If you’re struggeling with your press to handstand at the moment, I hope this episode will give you some valuable insights to reflect on.
A couple of days ago I was really excited to finally have managed to straddle press up to handstand for the first time in my life. Eventhough it was a very ugly one it felt like a huge win, because I had already given up on thinking that it would ever happen.
While I was training for it for about the last 9 months I was really really frustrated at times and kept wondering if I was training differently than others who achieved it. I couldn’t believe that it could be so difficult, since I was seeing people who learned it really fast, sometimes even without being able to hold a straight handstand.
So I figured it could be helpful for anybody who is in the process to hear about my insights and see what my process looked like to get some perspective from a case where it worked. I don’t own the skill yet and have trouble recreating it on a consistent basis, but the progress is obvious and I know I’m going in the right direction.
Basically the thing I was lacking at the begining was strength in my shoulders, traps and upper back. Gladly my mobility and compression strength alone were good enough from the start because I had worked on that a lot when I was still dancing. Then after gaining strength in my shoulders and being able to hold a decent line it took me a while to learn how to perform the pressing motion from the bottom, because I hadn’t really been able to practice box presses during the last two months of my training before I achieved the press to handstand for the first time. We had started our worldtrip and the constantly changing circumstances made me mainly practice straddle negatives and full rom straddle presses, but I practically stopped doing box presses, which is an excellent drill to progress from for the initiation of the press.
The three biggest challenges I faced during my progress:
- Consistency: before we left on our trip around the world at the begining of June consistency was never an issue. But as we started the trip, suddenly our whole life changed and it got really messy. I had to get comfortable with constantly changing circumstances and schedules and make the best of it. As a consequence I mainly practice the drills I can do anywhere, independent of walls, boxes and other equipment. But taking longer breaks and going on long hikes and being exhausted from that, definitely took a toll on my progress.
- Understanding the lean: From about Dec 17 until May 18 I was really focusing on becoming stronger in my shoulder push and getting my ribcage flat in order to improve my line and technique. So when I did pressing attempts I would fight really hard to keep my shoulders open and as elevated as possible while trying to press off the floor. In this position you do need a very good amount of trap and upper back strength and that’s a level I just haven’t arrived at yet. So at one point I discovered that if I let my shoulder angle close (planche) just a little bit, I would manage to bring my hips over my hands and lifting my feet up would feel more approachable. Eventhough the goal is still to eventually get just a minimal lean from my wrists and keep my body super tight like all the amazing circus people do, at the moment I’m not strong enough yet to perform it this way and my shoulders and ellbows are all over the place. This only means I’ll continue to work work work on that :). There is a really good blogpost by Yuri Marmerstein about the organisation of the shoulders during a press to handstand VS a handstand push up or planche. Click here to read it.
- Coordination of the upward movement: Once I knew how to push my shoulders, how to compress and how to do a fairly decent straddle negative with more control in the lower ranges, it took me a while to reverse the straddle negative and press from the bottom. The reason for this might be because I didn’t do any box presses after we started traveling, so I was working on the downward movement a lot more than on the upward movement. When I do full range of motion presses I’m still not able to go all the way to the bottom and touch the floor, so in that range my body was missing some upward motion practice. My solution to this was asking Ivo to spot me, so I could go through the whole actual motion. Also using my max shoulder push and max compression strength at the same time was really really hard, since it’s a huge amount of tension, when you’re just learning how to coordinate the skill. This was something Einar, one of the coaches of Primal Iceland (watch my episode about Primal Iceland here), pointed out to me and gave me a drill, that cued my body to understand that.
If you are struggeling with your press at the moment:
Find out what is your biggest limitation and focus on that! It’s all about consistency and finding the biggest levers for your progress.
Leave your thoughts about this episode in the comments below! This is a great subject for discussion, since every journey is very different. And especially in the press, factors like body proportions and individual strengths play a huge roll.
The world is your playground, so just go ahead and do what you love!
– Soundschi <3