Monday, March 21, 2005

Simple Handstand Press

Today we'll look at the handstand press, a relatively simple move that'll put you up into a handstand. We'll be looking at the bent-arm, tucked press which is the easiest of the lot.

Not surprising, you'll need to develop a handstand, then the pressing strength.

If you don't have a handstand, throw yourself up against the wall and practice.

I'll assume that most reading this have a handstand, are working towards one, or know how to work towards one. If demand calls for it though, I'll write up a short piece on working towards a handstand. Eh, I might do that anyway in the future...

When you have a good solid handstand (5-10 seconds at least), then you'll want to start working on the pressing strength to get up into that handstand. Enter, the handstand pushup.

If you can do this up against a wall, then you're almost there. Just work on the exercise and get your reps up to around 5, at least. That way, when you press into a handstand you'll have enough strength to balance yourself, rather than expending all your energy on one press.

Can't quite do the pushups? Well, throw a pillow/cushion under your head and work on lowering yourself down SLOWLY to the ground. Please don't dive head first through your floor!

These negative repetitions will help to build the necessary pressing strength. During these negative reps, you can work on stopping yourself in various positions along the way, as well as pressing back up only a couple inches, instead of the entire way. All these things will help build up your shoulders.

Need something more hardcore? Grab yourself a set of parallettes (like shown below) or two sturdy chairs. Kick up and work on a FULL range handstand pushup. Just like before, if you can't get the full range right now, you can lower yourself down slowly or try pressing up while a few inches above the bottom.

If you do decide to do this, be careful, especially with chairs. You have to kick a bit harder to get your legs up higher and I don't want to hear about anyone putting their feet through their wall.

Another thing I've tried recently is to attach ankle weights to myself and press-up. I've got to start working these on the parallettes or attach a couple weights to my belt, because the weight I have on now (15lbs) isn't that difficult. Just make sure you get into position by getting slowly into a headstand, then pressing up. If you kick up with ankle weights on, you WILL put your feet through your wall!

In any case, it's another idea to work with. But I'm getting ahead of myself. If you can do several regular handstand pushups, you have the necessary strength for this skill.

Now the obvious question people might have is.... can't I just work my military press in the gym? Sure you can. I just like to train as close as possible to what I'm working towards. Working handstand presses against the wall will get you use to pressing upsidedown and even get you prepared for the *gasp* free standing handstand pushup!

So it's your choice really, but that's my preference.

On to the press.

You'll want to get into a tuck position and put your hands out about shoulder width in front of you. Take note that your shoulders are higher than your hips right now.

Now what you're trying to do next is to get your hips higher than your shoulders. We'll do this by bending the arms. There will be tension in your arms and shoulders at this point, as you are now holding your bodyweight in the air. Keep yourself tucked. And despite what it may look like (?) don't rest your knees on your elbows. Your elbows are close by, but provide no support.

In addition, don't bend your arms too much. If you bend them to 90 degrees, you'll mash your face, as you can see below.

But trust me, if you ever do this, you won't the next time. It's a fast learning curve.

Here I've got some old video of myself pressing on the P-bars. Now there's a bit of swing and I'm not in a tuck, but I want you to see how much I bend my arms.

size (599 KB)
shoot me an email if it's not working

If I was to bend my arms too far on this press, I'd either be pressing a much farther distance than necessary, or I'd roll forward. And if you're not prepared for that, it can be messy.

When you've bent your arms to the correct angle (a bit greater than 90 degrees), and your hips are higher than your shoulders, it's time to press up and begin to straighten out your body.

The most important thing I can say here is KEEP YOURSELF TUCKED!

If you open your legs before you reach the position shown above, it's called "planching" the handstand. This means that you're extending into more of a planche position then a handstand position. This is obviously harder, and will probably cause you to fall down and fail the press. Keep yourself tucked until right after this position, then straighten out your arms and legs....

Bam. You're in a handstand. Straighten up the body, as desired.

What to do if something goes wrong

While learning this, even though your handstand may be good, and you're strong enough to press, you'll find linking the two together takes some work. So what do you do when you find yourself overpressing and falling to your back?

I hope you know these safety measures from regular handstand training, but if you don't, here they are. Use them everytime you start to fall towards your back. They are safer than merely slamming yourself back-flat into the ground, or trying to put your feet down and slamming into a bridge (ouch!)

First, you can roll yourself out of trouble. When you feel yourself start to fall, TUCK YOUR CHIN TO YOUR CHEST, and then ROLL OVER YOUR SHOULDERS, NOT YOUR HEAD. It's just a simple forward roll.

(first take, amazing!)

Umm... I'd also recommend trying this where you can roll away safely. The space you see me in is a bit cramped.

The second option, and the absolute best option I recommend if you're working on parallettes, is to pirouette out of trouble.

(first take again, incredible!)

What this entails is turning yourself 90 degrees to one side (the right side in this case) while you push off with the far hand (my left hand in this case). With any luck, you'll land on your feet.

You can see why this technique is ideally suited for the parallettes. If you were to try and roll, you'd end up falling in-between the bars. By turning yourself like this, you can effectively turn yourself out and away from the bars. This will save you some pain.

Of course you can use this on the ground, I actually prefer it to the roll, but know that it's the only technique you'll use if you take things to the bars.

Bonus - L-seat to Handstand Press

Last time we worked the L-seat and I mentioned it would be beneficial to learn the position on your fingertips. This skill is the reason why.

First, you'll start up in the normal L-seat position - on your fingers, of course.

Next, bring your legs back into the tuck position.

Now you'll bring your feet from the front to the back. This is where your fingertips come into play. The extra inch or so that your fingers give you will let you bring your feet around easier. If you can get your feet to the back without this extra clearance, then by all means go ahead, but to those who would otherwise have trouble, just get up on your fingers and see how much easier it is to get into the press position.

Now, I flatten my hands, and I'm ready to press! Nothing to it.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Future posts will be working off the base of skills and exercises shown here. Good luck training until then!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice tutorial. Keep up the good work!

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesssssssss! I am satiated...temporarily! Jim, your gymnastic skills are something to behold and I swear you're the only resource on the net like this!


7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jim,

I have been practicing the handstand press for a year now, with moderate success. However since I read your article and applied your tips, I am making great gains. Practicing whenever I walk the dog.

1:16 PM  

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