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Animal Style: Human

Function Begets Form

me_lsitrock

The more I see it, the more intrigued I become by it. We as people have had a historical passion for observing animals in nature, and why not? Animals are fascinating, and remind us of a time when we were once animals too.

 

But wait, are we not? We often observe the movement patterns of a bear or tiger to grasp and understand its strength, but how often do we truly attempt to analyze the movement tendencies of the animal human?

 

After all, there are many things that the human has incredible capabilities to do that are impeded by our sedentary lifestyles, so analyzing our own movement patterns couldn’t hurt. Sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day only serves to shorten your hip flexors and reduce your mobility in low and full squat stances. Walking with shoes on reduces the activation of your tibialis muscle and restricts the pronation of your step.

 

The male stigma to walk without swinging your hips so as not to look feminine often weakens the ability to internally rotate their hips. When you swing your arm, the short head of your biceps automatically wants to bring your hand to your shoulder, as if to accommodate the motion of swinging through trees.

 

How to do the One Hand Handstand by Professor Orlick
ow to do the One Hand Handstand on Amazon

There are so many intricacies of human movement that can be explored. Perhaps, in a sense, martial artists and gymnasts explore animal movement as a human, but attuning to the movement patterns of the average person seeking above average functionality, there should be a greater emphasis on understanding the true structure of the human body to unlock the blessings of its movement.

 

After all, one of the core principles of biology is that function begets form. The structure of a thing is based principally upon its intended function in the biology of the organism. Therefore, why not truly delve into the functions of the human anatomy and train them to form?
Don’t get me wrong. You are not a bear, so your human structure will still benefit in a human way from doing bear crawls, and the benefits forthwith are truly remarkable. Nevertheless, expressing the beauty of the human function in tandem would be a welcome and liberating change of pace. 

Truly take the time to understand the function of your body, explore it, and watch the beauty of its form break free.

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Why Do You Want Do A Handstand?

laohb_banner

I’m genuinely curious and would love to know, from all of you.

Why do you want to do a handstand? Why do you seek a handstand pushup, planche, or vault? What about seeing a tiger pushup makes you avidly want to do it?

 

I’m curious because everyone has different reasons for their goals, and hand balancing is a rather particular goal. You will have few reasons throughout your day to day life to walk on your hands, unless your legs spontaneously lost their mobility. Furthermore, it’d be a stretch of the imagination to consider that everyone reading this post seeks an illustrious career doing hand balancing stunts for Cirque du Soleil.

Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups
Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups on Amazon

 

Then why? What reason would the average person have to do a handstand? I can think of a few myself.

 

For starters: let’s be honest, showing off to your friends or family is a driving motivation for some people to want to achieve a handstand. Which, hey, if your desire for spotlight brings you to movement mastery or motivates someone else toward it, I’ll say that motivation is sufficient.

 

Then there are the strength seekers. Hand balancing mastery displays a level of physical strength beyond the reach of the day laborer, a level of commitment to a lifestyle in physical culture. Your pressing power, your sense of balance, your grip strength, and even your vitality and health will benefit from hand balancing like few other things will do.

 

Perhaps someone that you admire and were inspired by gave you the motivation to achieve a handstand. Why then? To pass on the torch of inspiration that you now wield? To simply achieve a physical goal that may have eluded you for a long time? To prove to yourself that you can accomplish what you commit to?

 

Well, with all that said, I’ll present this question: why did I want to do a handstand? What desire did I have to achieve hand balancing mastery?

 

I’d like to answer this question with another question: why didn’t I want to train my ability to fly? Why didn’t I see a bird in the sky, then spend every moment of my waking life flapping my arms at incredible speeds to try and take off into the sunset?

 

The answer, of course, is that humans can’t fly like that. It isn’t possible.

 

So why did I want to do a handstand? Because it was possible. Further than that, it was NATURAL. I don’t mean in the sense that I perfected the handstand from the moment I tried, but that the ability to do a handstand is naturally within our physiology. We can achieve it if we seek to regain the kind of strength that we possessed as natural hunters, nomads, and movers.

 

I know that a handstand can be done, and if someone else can do it, why not I? If I can do it, why not you?

 

What is your reason for wanting to do a handstand?

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Swinging for Primal Harmony

Reclaim your origins

Reclaim your origins

I know you feel it.

The blood flowing through your veins, calling, begging your body to return to the glory that was intended for it at birth. You can look at yourself and see the beauty of your own design: hands made not only for intricate processes like tool use and development, but for incredible pinching and crushing strength. Shoulders that can stabilize as well as they mobilize, attached to scapulae with 17 different tendons connected to transfer muscle power very efficiently. Your body was made for the beauty of brachiation, and it’s only fair that you reclaim your birthright.

What Is Brachiation?

Even without knowing much about the character, if I say “Tarzan”, you likely think of a wild man pounding his chest and swinging from vines. Well brachiating is just that: having the ability to swing on vines, branches, and whatever our hands can manage.

Swinging may not be something you recognize as a birthright as you would, say, bipedal movement, but if you think about it, jungle gyms and playgrounds almost always have an element that allows kids to do what they naturally enjoy: swinging. (They aren’t called monkey bars for nothing)

Swinging is critical to overall shoulder health. Gymnasts and traceurs swing often in their training, and you never hear of them suffering from a frozen shoulder joint, yet that problem plagues numerous trainees in the fitness industry. We often try to substitute by doing supplementary exercises to ease into mobility, but there are so few exercises that can encompass the benefits of the whole body dynamic nature of swinging

This is simple enough: find a bar, rope, or some other hanging element that you’re comfortable grabbing, and simply practice swinging back and forth, 20 swings forward and back. Doing this simple thing daily will start to make an incredible change in your mobility and grip strength in as little as a month. As you progress, practice swinging with only one arm, then practice reducing fingers and so on.

Shoulder Dislocates

Okay, this isn’t as painful as it sounds. No, the key to reconnecting with your original movement pattern is not forcefully popping your shoulder out of its socket.

However, the kind of mobility and strength toward both hand balancing and bar workouts that you get from training controlled shoulder dislocates is phenomenal. I’d argue that any and everyone seeking true movement mastery should add this one exercises to their repertoire.

Cue the video instruction, courtesy of our friends at GMB.

 

This can also be done with a towel. If you have the mobility to bring the towel or broomstick all the way down to your lower back, do so, but don’t rush or force the process. Your body has been programmed by years of immobile practices, so truly recovering your full mobility will be a progressive but worthy process.

 

In other words: reclaim the primal, primate strength that you deserve, and swing, baby, swing.

Learn How to Back Flip in 31 Days
Learn How to Back Flip in 31 Days on Amazon
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Conor McGregor Movement Training

conor mcgregor nate diaz

Photo courtesy of mmajunkie.com

Tonight is the long awaited night: the two powerful welterweights Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor will go at it for the second time in a fierce battle to prove the stronger welterweight once and for all at UFC 202.

While Nate Diaz won the last bout and proved himself a much more patient and strategic fighter in their first bout, Conor McGregor seems to have honed his focus and sought more patience in this fight.

What, then, has he sought in his training?

It may make more sense to say whom. Ido Portal is an Israeli movement expert who seeks to find a union between strength, conditioning, and technique. We’ll get to see below the ways that Ido sought to blend the three together for Conor in his next bout, as he helped Mcgregor attain the physical shape to defeat the legendary Jose Aldo in a mere 13 seconds. (He has trained other MMA fighters as well, like Alberto Mina.)

Ido Portal Method

Conor Mcgregor continually hones his striking. Both his fists and feet are fierce weapons in the ring, both thus far unmatched in the 145 weight class. But he has focused on training that truly boosts his mobility in the ring, training with complex and bouncy animal movements and different movement chains that engage the tendons and ligaments, boost proprioception, and aid the utilization of full body power in fight situations.

Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups
Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups on Amazon

Here is a video of some of the movement training that McGregor did with Ido Portal as he trained for his last fight. I’d say more people understand how important body movement is for overall health and functionality. Are you one of them? If so, watch this video and try out some of the movements for yourself. I truly believe that you’ll discover patterns and freedom of movement that will get your body singing.

And tonight, may the best man win!

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Dynamic Tension Hindu Pushups

 

Pushups. Something so simple and yet so versatile, so progressive yet so intense, a pushup is one of the ultimate multifaceted tools of hand balancing mastery.

Of this multifaceted tool, this variation is one of my personal favorite pushups: the Hindu pushup.

 

Also known as a dand, this is a full body workout; with one simple exercise, you can work the shoulders, back, arms, legs, and chest. Not only that, but the mind muscle connection that you gain from honing your technique through the movement will help your body very quickly return to its natural state of absolute strength.

Walking and Jumping On Your HandsWalking and Jumping On Your Hands on Amazon

Now, this exercise was used often by Indian wrestlers like the famous Great Gama to develop incredible strength, mobility, and power. Now, add to that the intensity of a dynamic tension workout, flexing the appropriate muscles from the start to the finish of your training, and you’ve got a phenomenal workout.

Dynamic tension has been used to strengthen tendons, muscles, and nerves in so many physical arts through history that it almost seems like adding it to a Hindu pushup was meant to be.

Additionally, if you want to increase the intensity of your workout even more, do a dynamic tension Hindu pushup on your fingertips and engage the power of your grip strength. For the truly adventurous, using a weight vest will take the intensity of the pushup to a whole new level.

Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

This is an exercise that is not for the faint-hearted. This is an advanced variation pushup, so take it slowly. As I say in the video, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

That goes not just for your movement speed during the exercise, but also the speed of your progression. There’s no need to rush, and no need to risk injury. Enjoy the training journey, keep it fun, and look forward to the incredible levels of strength that you acquire. Onward, and happy training to you all!

Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts on the variation.

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Bodyweight Strong 2.0 – Old School Strength

There are numerous bodyweight training programs that litter the fitness industry, but many of them target calorie burning with no attention to strength development. After all, the hand balancers of the past didn’t seek calorie programs — they sought strength, and they achieved it through bodyweight training.

For a man weighing 240lbs to do a one arm handstand, you need more than just a calorie burning program

For a man weighing 240lbs to do a one arm handstand, you need more than just a calorie burning program

 

After all, physical culture was loaded with men of incredible strength, so why create a program that wouldn’t allow the men of that time to match up to their counterparts? These were men who understood the importance of proper progression, so sought to increase, for instance, the difficulty of their pushups rather than how many they could do. If they could manage 100 pushups, they would elevate themselves or do one arm pushups to increase the difficulty, rather than just shooting for 200.

Furthermore, very few physical culturists emphasized training to failure. “Whoa, hold on, I was always taught for weightlifting to train to failure for the most gains.” Well let me tell you that Sig Klein, one of the most renowed weightlifters and bodyweight trainers in history, as well as Maxick, a master muscle controller with incredible lifting feats, never advocated training to failure.

Sig Klein is the kind of man you'd want to listen to about training

Sig Klein is the kind of man you’d want to listen to about training

When it comes to bodyweight training, you want your nervous system to be fresh and gain energy from workout to workout, rather than have it depleted. Thus, they focused on consistent, daily training, which would overly tax your nervous system if you trained to failure each time. In fact, the more you advance in bodyweight skill, the less you’ll want to train to failure to improve skill and prevent injury. Failing during, for instance, a handstand pushup wouldn’t quite have a Cinderella ending.

One of the main reasons that people have trouble doing a handstand is that they simply haven’t trained it enough. If your goal with a single handstand session is to feel the burn in your shoulders until they’re essentially numb, you’ll have a much more difficult time progressing with a handstand than if you practiced daily with consistent progression.

Body Weight Strong 2.0

Bodyweight training balances you as an athlete, and introduces you at a skill level that anyone can begin with — their own weight. If you can learn to truly master your own weight, your strength can skyrocket. In addition, you may not take your weight set everywhere, but you take your body everywhere, so the training convenience is bar none.

These legendary physical culturists knew the proper way to train bodyweight, and Forest Vance is the kind of man who understands old school bodyweight strength. Luckily for you, he has created a program with a contemporary understanding on classic strength philosophy. Plus, there’s thorough video instruction for you to follow every step of the way.

In basic terms, Body Weight Strong 2.0 can evolve your strength to reach incredible levels just as true bodyweight training should do.

Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups
Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups on Amazon
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Irradiate Your Path to Handstand Mastery

If you’ve ever been inside a gym, I’m sure you’ve seen it: the classic gym bro doing bicep curls, perhaps easily at first, but soon devolves into using practically his entire body to curl the weight.

Although personally, when I see a weight, curling it isn't my preference...

Although personally, when I see a weight, curling it isn’t my preference…

 

What you’re actually watching is the law of irradiation, one of the Sherrington laws. What it means, in essence, is that you can contract other muscles in your body to strengthen the one you’re applying force with. If you’d like to experiment with this, try tensing your glutes the next time you shake someone’s hand; you’ll find that your hands can actually apply more force with the handshake.

Let’s review the curling gym bro again. As he continues to do the bicep curls, his biceps get tired and lose their strength of contraction. To compensate, his abs, forearms, lats, glutes, and even feet start contracting in order to provide enough force to lift the weight — it’s an unconscious response.

The problem is that the form of the curl itself begins to look incredibly sloppy as he’s unconsciously recruiting other muscles.

Now, what does this mean for handstand training?

The Law of Irradiation for Handstands


Here’s a great video of Otto Arco doing hand balancing and muscle control (which is key for the LOI)

Well, the handstand is an exercise that largely focuses on the shoulders, triceps, lats, forearms, traps, scapular muscles, and your core. However, fully body tension is really needed to maintain proper handstand form. Part of the reason is that having relaxed muscles can throw off your balance with the exercises, but the other factor is that recruiting other muscle groups like your glutes, neck, calves etc. into the handstand will help the required muscles to contract stronger.

“But you said that contracting extra muscles ruined the curler’s form…” Therein lies the difference, unconscious muscle recruitment vs. conscious muscle recruitment.

See, if that bicep curler had muscle control, and could consciously choose to flex other muscles to compensate, he could do so without affecting his form. That way, he wouldn’t lose the benefit on his biceps, and would also increase the benefit to other muscle groups and his overall muscle control.

Walking and Jumping On Your HandsWalking and Jumping On Your Hands on Amazon

The same goes for handstand training. If you’re able to consciously recruit different muscles to develop your overall strength in the handstand, you can help to both maintain your form and develop muscle control. Sig Klein, Otto Arco, and Maxick, who are all legendary hand balancers, knew the importance of muscle control and the law of irradiation in training, and used both to their advantages.

Try it out: develop your muscle control, and boost your progress with the law of irradiation.

Then, if you want to try more advanced moves like the handstand pushup, you’ll be more prepared.

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How A Handstand Can Maximize Your Muscle

Using 100% of Your Muscle

What does it mean to maximize your muscle? Well, when you witness incredible strength from someone with the average man’s amount of muscle, how is it explained?

Let’s take, for instance, Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is probably the most recognizable figure for a lean man whose strength far surpassed the sum of his parts. He was and is heralded for having sinewy strength, or powerful tendons and ligaments, which boosted the strength of his muscle.

bruce lee handstand

Even Bruce Lee knew the benefits of handstand training

The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing
The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing on Amazon

 

Now Dennis Rogers is known as the Grandmaster Strongman in the physical culture world, and is pound for pound one of the strongest men on the planet.

After displaying his incredible strength on Stan Lee’s Superhumans, despite weighing about 150lbs and possessing overall average muscle mass, the researchers determined that he was able to activate more of his muscle strength than most of the population; they came to the same conclusion for Chad Netherland, the man with more Guinness World Records in martial arts than anyone else in the world.

Finally, Shifu Yan Lei is a 34th generation Shaolin monk who opened a training facility in the UK. Compared to many of the other rather lean monks, Shifu Yan Lei appears muscular, albeit well into his 30’s. The power of his Iron Shirt technique (which allows his body to absorb powerful blows with minimal damage) was tested by researchers, and the results were quite interesting: although he had roughly the same muscle mass as an Olympic rower, his muscle had much more elasticity than the rower’s muscles.

Knowing this, I can’t help but relate his technique to that of Maxick (145lbs), a 20th century strongman and hand balancer who would have 200+lbs men climb a 7ft ladder and jump onto his abs. Court Saldo, who trained with Maxick and wrote a muscle control course with him, said of jumping onto his abs: “I bounced as if jumping on solid rubber!”

This is the kind of definition that proper hand balancing can help you develop

This is the kind of definition that proper hand balancing can help you develop

 

Handstand Training to Maximize Muscle

Sinewy strength, muscle activation, and elasticity. Maximizing your muscle means accomplishing these three things in your training. Accomplishing these three things means having muscle control.

So addressing the main point, how will a handstand increase muscle control? Let’s break down the anatomy of a handstand: it involves your hands and wrists, forearms, triceps, shoulders, scapulae, chest, upper back, traps, neck, lower back, lats, core, and even your legs.

In order to maintain the handstand, all of these muscles have to be tense. Static contraction will progressively increase your muscle control, as will daily training, so to maximize your muscle strength with handstands:

  1. Daily Training: you will need to dedicate a bit of practice to your handstand training daily. Sinewy strength doesn’t develop as quickly as muscle strength, as the blood flow to your tendons and ligaments is smaller than the blood flow to your muscles. If you want to truly develop the strength of your sinews, you’ll need to train the handstand progressively and daily.
  2. Static contraction: You will need to focus in order to contract your entire body as you are training your handstands. A good way to build up to flexing your whole body is training progressions with dynamic tension. For instance, practice doing pike presses while flexing your shoulders, abs, traps, upper back, and chest. Flexing through the movement will not only increase the speed of your myelination (muscle memory), but also improve your muscle control for those groups.
  3. Elasticity: Maxick was a strong advocate of having elastic muscle, saying that even a flexed muscle should be somewhat rubbery. That will come with developed muscle control in your handstands. What is just as important as learning how to tense your whole body is also learning how and when to relax your muscles. The greater and deeper relaxation of your muscles will boost their true strength when the time comes to fully tense them.

Logan Christopher is a big advocate of handstand training, and as a strongman he personally knows the benefits of handstand training for overall strength, which is why he wrote a fantastic guide on learning to do handstand pushups for overall strength.

Check it out and watch as your strength reaches new heights!

 

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How To Do Thumb Pushups

I did it. I did five thumb pushups, and so can you.

I never thought I’d reach this goal, the kind of strength that only cartoon and comic book characters can flaunt.

The kind of strength that Bruce Lee inspired within me.

Bruce Lee doing a two thumb suspension on the set of Game of Death

Bruce Lee doing a two thumb suspension on the set of Game of Death

 

I first saw this picture of Bruce Lee when I began delving into my isometric training. I’d seen the one inch punch, the two finger pushup, and all manner of strength and training feats from Bruce Lee…but somehow this one had slipped under my radar, and caught my interest more than any others.

I mean, I had seen others perform two finger pushups, and I had achieved some myself after training, but…

I had NEVER seen anyone balancing on their thumbs.

So I looked more into the feat. Apparently, a two thumb suspension was only the tip of the iceberg.

In 1980, Jim Arvanitis, the founder of Neo-Pankration, went on the Guinness Game World Records Show and performed a feat unmatched to this day. He performed 61 thumb pushups in 47 seconds.

A thumb suspension was certainly no walk in the park, but a thumb pushup was a whole new territory that I had previously never thought of exploring.

The flame was lit within me, and no matter what obstacles presented themselves, I was determined to achieve the thumb pushup.

Jim Arvanitis performing one of his famous thumb pushups, which he can also do with one thumb

Jim Arvanitis performing one of his famous thumb pushups, which he can also do with one thumb

 

Thus began my training journey, arduous and rather unique in its goals. Coupling some fingertip pushup variations with high intensity isometric training laid the foundation for my fingertip strength.

How To Do Thumb Pushups

 

How to do the One Hand Handstand by Professor Orlick
ow to do the One Hand Handstand on Amazon

Fingertip Pushup Variations

 

 

Fingertip pushup variations will be your best friends when it comes to having the strength to do a thumb pushup. Practice doing pushups on all your fingertips, removing a finger as your overall hand strength increases. I started with a 5-4-3-2-1 drill where I’d pushup with all my fingers, remove the pinkies, then the ring finger, etc. until I could hold the position on my thumbs at the 1.

Take it slow, because this is a skill that can easily cause injury if you try to speed through it. If you don’t feel safe removing fingers, continue to practice with all of your fingers, and progress slowly.

  • When you’re ready to take these progressions to the next level, elevate your feet on a chair and try the 5-4-3-2-1 pushup variations and hold the two thumb suspension at the 1

Grip Training

isometricgrip

Having a strong grip will do no wrong when it comes to preparing for any fingertip pushup variation. Train as many facets of your grip as you can. Your flexors and extensors should be trained equally, so exercises that involve an intense crush grip and powerful extension. Personally, isometric grip exercises are optimal when it comes to the overall ability to skyrocket grip strength in a short time, and ensure that the tendons in your fingers are strong enough to support you.

Especially when it comes to hand balancing, strengthening the tendons of your fingers are just as critical as strengthening the muscles of your forearms, so steady and progressive balancing training and isometric exercises with high intensity will make your training progress consistent and enduring.

One thing that I’d do often, as in the photo above, is grip a thick railing or table, thumbs on top, and squeeze my thumbs into the surface as hard as I can for 7-12 seconds, and repeat 8 times. Time under tension is an important factor of the exercise, so try to rest as little as you can between the 7-12 second reps, if at all.

 

Visualization

Logan Christopher often speaks on the importance of mental training to achieve your fitness goals, and it really applies for the thumb pushups. You will likely be ready for the pushups physically before you are ready for them mentally, at least that’s how it was for me.

The idea of doing such a feat was daunting to me, even when I believed I could achieve it.

Honestly, the first few weeks I tried, even after the training preparation, I still didn’t get it done.

Although I got the two thumb suspension down.

Although I got the two thumb suspension down.

 

But I sat down one time before training, I breathed deeply and steadily, and visualized the feat. I mentally felt the floor under my thumbs, felt the blood and tension running through my tendons, felt the cry of victory resonating in my chest after I finally achieved my goal.

I could see, hear, practically taste what that moment would feel like to finally do a thumb pushup.

And instead…I did five.

 

 

It’s no Jim Arvanitis feat, but it was a foundation that I was more than happy to start building from.

Frankly, I look forward to all of you building your foundations too.

 

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The Lucky Front Lever

frontlever

Today is Friday the 13th, universally heralded as one of the unluckiest days in history.

(Though it can still be a lucky day for you if you take advantage of Logan Christopher’s 31st birthday sale that ends today!)

When I think about my personal hand balancing training, I try to remove luck from the equation. After all, training should be about the strength and technique you develop from continued progression. Luck isn’t something you can replicate, it just happens.

Trampoline Handbook
Trampoline Handbook on Amazon

But sometimes luck is just what you need. It’s what I needed for my first front lever.

I was in the North dorm at UConn (University of Connecticut) and I was using the hallways as a gym of sorts. I would do pullups on the top lip of my door and handstand walks down the hallways.

On this occasion, as I was doing pullups, I heard a few friends of mine talking in the stairwell at normal volume, and then suddenly get quiet, which was rarely a good sign.

Call it a Spidey-Sense, but I just had the strong feeling that they were preparing to tackle me mid-pullup.

Just as I had the thought (mid-pullup, go figure) I heard sprinting sneakers preparing for a bull rush into my back.

If I got hit while I was pulling up, I would’ve gotten ripped off the door frame and maybe hit my head.

But if I let go, I’d still give them the satisfaction of tackling me, and I couldn’t have that.

In that moment, somehow, I tightened my lats, depressed and retracted my scapula, and executed a front lever in just enough time for my buddy to crash headlong into my desk.

I hadn’t trained the front lever with any consistency, and my progress up to that point had been spotty at best.

So I suppose I just got lucky. I needed that luck though, because I never forgot how my body felt when I performed a front lever, and it helped my progress thereafter.

Plus, it showed some creative practicality of hand balancing skill.

Still, the levers (front and back) are difficult skills that should be trained with focus and progression, and if you want progressions that will give you steady progress, look no further than the Front and Back Lever Training DVD.

Although I hope your motivation involves more personal progress and less tackles.

 

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