Friday, July 01, 2005

Handstand to Elbow Lever and Back Up

So here is the solution to the challenge I posted about a month ago, plus a few recent training pictures at the end.

Something to keep in mind for this challenge - While you may have the elbow lever down, and your handstand may be solid, this exercise will really test your total body control as you transfer between the two skills. If you have difficulty with the strength, I recommend working on your handstand pushups and especially your handstand press.

So here we go.

Lowering Down

The main thing you have to focus on while lowering from a handstand into an elbow lever are your HANDS. Therefore in the description below, I've included a picture of the step, as well as the corresponding hand position.

Alright, you'll start off in your handstand, with fingers pointing forward. Nothing new so far.

You'll then you start to bend the arms and dip your head forward. If you recall, this is similar to the position for the handstand press, except your legs are out straight this time. Your fingers can begin to turn outwards slightly, but it is not essential you do that right now. While this is a transitional position, you should still be balanced. If I can hold it long enough to take a picture of it, it's balanced.

For the next step, your arms have bent to 90 degrees and your face is near the floor. At this point you'll want your hands turned outwards so that it is easier for you to stab your elbows and prepare for the elbow lever. If your fingers are still facing forward at this point, you will find it difficult if not impossible to stab in your elbows.

In the final step, you will simply turn your hands and point your fingers towards your feet as you level out your body into an elbow lever. If you recall back to the elbow lever tutorial, this hand position will allow you to open up the angle of your arm and balance the skill. So if you find yourself stuck in the previous position, remember to turn your hands and open up your arms.

The one error I see in this skill is slamming your body into the ground instead of stopping above the ground in the lever. As I said, this skill is about control so you'll want to work on your shoulder strength to control the descent, and your core muscles so that you can maintain a straight body as you level out.


Pressing Up

Of the two skills presented here, I'd have to say that this is probably the harder of the two. In the elbow lever tutorial, I gave a slight hint on how to start this move. If your arms are at a 90 degree angle while you are trying to hold an elbow lever, then your feet will raise up. You'll use this to your advantage now as you go from an elbow lever to handstand.

Once your arms are at 90 degrees and your legs start to rise up, you'll want to push downwards with your hands. The motion will feel similar to a handstand press up, but you should try and keep your body straighter. A slight arch in your back and legs is ok. If you get stuck here, work on your shoulder strength.

You may notice at this point that my hands have not changed position. They are still facing backwards. I find it easier to press up into the handstand position before I turn my hands, rather than moving hands mid-press. If you find one way works better for you than another way, then go with it.

At this point in the skill, I'm upside-down with a very awkward hand position. It may happen in practice that you'll fall over toward your head at this point. Remember back to the handstand press and the ways to fall safely out of a handstand. On your head is not one of them! While I usually pirouette to get out of a bad handstand, I actually find a forward roll to be easier in this case. Again, pick what feels best to you. Just be careful and don't break your neck!

I might suggest facing a wall, but your hands would be so far away, that catching the wall with your feet may do some damage. So I'd prefer you work without a wall on this skill, just make sure you can come down safely out of a bad handstand first.

Ah, we're up and we've changed our hand position. The handstand is stable. Congratulations!

So there you have it. Handstand to Elbow Lever to Handstand. This is not the easiest of skills, but is still attainable as your shoulder and arm strength increases. Good luck to everyone!

Recent Training

I'm pulling a one arm chin from this distance, so I guess I can check it off my list now. If I drop my body any lower, I start to rotate around the shoulder joint.

What really took me over the edge was weighted one arm negatives. I used a light weight (~5 lbs) but on the descent I was able to stop myself at any point.

I've got some great ideas to increase my numbers for this skill. I'll certainly be writing a full article about my training, and subsequent training for multiple reps. I'll also start up training for a one arm pull up (hand facing away from me) very soon. I don't see this as taking that long, as the one arm chin training seems to have gotten me most of the way there.

So here it is, left...

And right...

Planche training is going real well too. Here's a recent pic.

But before we start breaking out the champagne, I just have to say that this is my max effort, and a hold for only about 2 seconds. But it feels strong, and I like it a lot more than the straddle planche.

I still need to work on the height of my legs though, as a couple previous takes looked like this.

I get into the position by starting in a tuck with bent arms, then I lean forward and press my arms straight while straightening out my body. I still think that I'm lower than I really am, so I'll have to closely monitor the exact height of my legs so that I can feel the flat planche and train consistently.

I'll be using this hold along with some straddle planche pushups (which feel ugly right now) and some assisted planche pushups. With any luck, I'll have a solid planche in a couple more months.

Hope everyone's training is going well. I've got many more tutorials to come.


Blogger Raphael said...

Jim, your planche progress is what really amazes me. I am both impressed and inspired. That is absolutely what I'm shooting for, and it looks great! I can't wait to get it down, my main problem now I think is lack of discipline since the planche exercises are so frustrating.
Also, nice work on the elbow lever to handstand, I was thinking that'd be a good way to start working the hollowback press, so I've trained it a bit lately.
Good luck to all your future training, and thanks for all you've given to those interested!

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Fran├žois said...

Another great post! The elbow lever to handstand looks like a tremendous challenge to me! What level would you suggest in both elbow lever and handstand before starting this skill (a 30sec perfect elbow lever and a 30 sec perfect handstand?).

Your planche is awesome! It seems you are able to put a lot of pressure on your fingers, because you don't touch the floor with the palms, right?

And I'm glad to see I'm not the only one whose body rotates while going too low for one arm pullup!

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Clay said...

Jim, I love the site. Your tutorials are fantastic!


9:53 AM  
Blogger Paul Corfield said...

More great stuff Jim. A real inspiration.


1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another awesome post Jim, I'm already excited for the next one!

Thanks so much!

Here is something I'm practicing:


4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim - by the way.

I have been to see the physio and I have "inflamed" my anterior deltoid insertion. Quite a nasty injury and basically screwing my planches and elbow levers. Any experience with this injury?

Tim (email is trs at

4:55 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks to everyone for the comments.

Raphael - I think the elbow lever to handstand is a great exercise to work towards the hollowback press. I'd like to write a tutorial about that skill in the future as well.

Francois - You don't need to be able to hold a handstand or elbow lever for a real long time, just have the skills solid (with no walking around) for at least 10 seconds. The part you might run into problems with is the strength of your shoulders, depending on your experience with presses.

In regards to the planche, I just put my hands down and lean forwards, I am not consciously thinking of raising my palms off the ground, that's just a matter of the flexibility of my wrists. The most pressure is on the top half of my palms, but it feels fine to me.

Tim - The Maltese looks rockin'. Do you have a harness on? Looks to be so. I can't answer your medical question, as I have no experience with that injury and I'm certainly not qualified, but resting the shoulder and seeing a doctor are the best steps you can take.

Thanks to everyone else, good luck with your training.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Johnny said...

Jim, your site is awesome. I stumbled over a link to this homepage and I really love it!
But just one question about your training frequency: How often (per week) do you train with weights and how often do you do the "Beastskills"/Static Holds/BWEs?
Thx for an answer....


12:16 PM  
Blogger Jim said...


Thanks for the comments.

I train just about every day, although one or two days a week I'd consider rest days because they are so light.

Many days I work both weights and bodyweight. I don't really split them up. It just depends what body part I'm working that day. I tend to use weights for the lower body (squats) and bodyweight for the upper body (chins, handstand pushups, etc). But there's plenty of mixing in both cases (ex. pistols or shoulder presses).

Many of the bodyweight exercises I work-in just like any other exercise. I know that chins are working my back and arms, so I won't pick up a weight the next day and start rowing with it.

Some of the skills seem to respond better to less work, more frequently. A "grease the groove" approach. Something like the one arm handstand responds well to this type of training for me, because if I get too exhausted working it, I can't get quality reps. So I may work that 5 days a week. You can decide what approach works better for your own skills.

There's nothing revolutionary about my training schedule at all. I just mix weights and bodyweight exercises like scores of people before me.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your handstand guides are amazing Jim. I can't thank you enough for posting them, keep em' coming!

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your handstand guides are amazing Jim. I can't thank you enough for posting them, keep em' coming!

2:07 PM  
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