Emmet’s Blackboard

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.