Stretches for Deeper Side-bends

Coach Bachmann > Tutorial > Stretches for Deeper Side-bends

Side bends are a crucial part of advanced hand balancing and any one arm handstand.

In recent years the one arm handstand gained more and more popularity and became the skill to go after after nailing the two arm version. The journey sure is a long one, filled with baby steps, mini improvements and lots of ups and downs. But for those who have achieved it, what is next? What comes after the one arm?

There is a great vocabulary of skills available to learn once you have a solid one arm. Figas, Flags,…. and of course Side Bends.

Side bends are a crucial part of advanced hand balancing and any one arm handstand. In this tutorial we’ll give you the tools you need to start learning this skill by focusing mainly on the aspect of specific flexibility needed for side bends aka how to stretch your sides for side bending.

Only when flexibility & technique come together you can achieve more advanced positions with ease

Notes on Technique for Sidebends

First off all: It is not only important to stretch your sides but also to have proper technique. Only when both things coming together you can achieve more advanced positions with ease. Let’s go into proper technique for a bit. With this position, it can get tricky to learn to bend in the right position. A good way to see if you’re doing it correctly is to do side bends on two hand without moving the shoulder AT ALL. Don’t let yourself sink in as you move. Imagine you’re in a toaster and don’t want to burn your feet. Check if you are doing that by filming your attempts.

Then when doing a one arm flag it is even more important to only bend in your side and not try to get more range of motion out of your supporting shoulder and elbow. How to avoid this from happening:

  • Keep your head close to your shoulder
  • Keep your elbow locked
  • Only bend in the side.

Practicing with this in mind will keep you strong and stable, but mainly prevent you from serious injuries.

On top of that you’ll set yourself up for a more efficient practice:  when doing more advanced combinations like going from a side bend back to a straight one arm you will not have to change your shoulder position. If you constantly have to change between sinking into your shoulder for range of motion, and pushing out tall for straight handstands you will get very unstable since there will a lot more movement.

Stretching for Sidebends

Stretching the side to achieve deep side bends is difficult because it is hard to actually identify what and how to stretch it. 

The exercises provided here are a collection of movements that I have learned and collected over the past 10 years of side bending. Generally I have realised that the easiest and most efficient way to stretch your sides is while being in a handstand. When doing these exercises it is absolutely crucial that you’re warm and stay warm. I can not stress that enough. Unless you’re in a super warm gym I really do not recommend training topless for side bends. A seized or cramped up back can happen easily and will put you off training and normal life for multiple days.

If your sides are not yet flexible enough to perform deep side bends I recommend you to train them anyways but put special attention on proper technique. Only by doing them and by doing them right they will improve. Over time you will go a little deeper , and then even more and get a feel for the right spot to bend.

Ok let’s dive in.

If you don’t have a solid one arm handstand yet, only work on the warm-up and the first two exercises that are either in standing or sitting position. Start by incorporating these drills every 2 days at first, and make sure to listen to your body and always focus on correct technique. And (!) warm up properly before doing these – doing a routine like the Germinator Heat-up routine is great as a warm up. 

Warm-Up Exercise

Do: 2x 4-8 each side.
Start by interlacing your hands above your head. Push out tall – you shouldn’t be able to hear because your shoulders are covering your ears. Lock out your elbows and knees at all time. As you bend side to side, don’t twist but stay in one line.

Exercise #1 - Fall Side Stretch

Do: 2x 30seconds each side

Find the right distance and position to the wall first. If you are standing too close to it, you will feel it in the outside of your hips. Same as with the warm-up exercise you want to stay in line and not twist.

Exercise #2 - Sitting Side Stretch

Do: 2x 30seconds each side

Try getting your shoulder on the floor just in front of the leg and reaching far in front with the bottom hand. Look up to the ceiling, but not too far so that your whole upper body twists. If possible grab and pull on ankle with free arm.

Exercise #3 - Side Stretch in Assisted Handstand

Do: 4x 10seconds each side

I always found this the best way to stretch the sides, in a handstand. Make sure you use the wall more for balance, If you can’t do a one arm this is probably not for you yet and you should stick to the previous exercises until your one arms have become more solid.

Extend your supporting elbow fully, push tall out of your shoulder – we are stretching the sides not something somewhere in your shoulder joint. Try and keep your head close to your shoulder. 

This one is not only good for stretching the sides but also to practice right flag technique and right side bending for flag. Make sure you push out of the shoulder and analyse where you’re bending etc. It is vital for any further steps.

Exercise #4 - Endurance Flag Holds

Do: 4x 10seconds each side

Be aware this exercise is very advanced! Be super careful with that one not to injure yourself!! Make sure your position is right. All the cues from the previous exercises apply here as well. Push tall out of your shoulder and keep your elbow fully extended. And try to keep your shoulder close to your ear. Only bend in your sides!

As always if you have any questions, drop a comment below or reach out via IG! If you give these a try tag @coachbachmann and let us see! 

Stay healthy & happy handstanding

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