Shea on Handstand Troubleshooting

Some of the common issues I see in handstands are a short lunge, head out and improper balance.

A tip I got from Debbie Love was to walk heel to toe 4 steps and that should be the distance of step into the lunge.  Elbows behind ears with an invisible straight line from finger tips to pinky toe.  This lunge will provide the proper angle for athlete to stretch to the floor for their handstand.

Neutral head position is often tough for athletes starting handstands as they often feel as they will fall over if they don’t poke their head out. I prefer the athlete watch their fingertips touch the floor then look back the direction they came. This will allow for a neutral head position.

Balancing a handstand to hold for 3 seconds is often much more difficult than it may seem.  Kicking legs and arching the lower back is the most common ways I’ve seen athletes try to balance and hold a handstand.  I have my athletes clap their hands palm to palm and squeeze their fingertips so that their palms stay touching but there is a slight lift in the finger while the palm and tips stay touching.  This allows the athlete to engage the muscles throughout their arms into the core.  Pointing toes and engaging glutes, quads and hamstrings is crucial to holding a proper handstand.

The handstand is such an important skill for shaping as well as strength and when done properly helps all aspects of the athletes tumbling.

Drills=Skills Show 10 – Coaching Culture

Special guest and former Olympic gymnast, Wendy Bruce-Martin joins the guys to discuss Coaching Culture on the 10th edition of Drills=Skills.

The show will be live on Wednesday at 1pm Eastern.

Drills=Skills Show 09 – Classes

This week’s edition of Drills=Skills features Shea, David, and Sean discussing classes.

Drills=Skills Show 08 – Technique

The 8th edition of Drills=Skills is all about technique.

Drills=Skills Show 07 – Roundoffs

The 7th edition of Drills=Skills featured Shea, David, and Sean discussing roundoffs.

Drills=Skills Show 06 – Handstands

The topic for today’s edition of Drills=Skills is Handstands.

Shea on Standing Tuck Technique

The standing tuck is an equal combination of power and technique, without one the other cannot be accomplished. The proper athletic stance to start allows for the core, glutes and hamstrings to become engaged. Following this position the arms need to lead the body up so I’m often telling my kids to speed up their arms. This allows for explosiveness from the legs all the way through their toes. Kids will often focus on the tuck too early which limits the full use of arms and legs so I like to have them jump into a candlestick position onto a raised surface. The “feel” of the proper explosion onto a raised surface allows the this for the athlete. The lifting of the hips over the shoulders, rather than the shoulders below the hips, is what provides the proper timing for the rotation of the the tuck. The knees should be bent, but not the feet bent to the bottom. As the rotation completes the landing should be that of the chest coming up to allow the feet to come to the floor. Often times the athlete wants to look for the floor and kick out resulting in a short, improper landing. Providing the athlete with a specific place to look at the start and finish of the skill can help their awareness throughout the skill.

Drills=Skills Show 05 – Front Twisting

Special guest Victor Rosario joins Shea, David, and Sean for the 5th episode of Drills=Skills. The topic is front twisting.

The show covers introducing front twisting, proper twisting direction philosophies as well as drills and conditioning to maximize front twisting.

Drills=Skills Show 04 – Walkovers

Walkovers are the topic for the 4th Drills=Skills show. Shea covers proper technique with a focus on open shoulders and proper lever positioning, David explains drills used to perfect walkovers, and Sean discusses some troubleshooting strength and conditioning tips.

Shea on Walkovers

A prerequisite skill for a back walkover would be to fall to a bridge from a standing position and preferable to kick over as well.  For a front walkover I like to see that an athlete can do a front limber and stand without dropping their arms.

Walkovers, both forward and backward, are great skills for beginners to learn proper opening of upper back and shoulders to help prepare for front and back handsprings.  A common misconception is that arching using the lower back and kicking hard will get the athlete through the skill.  The skill can be done this way but it’s not recommended.  The upper back stretched has up to 70% mobility allowing for it to be much more useful.

Some progressions I use are standing with athletes back to the wall, placing hands on wall and walking down into a bridge (they need to walk both hands and feet).  Once the can walk down and up the wall I have them try to do it with one foot raised to build the necessary strength.  It may take some time but will build the shoulders, core and leg strength needed.

I like to do what I call “tic tocs” as well.  The athlete starts in a bridge, lifts one leg and kicks over back and forth only allowing one foot to touch the floor while hands do not move from the floor.  This helps the athlete feel the shoulders open as well as hip flexor press at the same time in both directions.

For beginners who haven’t mastered the kickover yet, I’ll have them lay on their back with knees bent, place both hands overlapping behind the head and bridge up on elbows.  This helps isolate the open shoulders (make sure they aren’t supporting weight on their head/neck).  Once in the proper elbow bridge I’ll have them kick over. If they close their shoulders they won’t be able to make it.

The techniques of both front and back walkovers is fairly simple but the fear of going backwards is real. Be patient.  In the front walkover athletes tend to want to rush to stand up, make sure the head stays neutral, shoulders open and really use the hamstrings and glutes to finish the skill.