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This is the third of four blog posts about handstands and doing overhead exercises. I suggest that you read the first two posts on being able to improve your ability to perform overhead work and handstands safely and efficiently first.
You can visit those two posts here and here. I know it will take some time to do that, but starting a story in the middle will not allow you to fully appreciate it (for those Game of Thrones fans, imagine you started watching in season 5 and missed seasons 1-4!!!).


As I mentioned in the previous posts doing work with arms overhead, whether in a standing position and lifting or doing pull ups, or in a handstand position, you require a certain range of motion within your shoulder complex. You need to have strength and coordination to get your arms overhead and keep them there while in a handstand.

The first aspect that is needed however is the range of motion. You need to have the ability to have the tissue resiliency, also called flexibility, to be able to get your arms overhead WITHOUT compensation elsewhere. Just having the flexibility is not enough.

In gymnastics, it is common for gymnasts to have flexibility as flexibility training is a staple of gymnastics. However, having the strength to move your arm in the position overhead is different than having flexibility. As you can see in the picture below, there is ample flexibility in this elite gymnast when I raise his arm. However, when he has to move his arm up to the height I was able to take it he wasn’t able to, you can see that he lacks the strength needed to raise is arms through the full range he has flexibility.
In fact, for gymnasts, not having acquired strength through the ranges that they have flexibility in is the biggest weak link in preventing injuries AND increasing their performance.


Please understand that this doesn’t mean that this gymnast, or anyone else for that matter, will not be able to do a handstand. What it does mean however, as you saw in the first picture on the first post on handstands, that if strength is lacking it may lead to compensatory impacts on other tissues that COULD and OFTEN do lead to injuries. As well, with that compensation the body is less able to fully perform (think of a bicycle wheel that is missing 3 out of the 8 spokes, over time it will bend and will not allow you to go fast, even if you really try hard!!).


Thus it is critical that once you have gained the range of motion required, you then work on strengthening your tissues to support that new range of motion that you have gained. If you already have the range of motion, I suggest you work on gaining strength through the full range of motion.

Improving strength, in particular through the range you don’t have strength like the end range in the gymnast pictured above, starts with improving the neural drive in those ranges. Improving the neural drive means improving your nervous systems ability to activate the tissues at those ranges.

In this video you can see me talking through one technique that you can use. Essentially, you will use isometric contractions to increase strength little by little in a safe yet effective way. As well, using these isometric contractions, you can override the barriers your own nervous system puts in place for you to get your arms to these new ranges on your own ACTIVELY.


The initial steps in gaining strength is to work on those ranges you don’t have strength in yet, the end ranges of a motion. With this simple, safe, and very effective approach you can begin to gain strength.

There is however another step, and an important one; developing coordination.
At these new ranges you have gained strength in, you need to introduce more coordinated and integrated motion to allow the other muscles involved to develop  synergy with one another.

But lets go step by step. Practice this first exercise everyday. You should notice more and more gains!!

Stay tuned for the next step where you will learn the final step, and I put it all together for you in easy to follow step by step guide!

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