The Handstand Safety Net: Pirouette Bailing

In our last post, we talked about fear.

We discussed that there are underlying, silent fears that prevent you from hitting your handstand goal, and probably much more…but we also talked about finding methods to confront those fears.

In this post, I want to go over a technique that to help you tackle fears systematically: The Safety Net.

The Safety Net is something that can be applied directly to the handstand if you think you’re “too big,” “too weak,” or think that you aren’t capable of doing something spectacular.

Understanding how the Safety Net works will help you to make the small changes that have a big impact on hitting goals and conquering fear.

Finding a Safety Net just means that you identified a way to change the worst case scenario from something negative into something positive.

Safety Net 1: Fear of Falling on Your Face

Aside from the silent fears we face, the most obvious fear for new handbalancers is that your arms won’t be able to support your weight, and you will come crashing down onto your face.

That’s certainly a horrible worst case scenario, and I have seen people who jump headlong into handstand training crash-and-burn by kicking up into a full handstand much too soon.

A good Safety Net will change this worst case scenario into something more favorable.

Instead of jumping right into a handstand kickup, what if you start with a push-up plank hold, instead? Is that within your capabilities? OK, now hold a plank with your feet up on the wall. Still good? Then start walking your hands closer to the wall. (This method is outlined in the free eBook you got when you signed up, by the way).

Since you started in a safe position where you cannot fall on your face and built up to a more handstand-like move over time, your body is actually getting stronger. When you go in incremental steps, you can control how much weight in placed on your hands and vastly minimize the risk of falling on your face.

The incremental steps act as a Safety Net as you gradually achieve a full handstand position. By using this Safety Net, you avoid the danger of throwing all of your weight on your hands when you don’t even know if you are ready.

By walking your hands back towards the wall, you can gauge your strength instantly. If you feel that you aren’t strong enough to bring your hands closer to the wall, you can just walk your hands the other way to safety. You are changing the worst case scenario from “injury” to “safety.”

It’s all about changing the worst case scenario.

Safety Net 2: Fear of Falling Onto Your Back

For all new adult handbalancers, the physical fear of falling over and landing on your back is the most common…by far. It is impossible to progress in handstand training at all without overcoming the fear of falling head over heels.

Falling on your back is definitely…unpleasant…and I have seen it happen a few times with new hand balancers who are overzealous in tackling the handstand. But how can we use a Safety Net to change this worst case scenario?

Most experienced hand balancers don’t fear this outcome at all. In fact, nearly everyone I ever met who can perform a 15-second handstand doesn’t have the slightest shade of fear about falling head over heels. It just doesn’t happen.

That is because experienced handbalancers use the Pirouette Bail as their safety net. In fact, the Pirouette Bail becomes instinctual. An experienced hand balancer’s body will naturally bail save itself from harm.

These are people who are just like you that have engineered a more favorable worst case scenario by learning a bailing technique. It has nothing to do with luck, good genetics or any of the other excuses I hear by people putting off their first handstand.

The Pirouette Bail?

The Pirouette Bail is a safe way of recovering from the feeling that you will fall head over heels.

When you find that you are too overbalanced, you lean all of your weight to one arm – the planted arm. As you do this, you free your other arm to “stumble” forward.

Unlike a normal gymnastics pirouette (which is a full quarter-turn), the pirouette bail doesn’t require you to move your hands very far. You just need to move them enough to save yourself from falling head over heals.

Once you master the pirouette bail, the worst case scenario turns from “OMG, I am going to fall head-over-heals!” into “Oh, I just need to bail, and I will be safe.”

Eventually, it becomes nearly impossible to fall over and hurt yourself.

Doesn’t that sound a lot better than the heart-in-your-throat feeling you feel when you try a handstand now?

Learning the Pirouette Bail

I have written about the Pirouette Bail in the past, but until now, I have kept most of the details in my book. Of course this email is only a scratch on the surface (I cover the pirouette bail for over 30 pages in The 15-Second Handstand).

The pirouette bail is easiest to learn when you break it down into 5 distinct parts. It happens fast in real-time, so these steps are not immediately obvious.

  1. You are in a good handstand.
  2. You start to overbalance. Overbalancing is losing balance towards your back, where you are going to go head over heels.
  3. All of your weight is shifted to a single arm, the planted arm.
  4. The leg and shoulder opposite to the planted arm is pushed forward, turning your body.
  5. You bring your feet down, safely bailing.

In my book, I cover three different progressions that keep you safe while you learn how to bail. The most popular progression is the Wall Pirouette.

Wall Pirouettes:

  1. Go into your best handstand against the wall.
  2. Tap one foot away from the wall gently to force yourself to overbalance.
  3. Shift all of your weight to one arm, the planted arm. Don’t hold this too long as it will take a lot of strength. Go into the next step ASAP.
  4. Push the opposing leg, hip or shoulder out. This will cause your body to start turning.
  5. Lower your legs to the ground (this should happen automatically).

Once you learn the pirouette bail, you will see that fear melts away, just like it did for Greg V.:

“The pirouette bail had the biggest impact on conquering fear, hands down. Having that tool made it easy to attempt the final parts of straightening out at the top without fear. Plus, it made it easier during the wall training to simply rotate out, rather than try to stagger out of it.” -Greg V.

Applying the Safety Net to Other Fears

With a tool to conquer physical fear, what else is holding you back? There are other fears that act as anchors around our necks, weighing us down and keeping us from hitting our goals like handstands, getting stronger, or even doing something spectacular with ourselves.

These fears hit us much more deeply than the physical fears that the Pirouette Bail helps us to overcome. They are the silent fears that make you think that small steps are worthless, or that you can’t do something amazing.

But it’s not true. Small steps are the most valuable steps, and finding Safety Nets like the Pirouette Bail or wall planks can help with so much more than handstands.

After all, the Pirouette Bail is just an application of a good Safety Net that changes the worst case scenario from “disaster” to “safety”, and Safety Nets can be used everywhere.

Real World Example 1: Learning to Handstand

Do you ever wonder why you see hand balancers take pictures of themselves performing handstands in the most asinine of places?

It’s because, all new hand balancers go through an exercise in anxiety and fear conquering. Conquering a fear is something to be proud of, and pictures of handstands are like a badge of honor showing everyone that you can do something difficult.

This badge of honor is not easily earned though. As a hand balancer, you need to feel safe while you are inverted. If you can’t feel safe, then all progress would be hindered, and you would be facing dozens of injuries.

By learning to bail, you set up the safety net, and change your circumstances.

Original Worst Case: Falling on my head
Safety Net: Pirouette Bailing
New Worst Case: Safely landing on my feet, with a shorter-than-desired handstand hold

Real World Example 2: Starting a Business

When I first decided to break out of the normal 9-5 grind, I was filled with anxiety. I felt a lot of pressure to be constantly busy and save up for rainy days.

Like most people, I was scared of being a failure, which was getting in the way of creating awesome products and satisfying customers.

But then I realized that I had a part time job that was covering my living expenses.

I already had a safety net and didn’t realize it. I analyzed the worst case scenario, and things didn’t seem so bad since it was impossible for me to go into debt if I was smart about my spending.

This Safety Net freed my mind from worry, and let me focus my entire career on helping thousands of people achieve their first handstand, without getting thrown into the poor house.

Sometimes, the Safety Net is in place, but you need to close your eyes and trust that it will be there to protect you…because that is how you have designed it!

Original Worst Case: Winding up in the poor house, with a failed business
Safety Net: Part Time Job to cover living expenses
New Worst Case: If my business fails, I haven’t gone into debt and gained a ton of experience

Real World Example 3: Doing Something Amazing

It’s remarkable at how scary it can be to attempt something spectacular, impressive or dramatic (like learning to handstand, muscle-up, start your own business, write a book, or whatever else you think is impossible.)

You feel like every failure is personal, and that you will be humiliated by anyone who knows that you tried and failed. But more importantly, you fear that you will also failed yourself. This silent fear kills progress and fosters complacency.

I firmly believe that this is just another Safety Net problem, where you need to change your worst case scenario by changing your expectations.

By considering failure as part of success (that you need to fail before you can succeed), then you can turn failures into successes.

Thus, by changing your expectations, you have changed the worst case scenario. The worst case changes from humiliating failure into valuable lessons learned.

Original Worst Case: Failing yourself and being humiliated
Safety Net: Expecting failure as a part of success
New Worst Case: Failure becomes part of progress

When have you use a safety net to change your worst case scenario? People love these stories, so leave yours in a comment.

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