels natural. You want to get small and tuck up but that is actually the worst thing you could do. And so like just what Andy said, keep your arms straight. And with that being said, you don’t need a beautiful cartwheel. It doesn’t matter what that cartwheel looks like. It does not. The only thing is to protect your neck, protect your head so keep your arms straight. If you do that, you’re going to be fine.
Ryan: Moving into the next thing too is wall work, using the wall for the handstand, so many questions on this. So, I’m just going to just straight out just say, it’s super simple for me, I want to get you away from the wall as fast as possible. That’s it. And that’s also why we spend so much time just focusing on this single leg kick-up into the handstand without even doing a handstand. But focusing on the single leg kick-up and the bail.
Ryan: And the reason why is for two reasons. So first that we’ve already talked about is the fear factor. It’s just getting comfortable and being in that particular position upside down. The other thing too is it actually teaches control. And you’re not even in a handstand yet. And so, by understanding how to kick up into the handstand, you’ll find yourself naturally floating. And then you can start working towards the handstand.
Ryan: Now, I’m not saying that wall work is bad. Using the wall is necessary and I think it’s very, very good tool for improving your line. But I don’t like people to just rely on the wall so much. And so, there’s a couple of ways of doing it. Using the wall, for example, in the very beginning is just to improve your kick-up as well as to improve your line as well.
Ryan: When you get better and can actually hold the handstand, it’s really good for endurance. The thing that we see is that a lot of people, when they do actually fall out of a handstand for a couple of reasons but the main reason is because they don’t have the push in strength. Basically, a scapular strength to be able to hold the position that is necessary for the handstand, they don’t have that endurance strength.
Ryan: So by going to the wall and actually using the wall and holding in a proper position for an extended period of time is going to build that endurance strength that’s going to equate to the strength that’s going to help for when you’re doing the freestanding handstand.
Ryan: So, moving on, what is better, facing the wall or facing out? They’re both valid. In the very beginning, facing … Let me get this straight.
Andy: Well, hold on, hold on, hold on. Why not split the difference and do your handstand at 90 degrees to the wall? I think this is the compromised solution that everyone has been waiting for.
Ryan: At a 90-degree position, great. I also covered that in the tutorial as well. Yeah, it is …
Andy: All right, maybe not, maybe not.
Ryan: No, it’s funny. And the thing is too, there’s so many … Everyone has an opinion on this. This is just again me trying to get you to be able to work and have fun with your handstand. If you work with a professional hand balancing coach … It just sounds so funny to say that … they’re going to have you do tons and tons and tons of whatever, the wall, facing the wall, whatever, I don’t even know. But thing with us, don’t sweat it too much. Just try and enjoy the process and try to get away from the wall as soon as possible in 90-degree handstand.
Ryan: Okay, so facing the wall … I lost my train of thought here. Oh, yes, in the very beginning when you start working on the wall, actually just having you walk your feet up the wall I feel is great. And the reason for that is again, it’s going to work on further improving your spatial awareness in terms of what’s going on as you’re in movement. And it’s also strengthening your arms and your shoulders as well as your core.
Ryan: And so, this is something that I cover in all the videos and how to do that and looking at, for example, the breathing, how long you should hold it, all that jazz is in the videos and our article that we have. But again, that really is in the beginning kind of working on the strength portion of it and you can also work on your line. But the thing with that as well, always know how to bail out of it.
Ryan: So, in terms of how long to hold anything when you’re using a wall or the handstand, I always say 80% and people are like, “What’s 80%?” Well, it’s as basically like, “Oh, I think I might be at my limit.” Okay, you could get out of it. So, that’s kind of like what I suggest for people in terms of 80%. You don’t want to hold it until you’re just like, “Oh, my god, I’m going to crash.” Then it’s too late. You’re coming down and no ifs or buts about it.
Ryan: so, whenever you want-
Andy: If you wait until you’re about to die, you might die.
Ryan: Yeah, you’re going to.
Andy: Don’t do that.
Ryan: So, in terms of when you have your belly facing away from the wall, this is where you can work on practicing your kick-ups. Just don’t bang your foot into the wall when you kick up there. That’s not what you want. You want to focus on really addressing the wall with finesse for two reasons, you’re not going to kick a hole on your wall. The other thing too it’s going to help you with control when you’re working on a float. Once again, all of these is covered on all the videos that we have. And again, the other reason I like the wall as I mentioned before is because of endurance.
Ryan: So, I’d rather have you to be able to stay upside down in a freestanding line. Eventually, that’s great if you could do that, but again like I mentioned, a banana handstand is really cool. The thing with me, I want you to try and stay up there as long as you can. So when you’re doing a free-stand handstand, it might not look great. You might actually need to like have a banana or maybe you straddle your legs a little bit, but I’d rather have you be upside down longer.
Ryan: The longer you can stay upside down, the more time you have to improve your line. And I hope that makes sense what I said. I mean, this can actually be like, I’ve had people go through the apprenticeship and I’d say that and they’re like, “Oh, my god, that was mind-blowing,” because they’re always on the wall working on their line. That’s great, but if you don’t actually have the strength and the stamina, freestanding even like in a banana handstand to just stay in that position, you’re never going to have the opportunity to improve that line.
Ryan: So, rather than trying to just improve your line freestanding, improve your endurance freestanding and then you can eventually work on your line. Again, I hope that makes sense what I was just trying to say.
Andy: Yeah. Well, the more time you spend in a live unassisted handstand, the more time you spend adjusting and having to be aware of your balance and where you are spatially and noticing all of this stuff, that gives you more practice experiencing, one, what it feels like when you’re doing it right but two, what it feels like when you’re about to fail.
Ryan: Yes. And that’s it. That’s it. That’s really I think the main thing here is I’m going to be honest, you’ve always got another second in you. Every single person bails before they actually held a handstand as long as they could. Me too. I remember doing like one arm handstands and I’m just like, “Oh, I think I’m done,” and I come down and then I would be like, “Why did I come down?” But that’s a good thing because as long as you’re aware of it and you’ve done that freestanding because you get that feeling, it’s going to work and it’s going to be better.
Practice Checklist and Tips
Ryan: Let’s take this back here. Let’s talk a little bit about in GMB, some of these things we already covered but I kind of want to go through this little checklist thing here. And so first of all, assess where you’re at. How is your bail? That’s it. Can you bail? How is your kick-up? It doesn’t matter what shape you’re working on. Even if you’re working on straddle handstand, you’re working on a stag handstand, even if you’re working on the one-arm handstand, I don’t give a crap. How is the entry? How is the kick-up?
Ryan: Are you making sure you’re going through a little checklist every single time and not just haphazardly kicking up? It’s very important in what direction your fingers are facing, your elbows turned forward via scapular elevation, where is your head, where you’re looking. All these things, even before you start to kick up are what’s going to set you up for success.
Ryan: The other thing too that I’ve mentioned is have a theme to focus on that day. You’re not just going in there to practice the handstand. You’re going there to practice X. For example today, I’m going to focus on just head position. I’m going to go into my handstand practice today and just focus on my kick-up or whatever it is depending on your level. Focus on that, you’re always going to have a good session.
Ryan: So, what do you practice on? Well, you practice on what you need to practice. Again, it might not even be a handstand. It might be just walking up the wall and then walking down the wall. Great, start there. Spend some time with it. Give yourself a good rest after each attempt. And speaking of attempts, don’t be like the Energizer bunny and just keep kicking up. When you fall out, you kick up again, and you come out and you kick up again. Nope.
Ryan: Kick up and if you have to bail, that’s your attempt. That’s fine. Give yourself a little break, set up the proper way that you need to set up and then do it again and then take a break. Yes, it might take you a little longer to get you through your practice. Are you going to get better this way? Yes, do it that way.
Ryan: So, how do you train all this? Start off by prepping. Always make sure that your wrists, your shoulders are good to go. And this can also mean if you are at a level when you can kind of do a handstand, then that means that your prep would include bails. It would include a kick-up. It might include a kick up on the wall in order to help open up your shoulders. It might include a freestanding handstand, just depends on where you are.
Ryan: Always include that prep. Moving through your practice, you’re going to work on your main movement. Like I mentioned before, if you happen to be at a level where you can do a handstand, then cool. Maybe you’re then working on that day a straddle handstand. That’s your practice and that is where you want to perform your best and your highest level of the movement, making sure that you give yourself adequate rest in between attempts.
Ryan: Yeah, skill acquisition is what we’re after. So, this isn’t where like you’re working out and trying to push yourself and whatever. Don’t be silly with it. Make sure that each and every attempt is beautiful and a proper rest in order to be able to do that.
Ryan: Here’s one way that I think can really help, and this is what has helped me over the years. And this is what I suggest to a lot of people once they get to a level where they’re very comfortable with using the floor, in other words, freestanding. Do one attempt on the floor freestanding, whatever level you’re at, and then go to the wall immediately and do the same thing on the wall.
Ryan: And then you take a break. The thing about this is it’s really different. You’ll notice the difference right away in what you were doing on the floor compared to what you do on a wall. Then what you can do is take that feedback that you got when you’re on the wall and apply it to the next attempt when you do a freestanding.
Ryan: So, what you’re actually doing is you’re coaching yourself by bringing better awareness to what you were doing in a previous attempt. This is a fabulous way to do it. It also helps too if you happen to use video and you can look at even further what’s going on. I used to do this with one-arm handstands and to this day, someone used to come to me and want to really improve their handstand in an efficient way that is going to give you great feedback while training by yourself. This is how I suggest doing it and that’s what I do suggest.
Ryan: So, you would do, again, one thing on the floor freestanding, whatever that might be and then you do the same thing against the wall. Immediate feedback is wonderful. Don’t get frustrated when you’re doing this. Remember it’s a process. We’re here to enjoy it. Focus on the single theme that day.
Ryan: If you get upset at yourself because you weren’t able to hold it, then you’ve got other shit going on in your life that you need to address. Step away from your handstand practice and go do something else. Smoke a joint, whatever, if you’re in California. You can’t say that in Japan, so we’d get arrested. But don’t let it get to you. Take a breath, step away, focus on what you need to do and then just repeat it.
Ryan: The other thing too is play. Remember that it’s not all practice. You can play at any level. Play can be anywhere between, let’s say, working on a different shape of the handstand. It can be instead of just trying to hold it walking on your hands. It can be go back and play around with the cartwheel, which is the bail. So, play. Include some more play in there.
Ryan: You can finish up then with your push. So, this is the conditioning portion of it. I got to be honest, by the time you get to the push portion of your workout, you should already be pretty exhausted. Handstands, leave it all on the table before you get to the push. I remember that I typically would finish up with maybe like one round of something, and I was done.
Ryan: And so that could be, for example, holding the handstand for one minute against the wall, scapular elevation, pushing away from the wall, making sure that I’m squeezing the entire body, pointing my toes and then I got out in a minute and I was exhausted because I was spending so much time and left everything on the table for my practice portion and my play portion.
Ryan: Other thing too is let’s say that you’re really tired and you know that by going upside down, you’re at the level where by going upside down would be unsafe, use a band. And so you don’t even actually have to go upside down. You can use one of those exercise bands that I show in the tutorial videos that we have, holding that for a minute. That’s going to kill you too.
Ryan: So, always just try and focus on the best form possible when you’re working on your endurance and working on your strength during a push portion and make sure you’re working at a level that’s adequate for you that’s safe. And really, that’s about it. Anything to add to that?
Andy: No, that’s really comprehensive.
Ryan: Yeah. We can kind of wrap it up. Just quickly again, it’s all about safety. Making sure that you practice on the movements and also that you enjoy the process. I can’t say that enough. Focus on your bail, focus on your kick-up, that’s it. How are you kicking up there and can you get out of it safely? The wall is great to use for help but try and get away from the wall as soon as possible.
Ryan: The floor and the wall can work great together when you practice. Use the floor first, go to the wall. And the other thing is practice, practice, practice. That’s it. All right.
Andy: All right.
Ryan: Thanks for listening, everybody.
Andy: Yeah. If you’ve listened to this and you have not yet mastered the handstands, you need to clean out your ears because we’ve just solved it. Of course that’s not true. Remember, it’s a process. It takes a lot of practice and hopefully, you can use some of these things we’ve talked today to help you learn your own process, to help you learn how to use that process and understand where you’re at and then make adjustments over time because it does take a lot of time. But you can do it. You can get it.
Andy: All right, enjoy yourself.
Ryan: Enjoy yourself.
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