PUSH – What does that mean?

I’m sure you’ve heard it (or sang it) before: If you want to handstand, you gotta PUSH! But what does that even mean? And why is it the cue number 1 for most handstand coaches?

In this episode I break down what pushing during a handstand really means in regards to the motions of the shoulder joint complex. When we handstand we are basically asking the shoulders to do the work our hips do while we stand on our feet – keep stable and move as little as possible. But in contrast to the hips, the shoulder joint complex consists of many moving parts that have to move in coordination with one another. You have an arm bone, a clavicle and a shoulder blade which glides on top of your ribcage. These three moving parts are connected through four joints that are all stabilized mostly by muscular action, though the inherent structure of the joint complex is built for a big range of motion at the expense of stability. No wonder handstanding is so hard and wobbly! (Click here for more shoulder anatomy)

The motions of your shoulder complex in a handstand

Because the structure of the shoulder complex is so… complex, there are several movements that can happen at each of the four joints, which in turn influence the entire structure. So it’s hard to really paint a black and white picture here, but you can see this as an attempt to create simplicity to get some understanding around a complicated structure. The main motions I describe in this video are:

  • Flexion and extension
  • Elevation and depression
  • Protraction and retraction
  • External rotation and internal rotation

The essence here is that in a handstand we are trying to resist gravity. But rather than thinking of the push as a linear force, think of it as a dynamic process that requires subconscious orchestration of all the moving parts and needs to happen in accordance to where your body is being pulled (over- or underbalance) and how strong (how far have you already gone off center). So if you really think about it, a strong push actually means a well coordinated push!

I hope this brings a little more clarity into the cue and why it’s used so often! The handstand push really is something that needs to be developed over time with a lot of practice. And we always need to come back to it!

Let me know your thoughts and questions. I love going deeper into these kinds of things!

It’s never too late to do what you love!

– Sonji

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