The Weakest Link.

In my limited experience of both learning new movements and continuing to increase the quality of others already gained, I have found that of foremost importance is locating the weak link. And with confidence in my straddle handstand press continually growing, it’s time to put in on the back-burner so that I can focus on the more lacking elements of the stalder press.

Mobility comes before ability.

I can’t remember from who I first heard this but I think it is the perfect maxim for training toward any new movement. For the stalder press, I believe the weakest link is my straddle hold. But it’s not that simple – we have to break it down further.

If you can’t get yourself into the position in the beginning for lack of mobility, you’re not going to be able to do it. Simple. But mobility is not the same as flexibility, and this becomes glaringly apparent when considering one of the most basic and fundamental floor gymnastics moves (which I still can’t do) – the straddle l-sit hold.

‘Flexibility refers to moving a joint passively through a range of motion, compared to mobility which is being able to move a joint actively through a range of motion.’ What this means is that whilst I have the flexiblity to just about achieve a full pancake (sitting in straddle and leaning forward with flat lower back until chest touches the floor), I’m unable to hold my legs in the air in this straddle position for lack of strength in my quadriceps and hip-flexors; I cannot express my passive flexibility for lack of my active flexibility. So here’s how I’m trying to solve that chestnut…

Firstly, pancakes! No, not the carb-filled kind – the loaded stretching kind:

To be honest, I haven’t really put a specific routine in place at the moment (you can see here for bodyweight pancakes I’m just mixing between isometric holds, some band assisted and small ballistic-ish repetitions for a couple minutes at a time. I’ll do about 4/5 sets of this. I also spend a good hour once a week on loaded passive stretching (weight-plate assisted) for pancakes, jefferson curls, front splits, side splits and sometimes a butterfly stretch.

I’m really having trouble getting my chest to the floor with a flat back, although I feel it getting better. I can feel my gracilis like an iron rod in this position whilst my hamstring are not at full tension so I think this could be a main problem, and seeing as gracilis has its insertion basically at the bottom of your ass bones (very tech here) I assume it’s forcing lumbar curvature? That’s my theory anyway…

Compress! Compress! Compress!!!

After this bodyweight ‘loaded’ stretching (not sure how true that is) I work on active flexibility with floor exercises to strengthen the areas of my quadriceps and hip flexors required to hold whatever passive flexibility I actually do have in position:

Whilst I believe a major weak link in achieving the stalder press is my passive flexibility in order to achieve the initial straddle, I also need the strength to be able to hold whatever flexibility I do have in a straddle position- to compress my thighs as close to my chest as possible. So this is what I’m doing to help increase strength in my quadriceps and hip-flexors for that active flexibility. I know it’s really basic but I’ve just started and I need to research more movements to achieve and hold this ‘compression’.

I am, however, very happy with this tiny amount of progress. A few months ago I was hardly able to lift my legs from the floor in a generously leaned-back position with palms barely on the floor, let alone perform and iso-hold (I would immediately cramp and it was that horrible pain you’ll know about if you’ve been a beginner in this active flexibility position!)

The next step will be increasing the lean forward… forward… forward… and compress… compress… compress…

Lastly, I’ve also been working on the half-press motion itself (the generous quarter), however I’m going to use it more as a gauge of how far my increasing mobility is bringing me to achieving the movement. The elevation allows me to modestly experience the transition without (yet) actually having the required mobility to clear the ground, and also build strength in this low transition which doesn’t get worked when I’m doing normal handstand presses.

So that’s everything. The reason for the two-part post is because I just wanted to outlay a firm foundation of what the goal is, what I’m doing, and where I hope to go, and it seems to include quite a lot just for this move! But the great thing is that my path to the stalder is allowing me to focus on a lacking mobility issue which I otherwise wouldn’t be dedicating so much time to. The mobility required for the stalder press really is an asset to the generalilst mover. It has such great transferability to other skills and movement patterns and I know it will be an asset allowing me to discover and express new movements previously hidden for lack of mobility in these vital areas.


Coincidentally, just after finishing this post, Daniel over at Fitness FAQ’s (brilliant channel) posted video of how he achieved his first stalder press, and I will definitely be stealing some of his exercises to achieve mine! Nice video and worth a watch: