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Coach Sommer

Transitioning from Wall Handstands to Free Standing

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Coach Sommer

Wall handstands are your most valuable tool for learning a correct handstand. I recommend staying with them for a substantial period of time. This will accomplish several things:

1) It will make it easier to maintain a straight body line (no arch or pike in either the shoulders, back or hips).

2) You can focus on learning balance and not on survival.

3) Your strength will improve more quickly due to being able to stay in the handstand for an extended period of time.

To transition from wall handstands to free standing handstands, try the following drill: Perform a wall handstand with stomach to the wall. Place your wrists approximately 4-6" from the base of the wall. Keep one foot on the wall while pulling the other foot off the wall and extending that leg directly over your hips. At this time, your wrists, shoulders, hips and leg that is off the wall should be in one vertical line. Once you feel that you have achieved a strong stable position, slowly pull your supporting foot off the wall. When you lose your balance, simply catch yourself by replacing the foot on the wall and then continue on with the drill.

Once you have achieved a reasonable level of proficiency with both versions of the wall handstand, learning free standing handstands will be much easier.

For free standing handstands, there should be no movement in the legs, hips, back or elbows while in the handstand. Concentrate on keeping the body straight and "tight". The more parts of your body that are moving, the more difficult the balance will be. Focus on controlling the handstand with your shoulders and wrist/fingers.

While in the handstand, you should picture your hand as having three sections: the palm, the fingers and the heel of the hand. When on balance, you should feel your weight comfortably placed in the center of your palm with your shoulders directly over your hands. If you are falling over backwards, keep your body tight and attempt to pull your feet back up by pressing your fingers strongly into the floor and pulling your shoulders back over your hands. If you are falling forward,, press strongly into the floor with the heels of your hands and attempt to partially planche press back to the handstand position.

In reality, the handstand is not a non-moving position, but a series of rapid minute corrections between the three positions (over, under and vertical) to maintain the balance. All movements should be small and controlled. Try to avoid making rapid or large corrections.

There is no reason to crash while training a handstand. If you find yourself falling over, simply bend your arms, duck your head and do a forward roll. Be sure to train in an area that is suitable and has enough room to manuever in case of mishaps.

As far as free standing handstand pushups (HSPUs) are concerned, you will of course need to begin by performing them on a wall. There will be a slight planching (leaning forward) of the shoulders during the descent. To ascend, simply try to reverse the direction of the shoulder lean as you press back up. Try to keep the degree of planche to a minimum, as excessive planching will cause your hips to drop forcing you out of the handstand.

Beware of equating partial handstand pushups, i.e. hands on the floor and the head touching the ground, with full range HSPUs. A full range handstand pushup is actually done with the hands elevated at least 12" or so off of the floor and entails lowering the shoulders completely to the hands at the bottom of the repetition. This is a fairly advanced exercise and is several orders of magnitude harder than only lowering the head to the floor.

Of course the most difficult version is to perform the full range handstand pushup while balancing in a handstand on the rings. The amount of stablizing work required just to hold yourself in place on the rings is staggering, combine that with essentially performing a bodyweight military press and you have a truly excellent exercise.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Edward Smith

coach, i was gonna ask what time you work your students up to in freestanding handstand but most of them it's probably indefinite :) but what would you suggest working up to for us?

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David Picó García

I ve never thought in the stomach to wall version (yes for pushups but not for handstand only) and i tried and it felt great, even with one foot on the wall you can feel the free standing.

As ed x asks, which amount of time do you think is necessary to mantain in order to be at a reasonable level of proficiency. On wall, free handstand, and to start to work for free handstand push ups?

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Coach Sommer

Duration of Wall Handstand Training

The amount of time spent in a wall handstand will vary widely according to the strength of the athlete involved. For beginning athletes, I generally begin with 30 seconds and then continue to build from there; adding 30 seconds a month to their static hold until they reach 3 minutes. Our record for little guys (6 years old) is 8:00 minutes :shock:.

That being said, this is not necessarily the same approach that I would use for fitness training. I would recommend spending a minimum of 10 minutes, and possibly as much as 20 minutes, one to two times a week working on wall handstands. This time period would also be inclusive of rest times, so be diligent to not overdue the rest between wall handstand turns.

I also recommend focusing on moving the wrists as close as possible to the wall. At first it will be quite difficult to come closer than 4" to 6" from the wall. Over time, you goal should be to come within 1" to 2" of the wall. It should be noted that taking very small steps inward is much more effective that attempting large steps. Simply make sure to move both hands inward equally. If you cannot maintain balance for at least 5 seconds after making a step, you have attempted to come too close for that turn. However exploring, and sometimes exceeding, your limits is part of the fun with this movement; so don't be overly concerned on momentarily over-extending yourself.

Making the long term effort to move the wrists within 1" to 2" of the wall will have two profound effects on the body:

1) Moving the wrists that close to the wall will greatly improve the alignment of your body (how straight it is) which will directly impact how quickly you achieve proficiency in a free standing handstand. In order to maintain balance with the wrists so close to the base of the wall, you will find pressing the upper chest (not the rib cage or stomach!) and quads into the wall to be enormously helpful.

2) Moving the wrists that close to the wall is also quite therapeutic for the wrists themselves. When I begin to feel the creaking advances of decrepitude within my wrists :?, I will join my younger athletes in working wall handstands for a few minutes. My wrists will invariable feel stronger and more flexible after a few sessions.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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hrcak

Wow :shock: that kid is strong :shock:

Coach maybe some pictures because i did not understood last post :cry:

Sorry for my bad english still learning :)

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Paul

Best I managed against a wall was last year which was around the 6 mins 30 secs mark. That was a maximum attempt but I generally do shorter durations for a few minutes at a time. I'm 38 so pretty pleased with that.

8 mins is a loooong time.

Paul.

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Edward Smith

with the 8:00 minutes is that freestanding off the wall? or feet on it?

cause i was mainly wondering about freestanding handstands, what time you think we (fitness enthusiasts, people who train strength, general people) should work up to in freestanding

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xi xia

Hi Coach,

New to the forum and gymnastics in general. This information is priceless and thanks to my friend Scott Hagnas for directing me to your site. I have some questions about wall handstands and the limited practice I have had with them.

I haven't done a wall stand with my stomach facing the wall and can't wait to try it. Always done the opposite with my back against the wall. Do you walk your feet up to the wall and go as high as possible? Is there some type of special kick up?

I have had hard time figuring out proprioceptively when my hips are really over my shoulders. To help with this, I have been doing tripod headstands and practice pressing my hips up to meet the wall. What do you think about this exercise?

I see the book is available now but there no link to it???

Thanks and looking forward to all this

Xi Xia

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langdon0555

When doing stomach against wall handstands...yes just walk your feet up while walking your hands back toward the wall at the same time....the book is not available until the website is fully functional.

casey

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Coach Sommer

Welcome, Xi Xia.

Yes, the wall handstands are invaluable in teaching the body correct alignment. To get into a wall handstand, simply walk your hands in closer to the wall as your feet walk up higher until you are in a full handstand.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Bob Sanders

Wow! Great Information Coach Sommers! I was practicing the handstand today and I fall a lot after just a few seconds. But can anyone tell me about what to do with shakey arms? I guess I am not strong enough but the shakey arms makes it a whole lot difficult to keep my whole body tense and stay straight.

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Coach Sommer

The shaky arms will pass in time as your strength continues to improve.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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JaredLLL

How can someone figure out if they have enough shoulder flexibility to do a proper handstand? I generally train alone, if i'm with someone they know less of Gymnastic Strength Training™ then I do.

Is there a way to test, or check your alignment?

Coach has thrown out that doing belly to the wall handstands are effective at straightening the body out. Can someone expand on this, from a shoulder flexibility standpoint ?

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Guest Ido Portal

Jared, if you are asking, you dont have enough flexibility....

Seriously now, there is good indicator for handstand allignment and flexibility of the shoulder joint:

Perform a stomach to the wall handstand and come closer and closer to the wall. If you can hold a handstand with your wrists 0-5 cm from the wall, you have the correct, straight body allignment.

It is not as easy as it sounds, try it.

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kbryk

Yes, handstand is the most fundamental movement and you must master it, I say before all those skills, a handstand should be solid, as I was learning the handstand I would mix my tuck planche training into it, and it seemed to help a lot for all little times if and when you drop you can bring yourself back from from the tuck planche, my coach use to drill us with the handstand, at least 4 minutes a day, on our crazy days we would do 3 sets of 2 minutes which would kill me, but now I see why he did it.

JaredLLL I would have to say keep yourself hollow against the wall, it will teach you off the bat to keep hollow and learn correct form, instead of arching your back.

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JaredLLL

thanks for the thoughtful reply, I felt as though the answer was along the lines of " if you dont know, then you arn't there." Glad to see you guys reiterate it.

thanks for clairfying.

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Blairbob

Ways to test shoulder flexibility.

Can you hold a broomstick above your head with handstand distance grip without arching your back. The stick has to be over your head.

Better yet. Kneel on your knees but be upright with open hips. Face a wall. Start by holding said stick against the wall and not pull it back and up to eliminate shoulder angle. The entire front part of your body should be touching and squished into the wall. You can also do this the other way but you have to make sure your body isn't arching off the wall in the lower back.

The above exercise can also be done on a table or floor. Nose to floor, no space between stomach and floor, attempt to raise arms above head. This exercise can also be done by laying on the table and testing shoulder flexibility with the shoulders hanging off the table.

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Blairbob

Just wanted to post 2 of my boys hit 3 minutes ( one 10, the other 8 who is actually our weakest in general ) today in wall HS, actually "wrist HS". Our strongest actually twinged something in HeS>HSPU and opted to test it on Friday as we are doing strength and flexibility testing as we are having a lull in our meet schedule since we have 2 1/2 weeks before our last meet which is States.

As well, I needed to re-read that drill for testing shoulder flexibility as I'm trying to test shoulder flexion flexibility because I was unsatisfied with what I was using.

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Ortprod

Anybody here do overhead squats? They strengthened my OH flexibility a lot but they are obviously not the exact same thing as a HS. I think micro loading weight and getting used to flexing those erector muscles can help a bunch, on top of HS practice. Just my $.02

Great post Coach!

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Richard Duelley
Anybody here do overhead squats? They strengthened my OH flexibility a lot but they are obviously not the exact same thing as a HS. I think micro loading weight and getting used to flexing those erector muscles can help a bunch, on top of HS practice. Just my $.02

Great post Coach!

I love overhead squats! I just strted doing them again, since the summer, and my goal is to get up to my body weight. :mrgreen:

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Ortprod

I love overhead squats! I just strted doing them again, since the summer, and my goal is to get up to my body weight. :mrgreen:

Me too!

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Richard Duelley

I have found that as I increase the weight my core is getting more work than anything else! My legs laugh through the reps but my entire core cries for help, my shoulders get a little work just trying to keep me from tipping over backwards (I have had to take a step back to save myself) :mrgreen:

Its a great lift and I recommend it to anyone who has yet to try it. Just make sure to try it with a broom stick before you try it with any kind of weight. Case and point, my friend, benches 300 or so and squats an amazing amount but cannot do a single overhead squat with a broom stick, he just falls forward at the bottom!

Edit: For Spelling

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griffdrc

i was very inconsistant with my handstand holds and started structuring them differently... i can't remember who said it... but i now do handstands in more structured sets... ie 30s handstand and 45s rest then repeat... i have played around with different times and found great success in getting more consistant... i also use a wall and a partner to make sure i stay in the handstand the entire time... my balance suffers a little when i get tired... good luck

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Ortprod

question on training quality vs duration (I bet I know the answer :P):

would it be more productive to train for longer and longer duration, ex. training +30 seconds each month till plateau and then cycling back down for quality with duration slightly longer (wave method)? OR, would it be better to just train quality and working closer to the wall on the stomach-to-wall?

Also, are we actually using the wall for rest while trying to hollow or trying to come off the wall while hollowing? I find when I have everything in place I freebalance but this drives up the intensity significantly.

I think this is more relevant than my last question >_<

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Coach Sommer
... trying to come off the wall while hollowing? I find when I have everything in place I freebalance but this drives up the intensity significantly.

Yes, this is correct. You should be coming off of the wall during the hollow as you attempt to balance, with your toes providing only the very lightest of assistance as needed.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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