Handstand training is about more than putting your hands on the ground and kicking your feet over your head, hoping to hold the position for as long as you can. There are key insights you need to get the most progress from each handstand practice session, and this article will give you two of them…
Two Keys To Better Handstand Training
In addition to needing enough mobility, strength, and control, to hold yourself in the handstand, you also need to train your brain. Your brain is doing a lot of processing to help you get into the handstand and hold it. And if you understand a few important things about how your brain processes information regarding movement, you’re likely to make better and faster progress in your handstand.
Map It Out
You have something in your brain called “cortical maps”. These are collections or areas of neurons, each one dedicated to the movement, position, and health, of your body parts.
Things like your hands, lips, and feet, get more of the ‘real estate’ on the map because they have more innervation of sensory input than other areas of your body. But you can also intentionally increase the detail of the maps by bringing attention to the areas you want to improve.
This is why training the specific components, or building blocks, of a handstand is so important. When you do training drills that focus solely on one part of the body – fingers, wrists, shoulders, ribcage, pelvis, toes – you’re not only building strength and mobility there, you’re also able to improve your brain’s map of that area.
This is especially true when you use cues that build body awareness. More on that in the next section…
Put It Together In Your Handstand Training
Movement requires that your brain process a lot of information and do it quite quickly. Research in the field of how to coach movement has shed light on valuable tools for enhancing the learning environment for your brain so that you can make better, faster, progress.
Here are two tips for bringing the research on learning environments and your brain into your handstand practice:
1. Coaching cues are things like “point your toes” and “squeeze your thigh”. There are two kinds of coaching cues – external cues and internal cues. One is more useful for your handstand practice, and the other tends to be more useful when doing training drills.
External cues work more effectively than internal cues when doing complex motor tasks, acquiring a skill, and multi-segmental motion, amongst other things. So you want to use these when practicing your handstands.
Here is an example of of Kirsty teaching the handstand with external cues:
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The focus on a balloon pulling you upward is a fantastic cue, and you’ll hear many more cues like that when training handstands with Kirsty.
Now, this doesn’t mean that internal cues are all bad or never work though!
Internal cues seem to work better for improving body awareness and cortical mapping in the brain. The drills for each building block of a handstand, where you are focusing on one part of your body to teach it work better, are just the place to include internal cues, like “squeeze your glutes”.
Do yourself a favor and learn how to maximize the learning environment for your brain. You’ll get more out of each time that you practice handstands! And if you want to start building your handstand, pick up our Handstand Building Blocks Program. It’s the way to get a tailored approach to your handstand training.