Emmet’s Blackboard

Welcome to Emmets Blackboard! Below, you’ll find transcripts and the original videos from Emmets Blackboard series from (2014 and 2015). They’re listed in the following order: (Ballistic Streching, Head to Toe stretching, Head to Toe FAQ, Front Folding / Prerequisites for Head to Toe, Loaded Stretching, Building the Bridge, Dissecting the dish position, Hands as feet, Anatomy of a handstand, What’s in my training bag)

Ballistic Stretching

Welcome back to the return of Emmet’s blackboard. This lecture hopefully dispels some of the mistruths of ballistic stretching and provides the informational basis of some of the coming technique videos.

Okay guys, welcome back to the next series of Emmet’s blackboard.  

First off, just a bit of an apology on the hiatus on the videos front, for the moment.  A lot of exciting projects are happening in the background, which we will be revealing over the next couple of months.  Keep an eye out for them, there are many things you’re going to enjoy.  We have new videos, a new website…a bit of everything, really.

So, we’re doing a topic today that is a touchy subject for many people.  There will be a load of people who dislike this video just based off the title alone.  So, to you, fuck you.

For the rest of the people still watching, hopefully we can clear up some things.

Today we’re going to talk about ballistic stretching.  I will start with a quote from Mel Siff, paraphrased slightly.  You can find the original in Supertraining.

There’s no such thing as a dangerous exercise.  There are only exercises done dangerously.

Now we’ll put that into context.  First off, with ballistic stretching, we need a working definition of what it actually is.  Ballistic stretching is using momentum to overcome our passive range of motion.  

In the same way that if I had never squatted before, for example, and went into a gym and said to myself, “You’re a strong guy.  Stick 200kg on that bar and squat it.”  By the time I’d unpacked the bar, I’d be lying on the floor clutching my spine, with a lot of plates on top of me.  Not an enjoyable experience.

If I’d done the smart thing and put a bar on my back, then worked up over the course of years to squatting 200kg, my injury risk would be effectively zero. 

Same thing with ballistic stretching.  We don’t want to use our full speed immediately in these types of stretches.  I’m going to talk about the different types of ballistic stretching we have.  We don’t go full speed.  If we can use a teeny bit of momentum to move us 0.5-1cm further in a stretch than we normally achieve in a passive range of motion, we have made a gain.

We don’t need to go a massive distance beyond it…but we can.

We don’t need to use that much momentum; we can go slow.  We have two types of ballistic stretching, in my mind anyway.  The most common is the pulsing type, where we get into our end range, back out of the stretch, then pull in.  The pulsing type is great; you go in, out, in, out.  High frequency, generally 60bpm.

Then we also have the fire and forget type of ballistic stretch.  We say something like, do a high kick as high as you can.  

In all the ballistic stretching, we set up a couple of rules.  We can achieve maximum safety and gains this way.

With all of these, we need a little target to reach.  This tells us we’ve gone beyond our passive range of motion, and it acts like a little stop so we can’t go further than we intend to, thus limiting it.

If we were to high kick, we could place our hands slightly above our kick level.  We warm up, find where the stretch comes on, place your hands there so you’re kicking into your hands, thus limiting your stretch from going farther and farther into a possibly dangerous zone.

If you go onto PubMed or other places to find an actual injury from ballistic stretching, it’s difficult.  All we know is that people shit themselves about it, and we can’t really back it up wit the science.

We also have the pulsing type.  Bear in mind we will do a lot of exercises using this, as it’s literally the most productive, fastest, and most maintainable form of flexibility I have discovered.

Some of you might have seen my Instagram where I put my toe on my head in the front bend.  I can now get out of bed in the morning and put my toe on my head within about 3 minutes of waking up.  I never achieved that with other forms of stretching.

Same with my hip flexors; they’ve loosened up massively using these types of stretches.

It’s the same idea.  With these forward bend stretches, we use a target.  I use my fist, something on the floor to reach and touch, which also limits my range of motion to stop me going beyond it.

Also, my bounce speed is anywhere between 40-80bpm.  We bounce in, hold, bounce, hold.  

There’s another type I haven’t used specifically myself, but have seen good results coming from it.  Justin from Well Rounded Athlete mentioned it on his Instagram: pulsing in, then using the pulse to overcome a stretch, then holding that stretch for 10-15s.

There’s no set rules for how to do this; it’s just what works for this.  My own suspicion on the pulsing type of stretching is if you get into stretching per the classification of Thomas Kurz, we have passive stretching, then passive stretching to or beyond your pain limit.

We can stretch into our pain limit and not let ourselves go farther.  With the pulsing, we can go into that zone where, if I were to push you into it, it would hurt too much for you to maintain that stretch.

But here, we go in for a second, then are out.  In for a second, then out.  We can build up a lot of time in that new painful range of motion, but without getting scared of the pain, or without spending a lot of continuous time in that range, though we do cumulatively.  It’s very effective.

That’s my quick rundown on ballistic stretching.  In terms of studies, I coach more people in a week than  most studies have in their groups.  I’ve been doing this for years.  My injury rate from this is zero.  I have never injured anyone from doing this properly.  I’ve never had one of my students who’s a bit r**arded, which they are sometimes – sorry if you’re listening, guys – had them injure themselves training alone by using this.  I am very certain it’s safe.

Give them a go.  I will be posting these exercises, including the fabled How To Get Your Toe Into Your Nose stretching.  That’s coming up in the next month.

Welcome back to Emmet’s Blackboard !

Head to Toe Stetching

Here’s is my take on a program for gaining the head to toe stretch. Enjoy! This is the Kit Laughlin release I recommend doing every 4-5 days in the beginning.

Okay guys, welcome.  I know a lot of you have requested this over the last few months, and finally today, I get to deliver.

As you can see, we’re looking at head to toe today.  If you haven’t already watched my ballistic stretching video, I suggest you pause this video now, get the last video I posted, check that out, watch that.  Understand what I’m talking about in it, then come back and watch this one. 
If you have watched it, lets go through it,

You want to get your head to your toe.  That is an admirable goal for most.  It is achievable for most people I think.  There’s certain proportions that won’t favour it, but I think 99% of you will get there.

Now, there are a couple of pre requisites before you start this program.  First, we want a hands to floor pike, about as good as I’m demonstrating now.

We also want a 25% bodyweight Jefferson Curl, for at least 5 reps, 10 being better, in my opinion, for 3-4 sets at a comfortable RPE.

Obviously as well, you need a set of ‘Wu Shoes’ so go out and buy some Feiyues.  Buy the real ones, not the french ones. 

To do the stretching, we’re using pulsing type stretching.  If you watched the ballistic video, we want to have a nice rhythm.

When you start this one, your rhythm is going to be necessarily quite slow.  It is very intense stretching, particularly if you’re not used to flat footed pike stretching.  It does pass.  You have to stick with this program every day of the week.  You can get away with 5.  6 is better, 7 is even better.  

For the first two weeks, you’re going to be fucking sore in your calves, your hamstrings, whatever’s taking it.  Just keep ploughing through it.  I promise you by day 14 at the most, the DOMS will be gone.  You’ll be increasing range all this time, so that will be encouraging you to hopefully stick to it.  If not, just plough through the DOMS.

Trust me on this one; it goes away.  Then you’re left with a nice new level of flexibility.

One thing you’re going to want to look at – by the end of Week 1, or every time, you want to hit twice a week the Kit Laughlin roll stretch stick on your calves.  I’ve found that invaluable, and so has everyone else who’s done this program. 

The rest of it is based on my own tinkering and experimenting.  What I’ve come up with is what I feel is the best fit for the most amount of people.

It’s not the be all end all.  There’s many ways to skin a cat.  This is based off enough data points from having put enough people through the process.

I feel this is the average process.

The average process, and we’ll go through the exercises, is we’re going to start with 3x90s of a calf stretch, a straight leg calf stretch with locked knees in 3 different foot positions, for each head of the gastrocnemius and soleus.

Then, we’re going to do 3×72 pulses, and leave it at that.  We’ll go through the countdown and the technique; I’ll demo each stage of this process.

If you want to speed up the process, and this one really does speed it up, in the morning as you get up, you want to do 3×36 pulses in the morning before breakfast.  It definitely helps a lot, makes a massive difference.  It is necessarily quite an evil beast.

Anyway, I hope you like it.  Give me your feedback and we’ll speak later.

Pre Requisites

  • Hands to Floor Pike
  • 25% bw J-Curl


A: 3x90s stretch for calfs (3 positions)

B: 3×72 pulses

Optional: 3×36 AM pulses

Same Side Elbow to Toe

1: Fist + thumb

2: Fist + 1/2 thumb

3: 4 Fingers

4: 3, 2, 1 fingers

5: Toe

Opposite Elbow to Toe

1: Fist + thumb

2: Fist + 1/2 thumb

3: 4 fingers

4: 3, 2, 1 fingers

5: Toe

Head to Toe

1:  Fist + thumb

2: Fist + 1/2 thumb

3: 4 fingers

4: 3, 2, 1 fingers

5: Toe

Head to Toe FAQ

Just answering some of the more common questions I’m getting regarding this.

Hello guys, we are back.  It’s been about ten days since I posted my Head to Toe tutorial.  I was going to post some other stretching videos, but I’ve had so many questions that I thought I’d address these while we’re still in the flow of things.

First off, thank you to everyone who’s been sending me photos of the results.  I know it’s only been a few days, but some of you have had some great progress.  Keep it up, and please do share your pictures with me.  Please do send them.  You can use my hashtag on Instagram if you want to get a form check, #EmmetLouis.  Other than that, just keep plugging away.

As you’ve probably guessed, the first question I got the most, that I will address now is, do I need Feiyue shoes?  I’m not even joking.  Whether facebook or email, that is the #1 question I’ve gotten.

You don’t actually need the Wushu shoes; it’s just a bit of a joke.

For those of you wondering, I’ve also got questions about fake Feiyues.  The fake ones, in my mind, are from a French company that has the license to make Feiyues that cost 100 to 150 euros.  They’re the fake ones.  The cheaper your Feiyues, the more genuine they are, even if they’re going to fall into bits.  It’s still, they’re the real Feiyues.

I get mine from a place called Yellow Mountain Martial Arts in the UK.  They cost me about 12 quid.  They also give a 20% discount if you buy a couple of pairs at a time.  Give them a shout.  If you’re in America it’s probably just not worth it.  Find them on eBay.  The cheaper, the better.

Second question I’ve gotten: can I skip the pre-requisites?  No.  The pre-requisites are what they are because that’s what is going to stop you.  It’s injury proofing and mobility proofing.  You have to hit these targets before you progress to advanced stuff.

Don’t try and run before you can walk.  Deal with it.  There’s plenty of successful programs that will get you there.  If you’re wondering how to progress it, there’s some excellent stuff with Kit Laughlin.  A lot of the stretching will get you there.  If not, I will post a video on how to get the pre-requisites if people are really struggling.  Just let me know.  

They are achievable, most of the information is out there.

Next, the performance of the exercises.  I really think, after having seen some videos of some people, that you should set a metronome.  Some of you are going too fast, some of you too slow.  45-60 BPM is the speed.  Once again, we’re not trying to use a lot of momentum to cruise through the sticky point.  Just enough to get you through it.

Remember, take your time, pulse it, count your beats.  

First couple of sessions are very tough.  It can be very intense; you might not get past 20 pulses.  It’s okay to break the sets up, just get the reps done for the first few sessions.  After I prefer if you get it, and then just try and complete all the reps in one set.

Next we have people asking, what do I do when I hit a plateau?  

We have to see if we can define a plateau first, in the context of this.  With the plateaus we have, not making any progress for 4, 5, 6 days is fine; that’s not a plateau.  

What we need to look at is: are you actually not making progress, or are you making slower progress?

In slower progress, what you notice is, say I went from forehead to four fingers, and I might achieve that in rep 60 of my last set.  What we want to look for in progress, is maybe not going deeper than four fingers for a week, maybe longer.  

What you’ll notice is you’ll get more accustomed to going forehead to four fingers faster.  It’ll start happening by rep 20 of the third set, then the second set, then the first set.

When it starts happening early in the first set, then you’re generally set up to get some gains.  That’s when you’ll notice a breakthrough.  

So think of it as we have to reach a new level, stabilize that level.  Once that level is stabilized, we can then progress.

Don’t think you’re not making progress if your level is not increasing every single session, or every 2-3 days.  Take it as it comes; just do it.

That’s what it is.  This is an exercise in consistency.  Even if you don’t want to go all the way toe to head, achieving a nice comfortable head to fist is a very good level of forward flexion for most people.

Most people will be very happy with that.  You don’t have to push it all the way to the limit; just follow the process, give it 28 days, and you’ll see some massive increases in flexibility.  I guarantee that.

Next, if we have an actual plateau, there’s a couple techniques I like.  An actual plateau is you achieve a certain level of flexibility, say you go head to fist and just can’t progress past there.  It’s not moving.  You even give it a few days to stabilize.

You can start adding a small static stretch at the end of our sets, 30-40 seconds.  About 10-12 in and out breaths, trying to hold ourselves in that position.  We can use our hands to pull ourselves down, hold ourselves statics, trying to maintain that intense stretch.  It’s quite an intense method.

We can also add a very, very, very gentle pull as we cruise into our end range.  What that would look like is we go down, using our muscles to pull ourselves into that stretch.  Just as we begin to lose power, we tuck very gently to get you to cruise through.  It doesn’t mean you do a massive one.  Once again, as little as possible, just to break that sticking point.

If they’re not breaking it, we can combine these.  We can hold every pulse for a two-count.  A longer time spent in that pulse, with a little pull.  That’s the real combo breaker of a plateau breaker.  You don’t want to use it every time as it’s intense, but it does work.

These are basically the 3 main ones I’d use.  But the main thing is, have I actually plateaued, or is the body getting acclimated to the stretch?

That’s all the main questions I’ve had.  If you do have more, ask them on YouTube, ask them on Facebook.  Ask them on Instagram, you know where to find me.  That’s fine.  If you want some form checks, Instagram and tag them with #EmmetLouis.  I’ll form check them for you.  If you get some good results please share them.

If you’re more generally interested in this type of stretching and what we’re doing, visit us on the Kit Laughlin forum, KitLaughlin.com.  We’ve got loads of other people experimenting with this, it’s not just me.  Join in, give us your feedback.

I’m going to leave you there for awhile.  Any questions, you know where to find me.  We’ll be back next week.

Front Folding / Prerequisites for Head to Toe

So to back track a little from the head to toe and more beginner friendly. Here is a loaded stretching approach to gaining the front fold / standing pike and the prequsites for the head to toe. Enjoy!

Okay guys, welcome.  I had a lot of requests for making this Head to Toe video, so I put together a little routine based around on the concept of loaded stretching to help you get your front fold.  

Front fold for me is a standing pike, with feet in dorsiflexion, as opposed to a sitting pike where you point your toes.  It’s a bit different; it gets more of the posterior chain.  It will help your normal pike, anyway.  It will also help with other moves that require a lot of compression.

The more flexible you are in these positions, the less we have to resist against compression.  You’ll find all the other things – press to handstand, L-Sits, hanging leg raises… all that kind of stuff will get much easier by having a good front fold.

There’s many ways to do this.  This is actually slightly trickier to make a masse program than the head to toe, which is quite straight forward.  You could have other issues going on: hip flexor or calf weakness, piriformis could be tight, glute med could be inactive.  These kinds of things will restrict you.  Even if your breathing isn’t great, it restricts your mobility in many directions.

Hopefully this will cover many of you guys.  If it doesn’t work after doing the routine consistently for 3 months, and you’re getting 0 progress after 4 weeks, it’s definitely not for you.  If you haven’t got there by 3 months, you need to look at some other issues, maybe speak to someone who can coach you through the process.

As I said, there’s many ways to achieve this.  There’s partner stretching, normal relaxed stretching…I’m just giving you how it looks from a loaded perspective.  

Front Folding

  • 3 x 3 kinds of calf stretches
  • 3-5 x 10 + 10s hold SSGM
  • 3-5 x 10 + 10-30s hold JC

Quickly, the routine is very simple.  We’re going to do 3 rounds of calf stretches in 3 different positions.  We will do 3-5 sets for 10 reps, plus a 10s hold in the stride stance Good Morning.  Then we are going to do 3-5 sets of 10 reps of the Jefferson Curl, with a 10-30s hold in the bottom.

Just to explain the holds, those aren’t relaxed.  You keep some tension in the muscles, be it very light or very tough.  You’re going to play with this yourself, starting with 3 sets, then judge the effects on your body and titrate it up over the coming weeks to see if you need to go as high as 5 sets.  Once again, use the minimum amount of weight to get a bit deeper into the stretch.  

When you start your set, you should basically go deeper on every single rep.  It could be mm, it could just be the sensation of going deeper.  And on the last one, just obviously hold it in your deepest position.  Each set should peak a small bit higher than the last one.

2-3x a week is best for this.  Cool.  Watch the videos of the exercises in the sequence, just so you know what you’re doing.  Let me know how you get on.

Remember, if you want form checks, use #EmmetLouis on Instagram.  I check it a lot.  I can give you advice if you need it.  Just tag me on it, or send it to me on Facebook.  

Anyway, good luck, and speak to you soon.

A: Calf stretch, 90s per position, use a stop watch

B: SSGM 3-5 sets x 10 reps + 15-30s Isometric

C: Jefferson Curl, same as B

Calf Stretch 1 – 3:33-3:58

Stride Stance Good Morning Instructions

Okay guys, today we are looking at a loaded stretch for the hamstrings, in particular.  I like this stretch a lot myself.  It’s a good beginner one in terms of teaching how to hinge, and the hamstrings to elongate under load.  It’s not the be all and end all for hamstring stretching, but it’s a good fit for a lot of people.

This is called the Stride Stance Good Morning, with a locked knee.  We’re doing it for flexibility purposes, not so much strength.  Watch my loaded progression stretching video to explain what’s going on and the techniques behind it.

To demo this exercise, I’m just using a stick.  We could equally use a kettlebell, a plate, a dumbbell, a barbell.  Most of you won’t actually need that for the moment.

Remember, don’t load these up too much because we’re trying to get more flexible, not stronger.  You can get stronger better with your hamstrings in different ways.

We’re going to take a stride stance, one foot is forward, one is back.  My feet are separated about a foot distance, under the hips and not on the same line.

I have most of my weight here.  My back leg is just for balance.  Watch what happens as I shift backwards; that’s the important thing in hinging.

I’m going to put my barbell on my neck.  My knee is completely locked.  Now I’m going to pull my ribs down and try to pivot by pushing the hips back, back, back.  At the same time I’m coming forward until I feel that stretch.  I’m going to hold this for 2, 3, then extend back up.

Then again.  Push back, push back, push back.  Hold to 3.  Push up.

Some of you won’t go too far on this.  You might just end up going there.  That’s fine.  Just work it and you will gain flexibility.

To demo that from the front, so you can see what’s going on.  My legs are hip width.  One is forward, more so for balance.  You can take it off eventually, which we look at in more advanced exercises.  Lock the knee, rotate the pelvis, pull the ribs down.  Pivot around the hip as much as we can, get into that flexion, then extend out.  Then again, push down, down, down, down.  Hold 2, 3.  Then extend.

Give it a go, let me know how you get on.

Jefferson Curl 6:38

Okay guys, so we are looking at the Jefferson Curl again.  I know I have a video on my channel already, but I’m going to do this with a bit more detail, and hopefully you guys can learn something else.

I’m going to demo this.  I’m using a 20kg barbell.  I generally start people with 10% of their max deadlift as the weight we use, then progress up from there.  As I said, I like to progress this slowly.  We want to look for correct articulation of the spine.  We don’t want too much hinging.

We want to play with the variables: how long we hang, how many reps we do, these kinds of things.

Anyway, I’m going to take my barbell, step up on my box.  Make sure your toes aren’t sticking over the end of the box.

First things first.  We want to be in a standing dish position.  I’m going to rotate my pelvis into posterior tilt.  Then I’m going to lead this motion with my neck, not my barbell.  I’m going to roll over, and get a traction type feeling.  If you do it right from the neck, you feel it all the way down to the sacrum.  Try to find that elongation and fractioning between the joints.

Lock the knees, roll the spine, segmentally down.  Then you need to shimmy out past the toes here.  That’s one rep.  As you can see, I need a taller box as I’m touching the floor here.

Anyway, we go down.  Once again, starting from the head, keep my ass squeezed and adductors squeezed together.  Knees locked.  Roll, roll, roll, extend the spine out of the roll.  Let the hips roll over.  Keep the knees locked.  Touch the floor, then I start stacking.

I get the hips in as much as I can.  It’s like a fishing pole.  I’m just rolling right up, articulating between every single vertebra as much as i can.  

It’s also a big stretch for hamstrings, which is why we’re doing it.  But that rolling and curling is very important on this.

Give it a go, and I’ll speak to you in the comments.


Loaded Stretching

This weeks mini lecture I clear up and explain loaded progressive stretching. For some examples of Loaded Stretches see my Facebook page for a pancake sequence

Welcome back to another round of Emmet’s black board, my movers and shakers.  This week we are looking at loaded progressive stretching.

I know a lot of you have asked me about this.  It’s the main name Ido uses for this type of stretching, and a lot of people can find info by going to his seminars.  As a disclaimer, I actually haven’t attended one of his seminars, but I know some of the techniques and I understand their applications.  We’re going to blow the lid off of this.

First, let’s look at the name.  The name is the hint.  It gives you all you need to know about this technique.  Once you know this technique, there’s a lot of other stuff written out there about it.  Loaded progressive stretching.  It’s in the name.

Loaded, as in the application of load or resistance.  This could be either bodyweight, or if we need to progress it, we could move onto stretches that require an external resistance, ie a weight plate, barbell, partner, anything really.

Progressive, we are progressing in one of our training variables.  This may be sets, reps, time under tension, load, range of motion.  If we are improving in our stretch, we don’t need to change it.  If we are not improving, we need to look at one of our variables.  Once we change our variables, hopefully we’ll have new improvement.

Stretching, increasing range of motion.

First thing’s first, loaded progressive stretching is a type of resistance based stretching that is a type of contraction we term an eccentric quasi isometric.

What that means is basically the muscles are getting longer at a very slow pace.  It’s like an isometric, but not quite the same.  The application of this, we’re going to look at some of the main authors.

The first guy who came out with a product on this is a man called Thomas Kurz.  You can buy his stuff, it’s actually quite good.  He’s probably one of the most flexible old men you’ll ever see.  Not that he was old when he first came out with this, but he’s the kind of guy you’d want for a grand dad.  His technique or way of doing this was to basically apply a load, work up and down through your tight range of motion, and just going to keep doing sets and reps until you feel you have reached your limit for the day.  Once you’ve reached your limit for the day, you hold a 30s isometric in your new range to establish it, then repeat.

It’s not very effective in giving concrete variables, but as we know now, everyone is a unique special snowflake, so you need to experiment a bit with this.

Then we have another forerunner on putting it out there, Coach Sommer, in his Foundation programs.  He has an interesting way, and I like his way of doing this.  If we look at the progression, and we’ll use the hanging pike:

He establishes a new position for one training cycle.  If you look at the pike, he’s doing weighted pike stretches first.  For him, a training cycle lasts up to 12 weeks depending on your level with that progression.

Afterwards, he’ll start doing Jefferson Curl.  Establish a new position, then move in and out of that position to gain some new position, and allow you to move in and out comfortably from that position.  Quite a unique take on it, quite interesting, it works quite well.

Then we have a guy called Jerry Hatter, with Industrial Strength Flexibility.  He mainly learned splits from martial arts, so not the prettiest splits, but still splits nonetheless.

His technique is to move into your end range.  Just to give you some terminology, we have end range being as far as you go.  When you move into end range, you’re going to encounter two things: the soft stop and the hard stop.  As you get into it, the amount of tension increases to a certain point.  That’s your soft stop, your first stop.  You can normally push past that.

Get to your soft stop, push past it into your hard stop, where you stop based off your joint, tension, whatever it is that day.  You move into your hard stop, come back out, hit 20 reps, hold the last one for a normal stretching time of a minute to 90s.  Repeat that quite often.

Who else do we have?  We have Ido.  Ido is the mystery man of all this with his loaded progressive stretching system.  Basically, as far as we can tell, after talking to people and just seeing the videos of his students online, it is 10 reps, hold the last contraction for 10 seconds.  Seems to be the most common thing.

As for sets and reps, I’m sure he’s progressing that in different ways.  But, that’s the one that seems to be working quite well at the moment.  It’s the easiest to get into.

So – I’m going to give you my take on loaded progressive stretching, and how to actually apply it.  First thing’s first, we pick stretches that allow us effective leverage on the muscles we’re trying to improve.  We might do a front split, but suspended, things like that.

You’ve got to experiment and apply the techniques.  I’m going to start posting videos as well.  There’s already some on my Facebook so check that out.

You apply either bodyweight, or once you get to a certain level, we apply some external resistance.  When applying the resistance, where a lot of people fail in this type of stretching is they use too much.  You want to use the minimum amount of weight to help lower you into a new range of motion.  For example, in my seated straddle, I have 100º of motion.  If I used a 60kg weight, I’m probably not going to go anywhere other than just collapsing under the weight.  Whereas if I use a 10kg weight, that’s going to give me a nice extra 10º that I can move in and out of, and focus on getting stronger in that end range of motion.

Basically, if you know your stretching, getting stronger in your end range of motion is what makes you more flexible.  We’re not increasing muscle length that greatly in adults.

Next, progress in sets first.  That’s how we progress with my clients, and what I found to be ore effective.  We have to remember, novelty in and of itself is a stressor.  When we apply stress to the body it will adapt, hopefully positively, sometimes negatively.  So we add sets first before adding reps or weight.  That’s what I find more effective.

The sweet spot from my experimentation seems to be 5 sets.  5 sets seems to be where everyone reaches their rough max.  Any sets after that on the day seem to be superfluous.  You get a small bit, but 5 sets seems to be it.  Depending on the day, sometimes we’ve gone up as high as 8 or 9 sets, and I have increased.  But the next day, the pain, the DOMS has been quite intense and not allowed me to continually stretch for another few days.  It makes us go back a step.

So 5 seems to be a nice thing.  

We’re going to start with 5 reps, and progress to 10, and then we want to hold the last position, the deepest position we achieve in each set, for 10-30s.  Start with 10; you want to be squeezing hard on this.  It’s not relaxing.

I’m finding with some people, and myself in particular, once you finish that last bit and start relaxing, I’ll go into a deep stretch on it.  Just relax, take it out, go farther.  Seems to work well.

We want to increase weight once we’ve progressed all our variables; we’re doing 5 sets of 10 reps with 30s hold.  If we’re still not increasing, you don’t need to increase the weight.  I’ve been using 15kg in my straddle for months now.  It’s working fine and I’m slowly gaining range of motion.  I have grade 2 adductor tears from some shit coaching back in the day, so getting range of motion in the straddle has always been a bit of a battle, but I’m happy with my progress.

We’re going to increase the weight 2.5-5kg in the stretch, once you have stopped gaining range of motion over 2-3 sessions.

You’ll notice there’s always an up and down in gain of flexibility.  There is never a clear linear process.  We’ll be going backwards and forwards, but once you’re not gaining over 2-3 sessions, up the weight a bit.  See how that goes.

Upping the weight is always a thing, because if you put too much weight on, you cause your muscles too much tension and they won’t be able to actively elongate into the stretch.

Basically that is the rundown of what loaded progressive stretching is.  That’s my way of applying it.  If you understand this, you can pick pretty much any stretch.  Not every stretch, but you’ll be able to apply it.  Some stretches are easier than others.

Other things to look at – isometric stretching is a great one.  It’s a different category of stretching in my mind.  It’s fantastic for middle splits, and we’ll go through that next week.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you have problems applying it, just ask me questions.  That’s what the comments are there for.  If you like my videos, please like and subscribe.

If you want to see more loaded progressive stretching, there’s a pancake sequence already on my Facebook.  Please find that in the links below.

I’ll catch you guys next week.

Building the Bridge

This weeks lecture is a discussion on what makes for a good bridge and how you should go about training for it.

Hello my movers and shakers.  Welcome to another round of Emmet’s blackboard.  The last…ages, actually, I have been having a lot of requests for this.  I wasn’t planning on doing it, but because I had so many requests, I made a video to help you guys understand the bridge.

So, welcome to building the bridge.

We’re going to look at the bridge.  It’s one I really enjoy developing in people.  If you are doing the bridge to develop the bridge, you’re going to be banging your head against the wall.  It’s not what we do; bridge is a display of flexibility.  It is something you can do when you are flexible and have achieved certain flexibility targets, then a bridge will be simple.

If you are constantly doing a bridge to try to get your bridge, you’re just going to be annoying yourself.  

We’re going to look at what constitutes a good bridge first, and explain some of the key points.  Then I have a good post on the bridge on Facebook you can already see.  If you go on Facebook it’s on my photo albums.  Check it out, there’s a bit of an essay just explaining it.

We’re going to cover some of these points anyway.

We’re going to start with the bridge.  With the wrists, you need a decent amount of wrist flexion.  Not so much when you’re actually in the bridge, as the angle will be greater than 90º.  

This is greater than 90º, so we don’t need that much.  But for the initial push into the bridge, we’re going to need a bit more range of motion than you think.

So that’s our first point.  We want nice, flexible wrists.  This also ties into our handstands; we want nice, strong flexible wrists.

Next, in terms of the elbows.  Elbows are just going to be straight.  First thing as you know, I like a bit of hyper extension in the elbows.  Nicer line, stronger support.  Not 100% necessary, straight is perfectly fine.  Hyperextended is just getting a bit fancy.

First thing’s first.  In the bridge here, in the shoulders, we want the shoulder line, if I drop from the point of the shoulders down, I want my shoulders to be ahead of my wrists here.  I don’t want them to be behind the wrists, in an ideal bridge.

Basically what I’m describing is the intermediate level bridge.  This is where tumbling will be easier, handstands will be easier. We can start training walkovers successfully, limbers, we don’t need to worry too much about the bridge.

So in this, we want the ability to push our shoulders that way, relative to the fixed point of our hands.

This is achieved by two things.  It’s achieved by the shoulder blades here, by retracting our shoulder blades, as well as elevating them.  We’re pushing our shoulders forward.  At the same time, even though our hands are on the ground, we’re going to be screwing our hands outwards, in this direction.

If you think internal rotation is this way, we’re actively going to be pushing our hands that way on the ground.  See the head position here: as we externally rotate and internally rotate the shoulders in the overhead position, this will have the effect of pushing the neck forwards.

That’s fine when you’re holding, but when you’re tumbling, we’re going to need something slightly different.  For holding a bridge, the harder you squeeze the shoulder blades and the more you elevate and rotate them, the more your head will go forward.  That is perfectly fine.

The next thing is I have the torso divided into two rough segments.  Imagine this is the rib cage here.  We need the ribcage – the drawing is a bit off, this should be a bit more stacked over the shoulders.  We need to look at the spine, not as a segment, but as something that bends.  

It’s got an even bend all the way here for intermediate bridging.  Contortion and other stuff is completely different situation.  We’re looking for a nice even bend or curve.  We’d see a nice continual curve.

Most people will get stuck around the thoracic spine.  In my experience, between T4 and T7 is where people really get stuck.  Don’t ask me exactly why, because it’s very detailed, but trust me on this.  I find a lot of people need direct mobilization of that, so we can get in there and mobilize those segments individually.  That will basically free them up.

Remember, there’s a general rule of thumb in the body.  If you’re trying to free up a joint, or it’s not moving properly, it is freed up by rotated that joint.  It is not freed up by trying to pull that joint.

Take my wrist, say I want to free it up.  I want to rotate in, same with ankles.  I want to rotate around.  Knees, hips, it’s all the same.  Rotation frees up your joint capsules better than actually pushing it through flexion, extension, cycles or whatever it does.  You’re going to have to trust me on that one, same again.

At the same time, our lats, which run around the back of the body, are going to have to be flexible too.  You see where I’m going with this display of flexibility.  The lats, most of the time, we need to go this way to bring them under full stretch.  Same thing.

Now we’re looking at the lower abs.  The belly button is about here.  At this section it’s the same.  We want our abs to be able to – abs have a contrary function in the bridge.  They need to be tight, but also strong enough to extend their full range of motion at the same time.  We need strong abs.  We’re not completely relaxing.

If you relax completely the abs you’re going to feel pain, just below the rib cage.  That’s the cue for that in the spine.  If we keep our abs tight to support the spine, lift it, and traction it out a bit.

Next, pelvis and hip flexors.  This is where people get stuck the most.  They tried the bridge, the pelvis can’t rotate and, because the hip flexors are so damn tight, they can’t actually achieve a bridge, and are left banging their head.

We can skip ahead in our training.  We can train this segment here with our feet raised up, and take the hip flexor demand out.  At the same time, we can wait for hip flexors to catch up.

This is why I say it’s a display of flexibility; it isn’t something we do.  

Think about it.  In a bridge, we’re trying to stretch our shoulders, our rib cage, our stomachs, our hip flexors, our rectus femoris (quads), all at once.  At the same time, having the ab strength, shoulder strength, everything at once in tandem trying to do the stretch.  It’s banging your head off the wall.  

So, hip flexors need to be treated separately.  Same thing with rectus femoris, one of your quadriceps muscles.  We’re thinking hip flexor stretches, check out Kit Laughlin for some fantastic stuff on hip flexors.  Rectus Femoris, if we look at the couch stretch, these ones free them up immensely.

Now we’e got the anterior line.  The bridge is basically the anterior fascial line of the body.  We’ve got everything here nicely opened.  We’ll go through a quick run down again.

Arms straight.  Shoulder blades retracted and elevated.  Head is going to be poking through a little.  Rib cage is pushed over hands, meaning you’re not feeling blocked there.  Abs are tight but extended, contrary in how it works.  Hips, gluten are engaged.  Hip flexors aren’t tight so we can actively rotate the pelvis.  This will stop the pain you feel just below your lower back and pelvis.  There’s your two cues on that.  Same thing, legs are straight and pushing back.  We’re pushing through our heels, slightly contrary to what you might have thought.

Now, some things I found immensely helpful in bridge.  One, if you can’t do a bridge, is two, bridge from a box.  Put your feet up on a box, great, we can train this half.  Next half, hip flexors, check out Kit Laughlin.  

We’ve done this, now we want to train our bridge.  First we need to look at getting into the bridge.  What you find is, initially, if you can actually achieve a bridge position, you want to do a test with a partner.

Hold onto their ankles, have them lift you up.  That’s your test, see where you are.  Assess, see where the pain is.  If you’ve got pain in your lower back, or it’s just a stretching pain..pain in lower back, rib cage; that will give you key points of where you’re tight.

If you can’t get your legs straight, your hips are tight.  If you have pain in lower back, hip flexors are tight.  If you have pain just below rib cage, your abs aren’t supporting, or they’re quite tight.

If you’re pushing forward, you can’t get your shoulders up high enough, your lats are tight.  If you can’t get your chest forward, your T Spine is tight.

With those in mind, give all this stuff a go.  Check my Facebook for another post that will show you my bridge.  The bridge in my Facebook picture is basically the bridge I can achieve without a warm up.  That’s the goal of good flexibility training, we can just achieve this range of motion.

If you have to warm up for a month, it’s not that good.

Give that stuff a go.  If you have any questions, hit me up on them.  You know where to find me.  If you like my stuff, like and subscribe.  Catch you next week.

Dissecting the Dish Position

In this mini lecture I cover some of the important points of the “dish” position.

Alright, my movers and shakers, it is time for another round of Emmet’s Blackboard.  First off, I’d like to apologize.  I’ve been really busy the last couple of weeks, the last six weeks or so. I hadn’t had the chance to put up another video, so I thought, I’m going to make a little special video on something where I guarantee, if you’re watching the videos, it’s something you’ve done or are doing currently.

Today we are going to dissect the dish position.  As you know, it’s a body line drill.  It can be trained for endurance, strength, or as part of a warmup, or a unique movement in your workout itself.  That depends on where you’re at, where you’re looking to go, how you’re using it, and what sort of training cycle you’re in.

I’m not going to go too much into that, as it’s quite person specific.  Some good recommendations with the dish: you’d like to be able to hold 90s as a nice target on that.  If you can hold that comfortably, you’re kind of sorted on that.

Another recommendation is 3-4 sets of 60s.  Once you can do that, you want to start looking at harder body line drills.  You want to look at adding weight, maybe weights on the ankles, held above the head on a stick.  Different things.

First things first – let’s just look at what the actual dish position is.  Now, I teach this slightly different than what you might have been told.  We are going to start with our feet, as I normally teach it, and work our way up. 

The feet are pointed.  We have the toes pointed nice and flat and straight.  The next thing, working our way up from here – so ankles and toes in line.  If your point is a problem, you might have to do some release on your tibialis anterior.  You can either roll this, Graston style technique, fascial abrasion technique is great for that area.  

Next, knees.  Important one here is we want to pull our kneecaps up.  This has the indirect action of straightening our feet out, straightening our line out.  We also want to look at knee extension.  If you cannot get your knees straight, fully straight, then you need to look at doing something to loosen that up.  There’s loads of videos on that.

Next, we have our quads tight.  Our legs are squeezed together.  This is a very important point.  I had this illustrated while I was chatting to some guys on Reddit.  One of the guys posted a picture, then I said, your handstand is nice.  But let’s squeeze the legs together, turn them out slightly.  He went from a 15s handstand to a 30s handstand. 

A little tip, very important.  Squeeze your legs together.  It fires your core off in an indirect way, and just works.  Trust me on this one.

Next, with the pelvis.  With the legs, you see they are lifted here.  Our feet are lifted off the ground, but they’re not lifted a huge amount.  We’re not going 6, 7, 8 inches, or 9 or 12, like you see with people.  In fact, I don’t like, as it starts using the hip flexors to lift the legs.  We’re not getting the effect we want.

Our pelvis is tucked under, the whole ‘putting your balls on the table,’ if you’re a guy.  Or imaginary ones, if you’re a girl.  This will have the indirect effect of flattening out the lower back.  You always have people say, “flat lower back, flat lower back.”  

If you are a girl and working out anyway, or just have normal woman shaped hips, your lower back is going to be flattened out, but a lot of the time I can still slide my hand underneath my clients.  They’re just developed in the posterior; it’s just the way women are shaped. 

I wouldn’t get hung up on getting the back flattened, as long as the curve of the spine and joints are flexed, it’s perfectly fine.  You’re going to put yourself in a bad position trying to flatten that out, unless you’re very narrow in the hips.

Most guys can get the back flat.  Myself, I squat a lot.  I don’t go perfectly flat to the floor.  In fact, when I did, I forced that one and fucked up my handstand shape for quite a while until I was able to reestablish a nice, straight, flattened spine.

Next.  We’ve got this flattened.  Our lift has happened.  This will have the indirect effect of lifting our legs about 5cm off the ground.  It’s not a lot, but it’s just what we need to be nicely in line.

We’re looking for, in a handstand, as this is what I’m directing us all towards, is we need a nice straight shape.  We don’t need to be arched like a canoe.  We want to be flat; everything stacks up nicely, balance is carried by the bones.  Simple.

Next.  We’re looking at getting the ribs down.  Now when we pull the ribs down, we’re going to have the indirect effect of lifting the top of the torso.  A lot of people cue this wrong.  They lift the torso and the whole position is a different position.  They’re two distinct positions with different applications.  We must remember this.  A holding up dish might look the same, but they’re not the same.  Remember that; that’s important.

We’re going to pull the ribs down.  It’s a small motion; we’re only going to get 5 to 10 degrees of flexion.  That’s going to have the effect that, if you have the scapula somewhere around here, it’s going to have the effect that you’re only going to lift up until you’re at the point of the scapula.  That pointy bit at the ground, that is all you need to keep the ribs down.  We don’t need to lift til our torso is right to doing a crunch or sit up.  That’s a problem you see.

When you’re initially starting your training, you’re going to lift a bit higher, just because a longer lever, the harder to hold, the more muscular strength.  But you want to look at just getting that slightly off the ground.

One of the other mistakes I see a lot in dish is in the neck.  We want to keep the neck neutral.  That means the neck follows the eyes.  If you’re looking down to see your toes, you’re going to be firing this way, which we don’t want.  We want to be nice and long, so look straight up to the ceiling.  At the same time, don’t crane your neck forward.  Just nicely.  If we fixed it, then lift it, boom.  Sorted.

Now the hands are a tricky one.  We use the hands – well, I use the hands in my programming as the intensification modifier once people have achieved… first we’re going to start with the hands going along the body here.  Watch out, I’m not just holding my hands at the side, but have them abducted.  Slightly out to the side is a great place to start.

Once that gets easy or lifted, the next thing we look at is holding the hands straight up.  

I’m just going to grab my chalk.  We hold the hands straight to the ceiling, pushing them up.  That’s the next thing; you’ll find that’s a big kick off.  Another option I like to do is hold the hands in the 90-90 position, up by the side, and let them round forward like that.

Don’t ask my why.  I just like it.  It’s not a big deal, but that is about the same amount of relative intensity.

Next, once we’ve achieved our 3-4 sets of 60s with ease.  Remember, we’re trying to do this as easy as possible, not struggling.  We want this as body line, it’s not deadlifting.

Next, we’re going to hold the hands up by the ears.  The problem is you might want your friend or coach to watch this.  A lot of people hold their hands where they think is by their ears, but they’re actually there.  We want them right back so you’re pushing them away as well, making them nice and long.  At the same time, rounded over.  

This will greatly intensify the leverage you have on your abs, and make it a lot harder.  

You can also look at this segment here as an isolated section.

You can put your arms here, and just pull down the ribs and see if everything moves as a unit, not worrying about the legs for the moment.  That’s just one test to see if you have the upper abdominal strength.  I know the abs aren’t divided, but for intents and purposes of this, holding the ribs down has a different effect than rotating the pelvis.

So, a quick recap.  Toes pointed.  Legs squeezed together.  Externally rotated, slightly.  Glute squeezed mildly; basically, it’s that whole ‘stick a $20 bill between your ass cheeks.’  You want to have a good hold on it.  You don’t want to be sucking it in there, but you don’t want someone to be able to pull it out. 

Pelvis.  Lower back rotated.  Very small rotation to get those legs off the ground.  Lower back flat, doesn’t mean flat into the ground because depending on your anatomy, that just won’t happen.  

Next, ribs down, upper body lifted – not extensively, just to the bottom of the shoulder blades.  Bottom of the shoulder blades is fine.

Initially, the arms start down by the sides – level one. Once we’ve achieved that, level two, arms up to the ceiling.  Next, arms over head, parallel to the floor, in line with the body.  

The ultimate goal is, once we have achieved this, we start looking at harder body line drills.  But for you guys, give it a go.

Most important thing, I’m going to stress this again, is getting the legs squeezed together, getting them rotated.  That will add seconds to your handstands instantly.  Trust me on this one.

So, I hope you enjoyed my mini little lecture.  The next video I have coming up is a video on joint preparation.  We’re going to look at what exactly that is, what exercises and concepts we can apply to our training that will enhance our joints, and just answer some questions.

Also – if you have any further questions, I’m taking questions for some more lectures.  Either put them on the comments, on Reddit, send them on email, or Facebook, however you want.  I’ll take a look at it.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it.  If you like my videos, please like and subscribe.  I will catch you next week.

Hands as Feet 

A quick insight into how the hands replicate the feet in a handstand and how this in turns works with the balance mechanism.

Welcome today.  We are continuing Emmet’s Blackboard.  We’re going to continue our little series on the handstand.  Today we’re going to start with the role of the hands.  There’s a lot of information online, so I’m going to do something slightly different and look at how the hand controls balance, and what the actual balance strategies in a handstand are.

If we were to keep a rigid body and tried to balance it, we’re going to look at balancing forwards.  My first balancing strategy when I’m going forward, if I keep my body fixed, would be to press my big toes in. 

Now, if my centre of mass, that force was able to counteract that force forward and I was able to keep my centre of mass inside my centre of pressure of my toes, I’ll remain in balance.  If that exceeds it, I need a new balance strategy.

I can do one of two things.  I could bend my knees to lower my centre of gravity and reduce the leverage on my toes.  Or, I can change my shape and push my hips back.  That in itself will bring my centre of mass back inside my centre of pressure.

We have the same thing going on in a handstand, where we have the hands, where effectively the middle and index finger are taking the role of the big toe.  Our main centre of pressure is here, just at the base of the thumb.  So looking about there, it’s about an inch from the thing.

Pressing up and outwards on our hands, our centre of pressure will just end up about here, where we have marked.

These are centres of pressure.  We can have one a bit closer to the wrist line, where if you’re falling back towards your feet you need to push in.  That’s why, balancing, coming back towards your feet is much harder; you have much less leverage.  Generally you need to add a shoulder or hip element balance strategy to bring the centre of mass back under our effective centre of pressure.

In a good handstand, the only difference between a beginner and someone who’s advanced in a handstand is in a beginner, their hips are all over the place.  They’re going to be swaying, unstable, going side to side.  Someone who’s experienced in hand balancing will be tight, the body stays fixed, and little pulses are happening with the fingers or wrists, just to control the balance.

This comes down to experience.  A lot of the time in handstands, I’m actually reacting before I’ve lost balance.  I can feel, though experience, that I’m going to lose balance one way or another.  I’ve already engaged my balance to bring me back in.

If you’ve sort of lost balance, your centre of mass exceeds your centre of pressure faster than you can control it.  Then you’ve got a problem.

What we really want to develop in the handstand is basically start thinking of these as the big toe.  That’s where you’re going to get most of it.  When we start looking at one arms, the balance shifts slightly to the ring finger, but not so much,

The thumb doesn’t really do anything in the handstand.  It’s one of these things in handstands you hear a lot in yoga circles, where we splay our fingers as wide as possible and lift our middle knuckles.  This is a bit of a mistake.

We want to think once again of our hands as feet.  So we look at what our feet are doing.  We have three main points of contact.  There are actually nine centres of pressure on the feet, but that’s outside the scope of this.

We’ve got: big toes, other toes to a certain degree, balls of the feet, and heels.  Exact same thing here: big toe, bottom of foot, heel of foot.  

Our balance will be centred here and rocking backwards and forwards between it.  If you look at your feet, your toes all point in the same direction as that’s their main effect of leverage.

Same with handstands; we don’t want to splay the fingers like this.  We want to keep them roughly lined up.  We want to keep these two…if you splay them you reduce the amount of force.you can apply.  We need to keep them as parallel as they can get.

In that, we are able to generate much more leverage.

The same thing applies.  We need to look at our balance order.  What we’ve got the balance order in the shoulders, if you look at what happens when you over balance:

You have a nice straight shape.  Initially we’re going to be pulsing the fingers, not squeezing.  You can see this in one of my videos of Seve.  She’s over balanced, pulsed, and that sends the balance wave back up the body and hopefully correct it.

If her centre of mass exceeds her accepted pressure her fingers are exerting, then she needs to do something, such as push through the shoulders to open the shoulder line.  That will make it arch shape, and bring the centre of mass back into the centre of pressure.

If that doesn’t work, we need an even bigger push of the shoulders and bending of the back.  This is when you see a hollow back, or one of the banana arch handstands.  That’s effectively what they’re doing, bringing the centre of mass back inside the centre of pressure.

Similar thing happens when you come back to the feet.  You have much less of an effective centre of pressure to work with.  Basically, from this spot to this line here – if you look at the wrist, it’s effectively one inch.  So we’ve got one inch of leverage we can exert.

Over this, we need to first – and there’s a lot of balance strategies, but we’ll speak of one where we don’t bend the arms, but keep them straight – we’re going to ram the shoulders forwards.  We break the shoulder line.  The same as the counter act where we pull the centre of mass through, which is planching.  If you’re a beast, great.  

For most people, they’re not beast mode yet.  We need to break the shoulders.  This will keep the weight, bring it back into our main centre of pressure.  

At the same time, we’re going to pike the hips.  That will bring the centre of mass back inside the centre of pressure.  At the same time, you can pause there and restack.

This all makes sense, but the main point we’re trying to get across is we need to think of effective centres of pressure.  

This is the practical side – when we’re doing what is called the cambered hand position, if we look at it, we put our fingers back.  Feel that just by pulling the fingers back, suddenly you can exert a lot more pressure.

Now we want to find the point where we still find even pressure on this bit of the hand, but it’s not being forced up.

Play around with that a bit, just pull the fingers back.  You might need to stretch the fingers out.  There’s a lot of information on that online.  I think Yuri Marmenstein has quite a good video on it.

I hope that makes sense when we talk about using the hands for balance as we do feet.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  If you like it, hit subscribe.

Thank you guys, catch you later.

The Anatomy of a Handstand

I give the insight to what I feel are the main points of a good handstand. This is just a quick overview with more in-depth lectures to follow.

Okay guys, welcome.  This is the introduction what we’re going to term as ‘Emmet’s Blackboard.’  To get started, I’ve had some requests to do a few more lectures covering a few topics.  We’re going to start with the handstand.

I’m going to cover what I consider the main points in a handstand.  I have a pointing stick here and my amazing mannequin drawn here.  I’m going to go through all these points.  I’ll cover all these points in detail in a video, but just to give you an idea of what is the anatomy of a handstand.

First we’ve got to understand what exactly is standing, and then what is standing on our hands.  So standing is a position of rest where we are balanced.  Our joints and our centre of mass is over our base of support, and we control it or make small micro corrections the whole time.  If you just stand still on a spot for 60s, you’ll feel, as you breathe in, or your vision changes, your balance will change.

In a handstand, we’re basically trying to replicate this.  This is easy; I can stand here for days pretty much.  Well, not days, but you know.  There’s no reason it shouldn’t be this easy in a handstand once we’ve covered a couple points.

All we’re trying to do in a handstand is replicate this position of ease on our hands, by basically reconfiguring so our hands act as feet, our wrists act as ankles, our elbows act like knees, and our shoulders act like our hips.  Once this is covered, most of the other balance relationships in the body are the same, just inverted.

That’s a handstand.  Let’s just cover some of the main points.  We’re going to talk about them, and do videos in detail.  So don’t worry if I gloss over stuff.

So, starting from the feet – or the hands…. What is called the cambered hand position basically means your middle knuckles are raised off the ground, and we basically turn our hands into feet.

Imagine having our feet as the point of contact,  we have our heels, bottom of the foot, and toes.  Same thing on our hands; we’re going to have the heel of the hand, the ball of the hand, then the ‘toes’ of our hand.  That’s going to control our thing, rocking around on this point, the ball, basically controls our point of balance.  We’re going to cover hands and wrists in detail.

Then with wrists, the whole thing is they need to be prepared for loading.  This takes a lot of building it up.  The more you load them, the more they build.  Like ankles, basically.  That will build more cartilage and muscles.  

Then at the elbow level, for preference here I should state I teach the hand balancing handstand, rather than the gymnastic handstand.  There’s some subtle differences, I’ll explain as the series progresses.  

In the hand balance handstand, we want a mild bit of hyper extension.  You can see I don’t test high for hyper extension, but I have it at my elbows, and specifically developed it to make my hand balancing much easier.

Traveling up, just in the ideal position for your handstand, we want to be thinking neutral neck.  What that means is we’re just looking at the top of our eyes, and our eye line – imagine I had a line connecting this point to this point, that’s my eye line in the handstand.  That’s where I should look when I’m doing my handstand.

I look down, I’m not craning my neck, I’m not looking up.  Obviously, as you progress, you want to be able to move your head around and look up, at your toes, that’s a control issue.

For the ideal resting handstand you hold for time, that’s the ideal position.

Now we’re going to get into shoulders.  You hear a lot about three main techniques for the shoulders.  We basically have the Russian, the Chinese technique, we have Chinese/Mongolian which you see in contortions and their hand balancers.  But a bit of insider info: the Chinese have actually poached loads of coaches from the Ukraine and Russia at the moment, and are most of the head hand balance teachers in the Chinese state schools.  There’s a little tip, maybe Russians have the better technique.

The Chinese position: basically you’ll hear this – contract the shoulder blades, spread the shoulder blades, and elevate.  That doesn’t really apply too much.  Because the Ukrainian technique is elevate and retract.  And the Chinese-Mongolian, as I stated, has a bit more splay in the chest, a bit more extension to the thing, and not have the line as straight.

Different techniques, they all work.  The question is, which is better?

In my mind we’re not looking so much at what the different shoulder positions are, because they’re quite subtle and don’t really matter, long as you pick and stick with one.  More than that, we are actively resisting into the ground.  That’s what is going on with our hips.  Gravity is pulling down, we are pulling up.  This keeps the balance.  Same thing is happening in the shoulders, we’re resisting that sinking and collapsing.  We need to be actively pushing ourselves away, and it doesn’t matter too much on the shoulder position as long as you know what you’re doing.  

Next thing we’re going to cover is the rib flare.  This is an interesting diagnosis for lat tightness that you will see.  The lats basically run from down here and attach up here.  

If someone’s ribs flare out this way, what we have is not so much a core weakness, which you can sense by getting them to do a dish on the ground.  If they can achieve a good dish position, have them put their arms overhead.  The ribs flare, then we know we have the lats on this side of the body.  They’re pushing the ribs out, so we need to stretch the lats out.

Next, coming down, this is one of the main differences between the gymnastic and hand balancing handstand.  The posterior pelvic tilt – that whole lifting and rotating of the pelvis.  

In gymnastics you want this set, as you want to be rapidly changing from an arch position to a hollow position, which generates a lot of power in tumbling and swinging, all these skills.

Obviously you want to align this.

But when we’re dealing with hand balancing, a lot of hand balancers who are far better than I’ve ever been don’t hollow.  They hold completely in their standing position with the shoulders this way.

Once you’ve developed your shoulders to that degree…because, look.  I can stand here and do anything I want with my hands, because my legs are strong enough.

Once your back and shoulder girdle is developed enough, you can do anything you want with your legs and pelvis, to a certain degree, once you get your base of support.  I don’t really coach this at the beginning, just to get people used to being tight.

Once we’ve gone onto that, I find it far superior to cue them to squeeze the legs together.  You’re going to use the glutes about 20%.  The legs are going to be squeezed together, for the specific reason that the adductors are innervated via the deep anterior fascia.  This means, by the law of irradiation, if we squeeze them, they’ll actually shift the core up for us and lock it in place.  That is one of the most important cues I teach in handstands – squeeze the legs together.  Squeeze the glutes mildly, not too tight, depends on a person’s basic level of strength.  Squeeze that, and if you get that right there will be a slight turn out in the legs.  This will also help fix the hips.  Really get into that; squeeze them, boom.  It will fix your core faster than most other things.

Then we come up to knees.  What we’re looking for in the knees is full extension.  There’s a couple of reasons for that.  Personally I like a small amount of hyper extension, just because it gives us a really nice line when looking at the handstand.  When you full extension the knees by pulling the knee caps up, once the knees are pulled up, that will straighten the leg out.

We have to point the feet, but also not sickle-ing.  We want the feet pointing straight, not sickle-ing inwards.  Once you do that, that will straighten the knees out.

Squeeze them together and also turn them out slightly.  The reason for that turn out is when we start training straight and moving into straddle handstand closed, we don’t abduct them straight, we abduct and rotate.  Having that turn out already will give you an easier time moving in and out.

I think I. have covered all points I’m looking at.  We’re going to do more in detail, but I’m going to all these points in detail now before I forget.

The most important point in your handstand is here.  Yes, it’s in your head.  We need to develop a certain state of mind for balancing on the spot in a long time.

Here’s the trick: you have to look at a spot on the wall, stand straight, and see if you can do that for 60s, keeping your focus on that spot.  if you can’t do that, you’re going to have a very difficult time doing that in your handstand.

Develop that calm, relaxed focused state of mind, rather than excitation.  The handstand should be a relaxed position we can transition into and out of, to varying degrees, be this cartwheeling into handstand and stopping, coming out, learning to transfer to one arm, these kinds of things.

If you’re not in that focused relaxed state of mind, where you can feel your body and get inside, you’re not going to have a lot of success.

So, with that, the main points that I feel are important to handstands.  If you’ve got questions, please ask them.  If you like my videos, please like and subscribe.  And, don’t worry, the rest of the series is coming.  I’ll cover all of this in a lot more detail.

Anyway, thanks for watching.

What’s in my Training Bag?

This is a selection of equipment I bring with me when training outdoors. Just because its called bodyweight training doesn’t mean its no equipment training.

Hey guys, how’s it going?  I got a new mike, so thought I’d give it a test and give you guys a bit of insight into my own training.

Now, it’s summer in Ireland, and despite the grey clouds outside, I like to do a lot of training in the park, a few hours every day.  So, hit the parks as much as possible.

As you know, bodyweight training is the main focus of that.  I’m trying to gain skills and control to master my body, like a lot of you watching my videos.  One important point is bodyweight training does not mean it’s no equipment training.

While we are using our bodyweight as resistance, you can do a lot of this with no equipment.  I find equipment to be quite helpful to speed up this process.

First thing, I have my training bag over here.  You can’t see it; it’s off camera.  I’m going to show you basically some of the equipment I bring most days to the park, just to let you know how I use it, and how you can replicate your own.

I use rings a lot in my training.  It’s not really a massive focus to get good at rings, but to use them to get stronger.  I hang them from the trees in the park.  I don’t want to rings to be on separate straps; I don’t want to be going up and down too much.  Sometimes the branches aren’t suitable where I am.

What I found is I have this thing.  This is a 3m long lifting strap.  I got this from a shop that deals with equipment for cranes, other industrial lifting equipment.  It’s rated at about 2.5 tonnes.  

What this enables me to do is put one set of straps of my rings on one end, one set for the other.  Then I pick a suitable tree branch, and just throw my rings over.

I’ve got a little U.  I’m careful not to just hang on one side of this, but then I can do whatever I need to with my rings that day.  When I want to take them down, I just pull on one side.  There’s no snags, no hassle.  You can use a better variety of trees that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to climb and hang your rings on.

Also, it saves you a bit of wear and tear on the actual straps of the rings.  If you notice, they are thin nylon straps that can get worn out pretty easily.  These are designed for heavy construction use; they can take a bit of abuse.

At 10 euros for this, you can’t go wrong.  You can replace them faster than you can replace your rings.  Invaluable, useful for so many things.

Next on my list of things to bring is this little device, and its accompanying band.  I got this in a Dick’s one time in San Francisco when I was there for a few months.  I went in one day, and this has been a staple of my training for five years.  It’s great.

See here, it’s got elastics, but I can swap it out.  I have a range of elastics; I got every single one they had in the shop, which is about $10 each.  They’ve lasted me five years, in great condition.  You can just pop them in and out, use multiple elastics at a time.

I mainly use this for mobility work, but sometimes for a bit of strength work, or a lot of elbow pre-hab if I’m doing curls and pushdowns.  The handle is nice and handy, can get a hold on.

The main thing you want when you get one of these is a way to attach it.  That’s just latex rubber.  If you put it around the tree, it’s going to break and not last long.  These have lasted a long time because I used a little piece of equipment.

I have this, a petzl climbing swivel.  It’s a carabiner.  And this is a lifting strap, another little one.  These are a couple of euros.  This comes in so handy – I just put my elastics around.

I use these on the wall bars of the gym as well.  It’s so handy, gives a lot of options to quickly change things.

I have my carabiner, I find a suitable tree, put this around, clip it in.  This thing can move around on the swivel.  It’s nice, it’s handy, it doesn’t get ruined.  It keeps it safe.

You would spend maybe 100 euros or dollars on these bands at the time, so this has kept them, training in parks for years at this stage, perfect.  

It also comes in handy for a normal band, same deal, just clip it on.  Put it on.  It gives you options to quickly move it up and down, and also keeps the bands nice and clean.  Definitely worth getting that equipment, costs about 30 euros total for the swivel and carabiner.  

Next time is my dark chocolate.  What can I say, I like a bit of dark chocolate.  It’s nice to have a little snack in the park when you’re training.  Not 100% necessary, but definitely nice to have.

As you’re training outdoors, while it is great to go barefoot a lot of the time, and I do recommend it, it can be a bit dirty or damp.  So I have two pairs of shoes.

The first I will talk about are these, my ballet shoes. I think I got this from a company called Dance Direct, for about $14.  They’re Men’s split sole leather ballet shoes.  These are great and have lasted me years as well.  I use them a lot in the gym actually.  We’re not allowed to train barefoot, so I put on my ballet slippers and I’m not barefoot.  I have complete freedom of motion.

They are light, probably less than 100g.  You can’t go wrong.  They last, they’re well worth the investment.  Nice split shell so you can still flex and extend your foot without anything forcing or bending against it.  Definitely worth getting for the kit bag.

The next pair of shoes are my normal day to day shoes.  These are a pair of Vivo Barefoots.  These are great.  I’ve had this pair for about 14 months now; it’s probably time to get another pair.  I literally wear them every single day.

The sole is about 1.5-2mm thick.  It has great grip.  I had VIbram Five Fingers before.  I found it immobilized my forward toes.  I found I could move my big toe.  The others were squeezed together.  While they could move, there was a bit of friction.  These have a nice wide toe box so you can move as much as you want.  You can wiggle, extend.  If you’re running, you roll over stuff much easier.  They’re also just incredibly flexible so they don’t get in the way if I’m doing handstands or other flexibility work, like to point my legs or extend.

They’re great and well worth the investment.  I will definitely buy another set of them.

What else have I got in here?

I have my headstand donut.  There’s a way to make this on my Facebook page, if you want to go check out these photos.  It’s quite straightforward; it has been a boon for my headstand training.  Hopefully by the end of the year – I’m not going to put a lot of time in this – I should be able to juggle in a free head stand.  That’s what I’ve sort of set my task to.

We’ll see how I get on with that; hopefully you guys can follow along.

Next in the bag is a floss band.  I find this not to be the magical cure all a lot of people say it is, but I find it great for certain applications with myself and my clients.

This is an unbranded floss band, that was 12 euros.  It’s a bit thicker than the normal floss band, which I prefer.  It’s got a bit more stretch and power to it. 
Personally, in my own experience, I find floss bands great for gapping joints.  That’s what I use them all the time for.  I wrap it up, boom, especially with my bad wrist.  I put it in, gap it, get a bit of freedom, some motion freed up, it doesn’t hurt me during training anymore.

They’re also great on forearms of people if you feel a bit of niggle, tendonitis types feelings – just bang on the floss band and sort it out.

I didn’t find it too great in the legs, too great on the shoulders.  I tried it pretty much everywhere.  Didn’t find it too great on the calves.  Definitely on the arms.  Maybe it’s just the application of it, I don’t know, but definitely worth having.  Not the cure all that a lot of people say they are.

Lastly, in the bag, then I’ll show you one more thing – my handstand blocks.  Now you’ll notice I have a sloped handstand block.

The reason for this is that when I broke my wrist, I lost a lot of range of motion.  This just enables me to train handstands.  I’ve regained that range of motion and should be back to normal training.

At the time I wasn’t actually able to do anything, but I thought I would.  I find with people who make sloped handstand blocks, it can take a bit of pressure off.

I find that with the girls who train who are small – 50kg, 150cm girls – they always have narrow wrists and a lot of problems, even though we do a lot of strengthening.  Sloped handstand blocks just take it off.

To make these is so simple, these probably cost me less than $5 and an hour’s work to make.  Definitely you don’t want to spend too much money on these.

I just got some pieces of 2×3, 3 pieces.  I stuck them together, cut them to the desired width, roughly about my palm width, even a bit wider, doesn’t really matter.

Then I marked what I wanted the slope to be.  I have an inch and a quarter slope here.  Then you mark your line, get the handsaw out, saw it.  Then a bit of sandpaper to round out the edges, get the splinters away and smooth it out.  They will smooth out with use; just use a bit of chalk on them.

Definitely worth getting.  You can just use normal 2×3. or 2×4…sorry.  Use it, cut a segment, bit wider than the palm of your hand.  It’s great.  You can wrap usually 3 fingers on the front, little finger on the sides.

Some people turn out; I’m not a fan of that.  Keep those fingers forward.  

You don’t need to spend $50 on a pair of these.  You can make them.  Everyone I know, I think the same length of 3m of 2×4 has done so many blocks of these.

Lastly, from my training thing, is my handstand board.  I bring this to the park.  This is just a piece of wood that was a shelf reclaimed from the house.  You can use anything.

Basically hands are very tactile in their nature.  You have a lot of nerve endings.  We’re not used to the sensation we get from the ground.

When we’re training in parks, a lot of the time it’s raining, sunny, the ground texture changes.  I can get into that a bit, but it gets inconsistent.

Sometimes you squeeze and your fingers sink in.  Other times they’ll stay on top.  The grass can be dry, wet…with this board, I know I have a consistent surface.  Every time I go down, I place it somewhere nice and level, I’m sorted.  I know I have a nice consistent surface to train on.  It doesn’t take much time to carry with me.  If I want to slide my blocks out on grass, they can topple over or won’t move.  On a board they slide with ease.  Quite easy, quite simple.

All this equipment you see me use fits in my bag.  I bring it with me to the park most days when training.  I get a lot of use out of it.  I recommend to give some a go.

Try to make your own if you can; you can save a lot of money on this.  Just remember, it’s bodyweight training, not no equipment training.

If you like the videos, please subscribe.  Catch you later.