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This Week’s Happenings in The Cave!

Monday, April 14th, 2014

cave_client-bbq6_webCave Community BBQ!

The Cave is hosting a Client Appreciation BBQ event on May 3rd from 1:00-7:00PM.  All are welcome to attend, though we will be paying extra special attention to our CrossFit community! They have worked very hard this year and deserve some home cookin’ and some fun!
If you’re looking to show off your awesome paleo (or non-paleo) cooking skills, you’re in luck for this is a pot-luck event.  The Cave will provide the bulk of the food and drink, but feel free to bring a dish to share! Come prepared to participate in some fun games and contests for prizes.  Who doesn’t love an old fashioned water balloon toss or three legged race? It is important to note that The Cave will NOT be providing child care at this event, however, children are welcome to attend. We hope to see you there!

Kid’s Night Out

Next Kid’s Night Out is April 26.  It’s Sports Night, with hot dogs for dinner!  Reserve your space now by e-mailing crystal@inthecave.com or calling (415)927-1630. $45 at the door or $35 in advance.

CrossFit Open Masters Qualifier

Masters competitors who finished in the top 200 worldwide in their age division in the Open are invited to compete in the Masters Qualifier. The Masters Qualifier runs from April 17-21. At 5 p.m. PT on April 17, four workouts will be released. Competitors will have four days to complete the workouts and submit scores. The Cave has 5 athletes competing this weekend!   Stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook page for more information.

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Summer Camps

If you like the idea of keeping the kids healthily active during the summer (while giving parents a few hours break),  check out our Summer Camp schedule below!  Then be sure to register NOW as these classes fill up FAST!

Summer Camps:


Swing Mechanics part 4 - The Ring Swing

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

This article is the 4th part of a 6-part series focused on swing mechanics and achieving efficient maximum swing on different equipment. Part 3 focused on the support swing. This week, the focus is the Ring Swing.
Ring Swing Rearward phaseA correct and effective swing on rings takes significantly longer to learn than an effective swing on a bar. A swing on rings is a double pendulum, a very complex system that demands very good timing and body alignment. Proper body tension and maintaining pressure on the rings is critical.
Ring Swing Rearward phaseFrom a hang position on the rings, initiate the swing by kicking your feet forward and backward. Hang relaxed in the shoulders so you can begin to feel the natural period of the swing. As the timing becomes apparent you can begin to drive the swing more aggressively. Consciously squeeze your heels together, particularly in the rearward swing.
Ring Swing Rearward phaseFrom the horizontal position in the front, your shoulders should be pushed back and your body extended as much as possible without arching. If your rearward swing is arched when you reach the bottom there will be a significant downward jerk. This jerk is not only uncomfortable but also decreases momentum and severely limits your swing. Maintain a slight hollow until the rearward swing passes through the bottom. At this point an aggressively kick your heels toward the ceiling (that is, direct the kick up and back, not just back). As the swing rises to the back, keep your chest pressed downward and shoulders open and slightly out to the sides. Maintain pressure on the rings throughout. The rings should also be turned out (pronated, or thumbs inward). This turnout allows a greater range of motion in the shoulders and will allow you to put downward pressure on the rings earlier in the swing than if your hands were not turned out. As the swing peaks, the rings should be brought together and pushed as far forward as possible to prepare for the forward swing.
Ring Swing Forward phaseThe beginning of the forward phase of the swing is a reversal of the beginning of the rearward swing. From the face-down horizontal position at the back of the swing, arch your body lightly, press the rings forward as much as possible and push your chest down and slightly forward. Maintain this position until the swing passes through the bottom. As the swing reaches vertical it should turn over rapidly as you drive your toes toward the ceiling. Be sure to turn over by kicking your feet and maintaining a tight body. This turnover must be driven by the kick and not by pulling the rings forward. Ring Swing Forward phaseThe rings should be pressed back as the swing turns over. After the turnover, drive your toes toward the ceiling and press the rings back (away from the top of your head) aggressively. At this point the swing should be traveling nearly vertical, and you should be aggressively pressing the rings back and slightly outward. This pressure will drive the swing upward. Do not bend your arms; this pressure is a push, not a pull. As your swing reaches horizontal in the forward swing, the rings will need to be turned in (supinated, or thumbs out) to enable you to push down on the rings as the swing rises above the rings. After the swing peaks in the front, extend away from the rings as much as possible to prepare for the rearward swing.
Next week I’ll focus on the basket swing.

Swing Mechanics, Part 3 - The Support Swing

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

This article is the 3rd part of a 6-part series focused on swing mechanics and achieving efficient maximum swing on different equipment. Part 2 focused on the tap swing.  This week, the focus is the Support Swing.
A support swing is swinging in a free support between two fixed objects. From this position a swing can approach vertical in the forward swing and reach a handstand in the rearward swing. Working support swings builds support stability, strength, and shoulder mobility.

The Support swing
Start practicing the swing focusing on keeping your body completely straight. Your body should maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your toes. Do not pike in the forward swing, and do not arch in the rearward swing. The goal is not to see how high your feet can go, but to swing your entire body efficiently and effectively, as a unit. In the support your elbows should be turned so that the inside of your elbows are facing forward. This dramatically increases stability and will help prevent buckling as you swing through the bottom.
Once both your forward and rearward swings approach horizontal, you should start practicing the shrug. Through the bottom of the swing shrug your shoulders; then extend them at the top of both forward and rearward swings. This shrug allows for a very dynamic push at the peak of each swing, adding significant power to the movement. Practice the shrug by performing swings with relaxed, shrugged shoulders through the arc of the swing, and then, as it reaches its peak, extend your shoulders. This shrug and push gives additional upward force to the swing enabling greater function.

If you are performing your support swings on parallel bars there is an important skill to learn before attempting to reach a handstand. You should be comfortable with a forward roll on the bars. A forward roll is the safest way to bail out of a handstand that falls forward. Practice forward rolls by first kneeling on the bars. Your knees will be slightly outside the bars and your feet on the inside. Place your hands as close to your knees as possible. Lean forward and lift your hips, stick your elbows out so your upper arms rest on the bars. Push off your legs and roll over your arms, constantly pressing your elbows toward the floor to lock the shoulders into a “shelf” to support you. You will need to let go of the bars as you roll over, but this is a very natural reaction. At the end of the roll you will be in an upper arm support on the bars. Yes, this is uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary skill. The discomfort decreases as you get more proficient with the movement.

As the rearward swing approaches handstand, be sure to maintain a hollow body and push with your shoulders. Done properly this will ensure that the swing stops in the handstand. An arched swing leading with the heels, with the head out can easily swing past the handstand requiring a forward roll or other method of bailing out. A proper hollow swing to handstand will settle in the handstand regardless of how much momentum is behind it. If anything the swing will hop as it reaches vertical as the momentum is upward and not forward. A swing to handstand should be just an extension of a normal support swing. If you have to change your body alignment to get to the handstand, then the mechanics of your swing are not correct and you should continue to practice a proper swing before attempting to swing to handstand.

Next week Rings!

What’s happening this week at The Cave!

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

From Roger:
“The CrossFit Games Open 2014 is coming to a close within the next week. Only one workout remains. We are waiting with anticipation to see what the final workout will be. I’m sure everyone hopes the workout contains at least one element of strength for each of us!  Work hard, stay strong.  Barring a disastrous last workout, our own Amanda N. is heading to Regionals! It will be her second bid at Regionals, initially qualifying in 2012. Let’s hope for a strong finish for Amanda!
Our three Level 6 girls are headed to State Championships on Sunday, March 30th. All three girls have done great in their first optional season. We have gymnasts in two sessions at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. The first session starts at 12pm with Liv and the second session starts at with Ashlyn and Mia. Feel free to cheer on and show your support for our talented, young athletes!”

Are you looking for some fun activities to keep the family busy during the spring break?  Our Spring Break Camps are perfect for any kid at any level!   Kids love spending extra hours with their coaches or getting to know new ones.
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Spring Break Camps:


Register on-line by clicking the links above, OR call 415-927-1630 to sign up now!

If you like the idea of keeping the kids healthily active during the summer (while giving parents a few hours break),  check out our Summer Camp schedule below!  Then be sure to register NOW, - these classes fill up FAST!
Summer Camps:

REGISTER ON-LINE OR CALL 415-927-1630.

Swing Mechanics, Part 2 - The Tap Swing

Friday, March 21st, 2014

This article is the 2nd part of a 6-part series focused on swing mechanics and achieving efficient maximum swing on different equipment.   Part 1 focused on the fundamental factors involved with maximizing swing.  This week, the focus is the Tap Swing.

Tap Swing Downward phaseThe most common swing is from a single fixed bar.  The most effective mechanism for this swing is called a tap swing.  During the downward phase of the forward swing your body should be kept hollow and extended.  Push away from the bar and ensure that your shoulders are active and pressed up into your ears.  As the swing passes through vertical you should allow a small arch with the primary extension being in your chest and shoulders.  After the swing passes vertical, kick your toes toward the ceiling - not forward, but up, toward the ceiling. After the kick, pull back on the bar to fully extend your shoulders for the return swing.Tap Swing Downward phase
The rearward swing will be essentially a reverse of the forward swing.  On the downward swing, the shoulders should be fully extended and the body slightly arched.  As the swing passes vertical, the body will hollow slightly, followed by a heel tap.  After the heel tap, push down on the bar and hollow as the swing rises, then push against the bar to extend and prepare for the downward swing. Tap Swing Downward phase
To get started, initiate the swing by lifting your legs upward and forward.  Once you have a small swing going, start to work on the tap swing.  Initially, just try to relax and feel the timing of the swing.  Then, as your feel for the timing improves, you can begin to put more into the swing. Tap Swing Past vertical
As your swing grows you will find it increasingly difficult to hang onto the bar at the end of the rearward swing. Your hands can slide around the bar only when your fingers are following away from the swing.  Therefore, you must shift your grip at the end of every rearward swing.  At the high point of the rearward swing there is a moment of weightlessness.  This is the point when you should re-grasp the bar and prepare for your next swing.
Tap Swing Kick Up to ceilingIn the extreme, this opening of the hands in the rearward swing can become a “peel”, an involuntary release of the bar that most gymnasts have experienced at one time or another.  Peeling can be avoided with proper hand placements and gripping technique.  Once your swings exceed horizontal, you will need to over-grip the bar at the end of the forward swing.
Tap Swing Return Swing As you swing, allow your wrists to flex instead of allowing your hands to slide around the bar.  Focus on keeping your fingers on top of the bar to avoid peeling.  Gymnastics grips will help tremendously if you find it increasingly difficult to hang onto the bar.  With grips it is possible to swing nearly to handstand in the forward swing without peeling in the rearward swing. The mechanics involved in the tap swing are primarily about timing.  Once you’ve got the timing and mechanics down, you can generate a very large swing with very little effort.  The tap swing eventually becomes a giant, which is a swing from handstand to handstand on a high bar, completely around the bar in either direction.

Next week, I’ll dive into  the support swing.

Swing Mechanics, Part 1 - The Fundamentals

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Tap Swing Downward phase Generating and maximizing swing has application in a wide variety of activities and sports.  From a gymnastics perspective, swing generally means swinging your body on an apparatus, but the principles and techniques apply to swinging objects with your body as well.  This article is the first part of a 6-part series focused on swing mechanics and achieving efficient maximum swing on different equipment, including the high bar, rings, and parallel bars. There are four fundamental factors involved with maximizing swing:
1. Maximizing momentum in the downward phase.
2. Maintaining momentum throughout the swing.
3. Maximizing the application of force against gravity in the upward phase.
4. Minimizing loss of speed in the upward phase.
All four factors are affected dramatically by body mechanics.  Proper mechanics can make an enormous swing effortless, while improper mechanics will reduce a potential swing to a wiggle.
Maximizing momentum in the downward phase of the swing involves keeping your center of mass as far as possible from your anchor point (in this case, your hands).  Moving your center of gravity an inch or two away from the anchor point can have an enormous impact on the outcome of the swing.
Maintaining momentum throughout the swing is all about proper mechanics.  This is why “staying tight” is critical.  It is far easier to swing a stick 360 degrees from vertical to vertical than it is to do the same with a rope.  Much of a rope’s momentum will be lost in its oscillations, whereas this loss is not experienced in the stick.  Movement in the body being swung should occur only if it generates force in the direction of the swing, moves the center of mass away from the anchor point during the downward phase of the swing, or moves the center of mass closer to the anchor point during the upward phase.
Maximizing the application of force against gravity on the upward phase of the swing can take many forms.  It could mean a well timed “tap,” or kick against gravity.  It could mean shifting the center of gravity off the centripetal line of force which results in a pumping of the swing.  It could mean proper positioning so you can push the swing upward.  In the case of two or more anchor points (as with support swings on parallel bars) it can also mean proper application of a push in the direction of the swing.
Minimizing the loss of speed in the upward phase of the swing often involves shortening the radius of rotation.  Bringing your center of gravity closer to the anchor point will increase the speed of rotation, assuming no external forces are involved.
A brief note on hand care: As you begin swinging, you will find that your hands will not be able to handle the abuse.  To minimize friction, try not to squeeze the object you are hanging on.  Instead, just hook over the object with your fingers.  Keeping your hand hooked rather than gripping tightly will greatly reduce the friction on the bar and allow you to practice longer without ripping.
Next week, our focus will be the Tap Swing.

Got Rings?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

You have now acquired a pair of rings. So, now what? You know what a muscle-up is, maybe you can do some dips on the things, but there’s got to be more, right? Absolutely! A pair of rings has limitless possibilities for training. Common exercises take on a whole new dimension when performed on the rings, and many ring exercises can be performed nowhere else.

Ring rows

A ring row is an excellent beginner drill to progress an individual toward pull-ups. Start with the rings at just above shoulder height. Grab the rings and lean back until your arms are straight, to place tension on the straps. Keep your body straight and tight and pull your shoulders to the rings. As strength increases, simply lower the rings so that your body is closer to being horizontal when you lean back.
Ring RowRing RowRing RowRing Row

Hang pull-through to skin the cat pull-out

A hang pull-through to skin the cat pull-out is a sequence of movements that works basically every muscle group from the mid-thigh up, while providing an excellent shoulder stretch as well. Starting in a hang and keeping your arms and legs straight, lift your toes up and back overhead, through a piked inverted hang. Then, continue to lower your toes slowly toward the floor behind you. This hanging position is called a skin the cat. At first you will want to practice this movement with the rings low enough so that you will be able to touch the floor with your feet as you lower toward the skin the cat position. This will enable you to safely get a feel for the movement. From the skin the cat position, lift your hips and pull out back through a piked inverted hang and lower to hang. Once you have some experience, you can raise the rings and lower into the skin the cat clear of the floor and then pull back out. Try to relax your shoulders at the bottom of the skin the cat to get a good stretch and truly find the bottom of your skin the cat. This skill works as an excellent part of a warm-up, or can be used in a conditioning set when done for repetitions’ even if you find one or two reps easy, they add up quickly as part of a workout.
Skin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull Out

Straight-body inverted hang

Straight-body inverted hangs require balance and constant stabilization. Simply hanging upside down with your toes pointed toward the ceiling will be a challenge for many people unfamiliar with being upside down. This drill helps to develop balance and control while inverted and also strengthens the rotator cuffs due to the constant stabilization required.

Pull-ups

Pull-ups on the rings are more difficult than bar pull-ups for some, and easier for others. Some people who are unable to do pull-ups on a bar due to limited shoulder flexibility are able to do full range of motion pull-ups on rings. The freedom of movement allows the shoulders to align themselves in a comfortable way while doing the exercise.

Inverted pull-ups

Inverted pull-ups combine the stabilization requirements of an inverted hang with the conditioning load of a regular pull-up. Starting in a piked or straight-body inverted hang, pull up as high as you can and return to the start position. Be sure to practice these in both the straight and pike positions.

Straight Body Piked

Pull-up to lever

A pull-up to lever sequence is a good starting point for developing a front lever. Starting in a bent-arm hang and keeping your body straight and tight, lift your toes and push the rings away to a front lever, then return to a bent-arm hang. The key to this exercise is to lift and push into the lever. Do not allow your shoulders to drop as your legs lift. Keep your shoulders as high as possible and push the rings downward. This makes the motion significantly easier and helps develop proper technique for the front lever.
Pull Up To LeverPull Up To Lever

Back lever

A back lever is the easiest straight-body strength move in gymnastics. From a piked inverted hang, push your toes out directly toward the wall until you are just barely able to hold the position. Return to the pike. Work the back lever and push your limits until you are able to stop your body parallel with the ground. It is essential to actively tense your entire body when executing this skill. Squeeze your arms tight and press the rings inward, while simultaneously squeezing your heels together and keeping your butt tight. Finally, lower into the skin the cat and pull back up to inverted hang with a straight body.
Back Lever

Front lever

There are several steps to help develop a front lever.
Step 1: Tucked front lever. Try to hold your torso parallel with the ground with both legs tucked. Be sure your arms are straight.
Step 2: Single leg front lever. Hold a front lever with one leg straight and the other leg bent so that your foot is next to your knee. Be sure to switch which leg is bent.
Step 3: Straddle front lever. Hold a front lever with your legs straddled as wide as possible. Gradually, bring your legs closer together as you build strength.
Step 4: Front lever. Following the above drills will bring you to the point where you can hold a stable, legs-together front lever.

Straight-body pull to skin the cat pull-out

A straight-body pull to skin the cat pull-out is identical to the hang pull to skin the cat pull-out with the exception that it will be done with a straight, rather than piked, body. With straight arms and a straight body, pull through a front lever to inverted hang, continue through back lever, and lower to skin the cat. Lift your heels and pull out, keeping your body straight, then roll through an inverted hang, lower through front lever, and return to hang.
Straight Body PullStraight Body PullStraight Body PullStraight Body Pull

The Support

A basic requirement for ring work is to obtain a solid, proper support in which your arms are straight, hips open, and chest up. The rings should be turned out between 15 and 45 degrees so that the insides of your elbows are facing forward. Before moving on to presses, rolls, or any other support work, you should be able to hold this position for a minimum of 15 seconds with little to no movement.

Ring Support Ring Support, Rings Turned Out
OK Better

Push-ups

Start with the rings at about waist height. Perform push-ups on the rings. As strength increases, lower the rings until they are just above the floor; then, to make them more challenging, you can elevate your feet a little. To further increase difficulty, lean forward a little bit while you do the push-ups so that at the bottom of the push-up your hands are right next to your hips.
Ring Push UpRing Push UpRing Push UpRing Push Up

Dips

Perform dips just as you would on the parallel bars. At first, do whatever it takes to get the dips done. As your support gets stronger, work toward doing the dips with the rings turned out (palms forward) in the proper support position described above.

Ring Dip Ring Dip, Rings Turned Out
Standard Turned Out

L-sit

See issue Parallette Training - Volume 1 for progressions for an L-sit. The progressions on parallettes and rings are the same. The only stipulation on rings is that the arms and shoulders in the ring support should not change as you lift into the L-sit. Rings should still be turned out, and your head and chest up.

Hollow body training

Set up matting for this exercise. Set the rings a couple inches above the mat. Start in a push-up position, with hands on the rings and feet on the floor. Push the rings forward, maintaining a hollow body position, then pull back to a push-up position. Once this sequence is developed, you can continue past the push-up position and push the rings back toward your hips to work the planche position as well. Once some strength in the planche position has been developed, you can try, from the planche position, to push the rings out to the side a little and allow your body to drop down between your hands to train the maltese. Arms should be kept straight throughout this sequence. If you have to bend your arms to complete a motion, then start over and go only as far as you can while maintaining straight arms.
Hollow Body TrainingHollow Body TrainingHollow Body Training

Forward roll to inverted hang

From an L-sit in support, lift your hips up behind you and bend your arms. Try to lift your hips up over your head. Once completely inverted, roll forward and let the rings turn out and you will end up in a piked inverted hang. In starting and teaching this skill, be sure to lift your hips at the beginning and do not dive your chest forward. This is a very common mistake and can lead to injury. It should be a very controlled lifting motion. The roll only occurs once the hips are directly above the head. If you can not reach this position, do not try to roll out just lower your hips and return to support. When first learning the skill, be sure to use a spotter.
Forward Roll on RingsForward Roll on RingsForward Roll on RingsForward Roll on Rings

Shoulder stand

Initiate a press to shoulder stand just like you did for the forward roll: start in an L-sit and lift your hips until they are directly over your head, but, now, instead of rolling forward, straddle and lift your legs until they hit the cables. Use the cables for stability and get comfortable in this position. If you fall too far forward, just roll out. Once you are stable upside down, you can bring your feet to the insides of the cables for minimal assistance, then bring your legs together and balance the shoulder stand free of the cables. Once you have a sense of the balance, try to press into the shoulder stand keeping your legs together throughout, then balance the shoulder stand, then lower back to support.
Shoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on Rings

Support swings

While maintaining a good support position, swing forward and backward. At first, it will be very difficult to maintain stability. Keep the rings turned out and try to keep your body straight. Resist the temptation to lift your toes and pike the hips in the front swing. Swing with your whole body straight. This exercise will greatly stabilize your support and build strength.
Support Swing on RingsSupport Swing on RingsSupport Swing on RingsSupport Swing on Rings

Bent-arm press to handstand

A bent-arm press to handstand is similar in technique to the press to shoulder stand. Start in an L-sit, and then lift your hips to the back and push the rings forward. When your hips are as close to directly above your shoulders as you can get them, straddle and lift your legs to the cables. Push your arms straight to reach a handstand. Once you have reached a handstand, work on stabilization and moving your feet to the insides of the cables. Try to then turn the rings out. The rings should be parallel with each other. Once this position is stable, try to hold the handstand free of the cables. Again, if you fall forward, simply roll out. As your press to handstand gets stronger, work toward performing the press with straight arms.
Press Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on Rings

Muscle-up

A muscle up is simply a combination of a pull-up and a dip, with the addition of a nasty little transition. A proper false grip and technique are essential to achieving the muscle up. For the false grip, place your hands in the position that they will be in when you reach the support. This means that your palms need to be on top of the inside of the rings from the beginning. To learn the false grip, place the rings at a bit below shoulder height. Open your hand completely and place the ring so it runs from the crook of your thumb to the opposite heel of your hand. Then grasp the ring and lower yourself down to hang from it. Once you have a good sense of the grip and can hang with both hands in false grips you can begin working toward the muscle-up. Start with the rings low so you can use your legs to assist yourself through the motion. When you are below the rings in the hang, you will want to have your legs a little bit in front of you. This will allow you to rotate over the rings through the transition. Start the pull and roll your shoulders over your hands, keeping your hands and elbows close to your body. Your elbows should travel in curves that are parallel with each other; they should not point outward at all. Once your shoulders are up over your hands, push up to support. Once you have a sense of the motion, try to do it without the leg assist. Think about pulling aggressively, getting through the transition quickly. As your muscle-up develops, you will find yourself able to hop through the transition.
False GripFalse Grip

Muscle UpMuscle UpMuscle UpMuscle Up

Backward roll to support

A backward roll to support combines kinesthetic awareness, inversion, and great strength demands. Start from a hang with a false grip, pull your legs up and forward, roll over backward and push into a support. The keys to this skill are similar to those for a muscle-up: keep a good false grip, and keep the rings close to your body.
Backward Roll to SupportBackward Roll to SupportBackward Roll to SupportBackward Roll to Support

Kip to support

Start in a straight-body inverted hang. Pike down, and then quickly kick upward. Once your body has fully extended, sit up and try to catch up to your legs while pushing down on the rings. As you roll forward, keep pressure on the rings and finish in a support. The kipping motion can be practiced on a mat. Begin by lying on your back in a pike with your hands pointed toward the ceiling. Your weight should be on your upper back and shoulders. Kick your legs up and extend, then snap forward. There will be a moment when you are completely off the ground. Try to reach back with your hands and catch yourself in a rear support before your feet hit the ground.
Kipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on Rings

By Roger Harrell.

Related Events:
Rings

Related Skills:

Muscle up
Press to handstand/shoulderstand
Support technique
Back lever
Backwards roll to L support
Front lever

The Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Bottom phase of a HSPU

Bottom phase of a HSPU

From The Vault

Originally published in the CrossFit Journal and now resides at DrillsAndSkills.com - Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Performing handstand push-ups (HSPUs) without the support of a wall or spotter dramatically increases the demands of the movement. The stabilization required during the movement provides a stimulus that is simply not present when the HSPU is assisted. Regularly performing freestanding HSPUs will dramatically improve any overhead lifting or throwing activities. The following article provides a progression for developing the ability to do a freestanding HSPU, starting with no handstand experience whatsoever. This process may take years for many people.

Beginning handstands

Many people will be intimidated simply by the concept of doing a handstand. Fears of falling and/or not being able to support themselves with their arms will be the primary hindrances early on. Proper positioning and a gradual progression will take trainees through this process safely and quickly.

The first step to a handstand is simply to learn how to be comfortable in a hand support. A vertical handstand is not necessary to start this process. Start with a folded panel mat, plyo box, or other stable raised surface. Stand in a shallow lunge in front of the object with arms overhead. In the lunge, the rear leg is the kicking leg, and the front leg is the support leg. Place your hands on the object, and kick your rear leg up toward the ceiling so that the support leg comes off the ground only a few inches. Start small. Getting up into a handstand at this point is not necessary and not recommended.

This initial stage can tell you a lot about the handstand and you can begin to improve handstand technique. The first thing to look for is proper shoulder angle. Many people will push their shoulders forward past their hands. This creates a very unstable position unless the individual performing the handstand is capable of performing a planche. The shoulders should be completely open and active with the arms by the ears. The head should be positioned so that your hands are just visible by looking toward them with your eyes (not moving your whole head). If you can see two feet past your fingertips then your head is too far out and your shoulder angle likely is “broken.” Once the proper position has been established, work on kicking higher. If the handstand is approaching 45 degrees from vertical it is time to move off of the raised surface.

Before moving to a handstand on the ground, you should be very comfortable with forward rolls. A forward roll is the easiest and safest way to exit a handstand that falls forward. Training a forward roll is discussed in detail in CrossFit Journal issue 38.

Practicing a handstand on the ground may be the starting point for individuals who already have a solid base level of strength and kinesthetic awareness. The starting point is the same as it was for the raised object. Start in a shallow lunge with arms overhead. Kick to a handstand by lunging forward and kicking your rear leg up toward the ceiling. The kick is what brings the hands to the floor, not reaching down with the hands. A very common mistake is to reach down with the hands, which breaks the shoulder angle and creates a less stable position. The line from wrists to the rear leg should be kept straight. When starting to kick to handstand, the kick should be kept low. As with the handstand drill on a box, only a small kick is necessary to identify deficiencies in the position. Once proper positions have been demonstrated, the kick can be taken higher. Simply kicking up and stepping back down repeatedly will begin to bring the hips higher in each kick and train an understanding of the shoulder and arm push required to hold a handstand. Once the kick leg is reaching vertical, the support leg can be brought up to meet it in the handstand.

Holding a handstand and improving alignment Once a kick to handstand is consistent, shift focus to holding the handstand. The only way to improve your ability to hold a handstand is to practice handstands. Do handstands whenever you get a chance. This is comparable to learning to walk. When children learn to walk they practice constantly. This is the same approach that should be taken with handstands. A solid static handstand is essential to performing free standing handstand push ups. Handstands can be practiced against a wall to develop strength in the position and to allow for enough time in the handstand to play with body alignment. Handstands against a wall should be practiced both with the back to the wall and facing the wall.

Handstands facing away from the wall do not encourage a proper hollow handstand posture, but allow for practicing balance in a handstand. Start in a lunge facing the wall and kick to handstand so that your heels hit the wall. Be sure to place your fingertips only a couple of inches away from the wall. Start the lunge far enough away from the wall so that you have to stretch forward a bit as you kick to the handstand. This will force a better alignment in the shoulders and improve the mechanics of the kick. This also creates proper positions for other kicking skills such as front handsprings and round offs. Once in the handstand, the shoulders should be pushed up (toward the ears) as far as possible and fully extended. There should be no angle between the shoulders and torso. The line between wrists and toes should be as straight as possible. Once the handstand is aligned properly, push with your fingertips and try to pull your heels away from the wall slightly to hold the handstand. As you get more stable you can walk your hands farther away from the wall to practice your balance.

Practicing handstands facing the wall helps to ensure a proper hollow handstand position but does not allow for balance practice as readily as facing away from the wall does. To get into a handstand facing the wall start with your back to the wall, bend down and place your hands on the floor 1 to 2 feet away from the wall, then walk your feet up the wall as you walk your hands in to the wall. Try to get your hands as close as possible to the wall. Your toes should be pointed and the tops of your feet should be the only thing touching the wall. It is possible to do this with your wrists virtually touching the wall assuming handstand alignment is good. Proper alignment is an open hollow with shoulders fully extended and pushed up. Think about pushing your toes as high toward the ceiling as possible. Once this position is obtained, try to push away from the wall slightly and transfer your weight to your fingertips and hold the handstand.

Practice freestanding handstands as often as possible. Kick up to a handstand whenever you get a chance. When you kick to handstand, think about extending your lunge, keeping your shoulders open, and maintaining a straight line between your kick heel and your hands. Part of your practice should be just trying to stay on your hands no matter what it takes. Walk, break form and bend your arms, just stay in the handstand. As you spend time in the handstand you will begin to feel the adjustments that are necessary to maintain it.

In addition to practicing handstands allowing for walking, you should also make a concerted effort to practice static handstands. Kick into a handstand with a tight, straight body and don’t move. If you have to take a step, come down and try again. As with previous handstands, kick into the handstand with an extended body and shoulders. Once in the handstand squeeze your legs together, extend your shoulders so that they are completely open, and hold the body in a straight, slightly hollow position. Think about digging your fingertips into the floor while practicing static handstands. This will create a more solid base for the handstand. Think about leaning the handstand slightly forward, as it is easier to save a handstand that is falling forward (over onto your back) than it is to save a handstand falling backward. (The exception to this is on rings.) To save a handstand that is falling forward, extend through your shoulders and dig your fingers into the floor as hard as you can. To save a handstand falling backward pike your shoulders and hips and if necessary bend your arms. As the handstand gets stronger, a slight planche will save a handstand that is falling backward.

Assisted Handstand Push Ups

There are several methods of performing assisted HSPUs. Each has benefits, and the various methods should all be used in the progress toward a freestanding HSPU. Doing HSPUs against a wall allows the balance factor to be removed from the exercise so you can begin to strengthen the movement. As with static handstands, these can be done facing the wall or facing away from it. A spot can provide as much balance and lift assistance as necessary. HSPUs can be performed on the ground or on parallettes. Parallettes allow for greater range of motion and help to stabilize the handstand. They can also relieve wrist strain for those with inflexible or injured wrists.

Proper technique during the assisted HSPU will allow faster progress. Throughout the HSPU the body should be kept hollow and as rigid as possible. It is much easier to push a stick than a rope: make your body like a stick. The elbows should be kept in close to the body throughout the motion, not flared out to the sides. In the bottom of the HSPU your hands should be about six to twelve inches in front of your shoulders and your elbows should be directly above your hands. Upright, this would be like holding two dumbbells just in front of your shoulders with your elbows directly beneath your hands. Do not allow your elbows to jut out to the sides or your stability will be severely compromised. When doing HSPUs with your back to the wall, start by just kicking up and working through the movement with your hands close to the wall. As you get stronger move your hands farther away from the wall to allow you to lean your shoulders forward toward the wall as you descend on the HSPU. This forward movement of the shoulders is essential to developing the control required for freestanding HSPUs. In addition to the shoulder lean, bend one or both legs to allow your knees to move away from the wall as well, so you can maintain a straight body from the knees to the hands.

Practicing HSPUs facing the wall allows for a hollow position and proper shoulder mechanics without compromising positions in the legs. Hands should be placed a few inches away from the wall to allow for the lean that is necessary in a freestanding HSPU. As the HSPU descends the shoulders should track forward of the hands. The torso should be kept hollow throughout the motion. Resist the urge to arch as you push back to the handstand.

The self-spotted HSPU was introduced to me by the CrossFit community and is an excellent option for practicing HSPU. Using a bar or stacked mats that are just under shoulder height, kick up to the handstand so that your heels can hook the support. You can then use your legs to help balance and lift the HSPU, which makes this exercise a glute and hamstring exercise in addition to training the HSPU.

A practiced spotter can give enough assistance to allow someone who can just barely hold a handstand to perform an HSPU. This same spotter can also provide minimal, balanceonly assistance to someone who is almost capable of a freestanding HSPU. The spotter should stand in front of the spottee and catch his heels as he kicks up to the handstand. From this point on, the spotter should provide the least assistance possible. To provide balanceonly assistance, the spotter can keep her hands completely open, with her thumbs on the spottee’s calves and fingers on the spottee’s shins. This way no vertical assistance will be provided. On the other end of the spectrum, if the spottee is highly fatigued, or is just beginning to practice HSPU, the spotter can hug the spottee’s legs and perform squats as the spottee performs HSPU.

If you are able to perform a 10- to 20-second static handstand with proper position and can do HSPUs with minimal assistance, it is time to start working the HSPU free standing. It will be easier to start on parallettes, as they will provide more stability. Kick into the handstand and push into an extended hollow handstand. Shoulders should be actively extended, shoulder angle should be completely open and body should be hollow. As you descend into the HSPU, allow your shoulders to shift forward of your hands and let your legs counterbalance this motion. Remember to keep your elbows in. At this stage you will find yourself piking to control the balance at times. This is OK. As you progress, you will find that you can pike far enough to touch the floor with your toes at the bottom of the HSPU then press it back to a handstand. As your HSPU gets more stable, aim to eliminate this pike. The effort required to perform one freestanding HSPU is drastically greater than the effort required in one assisted HSPU, and the stabilization it requires provides a demand and stimulus otherwise not present in the movement.

A freestanding HSPU will take a significant amount of work to accomplish, but the benefits gained along the way will be significant as well. All overhead work will be dramatically improved and stabilized. Performing freestanding HSPUs during a workout will increase the time required to complete the workout versus doing HSPUs with assistance, but it will increase the demands and benefit of the workout. As your freestanding HSPU gets more solid, the time discrepancy will be reduced. Practice freestanding handstands and HSPUs frequently. And be patient, as it will take significant practice to perform them with any consistency.

What’s happening at The Cave

Monday, February 24th, 2014

This week at The Cave:
Thank you to everyone that came out to the Open Kick off party!  It was great!  It’s not to late to late to sign up for the open!
Click Here To Register

Want to improve your running efficiency? Want to run faster?
Come to our Pose running seminar on March 15th 12:30-3:30pm
A 3 Hour running seminar to improve efficiency, reduce impact and increase speed
Click here to sign up or learn more

tim_hill_pose_web
We also have  a Double under clinic  March 16th 10-11:30am
Improve your double unders or get them for the first time - World Record holder Shane Winsor

Don’t wait too long, these camps are excellent and fill up quick!

What’s happening at The Cave this week

Monday, February 17th, 2014

This week at The Cave:

CrossFit Open kickoff party - Friday February 21st @ 7pm

Come celebrate, learn and get motivated for the open!  First workout announced on Feb 27:  Click here for more information about why you should do the open!

Pose running seminar march 15th 12:30-3:30pm
3 Hour running seminar to improve efficiency, reduce impact and increase speed!

Double under clinic march 16th 10-11:30am
Improve your double unders or get them for the first time - World Record holder Shane Winsor
kno_movienightnext kids night out - saturday february 22nd 5:30-10:00pm “movie night”
email Crystal@inthecave.com to sign up!

Don’t wait to long, these camps fill up quick!