Handstands Are Here Again

My wrists have been feeling pretty good recently, so why not destroy them? I started thinking about learning to do handstands again.

Conveniently, Athletic Playground offered an Intro to Handstands workshop this weekend. In! I’m on a bit of a workshop kick this month.

I’ve tried to learn handstands twice before. I didn’t do a refresher on purpose, because I wanted to come to this workshop with a blank slate. I find it incredibly valuable to be taught a skill by different people.

Our instructor did a great job explaining basic concepts and building on them. But first, she declared that there was no right way to do a handstand. Doing a handstand is like walking or dancing, just upside down. She was going to start us on the straight handstand because it’s the easiest.

We started with some stretches for our core, back, shoulders, and wrists. As part of this, we learned about “Pac-Man”, which is essentially what you imagine doing when you tighten up your core right in the middle, near your diaphragm.

Next, we placed our hands on the floor, fingers spread, shoulder width apart. With our arms completely straight, we played around with putting our weight on our hands and feeling the pressure shift from the heel of the hand to the base knuckles and then to the fingers as we shifted our weight over them. We were tasked with finding the point at which we felt even pressure on the heel and base knuckles.

Next, we put our weight on our hands and got into something of a standing pike. We focused on keeping our weight distributed evenly on our hands, our arms straight, and everything in our shoulders and core strong.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a light landing. Same focus.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a light landing on the other foot. Same focus.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a flutter kick plus landing on the launch foot. Same focus.

I really liked this exercise, because I got to observe and practice the right way to land on land feel softly, by piking extra right before touching the ground.

After push practice, we worked on face-to-wall handstands. Same focus on core, shoulders, and arms. For some of us, this is where our form started to break. For me, it was the usual: my back is too arched.

We split the class in two after this: those who could kick into a back-to-wall handstand and those who couldn’t. I chose the latter group, because I really wanted to make sure I learned all the basics correctly.

We did a face-to-wall variation of the handstand using boxes: one leg straight up, the other on the box, with light hops. This was a great way to feel and adjust our hands and shoulders.

After that, a break for a stretch: hands against the wall, hips hinged 90 degrees. We worked on pulling our chest down toward the floor. Something of a shoulder stretch… into a position you need for a nice straight handstand.

Post-stretch, back-to-wall handstands. Hands planted, arms straight, shoulders strong, a little momentum, and kick up! My kicks are still straight and balanced, thanks to 30×10 and 30×25.

The instructor had a couple good rules for us all to work on in back-to-wall.

Rule 1 – Don’t kick off the wall. Get one leg perfectly straight, feel it like an extension of your arm. Then use your Pac-Man core to pull your other leg straight in a controlled fashion. No kicking off the wall!

Rule 2 – Squeeze your legs together like you’re trying to hold $1000 bills in place.

Not that it’s as simple as just two rules. I still need to work on tucking my belly in / Pac-Man / hollow body / whatever you want to call it. Really tighten that core!

I’m hesitant to officially start another 30 Days of handstands right now. I’m going to see how my hands and wrists feel in the next few days and maybe get another couple practices in before deciding.

Sick of Rest

I have more good news and bad news.

Good news: I’m playing hockey again. Mostly because I can’t not play hockey.

Bad news: I’m playing hockey with the help of various wrist wraps and a hinged knee brace.

Good news: I went back to the gym today for squats. Endurance is down but strength feels normal.

Bad news: The left patellar tendon pain is back, which meant fewer and lighter squats. I dislike not being able to push hard.

Good news: More momentum, less inertia.

Bad news: This handstand thing is stalling again due to injury. 30×25 is on hold until my wrists feel better.

The funny thing about 30×25 is, I thought about this very scenario when I started. I know my propensity for injury all too well.

These just arrived. Hopefully they’ll give my wrists enough rest and healing time so I can resume beating them up again with hockey, weights, and handstands.

30×25 Day 17

30 minutes of handstands after my squaaat workout this morning. My hands hated me less, probably because I was already super warmed up from the workout. I was also able to get more inversion time with less rest in between. My body is getting used to this. Good.

I can’t remember the wording exactly, but there was a poster about grit on the door of the workout room near where I was practicing.

Grit. Every single day.

30×25 Day 16

My achy hand/wrist (more like right thumb) continues to hate me. I continue to practice.

Did about 20 minutes of handstand practice before my trainer session this evening. Some straight leg, some wide leg, and on this one rep, I remembered seeing this giant muscley dude holding a super hulk handstand the other week and channeled that, which actually resulted in a mini float. Why? Because super hulk means tight body, which is, if I’ve read the internet correctly, key to a handstand.

More of this Every Single Day stuff tomorrow.

30×25 Day 15

Another 30 minutes of post-workout handstand practice. I had more wall to work with today so I played around with wide leg handstands as well. Totally different balance points. Possibly easier than the straight up and down handstand. Will make a note to play around with that more.

Hands and wrists don’t like this 30 Days. I’m not sure if the proper course of action is to back off and let them rest, or to power through. Do I baby them or continue working them so they get strong?

Given the way I’ve phrased that, I have my answer. TNDO.

30×25 Day 14

Practiced for about 30 minutes at the end of my session at the gym today. It feels better in some ways, but frustrating in others. Core control seems like the most difficult thing right now. I don’t think it’s a strength issue, though. I think I just need to learn to feel and control upside down.

I am not used to slow progress. But every time I practice I tell myself, “Every single day.”

Every single day.

30×25 Day 13

Got a little under 15 minutes of practice in this evening before my personal training session. I had planned for more time but I spent about 10 minutes trying to find parking. Busy gym is busy! Thanksgiving preparations?

Felt kind of decent, played around with hollowing, almost piking in my mind (but likely not in reality), and bringing one leg forward L stand style. So many ways to play with balance.

Wanted to practice after my session but by now I know better.

30×25 Day 12

Practiced some at home after pickup. Tired from yesterday’s workout. Hands and wrists kind of sore from all the practice lately. Don’t really like the hardwood floor at home. Full of excuses. But I still practiced. :)

30×25 Day 11

Got about 20 minutes of practice in warming up for my trainer session this evening. Had a 5 second or so float where I could feel my balance shift all the way through my hands. It was definitely not a straight up in the air handstand; my legs went in all funny directions while I worked on balance. That felt really cool. More of that. Yes.

30×25 Day 10

Had a 20 minute practice session this evening after a shoulders, biceps, and triceps workout. I wondered if I’d fall on my face, but decided to try anyway. Worked out okay. Floated a few times. Feeling better about the fact that I might actually learn to do this.