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"WOW, THAT'S AWESOME!"

AND THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT YOU

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Dynamic Dan: How Did He Learn How To Handstand Consistently?

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Dan Learning How to Handstand

Meet Dan, the full time nursing student who learned how to handstand. He now holds 15-second handstands consistently!

Dan is a busy guy.  He’s changing careers, is a full time student, and he likes to stay active.  He has been on the fitness scene for a while as a gym rat, kettlebell athlete and self-taught bodyweight trainee.

When Dan started learning how to handstand in March, he was cobbling together information from a few different sources, and trying to achieve solid, consistent handstand holds.  He made some good progress, and even learned how to try and kick up…but he couldn’t get his handstands to be more consistent!

Only on the rarest of occasions would he hold a freestanding handstand.  Aside from that, he couldn’t hold a handstand for even a few seconds.

It was frustrating, because he felt so close, yet so far.  And things stopped improving.

Then Dan started the 28-Day Handstand Challenge.

Dan saw a program from a trusted author that was getting rave reviews.  He saw others were making huge progress in learning how to handstand, so what did he have to lose?

He signed up for the challenge in July and worked just 5-minutes a day on his handstand holds.  He felt like he was finally progressing again.  The challenge was promoting consistency, fear conquering and super-simple progressions generate results.  All of this is crucial when trying to learn how to handstand.

After 28 days, he built the habit and was 100% sure that he was over his fears, but he was still lacking crucial elements of his technique.

Since he had such a good experience with the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, he didn’t have to look too far for the next steps – he knew where to find them. He bought my course, The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide without a second thought.

Within one day, I received this message from him, showing he was making huge progress in learning how to handstand:

I read Challenge #4 per your advice and I think I’m making a mini breakthrough already. I realized that I was jumping into the handstands which explained my inconsistencies with the kick ups. I am currently practicing The 4-Points Checklist and making sure that my kick up is smooth and controlled.

And exactly one month after that, I received another message, with valuable “How To Handstand” lessons for all newcomers:

I found out quickly that it was the small details that were eluding me. I was more muscling the handstand hold than relying on technique. And it’s through proper technique that more consistent and aesthetically pleasing handstands can be attained. My handstand ability improved more in the first few weeks of using this guide than it had in the previous 6 months of training. My handstands are far from perfect, but I now truly feel that my more advanced handstand goals are truly within reach.

Even though his handstand form isn’t perfect, Dan can consistently hold 15-second handstands. 

He made huge progress, learned how to handstand, and progress makes him feel successful.  Now, he feels empowered to pursue even more advanced goals because they actually feel within reach.

This is his story.

DAN’S STORY: LEARNING HOW TO HANDSTAND

Dan Learning How to Handstand

Chris:  Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Dan!  Let’s get this started – who are you and what do you do?

Dan: My name is Dan, and I am a 37 year old full time nursing student.

Chris: A full time student?  Sounds like a career change…does that keep you very busy?

Dan: It definitely keeps me very busy.  When I started using your methods to learn how to handstand, I was only doing the bare minimum of 5 minutes per day because of time constraints.

Chris: So were you too busy to work out at all before trying to learn how to handstand?

Dan: Well, a few years back I started off as a typical gym rat obsessed with typical gym rat lifts like the bench press and all that.  I eventually moved into kettle bell training, which led to bodyweight/gymnastics training.  I moved over to bodyweight-only training a few years ago after that discovery, and that’s when I found the 28-Day Handstand Challenge for learning how to handstand.

Chris: I see, so you wanted to learn how to handstand as part of your bodyweight/gymnastics training…

Dan:  It looked like a movement that was not only functional and fun, but attainable as well. But I was just…stuck.  I had decided to seriously tackle the handstand for about 6 months and I was regressing.  On rare occasions I could hold my handstand for 20 seconds, but it wasn’t consistent.  Some days it would go OK, then there would be several days where I could only hit a very shaky handstand once in every 10 attempts.  I couldn’t learn how to handstand consistently.  It was really frustrating.

Chris: It can be very frustrating to get stuck or hit a plateau in your training for so long.  How did you get over it?

Dan: When I was doing the handstands with no guidance or while using other materials, my consistency was nonexistent. I was just about to give up on it when I decided to do one last Google search for any tip, trick or product that might hold the “how to handstand” key. That’s when I stumbled upon your course.

Chris: You said that you were about to give up, then decided to do one last Google search…after trying to learn how to handstand all on your own.  What made you say, “OK, this isn’t working – I need some help”?

Dan: Basically, when I got to the point where I could hold a 20-second handstand out of the blue, but then wouldn’t even be able to hold a handstand for even 1-second over several days. It was all or nothing. This went on for a while. I got so frustrated that I tried kicking up for 30 minutes in the park, under the hot sun, just trying to get one before I left. I ended up feeling very faint for the rest of the day with a massive headache. I still have sore wrists from that day as well, which I’m still working on. I had no blueprint for doing handstands. I had the will, but didn’t have a plan to learn how to handstand.

Chris: Since you had the will, I assume it was easy for you to stick with the first 28 days of the 28-Day Handstand Challenge?

Dan: To be honest it was mostly stubbornness that kept me going.  I wasn’t sure if anything would help me learn how to handstand at that point. The 28-Day Handstand Challenge was free and looked like a really easy read. At that point I had made a deal with myself to start over and give it one last shot. I used the spreadsheet at first to make sure I was setting the habit, but I made sure to do several 5-minute sessions everyday.

Chris: You gave it one last shot, and then the 28-Day Handstand Challenge finished.  You still didn’t hit your goal yet!  So what pushed you to see it through?

Dan: Success. Pure and simple. Although I still wasn’t hitting every single kick up attempt I was getting solid handstands every day. I felt like I was closer to learning how to handstand. This was in stark contrast to when I would go days without hitting even one shaky handstand. This motivated me to keep going and brought back the fun that was what motivated me in the first place.

Chris: Success is a great motivator.  It usually only takes one small change to our training (or our lifestyle) to have a massive impact and create that success.  What was the most important, small, daily change you made that helped you learn how to handstand – to help you hit your handstand goal?

Dan: Just establishing a habit or a trigger. Sometimes, when I have more time available, I’ll plan out how many sessions I want to hit for that day. Other days I’ll just use the trigger of taking a study break to just attempt one handstand. Sometimes it’s just any break in my routine. For example, if I’m going to be leaving the apartment I’ll try to kick up once. When I get back I’ll try to kick up into another. It’s not fancy, but it allows me to keep some consistency and not go days without even attempting one. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can add up to 10 or more attempts on days that I would have normally chalked up to not having enough time. I still don’t hit every single one, but I hold far more handstands than I don’t these days.

Chris: What would you tell someone who is just starting to learn how to handstand for the first time?

Dan: I would tell them that if I can do it, anyone can. I wasn’t the smallest guy at 230 pounds when I first started, and not all of that was solid mass, either. I could have stood to lose about 20 pounds. I also have terrible shoulder flexibility, which is posing a challenge as I try to get closer to achieving a more aesthetically pleasing handstand. I’m not the worst off, but my body type is definitely not what people would envision for a handbalancer. I was still able to get consistent freestanding handstands after 4 weeks of using the program.

Chris: I want to talk for a second about fear.  We all face fear as we learn how to handstand, but that seems to get ignored by teachers and new students alike… Did you have any fears when you started learning how to handstand?  Did you overcome them?

Dan: My main fear was the same as a lot of people. Injuring myself. I overcame this by learning how to pirouette bail as you outline in your course.  Hands down this one technique allowed me to practice almost anywhere and way more often. It’s so simple and easy to learn. Before your program, I was bailing by rolling, not pirouetting. I needed a lot of room for this and it wasn’t always pain free. I would come thudding down onto my upper back and shoulders sometimes. I replaced my roll-out bail with the pirouette bail and there was no looking back. Once you know that you can escape a bad attempt with ease, with no chance of injury, you will increase your practice sessions more and more.

Chris: With fear out of the way, and the handstand under your belt, what is your next goal?!

Dan: My goals are to press up into the handstand, do a freestanding handstand pushup, and even walk on my hands. Just to keep getting better and better and continuing to have fun with them. My other bodyweight goals include the human flag, a full planche and a strict muscle up on rings or the bar.

Chris: Thanks Dan!  It was awesome to hear your story!!

BECOME THE NEXT SUCCESS STORY

Dan Learning How to Handstand

Does Dan’s story sound familiar?  Do you think that nagging injuries or training plateaus mean you won’t ever hit your goal?  Do you feel you’re “too busy” or “too big” to waste your time on something like learning how to handstand?

Fortunately, Dan and others show us that it can be done.

Everyone who has had success with the 28-Day Handstand Challenge had an epiphany: they realized that small changes make a huge difference.  It’s often a small, smart change to your training or your lifestyle that will push you to the next level, that will make you hit those goals that you just can’t reach today.

Dan was able to build a system for his success.  It wasn’t a quick fix, either.  It took Dan about a month for the changes to pay off, and for everything to finally “click”.  But a month of consistent progress is a lot faster (and a lot more fun) than years and years of plateaus and frustration.  You just need to focus on proper direction and consistency.

These small steps won’t get you to learn how to handstand overnight, but within a few weeks you will surprise yourself at how much progress you will make.  These same habits will take you way beyond learning how to handstand, just like they have for Dan.

Dan took action:

Identified His Goal: Dan was already pretty experienced when he started to consider handstands.  But when he moved over to bodyweight-only training, he realized that learning how to handstand was something that he wanted to do.  And he set out to do it.  Often times, we forget how important it is to explicitly say, “I will do <some goal>!”… but it can make all the difference.  This declaration is the first commitment, the first step.  It is crucial to success.

Solid Stubbornness: Some may call it stubbornness…I just call it perseverance. Dan hit road block after road block and he wanted to give up. Seriously, he was on his last straw.  But he DIDN’T give up, and that makes all the difference.  You already know that it takes small changes and gradual improvements to blast through plateaus – but it can take months or years to find that one small change.  If you give up, you will never find it. If your goals are important to you, then giving up is unacceptable. And anything less than daily practice won’t cut it.

Abandon “Tutorials”: Dan tried tutorial after tutorial, video after video, book after book.  Dan shows us that tutorials, progressions and lists of tricks and tips are easy to find, but not reliable.  In fact, tutorials and progressions are often only a small part of what generates success. You need much more than tutorials.  You need systems that work – that focus on the major obstacles.  Dan had a technique for bailing (the rolling bail), and he still had fear of falling over.  No tutorial addresses that fear, no set of tips can help you overcome it.  It’s the system that is tested on thousands of people that generates results… not dogmatic tutorials based on one guy’s experiences or beliefs.

Dan felt successful: As soon as Dan started the challenge, he started marking a red “X” on his handstand commitment sheet every day.  But after a few days, he started seeing improvement and allowed himself to feel successful.  Focusing on the positives in your training – the small wins – lets you feel successful and accomplished.  You feel rewarded, and you want to keep going.  It’s like you’re a labrador who just received a treat after rolling over. (Good dog!) You have an incentive to keep going, and so you do.  Then you hit your goal, like Dan.

Dan found his plan: After banging his head against the wall for years, Dan found a step-by-step guide. Let’s be honest, researching what needs to be done is a lot more difficult than following specific, effective instructions…but we can talk ourselves out of anything if there are too many choices or too much uncertainty. The material in The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide took thinking out of the process for him and spoke his language. Dan had already read a million different resources or ways to learn how to handstand (which can overwhelm anybody)…but when he found a resource that made sense to him and gave it a solid chance, he hit his goal within weeks.  What progress have you made in the last few weeks?

Congrats to Dan on hitting his long time goal.  I know he is already moving onto his next goal and will become even more awesome!

Do you have any questions for the man?

When will you be sending in YOUR success story?  I don’t publish everyone’s story, but I love hearing about everyone’s successes…no matter how small.  Able to stick with 5-minutes-per-day for a week?  Held your first 15s wall plank?  That’s good work!

Share your success!

If you start with small commitments, you can do anything.  Just 5-minutes a day.

And then celebrate your success, like Dan!

-Chris

PS: Of course, I think its awesome that Dan used my course The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide to succeed.  It spoke his language and laid out things in a step-by-step progression.  It gave him a plan that works. If you are struggling to learn how to handstand, get constantly get overwhelmed or simply want to have more fun and be more impressive, don’t underestimate the importance of picking a plan that makes sense to you. I don’t care if it’s the The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide or any other plan, as long as you pick one and stick with it!

Overcoming Handstand Wrist Inflexibility (and Pain!)

Handstand Wrist Pain

With several thousand handstand challengers now, I get a lot of people who come to me with the same questions: “My wrists are too inflexible for handstands!  How can I fix this?” or “I have wrist pain or hand numbness when performing handstands, what can I do to overcome this?”.  And for the longest time, I needed to tell those people to seek out a good wrist mobility program, or to see a qualified healthcare pro.  Then I remembered I knew Jarlo Ilano from Gold Medal Bodies, a qualified and practicing physical therapist (MPT) since 1998 and board certified orthopedic clinical specialist (OCS)!!  I reached out to him for advice to give to handstand challengers and enthusiasts, and he wrote this terrific post to help you guys out.  Take it away Jarlo!

Wrist and hand pain is a common complaint for many people as they begin handstand work, especially for those that haven’t been involved in consistent weight-bearing activities on their hands. Which is to say, the majority of people!

It’s completely natural to have discomfort as you begin handbalancing training. You are simply not used to supporting your bodyweight through your hands.

It’s often a simple matter of spending the proper amount of time and activity in conditioning and strengthening the wrists and hands.

BEGIN WITH THE FUNDAMENTALS

Your best bet for avoiding wrist problems is prevention because injuries to this area are often long lasting and can make you more vulnerable to re-injury. Wrist pain can derail your training and stop your progress in its tracks.

The key is to find the proper amount of time and activity. Too little won’t prepare you and too much can lead to injury.

A quick internet search reveals a wide variety of wrist exercises, some better than others, and only a few specifically useful for handstand preparation. But before you follow the recommendation of any famous handstand guru, you’d be best served to start at the beginning.

Work on the primary wrist motions of flexion and extension in weight bearing…THEN build strength and flexibility with flexion and extension alone, before moving on to “preparation” activities that may be inappropriate for you. Those advanced “preparation” exercises often require personalization and modification to fit your needs.

wrist flexion extension

If you are trying to perform a handstand, but can’t extend  your wrist (bend it backwards) to at least 90 degrees without a lot of force, then you are already setting yourself up for problems.  You are basically attempting to place your entire bodyweight through an inflexible structure.

The same goes for wrist flexion (bending it forward). Though it is not the same position as in a handstand, it is part of having the adequate range of motion for proper positioning and hand and forearm muscle control. Decreased motion in this position can indicate that your wrist joints are inadequately prepared for the rigors of consistent, daily handstand training.

FOUNDATIONAL WRIST MOVEMENTS FOR FLEXIBILITY

These videos show the most fundamental wrist movements and stretches.  They are outtakes from the Gold Medal Bodies Focused Flexibility Program and serve as both stretches and as wrist conditioning, depending on how you modify the repetition and force of pressure through your hands.

For improvement of wrist flexibility by itself, follow the directions as stated in the videos. But for wrist strengthening and conditioning exercise you will need to adjust the exercises to fit your needs.

WRIST EXTENSION

Start with 10 pulses, followed by a 30-second hold, for a total of 3 sets each. Rest for one minute between sets.

WRIST FLEXION

Start with 10 pulses, followed by a 30-second hold, for a total of 3 sets. Rest for one minute between sets.

BUILDING STRENGTH IN THE WRISTS

Handstand in a Suit

There is quite a bit of strength-endurance needed for holding a handstand safely, especially in the beginning stages of training when you use a wall for assistance and hold for long periods of time.

To train with proper handstand form, you need to focus on repetition and increasing the time you are loading weight onto your hands. This will condition your body in the appropriate manner. Unfortunately, the wrists and hands are often the weak links in the chain, so they may give out before the rest of your body receives the proper training effect.

To modify the above stretches and turn them into a strengthening exercise, you need to adjust the amount of pressure you place through your fingers and hands and perform the movements as repetitions rather than holding for a stretch…just like you would train biceps curls or bench presses or any other feat of strength.

To do this, shift your weight forward onto your hands and apply enough pressure so that you experience fatigue and difficulty continuing after 10 to 15 repetitions. I hesitate to say the word “failure”, but you should feel as if the last repetitions in the set are difficult, and to continue on would require taking pressure off your hands.

  • Wrist flexion strengthening: 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, with a minute of rest in between sets.
  • Wrist extension strengthening: 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, with a minute of rest in between sets.

RECOVERING FROM AN INJURY

Lego Stretcher

If you’re suffering from nagging pain or numbness, then you need to first, seek a health care professional.  These are signs of an injury, and you need to get checked out and cleared to start any handstand exercises or wrist strengthening. If you think you may have an injury at all, go and get checked by a doctor or physical therapist!  This article is no substitute for appropriate medical care!

Following an injury, there is an acute period of significant pain and it’s best to perform range of motion exercises in as much pain free repetition as possible. It could be as simple as active wrist flexion and extension, and wrist circles. If you have been prescribed exercises by your physician or physical therapist, then that is what you need to do.

As you improve and are ready to begin exercise again, you can modify the above exercises to fit a recovery protocol to improve circulation and slowly prepare your wrist and hand joint and soft tissues for increased work.

Begin in the same position and apply pressure to your hands by shifting your weight forward as before, closely following the caveat of “no pain(!)”, and apply enough pressure to experience moderate fatigue when reaching at least 30 repetitions. This high repetition count encourages circulation of both blood and synovial joint fluid to assist in healing, as well as preparation for harder work.

  • Wrist flexion recovery: 3 sets of 30 repetitions with 30 seconds of rest in between sets.
  • Wrist extension recovery: 3 sets of 30 repetitions with 30 seconds of rest in between sets.

Follow these movements up with the flexibility protocol after these exercises, again closely paying heed to having no pain in the performance.

STEP-BY-STEP WRIST CONDITIONING PLAN

Hands Down

The following is a step by step plan integrating the above wrist exercises into your handstand training practice.

  1. Perform the wrist flexion and extension weight bearing movements, with high repetition and light pressure. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 20-30 repetitions, again using light pressure. This is simply a warmup.
  2. Perform plank holds with an emphasis on leaning your shoulders over and past your hands to condition the wrists and hands. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10-20 second holds. This move is demonstrated in this video.
  3. Move on to your handstand training with your appropriate progression and plan.
  4. Perform the strength-endurance protocol for your wrists as described above.
  5. Finish the session with the wrist flexibility protocol as described above.

Following this plan with an emphasis on wrist and hand preparation, conditioning, and flexibility will assist in preventing injury and properly preparing you for hand balance training.

Adding the few extra minutes it takes to perform the exercises can save you from weeks of frustration and poor progress because of wrist problems. Take the time now to prepare yourself the right way and reap the benefits of consistent steady training.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Thumbs Up

Do you feel you are ready to tackle your wrist inflexibility?

Did this information work for you?

Do you have any questions for Jarlo?

Let us know!

Note: Jarlo and the rest of the guys at Gold Medal Bodies recently released an amazing, totally comprehensive stretching program to help you conquer wrist flexibility and other flexibility goals, like the splits.  If you happen to buy their flexibility program, I do receive a commission.  I don’t do this often, so when I do, it’s only because its a product or service that I would use myself, have used myself or would recommend to my close friends!

photo credit: wrist positions thumbs up suit stretcher hands down

My Story: Fat to Acrobat

If you don’t see any images in this message, be sure to click the “Display Images Below” link in your email reader or simply view the article on ChrisSalvato.com.

slackline

Hi, I’m Chris.

If you don’t know me, this is my website.  I love hand balancing and gymnastics. I love moving and being active.

But I wasn’t born that way, and a lot of my readers ask about my story. “How long did it take for you to master handstands?” they ask, “Did you ever put your personal story out there?”

Up until now, I haven’t revealed a lot about my own story…mostly because I thought it would just sound like I was just tooting my own horn.  I realized later that many people want to know my story because you are facing the same challenges I conquered…or I am still conquering them myself.

I also realized that there are a lot of adults who want to start gymnastics training, but they don’t know how to get started. There are few people who understand the challenges that adults face when starting gymnastics or acrobatics training.

I want trying to dispel the myth that you need to be young to start training these impressive skills.

You see, the first impressive skill I ever trained was the handstand at the age of 23.  Since then I have advised other people, aged 20 to 70, on how to hit impressive goals like the handstand for the first time.

Skills that help you master your own body are not as demanding or difficult as most people think.

When I started, I had no idea what I was doing and still hit my most impressive goals within the first 5 years of my training.  From the time I trained my first handstand attempt at age 23, it only took me three years to hit incredibly impressive skill milestones like:

Now, I’m not listing these achievements to show off or something.  I am just trying to show you what’s possible with consistent training. You can make amazing progress towards things that you never thought possible.

It only takes consistent practice and small changes – one at a time.

My path wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as people think.  I’m not a super special case.

This is my story.

Rocky Roads and Chubby Beginnings

fat-chris

I started training in things like handstands and flips when I was in my twenties…but surely I must have been really strong and fit before that.  I probably had good genes, right?  It must have been smooth sailing for me!

Well, it definitely wasn’t smooth sailing.

The thing is…I was a pretty chubby kid when I was growing up.  OK, that’s a lie.  I was definitely a fat kid.

That picture is me at 18 years old – 2 years before I started any training.  I was 40 pounds overweight.  (Also, you have my permission to make fun of that ridiculous haircut.)

It all started when I was 13.  See, that’s when I hit my breaking point.  I was tired of being fat and out of shape and the butt of every other fat joke.  I had serious body image problems.  I begged my parents for help and advice on losing weight.

My mother gave me diet advice…but I didn’t take it.

She bought me a weight set after I begged her for weeks…but I never used it.

I even started looking up breakdancing tutorials online (keep in mind, this was 1998 and YouTube didn’t exist!)  After my first handstand attempt left a huge hole in my mother’s basement ceiling, I flat-out gave up.

It wasn’t until three years later (at age 16) that some friends got into weight lifting. I started going to the gym with them.  We had no idea what we were doing, so I just did some random workouts on various machines.  I started to see some progress…but I created some major muscle imbalances in my shoulders.

Within a year of starting weight training, I had caused both of my shoulders to dislocate.  And it wasn’t just a single shoulder dislocation.  Oh no, my shoulder’s were completely ruined.  They would dislocate several times every day.  I couldn’t reach into the back of my fridge without a shoulder popping out!

I gave up working out for a few more years.  By the time I was nineteen, I had two shoulder surgeries, and neither of them worked.  Yup, I went under the knife two times, and my shoulders still dislocated several times every day.

So when my friends got involved in martial arts and asked me to come along, I had my reservations.

     What if my shoulders dislocated during martial arts classes?  
     What would people think if I wasn’t any good?  
     What if I embarrassed myself by even trying?

And then I saw the membership costs: $360 for three months.  I was a poor college student.  This was a lot of money for me.

But obsessing about the cost was just another fear creeping up on me.  I mean, if I joined the classes and actually went then I would get so many benefits.  I would be spending time with my friends, would learn to be a better fighter, and maybe even finally lose weight.  The benefit would definitely be worth $360.  After all, some people spend $400 on a treadmill they never use, or on workout DVDs that turn into door stops.

The real reason I didn’t want to join was fear.  I was scared that I wouldn’t go and lose my money.  I was scared that I would fail again, like I had so many times in the past.

My friends were supportive though, and I wound up paying the fee.  For me, spending the money actually strengthened my commitment.  Now, I was paying money for these classes, so I was going to make sure I got my money’s worth.

And that was when everything changed.

Small Changes Create Success

mountain-handstand

Once I started, I was in the zone.

I went to my martial arts classes every day, 6 days a week, for three months straight. I would show up early and leave late, sometimes spending as much as 4 hours a day training martial arts – but it was all mindless.  I only made ONE CHANGE: show up for classes and do as I was told.

Within the first month, I experienced dramatic weight loss, and it made me consider my diet.  After all, I was turning my body into a machine, and I needed my diet to be the best fuel possible.  Since my exercise program was dialed in, it freed up my brain to research changes to my diet.

Taking the same approach, I made one change a week to my diet.  One week it was to cut out anything that came in a crinkly bag.  The next it was to remove vegetable oils…and so on.

I would systematically make one change at a time to cut out “bad things” and introduce “good things” – but only ONE THING AT A TIME.

By the third month, I had so much confidence it was coming out of my ears.  I attempted some aerial cartwheels and even a handstand or two, even though I had no idea what I was doing.  But before I made progress on these gymnastics skills, I stopped my martial arts training…

See, I had to go back to college which was 400 miles away from the martial arts gym I joined.  When I finally settled back into schoolwork, I practiced what I could in my apartment, but realized that I didn’t have an instructor telling me what to do anymore.

I would need to take matters into my own hands.

I started using the gym that was included with my college tuition just to keep active.  I didn’t know what to do, and was getting bored and frustrated.  (And my shoulder’s still weren’t fixed yet. I didn’t want to make them any worse.)

I kept going to the gym, through the frustration.  But I ALSO started to read my first anatomy and physiology textbook.

I told myself that my next ONE SMALL CHANGE was to read at least one page in that massive textbook every day.  I started with the chapters that covered muscles and joints, and I took it from there.

After six months, this one small change resulted in me reading an entire 500 page anatomy and physiology textbook from cover to cover.  I also changed my minor to focus on biomedical sciences.  I was starting to find that I knew more about muscle and exercise physiology than some medical professionals.

I continued with my ONE SMALL CHANGE method to get through two more (successful) shoulder surgeries and learn as much as I could about exercise physiology.

If there is one thing you should take from my story so far it’s the fact that ONE SMALL CHANGE, taken one at a time, can significantly impact your training and life in the long run.  (That is the whole reason why I am telling you this story!)

The Final Key: Safety Nets

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I was well into a “fitness lifestyle” when I started working on skills that most people consider dangerous or impressive.  For the first 18 months of my training lifestyle, I had barely even started messing around with bodyweight skills or acrobatic.

Then I found CrossFit, which introduced me to more regimented handstand training.  As soon as I started CrossFit, I really wanted to do handstand pushups.

But, since CrossFit isn’t the best for learning handstands, I had no idea how to get away from the wall..  I was throwing up wall handstands every day at work, at home, and at the gym.

Even with so much handstand training, I was stuck against the wall for months! No hope of progress was in sight.

But through all of this, I continued reading more textbooks, more medical journals, more books on training, and more articles.  I came across one that really struck a chord with me.  Another small event that changed the entire course of my training, and my life.

This article changed everything: “Parkour Basics” by Jessy Woody.

See, nothing in the article was particularly revolutionary – but it opened my eyes to parkour.  I fell in love with the idea of moving through an environment safely and efficiently.

By September 2007, about 18 months from starting any fitness program at all, I started going to several dozen parkour meet ups.  I was learning new skills like under bars, kong vaults, lazy vaults and speed vaults.  But I was about 7 months into handstand training, and was still stuck against the wall.

Randomly, someone approached me at a parkour meet up when he saw my shoddy freestanding handstand attempts.  He introduced me to the pirouette bail which is very different to the rolling bail technique I was using at the time.

The pirouette bail is a much better way to bail.  By learning it, I could effectively train handstand kick-ups ANYWHERE.  Before that, I had to be on a soft surface and couldn’t train in most places.

The pirouette bail was the perfect safety net.  It completely removed fear from the equation.

Now I was attempting handstands every five minutes instead of just a few times a day.

I went form 7 months of no progress to my first 5-second freestanding handstand within one week.  Within two weeks, I was up to 15 seconds.

This is why I emphasize the pirouette bail so much in my book.  I learned that safety nets like the pirouette bail are crucial to removing fear.  The safety net concept has greatly impacted my success..and not just in acrobatics and gymnastics…

Safety nets have made me more bold in any situation where there is fear and perceived risk.  That’s true in all of my training and many other aspects of my life (like dropping my entire career to focus on getting people to hit amazing fitness goals, or moving to another country).

Lessons Learned

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It’s been about 5 years since I held my first handstand for 15-seconds, performed my first handstand press, and executed my first muscle up.

Since then I have used that time to continue to work towards the other goals that I have achieved.  Those other goals weren’t without their challenges, either.

I hit many road blocks, like a two year bout with knee tendinitis, a separated shoulder and a dislocated elbow.  I had to take several breaks from training to let my body recover.

I had to start and restart training – getting back into the habit – several times in my 7 year fitness journey.

I need to learn new tricks, and learn more about my mind and body every time I do it.

Getting into the habit is difficult each and every time.  

Great lessons come from these experiences:

Good direction is worth the cost: Before I got started, I struggled with a decision to spend $360 on martial arts classes.  That one small decision changed my life.  A few years later, other small changes dramatically improved my training – like a single article on parkour and a random tip to learn the pirouette bail.  That’s why I created The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide; I wanted to create the guide that would have saved me years back when I started.

Fundamentals come quicker than you think: Before I started learning handstands and flips, they seemed incredibly difficult and nebulous.  It seemed like attaining these skills would take ages if you didn’t start when you were a child.  I really want to dispel that myth.  My handstand and flipping journey took a long time, but I have seen a 30-year old get their first back handspring in 15 minutes, and a 58-year old (who was using The 15-Second Handstand) get his first handstand in 60 days.  Sure, the more advanced skills will take years of training, but you can nail the fundamentals in less than year. (If you have good direction).

Small, single changes are key: Hitting more advanced skills will take time, but you can work up to them – one small step at a time.  By focusing on ONE SMALL CHANGE you can consistently feel successful and make huge progress towards your goals.  Maybe its just five minutes of handstand training.  Maybe its just deciding to focus on one super important goal.  Thats why my book focuses on only one goal: getting your first handstand.  My method breaks the handstand into distinct challenges that you overcome, one at a time, without any distractions.  Ask yourself this: what is the one small thing I can do today to make myself feel like I hit a small success in my training?

Fear holds you back: Fear is natural, but a lot of our fears are irrational.  Fear is what holds people back from even “normal” workouts at the gym (“What if I look stupid?”), let alone more advanced training like acrobatics or gymnastics (“What if I hurt myself?”).  Once you identify the fears that hold you back, you can put in the steps to conquer them, one small change at a time.  That’s why I cover fear conquering in most of my book, including a whole step in the progression focusing on mastering bails.

Safety Nets remove fear: Things like handstands and backflips are scary when you are new.  But there are ways you can eliminate the fear, like pirouette bails and foam pits.  Once you recognize your fears, you can identify safety nets that completely remove risk while you build your confidence.  When you perceive that the risk is minimal, you can unlock your true potential.

Perception is more important than programming: If you don’t perceive that you are successful every day, then you will lose motivation and eventually just stop training.  If you perceive that everyone is judging you, then you will feel awkward in the gym.  If you perceive that you can’t achieve an awesome skill, then you will never get there.  Managing your perceptions of the situation, making sure you always feel that you are moving forward, is much more important than a magical progression or workout plan.  The best plans are those that constantly make you feel like a success…and that’s just what each challenge of The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide has done for Sam.

What do you think?

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What are your thoughts on my training experiences?

Do you think my story is useful?  Or am I just a fitness dope, droning on and on about myself?

Do you have any questions about how I achieved certain skills?

Let me know what you think!