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Handstand Wall Runs

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#1 Coach Sommer

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 12:47 AM


One of the primary attributes of a good handstand is the ability to completely extend the shoulders while inverted. Often times, an athlete will begin a turn of handstand work with the best of intentions, but within only a few moments their shoulder girdle will begin to weaken and sag. Enter Handstand (HS) Wall Runs.

HS Wall Runs were originally created quite by accident. One of my athletes for some reason was unable to join in with the rest of the team for the warm-up running drills prior to our joint preparation work. Rather than have him simply set on the side resting while his teammates worked, I arbitrarily assigned him to run on his hands while in a wall handstand for the duration of their run. Little did I know what an auspicious accident this would turn out to be.

The athlete in question was smart, hardworking and quite disciplined. I had however gotten him rather late (14 yrs old) and his shoulder girdle development was lagging behind the other competitive boys of his age. Press handstands were especially difficult for him. When I have jokingly told him not to come down for the duration of their approximately 10 minute running drills, he in fact took me very seriously. He stayed in that handstand, running in place, for the entire 10 minutes.

This became a habit; for two to three times a week when the other athletes performed their pre-warmup running drills, he performed 10 minutes of HS Wall Runs. This went on for several weeks. Sometime thereafter, during conditioning one night, he called me over to check something out. And there in front of me, this athlete who formerly could not correctly execute a single press to handstand, showed me several very nice repetitions in a row. What is especially interesting about this, is that the only adjustment to his training had been the addition of the HS Wall Runs.

We then experimented with using the HS Wall Runs with the rest of the team as well in place of their former running drills. Interestingly enough, it was the weaker athletes who showed the most improvement from the inclusion of this element in their training. Perhaps it was simply that the former weakness of their shoulder girdles precluded them from spending enough time in the support positions of regular press handstand variations to gain strength at the same rate as their stronger teammates. Regardless the benefits of including this element were outstanding and relatively quick.

We experimented with a range of methods for implementing HS Wall Runs. Times for the runs ranged from 10-20 minutes; with a fairly regular emphasis on 15 minutes for several weeks, before it became clear that 10 minutes gave the most benefits with the least risk of overtraining. Individual times actually in a HS Wall Run during the 10 minute block varied from individual to individual. They were strongly encouraged :D to put forth their best effort and stay in the HS Wall Run as long as possible, but were allowed to drop and recover for a few moments when necessary.

We tried 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 days of week training this element. Four and five days a week quickly became too much. Three was ok occasionally. One to two days a week was excellent; providing good results in strength gains with no symptoms of overtraining.

Now before we begin the technical exploration of the HS Wall Runs, there are several important points to review:
1) Warm the wrists and elbows up thoroughly prior to beginning the day’s training.
2) Rest as needed during your day’s HS Wall Run training. Give your body a change to adapt to the demands of this excellent element. HS Wall Runs are significantly more difficult than a regular wall HS held for the same period of time. This is due to the constant extensions of the shoulder girdle and the one arm supports.
3) It is better to lower down, rather than wait too long and crash down.
4) Do NOT over indulge on this element. Once per week, or less, is an excellent place to start.

Performance Tips:
1) Be sure to perform HS Wall Runs in a comfortable location with enough room to roll out forward if necessary.
2) Begin by walking your feet up the wall and your hands into the wall.
3) It is not necessary to have the wrists go completely to the wall. Go as close as you can go, while remaining relatively stable.
4) Do not allow your back to arch while in the HS; keep flat and tight. This will prevent an excessive arch from straining your lower back.
5) From the regular HS position, shift to one side while lifting the other hand to the shoulder. The shoulder of the supporting arm will automatically extend strongly in order to keep you in the HS.
6) On each and every step the hand must touch the shoulder. If you are too fatigued to touch the shoulder, you are too fatigued to be in a one arm HS. Come down and rest until you are sufficiently recovered to begin once again.
7) If you are unfamiliar with the demands of HS training, I recommend that you begin with short bursts of effort in the 10-30 second range.

HS Wall Runs are an excellent movement, which provides great improvements in shoulder girdle strength as well as being a stepping stone toward greater HS proficiency.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer

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#2 Blairbob


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Posted 03 January 2009 - 01:42 AM

Nice. I always called these shoulders tappers and the fun name is " monkey tapper HS". Something about a monkey touching their armpits while doing walking.

We call them side tapper or penguins if the side is touched/slapped.

I like to use these a lot for those gymnasts who cannot yet walk in HS and before doing handstand hops. I also think it's good to develop for pirouettes. I got really sick of walking with kids holding them in HS across the floor a long time ago. I don't think it helped them much and it killed a lot of time ( only 1 of me ).

Eventually we do these in a free HS. The most I've ever seen is 60 or so. I think one girl at the time, Ashley who was 12 then and a level 6 or 7, could do a 100+. It's not something we ever really tested much. I'm sure it's possible to do way more than that.

One of the games we did on the wall was HSPU to head, shoulder tapper on each side. Each round increased the number of shoulder taps or pushups.

Gotta watch the wrists so you're slamming the wrist down as you put it back on the ground. That'll hurt after awhile. Keep the weight on one arm ( the base arm ) as you are preparing to place the next hand down and shift it over.
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#3 Gregor


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Posted 03 January 2009 - 04:37 AM

Very good inded :D We used to compeet on this whoo will do more touches on the shoulders (without the wall).

I got idea-you can increase difficulty of this exercise to put elastics on top of the legs and on the each hand :)

#4 sasquatch


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Posted 03 January 2009 - 08:26 PM

It's always great to see a new training essay , especially with a video.
Thank you Coach!

Maybe this will give me the strength for a press-handstand.

#5 Tom Weksler

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 11:41 AM

10-20 minutes of handstand wall runs without dropping down is very impressive. One coach at the London school of Circus who used to be a Mongolian olympic gymnast told me that him and his team used to do 30 minutes of wall handstand to make the shoulder "bullet proof".
There's no way to go around it : in order to have a good and solid handstand one needs to spend some searious time on his hands.
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#6 Coach Sommer

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 11:45 AM

That is an excellent point. I have found that 10 minutes of continuous HS Wall Runs gives the same benefits as 30 minutes of continuous Wall HS. From a training perspective, it is much easier and more efficient to find a 10 minute block of time than a 30 minute block.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
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#7 Blairbob


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Posted 04 January 2009 - 08:47 PM


Was the wall run done in one continuous segment of 10 minutes or 10 minutes of total time? Was the break from the wallruns done in HS or on ground?

Was that 10 minutes of time spent training the wall runs with intermittent breaks?

10 minutes is something I can afford out of training the boys for 3 hours a day ( Level 4's ). It would be harder to justify 30 minutes, but could be done in the off-season. Currently, I think that would be too much volume for where they are now, also considering their wall HS are poor and they cannot hold these for a long time.

#8 Coach Sommer

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 09:05 PM

Ideally there are no intermittent breaks; my stronger athletes complete the 10 minutes of HS Wall Runs as a single unbroken set without coming down once. The other athletes are encouraged to rest for a few seconds when absolutely necessary, but then to get back into the HS Wall Runs almost immediately. For the weaker athletes, this pattern continues until the entire 10 minutes is finished.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer

#9 LukeLeaman


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Posted 05 January 2009 - 11:36 AM

lol, I'm afraid that if I take my hand from the ground, then I will soon be eating the ground.

I think I may have to stick with trying to do wall handstands for 10 min straight before I attempt these :)

#10 matthew.percussion


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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:09 PM

lol, I'm afraid that if I take my hand from the ground, then I will soon be eating the ground.

I think I may have to stick with trying to do wall handstands for 10 min straight before I attempt these :)

The first couple of tries I was pretty unstable and I fell to the side a lot, but it's easy to step out of. In a minute or two you get the hang of it.

#11 Blairbob


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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:12 PM

Lean and push on one hand at a time. You can also make your handstand against the wall at an angle, instead of flat, so there is less pressure/weight on your handstand. I allow this for beginners.
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#12 Epimetheus


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Posted 07 January 2009 - 01:24 PM

That is an excellent point. I have found that 10 minutes of continuous HS Wall Runs gives the same benefits as 30 minutes of continuous Wall HS. From a training perspective, it is much easier and more efficient to find a 10 minute block of time than a 30 minute block.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer

Does this mean that Wall Handstands should be replaced with these once you're capable of doing them for a significant amount of time? And if so, how long should one be able to hold a Wall Handstand before moving on to these? Thanks a lot of the great article, and really cool exercise!

#13 palmcron


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Posted 23 January 2009 - 03:18 PM

I tried handstand wall runs (and today I also tried it free standing) and experienced a strange feeling in my right shoulder.
After lifting the right hand to the shoulder and putting it back on the ground again, I felt like a strange kind of pain or instability in the right shoulder; however, it's not instable as I could lift the right hand also ignoring that feeling without problems.
going down, the feeling immediately stopped, and doing more handstands wasn't a problem at all. Only when I tried HS Wall Runs again, I had the feeling again. Kind of like I maybe twist my shoulder in a strange way when performing the HS wall run.

Is there any common error I could be making?

#14 Coach Sommer

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 07:12 AM

In my opinion, this indicates that you are not yet strong enough to be performing this element. Leave it alone and let your strength develop for a couple of months and then re-visit it.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
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#15 Blairbob


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Posted 24 January 2009 - 06:01 PM

Would you say that gaining some ability at holding the stomach to wall HS should be attained first? Perhaps 1m with a good position or could one scale it down to 3/4 HS on wall and practice the shoulder tapping motion?

I've played with both, coaching-wise, and lean towards being able to hold the static HS on wall first before the balancing/bouncing off wall HS and adding the wallrun addition ( be it shoulder or side tap/slap ). Mastering the static before adding movement like shrugging, blocking, walking, etc.

#16 Coach Sommer

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 06:39 PM

Yes I agree, a proficiency of maintaining at least 1-2 minutes in a Wall HS is necessary before attempting to engage in HS Wall Runs. This is a relatively easy basic minimum to achieve. Most of my entry level athletes build up to a minimum of 2-3 minutes Wall HS fairly rapidly on only twice a week training.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
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#17 Blairbob


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Posted 24 January 2009 - 11:01 PM

I've started having them do 5 sets of 1m. Sometimes they stay up. Actually the weakest of my competing 3 tends to stay up the entire time while the other 2 do not, including "Muscle-Man." I think that due to their poor shoulder flexibility, it inhibits their wall HS a bit.

With a beginning/intermediate rec tumbling class I have, it's been 5 sets of 30s lately.

An interesting thing is that doing wall runs back to wall doesn't to work very well. Maybe I just forgot how but none of them were able to do it and I was either too tired or couldn't figure it out. Weird.

#18 coachnate


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Posted 17 February 2009 - 04:28 PM

These are great! A couple quick questions about this type of exercise. I used to have my kids do these as side stations. Since we usually kept the numbers down (time was limited), when these became easy we had them move to touching their hips instead. This proved to be more difficult.

-Anyone else tried these with their kids (or themselves)?
-If so, any noticed benefits?
-Were they more difficult for you/your kids?


PS - Sorry, forgot to use the quote button, but whoever said they liked them for piroettes, that's what we loved about them to. Good call!

#19 Blairbob


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Posted 18 February 2009 - 12:49 AM

Yes, my friend used to use side slappers for the girls and called them penguins. Monkeys were the wall run/shoulder tapper drill.

They were more difficult and it was a good drill like one arm handstand in preparation for pirouettes.

#20 Andres


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Posted 24 February 2009 - 07:53 AM

I did these yesterday, I will continue doing them 2x a week. I want to get that HS press :D