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Eric Kamhi

Counterbalancing forward falls

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Eric Kamhi

I have a question to the hand-balancers out there.  How exactly do YOU counterbalance when your body feels like it is falling forward (towards your stomach/toes)?

 

I've developed good enough counterbalancing by pressing on my fingers to prevent falling backwards, but I'm lacking in the other side.

 

A lot of people I see doing handstands are usually dealing with this by being always a little over.  You know, that hips slightly over, back slightly arched handstand.  Sure you don't fall forward and as long as you have the strength necessary to keep from falling back by pressing on your fingers, you are good.  But this gives for a not-so-perfect handstand.  Their shoulders are not as open, and their line is not as straight.

 

My logic says I should press into my palms, but my palms, when perfectly straight in a handstand, do not feel they are in the right position to provide enough leverage to keep the body from tilting.

 

I'm guessing it has to do with the shoulders but I can't seem to figure it out.  Do you close up your shoulders towards your chest when you feel you are falling forward (activate that shoulder protraction to push back up)?  So far this is the only thing that is keeping me from having extended free standing handstands, any tip would be greatly appreciated.

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Bruce Dierl

For me, I suck in the stomach more. If done fast enough, I would still be able to maintain the handstand, bit slanted.

If it can't be helped, I would just 'fall' into a 1/2 pike press position or even the bottom of a stalder press (I'm still on my hands, that's how I see it) then press back up

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Biren Patel

You have it right, that you push with palm to stop from falling backward. I kinda know what you mean by not having enough leverage to keep the body from tilting. I used to have this issue, unable to save most handstands once I was even a little underbalanced, no matter how hard I pushed from the palm. It ended up being a issue of how my hands were placed on the floor. I now keep hands with pointer fingers parallel to each other, whole palm on floor, and fingers curled so that the second knuckles lose contact with the floor. This allows for a decent amount of both counter-forward and counter-backward strength.

I noticed, for me personally at least, if I curl the entire hand so that both the first and second knuckles are off the floor (like this: http://b.vimeocdn.com/ts/249/669/249669948_1280.jpg), I lose counter-forward strength and gain counter-backward strength. And If I have the entire palm and all knuckles on the floor, I gain counter-forward strength and lose counter-backward strength. That was wordy, and it may not work that way for everyone. Perhaps just try around with different hand positions and see if it changed anything?

If I have really screwed up and falling forwards fast, I'll use shoulders and open the angle more, then open the hips back up. Sort of like thinking about going into a planche and pressing back to handstand. But in most all cases the corrections are only from the palm.

it might even be an issue with your line. I used to have a bit closed shoulders and piked hips, and that made it hard to save under-balances. I'm just guessing though. Someone more knowledgeable will surely chime in soon.

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Mikael Kristiansen

There are 4 main ways of staying on your hands when you move too far in the direction of underbalance(combinations of the following can also happen):

 

1 Arms straight, staying stacked on top of your shoulders by keeping alignment from palm to hip and piking at the hips to the degree necessary.

 

2 keeping straight arms and straight body and leaning the shoulders forwards into a planched position

 

3 bending the arms

 

4 walking or jumping backwards to get your palms under your centre of mass

 

The main thing which is to be said about this at first is stay away from 4. It wont teach you much about balancing in one spot. You should learn to walk as well, but it is another skill. As for the rest, whichever one is the most natural for people is very individual, based on where you are strong/weak, mobile/stiff and what has become habitual. Learning to deal with this way of balancing is something which require bigger movements than what you need from the fingers to correct overbalancing and is harder for most to learn.

 

For building seriously good handstands, option 1 is by far the best though both planching and handstand pushup strength should also be built. The reason is that when you are good at correcting underbalance by keeping the pressure through your shoulders(elevation+protraction) you do not need to make any change to your alignment from hand to hip until your legs come very far down. It is basically press handstand and if you want to become able to do 1 arm handstands you will benefit from being capable to stay on top for as long as you can. Bending the arm, though doable isnt really ideal and creates a lot of waving around and planching on 1 arm is effectively euthanasia for your balance until you are very stable and strong.

 

Look at 00.5 seconds when I am in pike. The line from palm to hip is completely straight and nothing needs to give in. This is also a great example of how shoulder based press hs actually is. When im in that pike, my hamstring flex is of little issue since the angle between leg and back  isnt much to talk about, but I have active shoulder flexibility and strength to keep my shoulders in solid position. The hamstring and hips of course start to matter further down in the ROM though.

 

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Biren Patel

Mikael, after seeing that video, I will clean your house in exchange for private handstand consulting. :P

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Joshua Slocum

In general, you want to feel the weight in the middle of your palm, or even a little further up towards your first knuckle. That way you can make small adjustments by pressing with your fingers or the bottom of your palm. 

 

It should be noted that Handbalancer's list of correcting techniques is a list of corrections you can make when you're already too far overbalanced to make corrections with small hand/wrist adjustments. In general you should strive to make corrections from your hands as much as possible. Think about standing on your feet - most balance corrections come from your ankles, and only when you're very off balance do you start bending your knees and hips. 

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Eric Kamhi

Thank you so much for all the feedback.

 

Reading through Handbalancers (Mikaels?) post and watching the video was very helpful.  I always consider walking to avoid falling a failure of balance and a last resort before actually bailing.

 

From the video and your post, and focusing on your first point:

 

1 Arms straight, staying stacked on top of your shoulders by keeping alignment from palm to hip and piking at the hips to the degree necessary.

What I notice is that while piking the legs, you are actually leaning into your fingers (overbalance?) while keeping the back perfectly straight (palm-shoulder-hip line perfect). 

 

Most people I watched before, do this by arching the back (having that 'butt falling over' posture) so it was excellent seeing the perfectly straight back and open shoulders counterbalancing the legs.

 

I will have to try/practice this for the time being and see how this improves my balance.  But at least I got my head around it and understand the mechanics, which was not the case before.

 

Thanks so much again for all the pointers.

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Mikael Kristiansen

You should of course try to stay in balance and straight, but you need to do active work on keeping balance with weight outside your bodyline to build  the necessary reactions and strength to be able to save teh balance

 

Regarding the lean onto fingers, it looks like it, but the funny thing is that i dont. My weight is closer in the middle of the hand because the legs are outside the bodyline counterbalancing the hips. If my press had any significant amount of lean(break in shoulder-torso line) it would have put pressure on my fingers. When I press handstand I do not need to use my fingers at all even at the bottom of a pike.

 

Reason people cant stay positioned while piked is because they cant stay protracted and in full flexion. Instead they arch the lower back and push out the chest to compensate for weight outside bodyline, or lean the shoulders forwards.

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Philip Isles

One great cue that's been passed around in the gym has been to "look for the feet." By moving the head under the arms and tucking slightly in order to catch sight of the feet up above, your upper body moves back into a correct alignment.

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