In January, 2013, I had never heard or used ‘training’ and ‘dogma’ in the same sentence, and I wouldn’t until a few years later. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel it. I sure as hell felt it.
But what is a training dogma? Essentially: specialisation. Over-specialisation ultimately leads to neglect which leads to inefficiency which leads to injury and failure. Of course some forms of training are more specialised than others, but dogma still remains. Of course if you train with a goal in mind, it is impossible not to have a dogma. Movement training, however, encourages it’s students to educate and grow under as wide a dogma as possible. It is a generalist training philosophy in which each person must interrogate and develop all aspects of their own individual physicality toward the most generalist of goals: to become a better mover.
The problem is – how do you ‘escape’ your dogma?
It’s not only the physical challenges or even the mental challenges, namely dealing with being a beginner again having to learn a whole new set of skills – but that’s the more tangible stuff you have to deal with on a daily basis. No, there’s something much deeper than that, the kind of stuff that is more likely to keep you up at night and experiencing some level of emotional turmoil consistently throughout the days, weeks, months…years. Its the losing faith in all the hard work that you’ve done, the sinking feeling that everything you’ve been doing all that time has been – well – wrong.
I guess that’s the main feeling.
My transition away from hypertrophy, aesthetic-oriented training (or, basically, bodybuilding) was very slow, but it was definitely hand-balance that gave me my first foot… or… err… ‘hand’ hold. Hand balance was a complete inversion of bodybuilding goals and principles in so many ways, and yet it’s was something that wouldn’t offend my masculinity so much as something like yoga (yes, bodybuilding is steeped in masculinity of the hyperbolic kind – perhaps the most damaging type of masculinity there is, one in which yoga is strictly for women and men who don’t want to build muscle, in which case men that we had absolutely nothing in common with). Hand balance was still cool, because, well, everyone loved handstands, right? So if you’ve build a muscle or two aaaand you can do a handstand, then you’re a small phenomenon (at least in your local gym).
So hand-balance it was. I made time in my oh-so-busy hypertrophy schedule to jump onto my hands. One thing I did not do, however, was static handstands against a wall. I felt this was a waste of time, because hey, if I could already hold a handstand for a few seconds why regress? I had no idea about correct handstand form (more on this in a later post). Hands on the floor, feet in the air, right? Jeeze the clue is in the name… stand on your hands… don’t complicate it…
After holding a handstand for a few seconds with no control, the next logical step in my equilibre-uneducated mind was to get up on some waist-height parallettes (those yellow ones you might see gathering dust in the corner of a ‘forward-thinking’ gym) and do the handstands on there. It definitely looked cooler, jumping up from a bench into a 2 second handstand an doing a little twirl off. I actually earned a couple extra personal training clients because of this. Everything was going great.
But now I had a new goal. I had walked the length of the hall that I had first seen the gymnast girl do the month before, so now it was time for something involving a bit more strength (back into my comfort zone). So I continued with trying to lift my legs into the handstand position (I had never heard of a ‘handstand press as the time’) and also thought (in my logical bodybuilding mind) that the best way to strengthen my handstand was by doing as many handstand pushups as possible against the wall.
These were results – the first ever documentation of my training taken 6-8 weeks after I first started what I then called “hand-balance” practice. It was January 2013, and on a hot summer’s day in Newcastle, Australia, I sweated all over my front-room floor, with no clue in hell what I was doing.
See below or the video notes for an analysis of form.
The video immediately betrays many of the restrictions of my then condition:
Flattened lower back and severely bent knees (all required simply for my body to get into the starting position!) pointed to flexibility/mobility issues with iliopsoas, hamstrings, and erector spinae muscles.
The fact of my ‘jumping’ into the press revealed the weakness of my shoulders in this ‘loaded’ position. My reluctance to lean further forward over my hands (which actually makes the press easier) revealed both wrist weakness as well as a mental reluctance for fear of this unfamiliar position.
The ‘closed’ position of my shoulders (as opposed to the favoured ‘open’ position for optimal handstand alignment), suggested tighness in the lats, perhaps also rear deltoids and into the triceps.
An anterior pelvic tilt resulted in the ‘banana’ shape of my handstand, and the ultimate reason for the first handstand fail. This element of my handstand form is something I would not realise, and begin correction on, until around three years later.