In chiropractic, gymnastics, injury rehab, sports performance, sports therapy

This is last post in the 4-part series on overhead work and handstands.
The first three posts on limitations of handstand work, range of motion and strength (find here, here and here) all highlight that when overhead work or handstands are done without the prerequisite range of motion, strength and coordination, the risk of injury is increased.


As I have said before, this doesn’t mean that you will not be able to do overhead work like handstands without the required strength, range of motion and coordination. It just means that when there is a lack of optimal range of motion, strength and coordination there is compensatory effects, and risk of injury, in the wrists, low back, neck and of course the shoulders (as seen in the first post).

I have spent the first three posts showing you why injury can develop, then systematically addressing the steps to gain the optimal functioning within your shoulders for overhead and handstand work to avoids these injuries. There are 3 steps to get yourself to the point where you have optimal functioning:
1. Gain the appropriate range of motion in the joint
2. Strengthen in the full range of motion of the joint
3. Develop motor coordination in the end ranges

The third step is what we will look at today.


Once you have gained the required range of motion passively needed for the skill you wish to execute, in this case overhead work or handstands, you then need to strengthen the full range of motion. For some gymnasts this is where the Gold is!! Having a lot of range of motion passively (as you would gain through stretching) is common in gymnastics. However, what is uncommon in gymnastics and in most people, is the ability to have strength in the full range of motion you have the flexibility in.


As an example, try this: While sitting with one leg out, bend your upper body towards your knee as is done when doing a hamstring stretch. How low do you go? Now sit upright and try to lift the leg off the ground, do you get as close to your face as you did when you stretched? I am willing to bet 99.9% of you this won’t be able to.








That is what I am referring to as gaining the appropriate strength. It doesn’t matter that you have the flexibility to have your arms over your head if you can’t, with your own volition, control your arms in those ranges. If you can’t actively raise your arms to that point (with good form obviously) then you won’t be able to hold your arm there. It is the same muscles at work in both cases.

Because of this, the most critical step is gaining that strength. I gave you one way you can start gaining that strength.

Once you have gained that strength, the next step is to be able to develop coordination. By coordination I mean the ability to have good synergy between all of the different muscles that are responsible for having your arm actively raised to the point needed to do a handstand. Not a single movement in the body is done with just a single muscle. EVERY movement requires coordinated activation of several muscle fibres from several different muscles. EVERY movement requires coordinated activation in multiple angles of that movement.
Every time you get into a handstand, or do any overhead lift, your shoulder joint and the associated muscles and joints that act synergistically, activate and move in a slightly different way. That means that strengthening through the same plane of motion, doing the same exercises over and over, will not equate to having strength in all planes!!

That is where this third step comes in. As you can see in this video, the goal is to actively work through the end ranges of motion we are trying to strengthen through in different ways and angles.

For handstand work, here is one exercises you can do:

  1. Lay down on your stomach with your chin tucked in and neck in a neutral position (may want to put pillow under forehead) and place 3 to 4 blocks or objects on the ground to your side.
  2. Have both hands extended out with palms down.
  3. Tighten core and lift up as high as you can and move hand over the various blocks/object then slowly lower down.
  4. Then turn hand so that your thumbs are pointing up and lift up and keep trying to lift as high as you can as you go over the second block. Turn your palms down and slowly lower.
  5. Finally lift up as high as you can and lift over fourth block while rotating thumbs down and then lower down.

This next video I will show you another exercise.

1. Lay face down once again but this time hold a light weight stick in your hand

2. Lift up as high as you can while you maintain tension in your core so that you don’t arch your back.

3. Then, while lifting up, bring the stick towards the back of head, if possible with good form and no pain in the bottom of head

4. Then straighten arms back out.


These are a couple of exercises you can start off doing, but there are countless different ways you can go about doing this. There is creativity allowed!!

These posts have been mostly about handstands and overhead work, but the principles can be used in other areas of the body with the right direction and execution.

My recommendation as always is to be assessed and directed by a professional. That way you ensure you don’t injure yourself trying not to injure yourself (if you get what I mean).

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me

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