This video was taken in May 2013. What is said is perhaps not so interesting or useful, but what it does perfectly is captures a turning point in many years of hard and consistent, albeit dogmatic, training.

At that time I had been training as a bodybuilder (hypertrophy & strict diet) for around eight years. I had been a successful personal trainer in Australia and planned to compete in my first competition at any point…

But I wasn’t a bodybuilder. No matter how hard I tried, both my physique and mentality would not allow themselves to be given over completely to the sport. At my uppermost plateau I reached 75KG at 172cm tall with 9% body-fat – I was far from satisfied, and remained continually unfulfilled. Something was lacking. It was either something so small that I had to keep digging this hole deeper and deeper to find it, or so huge that I’d have to admit I was blind if I had any chance of finally realising what is was. A large part of me prayed it was the former.

During an Australian summer of 2012 (that puts us around December-time) I noticed a girl walking happily along the length of the long, mirror-lined fitness studio.

On her hands.

The interesting thing was, I could actually walk on my hands as well. Or at least, I knew I had done it a few times before. But could I still do it now? If anyone had asked, I would have said ‘yeah, I can do a handstand. I mean… I’m pretty sure I can do a handstand. Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve done it before…’

I introduced myself. She was a gymnast. She trained three hours a day here in the gym, then three hours in the evening at gymnastics. I was tempted to ask where she got all her time from; after all, I was only managing 90 minutes 4 x per week, and that was me “flat out”. Bust as a side-note, if you’re destroying yourself with intense hypertrophy and strength training that probably is the upper limits of your physical threshold – for at least the 90% of the population that aren’t gladiatorial mutants, anyway.

I asked for some hand-balance tips and she happily gave them – ‘strengthen your wrists… kick up with straight legs… keep your toes pointed… keep your shoulders shrugged and push through the floor… shoulders to your ears… use your fingers for balance… keep your stomach, glutes, thighs tight…’.

I trained these alien techniques (and their more alien orientation) nearly every day, and within a month I walked the length of the studio and found my point-of balance in a handstand for all of two seconds. The shock of delight from such an achievement I had dreamed of since childhood gymnastic classes sent me hurting to the ground, but I rose with a smile. Meanwhile, she took her handstand walking up and down boxes, in on-the-spot circles, lifted her legs gracefully from the floor into the handstand position without a kick or slightest bend at the knees.

“It’s called a handstand press,” she told me, rubbing the sweat from her forehead back into her hair, tightening it into the bun behind, “you need to have strong shoulders to do it. But not like weight-lifting shoulders; you need shoulders you can lean on and they don’t break.” That was a new idea. I had never imagined my shoulders ‘breaking’.  When you reach failure on a set of heavy military press your shoulders don’t feel like they’re going to break – they just don’t bloody move, no matter how hard you try, how much you bounce it from the chest, how much you cheat from the knees.

I took myself into what I felt to be this “handstand press” position.

“Lean forward more.”

I took half a step toward my hands.

“More.”

Another stretched step.

“More.”

I felt my hamstrings tighten, lumbar begin to curve and wrists twinge under a worrying amount of strain.

“Okay! So now your shoulder are just about in front of your hands. Now push through the shoulders and…. lift!”

Despite taking the liberty of a slight hop from the ground my arms crumbled in a flail of loose knees and ankles before hitting 90 degrees. The pain.

My shoulders felt like they would break.

There was a lot of work to do.

hspress fail
January 2013… not quite a handstand press yet…
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