In my case I got lucky since education proves that big biceps are important for hand balancing. From the beginning I was training handstands and straps for one single reason: I wanted to take it on stage and perform it in front of people. I was always aware that not everybody is going to like handstands or is going to be impressed by my flexibility. Back then I figured if work out my whole body and get in the best shape possible, hopefully everybody can find something they like when I go on stage. Plus you know… the beach and the ladies and stuff. It was important to just look good.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized that my little obsession with physical appearance might be one of the biggest blessings of my career.
When it comes to high level or really any kind of hand balancing the general rule is that you want to be as light as possible. Every extra bit of weight that you carry around is problematic as it makes all tricks much harder. Plus to reach and maintain a high level of hand balancing you have put in a lot of hours. Given all that, most likely you won’t feel like going to the gym or keeping up with your cardio multiple times a week. This is why you see so many super slim hand balancers in the market. A lot of them often have to retire quite early because their body hurts and is broken.
Now don’t get me wrong – my body hurts too – just in a different way. In a good way, in a sore kind of “I want more and I am ready to take more” kind of way. And here is where the gym comes into play.
To prevent overuse injuries when training handstands, straps or really any discipline it is super important to keep up a healthy gym routine.
Think about it, handstand training constantly requires the use of the same muscles in exactly the same way, and is absolutely neglecting all the other muscles in your body. You main focus upside down is pushing out of your shoulders, yet you will never work your back or the bottom of your chest while on your hands. By exclusively hand balancing you don’t even use your shoulders in all possible ranges, so even those you have to rework at the gym. Plus at some point hand balancing becomes uneven. Everybody has a side they prefer certain tricks on. For example I only do my crocodiles on my right, which means my right triceps would get muuuuch bigger than my left one.
By now you should see how crucial a gym routine is to committed skill training. I always make sure to visit the weight room at least 3 times a week and hit every muscle group from every direction at least once to make sure my body stays balanced. This does not only allow me to stay healthy but also to look even and not like a one sided crooked freak of nature.
When I say every muscle group I really mean every muscle group. Even legs. Lots of hand balancers argue one should not train legs because the extra weight will make it impossible to hand balance. First of all that is straight up wrong. It does not get impossible just much, much harder. Second of all there are ways of training without putting on huge amounts of weight. Training legs will reinforce the back and take the back pain away that some hand balancers experience. Further it will drastically improve your quality of life since walking up the stairs or carrying groceries from the car is not a problem anymore. Sounds funny right? You might laugh but I know a couple professional hand balancers who refuse to walk stairs because they believe they would have to work harder on stage when their legs start growing.
Generally I make sure not to use the biggest dumbbells on the rack. I use smaller weights that I can lift for 8-12 reps. Bigger weights will promote muscle hypertrophy more and are rough on your joints. Everything will hurt for days after and you won’t be able to hand balance. Another thing to note is that I make sure to avoid machines and try to stick with free weights and cable pulleys. Machines are great for bodybuilding but not as functional for our goals. The benefit of using free weights is that you won’t only use the big muscles to push or pull the weight, but also all the small muscles around the joint which keep the weight in place. And those small muscles are extremely important when training handstands and straps and are one of the main reasons why we go to the gym.
After all, I am convinced that one of the main reasons why I stay much healthier compared to other hand balancers is the fact that I make sure to work out every muscle of the body regularly, therefore straying away from developing any imbalances.
Plus really, it is nice to look good naked. When I step on stage in front of 500 or 5000 people, personally I need to look good to feel confident and be able to perform my best. If I look down on myself before going on stage and start questioning my level of professionalism we can be pretty sure that at least 500 of those 5000 people will ask for their money back.
How about you? Have you been hitting the gym in addition to your skill training? If so how is your training looking and have you been feeling better for it? Join the discussion in the comments below!