Handstands

I’ve been working on handstands for a while. I usually do one handstand session a week. My progress has been slow, but fun. Aside from looking cool and being a very graceful demonstration of strength, there are other benefits from working on handstands.

Upper Body Strength 

Staying up-side-down requires shoulder, arm, and upper back strength. Actually, pretty much every muscle in the upper body is put to work in a handstand, making it one of the most beneficial upper body exercises. Your upper body will gain size and strength from handstand work.

Improved Balance

Holding your body upside down requires constant small adjustments of all your body parts, from your fingers right up to your feet. This increases the strength of your core and stabilisation muscles and will have a positive effect on your general balance.

Abs

Those stabilisation muscles include your abs, and who doesn’t want good abs. Sit ups and crunches are not the only way to get that 6 pack. Your abs will do a substantial amount of work holding your body straight in an up-side-down position.

People are afraid of handstands if they don’t have a background in gymnastics, mostly because they are afraid of falling on their head. I have no gymnastics background and I was very afraid of falling on my head, or kicking up too hard and falling flat on my back. Thats why you start with a wall for support, and other than that wall, there is no equipment needed for handstand training. I have fallen, but never badly. The body has a funny way of catching itself to prevent a nasty fall. I found that this one handed wall drill is a good drill to build shoulder strength and helps to improve handstands. Find a wall and get going.

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Handstand work on the beach

 

Glimpse into my training

I’m often asked what exercises I do. I take it as a compliment. For someone in their 30’s with a 9 to 5 desk job I’m in reasonably good shape. But the answer is never straight forward, I do lots of things, and when my answer gets more complicated than, “this is leg day, this is chest day”, I think people stop listening. So I decided to capture a typical two weeks of my training in the below 3 mins and 30 second video. I try to keep my workouts varied and interesting. Across the 2 weeks I did 18 separate workouts, and missed 4. When planning the week ahead I always plan a perfect week. A prefect week is very rare, life gets in the way. During the two week period that I captured in the video below my wife went away for a few days, my son got sick, and I had important lunch time meetings. Some workouts had to be dropped, and others had to swap places. Don’t stress over missed workouts, and keep the timetable flexible. The perfect week is there to be aspired to, making it a reality is less important. 18 workouts might seem like a lot, but some are only 20mins long. Not every session has to be an hour long with full intensity. A good workout is more about the quality of the movement than its length or intensity. I’m not telling you how you should workout, I’m just showing you what I do and hopefully you’ll find it useful for creating your own goals.

Gym Review

 

After years without a gym membership, curcumstances required me to join a gym. I’ve been training at Raw gym so thought I’d write a gym review, a first for my blog. 
 
For any gym, location is key, and this depends entirely on the individual. For me, Raw is ideally located. I don’t use the free weights or the cardio machines but they are there. The free weights selection is very big, the cardio equipment less so, but that being said, I’ve never seen anyone have to queue for either. Membership numbers seem to be well matched to the gym size.
 

The only two things I really want from a gym is open space for some movement drills, and a set of Olympic Rings, and Raw has both. There is only one set of Olympic Rings, but I’ve never seen anyone other than me use them so I’ve never had to queue for them.
 

Knowledge is power and although I arrived at this gym with my own training routine, I was happy to meet with one of the Raw Personal Trainers and he gave me some new exercises to add to my routine – its always good to get a fresh perspective, you might learn something. Classes, of which there are loads, are free for members and I’ve been training handstand work Lauren Sweeney and flexibility with Kate Finegan. Between the Personal Trainer, Lauren, and Kate, I’ve made changes to the way I train for the better.
 

Aside from that, the price is reasonable, the changing room clean, the lockers are decent but could do with an update. Overall, a good gym which I’d recommend and that I’ll keep using as long as circumstances require it.
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Plenty of free weights to get your pump on
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Rings, ropes, and a pull-up bar, sure thats a complete gym right there
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A rare commodity in a gym, free space!

Functionality and Movement

The July/August issue of Mens Health magazine is the Body Issue, which confused me because I thought that every issue was a body issue. Issue theme aside, it was a welcome surprise to see that when choosing which men to feature in the “body issue” they opted for ability and functionality, instead of aesthetics. Rather than cover model bodies and hollywood stars, Men’s Health have put together a list of Olympic rowers, strong men, cyclists, runners and ballerinos.  To be fair, all the men featured look good aesthetically, but all in their own way, and all very different from one another.

The men, and their training habits, featured in the current issue Mens Health seems to be part of a larger trend in mens fitness, away from free weights and bulk for the sake of bulk, and towards functionality, ability and movement. This trend has been quietly gaining momentum for years. While Conor McGregor has helped bring bodyweight and movement training more into the spotlight, fellow UFC competitor Nate Diaz commented;

“Everybody nowadays is like there is this new movement setup that Conor is bringing to the table but that was already around. That’s what inspired us to begin with…….all that movement stuff they’re trying to preach, we already got.”

A few years ago I went to my first movement based exercise seminar. At the seminar my free-weight built muscles were exposed as largely useless. It turns out my free-weight build muscles were only good for lifting more free-weights. I quit the gym and replaced it with running, Rushfit, boxing, barre, olympic rings, crawling, parallettes and more. I do still own a set of 7.5kg dumbbells, but I incorporate them into full body movements. I drop elements of my training and bring in new pieces all the time, which keeps it interesting. In the Summer months, like now, I can train outside in the sun and fresh air. Below is a video of me doing some free movement, its far from perfect and I have a long way to go, but I feel fitter and even though Im getting older, I’m becoming MORE mobile, long may that continue!

 

 

Indoor Exercise two: one handed wall drill

Its still cold and miserable outside so finding bodyweight exercises to do indoors is still the goal. This one is fairly difficult if you’re not reasonably confident with handstands already.

To begin, with your back to the wall, walk your feet up the wall until you are in a handstand position facing the wall. The only touch points should be your hands on the ground, and your feet on the wall. From here, alternate from one hand to the other, 5 second holds each side. Continue for as long as you can. When I started I could only do one hold each side before I fell, but I’m progressing from there, practise makes perfect.

This exercise requires concentration so don’t rush through it. Blood will rush to your head and to your posting hand. The more you do this exercise the more you’ll adapt and the blood rush will stop, or at least, you’ll adapt to it.

This a great exercise for shoulder strength and over all stabilisation, and it will help with your free standing hand stand progression too. Video below has been sped up.

 

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