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Clean Complex

15 minutes to work on the complex:
High Hang Power Clean + Mid Hang Power Clean + FSQ

Focus on bringing the bar through the hips

15 minutes to work up to a 1RM High Hang Clean

Start from a vertical torso with the shoulders behind the bar

Front Squat

Fitness: 3x3 Across
Heavier than last weeks paused 5 rep sets

Performance: Work up to a Heavy 5
Heavier than last weeks paused 5 rep sets
Only go as heavy as you can maintain a neutral spine and a solid rack.

Post loads to comments.
CLN/FSQ e2/6

50 Sit Ups
550m Run (1 lap)
50 Sit Ups

Leslie's Sumo Deadlift High Pulls

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Developing Your Handstand, Part 2

In a previous blog post, I wrote an article called "Developing Your Handstand" which discussed some basic points to consider for developing a hand balancing practice. If you haven't read it already, or don't remember it, I suggest reviewing it before getting into this article.

We've been seeing plenty of inversion work in our previous and current cycles so many of you are now comfortable kicking up to a wall or spotter and want to take it to the next level. From here there a few different skills you can progress to: unassisted static handstands, handstand walking and handstand push-ups. This article will focus on the former two. My personal opinion is that it's easier and more productive to work on static and dynamic hand balancing in tandem as opposed to focusing on only one.  I often say that learning to be a good hand balancer mirrors the motor development children go through when first learning how to walk. Initially, you'll need a little support from the wall or a spotter (cruising) and then it's a bumpy trial and error journey where you begin to figure out where your body is in space and how to get yourself balanced.  This is a long and tedious process where you'll spend more time on the floor than anything resembling a handstand. That's all to be expected, persistence and smart practice are key here.  Below are some tips to get you started in the right direction.

Warm-Up on the wall: 2 Skills
The wall is a great place to work some transitional skills for hand balancing. First, experiment with slowly bringing one foot (foot A) off the wall and then gradually bringing your other foot (foot B) off so that you can get a sense of what it feels like to balance. Foot A should stay off the wall while foot B gently heel taps the wall as needed to keep you inverted. When both feet are off the wall, you'll need to push your body up towards the ceiling and GRAB the floor with your entire hand. As you'll come to experience, hand balancing requires the full use of your fingers and palm to adjust how your weight is being distributed.  The other key element here is finding a neutral body position. If you're globally overextended or closed at the hip you won't find any success with this drill.  If you're not sure what position your body is in, have a coach or friend lend an eye and give you some feedback. Expect to be kicking back down and using the wall a lot.

The other drill you can work on at the wall is getting comfortable moving your hands. To balance on the open floor you'll need the confidence, body awareness and strength to momentarily support yourself on one arm. You can begin to gain some of these elements by simply shuffling one hand at a time while your heels are still on the wall. You don't need your entire hand to come off the floor initially, simply make tiny adjustments by sliding one hand an inch or two in any direction, alternating between hands. Some people will intuitively know how to take a step with their hands, others will need a little remedial work like this before getting to the open floor.
You can take this drill to the next level by kicking up to the wall about 6-12 inches further away than you're used to and then walking to the wall. Watch this excellent video to see what I'm talking about.

The Open Floor: Have an exit strategy

Now that you've got some confidence moving your hands and have been playing with coming off the wall you can begin to attempt some open floor drills.  The key to safely working without a spotter on the open floor is having a clear, consistent and safe exit strategy.  The easiest way to exit a botched handstand is to take a step (with one hand) in the direction you're falling and then reaching the same side leg towards the floor. This is essentially a poor man's pirouette. Mastering this skill will allow you to practice handstands anywhere, on any surface without the fear of falling onto your torso or head. Falling into a backbend or rolling out of the handstand are NOT recommended unless you've had individual coaching on the skill or are a 14 year old girl.
The pirouette is your exit strategy when you're falling over yourself, or off to the side. If you're falling back in the direction your came up through, simply kick back down.  To gain confidence and familiarity with pirouettes, perform some "half-assed" handstands where you don't actually get your feet all the way above your body. The idea is to kick up off to one side and pirouette into the direction you're falling. All you're doing is teaching your body to react to an imbalance and find the floor with your legs. As you get more comfortable with this you can start kick higher up into more mature handstands and pirouetting out of them.  Chances are you'll bias one side a bit which is okay. Remember that you've only got a split second to move your hand. If your body is falling over and you wait a moment too long you might end up on your butt so don't stay glued to the floor. Working on the open floor is in large part about moving your hands quickly and intuitively to restack your body. Often you'll need to move a hand almost immediately after kicking up.  In the beginning, we recommend learning this skill on a gymnastics mat with a coach watching you, also, make sure the area is clear of other people.

Once you can consistently exit a handstand safely, you simply need to start doing handstands All The Time. Like on the wall, the same fundamentals apply. Keep your hollow body position, push the floor away with your shoulders and actively grab the floor with your hands.  At a certain point, you'll trade off from needing coaching feedback to simply needing more experience. Inversions are uncomfortable and disorienting at first, like a child learning how to walk, you'll need to practice on a regular basis until the experience becomes more familiar.  If you're serious about handstands, I recommend kicking up from anywhere from a few attempts to several minutes of practice everyday. Usually there isn't a day that goes by where I dont' spend at least a few seconds upside down. Other days I'll set a clock and dedicate 10 minutes or so to working on inversions. The important part is that it's become a regular part of my physical vocabulary and something that has gone from strenuous to relatively intuitive.  Also, handstand practice is potent, so go with the mantra that less is more. Dont' go to failure and learn how to listen to your body. You might only be able to do a few kick ups before your shoulders fatigue to the point that skill work becomes unproductive.

There are many methods and progressions for developing hand balancing skills. Play around with different approaches and see what seems to work best for you. Regardless of the methodology, consistent practice is the most important element to learning how to walk or stand on your hands.
Learning the Handstand Walk with Dogtown CrossFit
Handstands with Dave Durante
Handstand walk progression part 1 with Carl Paoli

Reader Comments (13)

thank you for the handstand tips, anonymous article writer. i'm excited to try the warm ups next. i've been trying to do something like the first warm up, except i've been pushing both feet away from the wall at the same time, and have been fairly unsuccessful. your way sounds much more effective.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterariel c

Fitness clean complex, 98x2, failed on the mid-hang at 103. This high hang thing is genius, though -- forces me to be patient and not clean the bar way out in front of me like I usually do. Next step: not starfish-ing my feet on the landing.

FSQ 135x3x3. Definitely room to grow (safely) here.

Actually had time for the cash out for a change!

PUB QUIZ: We had a good turnout last week and I'm hoping there are more nerds who want to come this Sunday. It's at 7 PM at Skylark, 5th Avenue at 11th Street. Send me an email (stellavision, gmail) if you're thinking of coming. Or just show up and answer questions, that's cool too!

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStella

10 am with Jeremy.

Clean Complex- worked up to 83#. Felt much smoother than last week, thanks to my hour working on cleans with Noah. Tried 88# but could not make it happen from the high hang position which was kind of frustrating but I'm OK with it.

Front squats- 135 x 3 x 3. This felt heavy but good.

Cash out was fun and I did some handstands with the above article in mind afterwards and held a free-standing-very-close-to-the-wall handstand for longer than I ever have before. Tried to do some pull-ups but gave up pretty fast as my shoulders were not having any of it.

We are starting this paleo challenge tomorrow- 13 people are taking part so far!! Email me if you want to join in the fun hurricanecharlie8282(at)gmail(dot)com. This is peer pressure at its finest.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

My first ever 10 AM class. Expertly coached by Jeremy. Came in real handy as I had a bunch of errands to run. CFSBK FTW.

Cleans: Fitness Complex at: 95, 115, 125, 135, 145

Front Squats: 205x3x3

Cramped up again while doing situps. DNF.

October 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterSamir Chopra

@Kate R...did you follow the link to see the seahorssssse birth? ahkkkdhhehehhdgg... >_<

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLindstar

Noon class

High Hang Clean


Cash Out
UB Sit Ups, an easy jog, UB sit ups

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFox

7am with McDowell and Arturo. Clean complex up to 145#, which felt sloppy. I'd like to work on getting under the bar faster but I end up smashing myself in the face. Luckily no visible marks this time!

Fsq 185x3x3, heavy but fine. Actually had time to do the accessory work which was great - didn't time it, I am still super slow at sit-ups and medium at running.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpckr

4:30 with Ro
Fitness Clean Complex: #63, #83, #93, #98
#98 felt really good today...which is interesting because last week I backed off to #88. I hated the high hang last week...I loved it today. Really made me extend at the hips and scrunch my shoulders. Wanted to try #103 but ran out of time.

Hip is sore from cleans on Monday/today + FSQ. Kept today's FSQ lighter than last week (115) at #105. I really don't know what to do at this point. I've upped my mobility and band work. I'm done with my Rx anti inflammatory and squats still hurt. Shit.

DIY was fun.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGracie

6:30 with McD and Ro

High Hang Clean
95x3 115x3 135x2 155x1 165x1 175x1 185x1 195x1 205x1 210xF

These kept moving so I kept moving with them. 205 is a high hang PR and ties my clean PR, which obviously should be higher. Tried to push my luck with 210 and got under it but bailed it forward before even starting to come up.

Front Squats (With DMak)
155x5 185x3 195x3x3

Had been planning on working a linear progression on front squats this cycle so I went with the fitness 3x3 which I'll probably stick with. 195 felt like a good place to start.

First set up situps unbroken, pretty quick run around the block, second set in 30, 10, 5, 5 with minimal rest.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

@Lindstar pfffftttt... obvs. After my snail porn post, I figured I should wait at least three more weeks before posting something as inappropriate/disturbing.

7:30 with McDowell and Arturo, fitness on both lifts. 100# cleans, which is actually a PR for me? Somehow I think I've only done cleans in WODs, so usually around 75/85. It was also good to do them slowly tonight, because I see that I'm only slamming my poor right collarbone in the faster WODs with higher reps. Need to slow down on those and maintain form, I guess? But I think I can keep going up a decent amount.

I also just want to add that power cleans (and the prowler/dog sled stuff) were the two things I always watched my football player man friends do that my lady sports teams never even attempted to practice in high school and college, which always frustrated me so much. I tried to get a coach in college to teach me, but I must have been doing something terribly wrong, because he got nervous and told me to stop. So it feels pretty awesome to be able to do this stuff finally. :)

Okay, one more also: one of my guy friends who does a bunch of lifting on his own bragged to me today that he finally hit 230 on his deadlift. I nodded in support (because he is great), but kindly told him that some of my female friends can pull that, too.

Front squats also at 100, 3x3.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

HHC - 135/185/205/225/235/225/225/235 - not exactly a 1RM but was trying to work on no movement on the hang. Haven't done these very often. I have a tendency to want to generate momentum on this movement which defeats the purpose.

FS - 225x3, 245x5, 225x3 - was going for a heavy 5, but then wanted to get one last set in trying to get into and out of the hole faster as per McDowell's instructions. Have never tried FS like this but see why it makes a whole lot of sense for improving the clean.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan R

730 class
HHC worked up to 175 and hit about 5 singles there. I need to get it organized before I move the weight up.
FSQ (135x3, 155x3) 165x5, 175x5 - have some room on these.

October 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKevin McDonald

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