WOD Bible: Those Horrible Handstand Walks

As the sport of fitness grows, so does the complexity of the movements. What once started as something only found in gymnastics centers is quickly becoming a staple in many crossfit workouts and not to mention a cool party trick. Today, What Should Wodders Call Me breaks down the handstand walk for you so you’ll have it in no time. 

Developing A Proper Handstand
First things first. Before you attempt actually walking on your hands, you will need to develop a proper handstand and control in the handstand position. While it can be scary to start off right away with a freestanding handstand, this is the ultimate goal that will lead to a successful handstand walk. If you can do a handstand against a wall, you’ve already got a pretty good start. However, the best way to mimic a freestanding handstand will be to perform a wall-walk up the wall until your stomach, thighs, and nose touch the wall. While doing a handstand into the wall as though you are about to perform a handstand pushup is the most common way people practice handstand holds, the form that comes as a result of this positioning will not necessarily help you to obtain proper form in a freestanding handstand. Doing a handstand with your back to the wall can cause your back to arch and can force you to put most of your weight into the wall and not on your hands. To get an idea of what good handstand form looks like, take a plate and hold it straight above above your head with your arms locked out by your ears and your gaze forward. You should be able to hold this position for a significantly long period of time and be fairly comfortable in this position. Look at yourself in a mirror and see how you look. Take note of how this positioning feels. This is the form you will want to mimic when you are holding your handstand against the wall and ultimately by yourself. Regardless, whether you are holding your handstand against the wall or freestanding, you will want to remember to keep your arms completely locked out and by your ears. Cast your gaze down towards your index fingers. Don’t arch your neck and try and look ahead. You also need to be sure you are keeping your entire body as tight as possible. Once you feel you have mastered a strong handstand hold against the wall, you can begin to attempt your freestanding handstands. Use a spotter at first to give you confidence and ensure you don’t hurt yourself. Kick up into a handstand positioning making sure you’re keeping the same form you used at the wall and have your spotter hold their arm out as a balance point for your legs. Do not have your spotter grab your legs. This will defeat the purpose of doing the freestanding handstand pushup. Rather have them act as a light backboard there for safety purposes rather than full support. 
Bailing From A Handstand
The second thing you will need to learn in handstands before you begin walking is how to bail. Because you will not always have a spotter there to catch you and there may come a time when you cannot safely come down from a handstand as you normally would, it is important to know how to bail properly. If you feel yourself begin to fall, the best way to bail from a handstand is to lower yourself into a headstand and perform a forward roll out of the position. 

You can also attempt a pirouette bail. While not as extreme as the tuck and roll bail, it can be difficult to master and not as intuitive. When you feel as though you are about to fall forwards out of a handstand, simply transfer your weight onto one hand and turn the other hand a quarter of a turn in your dominant direction (whatever direction comes most naturally) and bail to the side. 
Beginning To Walk
So you’ve mastered the freestanding handstand and think you’re ready to walk. Great! The best way to begin walking is to start with some simple drills that will get you accustomed to lifting and lowering your hands in order to walk. These drills can be performed either with your back to or away from the wall (whichever you are more comfortable with). 
Drill 1: Hand Rocks
Practice rocking side to side and shifting your weight in the handstand position. As you get better and stronger, you can begin to lift your hands up as though you were rocking. 
Drill 2: Shoulder Taps
This is a fairly advanced drill, but will help to significantly improve your walking. As you shift your weight to one hand, lift your other hand and tap the corresponding shoulder. For an easier version of this drill, Place your feet up on a box and enter a pike position and perform this drill. 

For an easier version of this drill, you can pike off a box and do shoulder taps. Be sure to maintain good form. 

Drill 3: Wall Shuffle
Now that you’re more comfortable with lifting your hands off the ground, you can begin to walk. Try walking side to side while maintaing the support of the wall. 
Drill 4: Partner Spot Walk
Kick up to a freestanding handstand. Have your spotter hold their arm out so that it is in front of your legs by a few inches. As you walk forward, have them walk with you with their arm there in case you fall. You can also have them lightly hold your toes as you walk (make sure they don’t force you to stay up in a handstand when you can’t support it anymore). While their spotting doesn’t necessarily help you walk, it can simply provide a mental safety net for you. 
Drill 5: Wall Walking
This is a good drill for those who don’t have a spotter but still remain nervous about walking too far.  Pick a distance a few feet away from the wall and begin to walk until you hit the wall. As you get better, move further and further away from the wall. 
Mastering The Walk
Once you become more confident in your handstand walking abilities, you can start to perform drills to improve your strength and stamina in regards to walking on your hands. The more time you spend upside down, the more comfortable you will be. Once you have mastered the basic walk straight up and down, you can begin to think about adapting your handstand walk to fit your needs. While the traditional walk is to keep your core tight legs straight up and down, many people chose to utilize the scorpion walk. This is a style of walk where the back is arched and the legs are bent down towards the head. Other people chose to perform their walks with a split position. Both positions can make it easier for people with longer legs, as it creates a lower center of gravity. As you enter your freestanding handstand, many people find it difficult to begin walking forward, because they are afraid of falling head over heals if they lean too far forward. If you only stay straight up and down, you will find it very difficult to walk. You want to lean into the direction of your walk. Think of it like a gas pedal. The more you lean into the walk (to a certain extent), the faster you’ll go. When you lean back, you stop. 

Now that you can successfully walk on your hands, you can begin to attempt some more difficult drills intended to improve your ability to perform long distance handstand walks. Try these drills and make up your own. Be creative. Walk forwards, backwards, and sideways. Make obstacle courses. Walk long distances and walk short distances. Remember, the more time you spend on your hands in unique positions, the better. 
Drill 1: Handstand Pirouettes
As you walk, pirouette your free hand (the hand without the weight on it) a quarter of a turn. Continue doing this, alternating hands as you turn in a circle.


Drill 2: Walking Shoulder Taps
Similar to shoulder taps against the wall, as you walk, lift your weightless hand up to touch your corresponding shoulder. 
Drill 3: Banded Handstand Walk
Place a small physical therapy band around your wrists and walk really focusing on pulling your shoulders apart. I suggest you practice this at the wall before doing it freestanding. 
Drill 4: Plate Step Ups
Place a bumper plate a few feet in front of you. Walk up and come down. 
Drill 5: Weight Pull
You can use the straps that you put around the rings for this drill. Tie the strap around your stomach and loop the other end through a bumper plate (start light) and begin walking on your hands as you pull the plate behind you. 

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WOD Bible: Muscling Through The Muscle-Up

The Muscle up is the pinnacle movement of crossfit. It is an incredibly difficult skill that many crossfitters will struggle for months or even years to obtain. Achieving a muscle up will require many hours of dedicated skill work and strength training to obtain the strength and coordination needed to perform a muscle up. Today, What Should Wodders Call Me is breaking down the muscle up and hopefully helping you to get your first one. 

First things first. Let’s break down exactly what a muscle up is. There are two different types of basic muscle ups. The first is a bar muscle up and the second is a ring muscle up. While both are difficult feats to achieve, the ring muscle up is typically regarded as being more difficult. Unlike the bar, the rings have a tendency to move around as you swing and pull yourself on top of them. Today we will be discussing the ring muscle up (we will do another feature on bar muscle ups sometime in the future). The purpose of a muscle up is to take yourself from a hanging position on the rings, and bring yourself on top of the rings. This can be done both with a kip and without a kip (strict). A kipping muscle up will consist of a kip followed by a violent pull towards the rings. Once  hips are at ring level, the athlete will essentially perform a sit-up into what is known as the catch. Once the athlete has hit the catch, all they need to do is execute a ring dip until their arms are locked out on top of the rings. However, before we even begin to talk about various techniques, we will need to build the strength base necessary to attempt and successfully achieve a muscle up. 

Building the Strength Base
This is the part of the muscle up that I see most often skipped when people are working towards a muscle up. It’s understandable, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to work on your technique. After all a muscle up is 80% technique. However, without the strength base it is unlikely that you will get a muscle up and you also risk injuring yourself if you do get a muscle up before properly developing your strength. The first aspect of the strength base, is your pulling strength. This is the strength that you will need to pull your body close to the rings so that you can sit up into the catch.
There are several drills you can perform to improve strength in this area. The first is a ring row. A ring row that is being used to improve strength for muscle ups will need to tax your pulling strength. In order to do this, you will want to be as parallel as possible with the ground. The best way to achieve this position, will be to put your feet up on a box until they are in line with the height of the rings or higher. For an added challenge, consider doing these with a weighted vest. Another important aspect of your pulling strength will be your ability to do strict pullups. The more strict pullups you can do, especially chest to bar strict pullups, the better. 
The second part of the strength base required for a muscle up, will be your core strength. The strength you need not only to control your kip, but also to sit up into the catch comes almost entirely from your core strength. While traditional core exercises will certainly help to improve abdominal strength (planks, crunches, etc.), there are several movements that will contribute specifically to the movements that tax your core in a muscle up. The first, is a GHD situp. After your hips become parallel with the rings, the transition into the catch of the muscle up is essentially a very large GHD situp. The more GHD stiups you perform, the stronger and more explosive your core and hips will become and the easier it will be to make that transition into a muscle up. A good drill on the GHD machine is to perform sets with a few very explosive and strong situps. Lean back slowly until your fingertips touch the ground and then sit up as explosively and quickly as you can. Another exercise that will improve your core strength by ten fold are hollow rocks. Many people conveniently forget about the existence of hollow rocks (they are fairly painful and difficult). However, properly executed hollow rocks can do wonders for your core strength. Make sure that you keep your entire body, squeezing your abs, quads, and glutes as you rock back and forth. The more hollow rocks you can do unbroken, the better. 

Hollow rocks are a great way to build the core strength required for a muscle up. 

The third and final facet to the strength base required for a muscle up, is dipping strength. I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely essential it is that you have the ability to perform strict ring dips. Why? Because the entire second half of the muscle up is a push up out of your deepest, darkest ring dip. I see so many people attempting muscle ups without a proper ring dip base. This will not only lead to failure, but can also be incredibly dangerous. If you do manage to make the transition and hit the catch and lack the strength to balance on the rings in the dip position, you could fall out of the rings and possibly seriously injure your shoulder or arm. Many coaches recommend that you be able to perform at least five strict ring dips with full range of motion before even attempting a muscle up. If you are currently unable to perform a ring dip, I suggest you begin with bar dips. Bar dips are essentially the same thing as ring dips, but substitute parallette bars, which are more stable, for rings. Try to avoid using bands as a scale for your ring dips, as these don’t allow you to build the strength required to press out of the bottom of the dip. Instead, practice negative dips. Slowly lower yourself to the bottom of the rings or parallettes. You can also practice ring dips with your feet up supported on a box in an L-position in order to build strength in the dipping position. Once you have achieved sufficient dipping strength, make sure to maintain it. A great drill for strict ring dips, is tempo ring dips. Start by holding yourself on top of the rings for a two count, lowering yourself for a two count, holding the bottom of the dip for a three count and then exploding out of the bottom of the dip. Once again, I cannot emphasize enough how important your ring dips are. The more dips you can do, the better. 

Now that you’ve built your strength base for your muscle up, it’s finally time to move onto the technique aspect of a muscle up. For some people, the coordination required to perform a muscle up comes fairly easily. However, for others it can take hours of practice and muscle memory building. Either way, technique is absolutely essential when it comes to a muscle up, especially a kipping muscle up. 
Part 1: The Grip
Before we even begin to kip, we will need to decide on how we will approach holding the rings. There are several techniques for this, and each present their own benefits and drawbacks. The first grip style is fairly common in the crossfit world and is used by most people to achieve their first kipping and strict muscle up. This grip is known as the false grip. To use a false grip on the rings, you will need to turn your hands in to face you as your grab the rings. Your wrists will be touching the rings. The false grip can be useful, because makes the lever of your arms significantly shorter. Not only that, but it can also help to facilitate the transition into the catch. However, it can be difficult to kip properly in a false grip position. It is also difficult for many people to obtain the wrist and forearm flexibility to properly false grip the rings. However, the false grip can really help to facilitate the muscle up and is almost essential for achieving a strict muscle up. The next grip is a non-false grip. this grip is what most people use when they first jump up onto the rings. This grip makes kipping easier, especially when it comes to stringing muscle ups. The third and final grip, is a neutral false grip. This grip is a little less extreme than a full false grip and can help to facilitate the transition to the catch while not restricting kipping as much as a full false grip. While all three grips are useful, I would recommend a full or neutral false grip when attempting your first muscle up, as both will help to make the transition to the catch significantly easier. 

Part 2: The Kip
Now that you’ve got your grip all figured out, it’s time to take a look at the kip. While not incredibly complex, the kip does require coordination, flexibility and core strength. If you have a kipping pullup, you can apply the same kipping technique to your kipping muscle up. While the kip will obviously be slightly larger than the kip you use for your pullup, it should not be so big that it takes away from the actual muscle up. Your kip should be explosive and powerful, but at the same time controlled. You should not for any reason break at the hips or knees on the back swing of your kip. When you allow your feet to swing up and behind your head as a result of breaking at your hips and knees, your legs essentially become dead weight rather than assisting in the swing. You also want to keep your kipping to a maximum of one swing back and one swing forward before pulling your hips up to the rings. Too many kips can cause the rings to start to swing and can make your kip awkward. Be sure to keep your entire body tight and controlled while kipping. After the backswing on your kip, swing your legs up until they are parallel with the ground and pull your hips to the rings. 

Be sure to keep your body tight and not break at your knees on the backswing of your kip. 

Part 3: The Transition Into The Catch
As your hips get closer to the rings, you will want to sit up into the catch. Throw your head forward and your feet back. As you sit up, the rings will fall beneath your arms and you will end up in the bottom of the ring dip. From here, all there is left to do is to push up and into the lockout position of the muscle up. While many people choose to do a strict dip at the end of their muscle up, others will elect to kip out of the bottom of the ring dip. Whatever it is you chose to do, make sure you can do it on the low rings before attempting it at the end of a muscle up where your muscles will be fatigued. 

As your hips get closer to the rings, perform a violent situp as you swing your head forward and your legs back into the catch. 

Muscle Up Skills and Drills
By now, you’ve probably figured out that unless you have previous strength or gymnastics training, it is unlikely that you will get a muscle up in your first try. But never fear! The muscle up is easily the most difficult and complex movement in crossfit. It has an incredible blend of technique and strength that make it so elusive to so many crossfitters. It is very likely that it will take several months of strength and technique development before you actually achieve it, but there are several drills that can help to speed that process along. 
1. Band Supported Ring Transition
This drill is perhaps the closest you will get to having a “banded” banded muscle up. Unfortunately, unlike with bar movements, where technique can be practiced in bands to help decrease resistance, rings don’t provide athletes with the opportunity to utilize bands when learning the movement. However, an easy way to get the feel for the transition of the muscle up without actually getting on the high rings. To perform this drill, stretch a band across a set of low rings as though you were going to do a banded ring dip. Sit back into the band and grab the rings as though you were going to do a muscle up off the floor. With your feet off the ground, make your body parallel to the floor and pull the rings to your hips as you violently sit up and hit the catch of the muscle up. To complete the drill, you can either finish with a dip out of the bottom (if you already have strong dips, this is not necessary), or you can sit back into the band and perform a few reps. To make this drill harder or easier, loosen the tension on the band beneath your but. An easier version of this drill will be to position yourself as though you were going to do a ring row with your feet on the ground and pull yourself up into the catch position. 

2. GHD Muscle Up
Position the GHD Machine below a set of rings in such a way that when you are at the top of your GHD situp, you can enter the catch position on the rings. Lower yourself back until your arms are straight and pull yourself up as you perform a violent GHD situp. 
3. Hips To Rings
This drill is performed on the high rings and will help you to better get your hips to the rings when you attempt an actual muscle up. Take one kipping swing and perform the first half of a muscle up until your hips make contact with the rings. The goal would be to get it so that when your hips make contact with the rings, your entire body is parallel with the ground. Your legs are not broken at the knees and your back is not arched. Your body should maintain a straight line throughout this entire process. 

Good luck and be sure to make sure you develop your strength and technique bases before attempting your first muscle up to avoid injury. While some coaches recommend that you try to achieve a strict muscle up before attempting a kipping, if you have a proper strength base and your technique is strong, you should not have an issue achieving your first muscle up. Crossfit on.

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