Strong Sam: A Mixed Martial Arts Fighter Who Achieved a Handstand in 30 Days

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Sam Kickup

Meet Sam, the MMA fighter who achieved his first handstand.

When Sam found the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, he was already training MMA for 10 hours a week.  While he doesn’t compete, his workouts are always geared towards improving his performance for his sport.

And like most MMA fighters, Sam enjoyed reading good books on solid training.  He figures that if he is going to spend his time doing something, he might as well achieve his fullest potential.

So, when handstands caught his eye several months ago, he was hesitant to start.  He assumed the time commitment to get a freestanding handstand was gargantuan.  With a schedule filled with school, MMA training and family, there was no room for hours of handstand training.

Then he found the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, and my program, The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide.

He saw a program from a legitimate, trusted author that said 5 minutes per day was all that was needed. The time constraint was no longer an issue. That meant there was no sacrifice.  He could achieve a freestanding handstand with no risk, and no drawbacks…he started working on them immediately.

His first session was the standard 5-minutes per day.  Having a strong fitness background, learning the handstand was a cake walk. Within the first week of purchasing The 15-Second Handstand, he was holding 60-second handstands against the wall.  By his second week, he was solidly working on his kickups.  Within three weeks, he was holding 5-second freestanding holds.  At the 28 day mark, Sam was holding 18- to 20-second freestanding handstands.  The mission was accomplished within four weeks.

More important than these accomplishments, Sam felt like he was progressing.

Sam felt successful.

This is his story.

Sam’s Story

Sam Gym

Chris: Thanks for sharing your story Sam! To start off, who are you and what do you do?

Sam: I am a 21 year old professional student, but when I am off of school, I generally train MMA for 1-2 hours a day, 4-5 days a week.  My workouts during the off-season (when I’m in school) are also geared towards improved performance in MMA.  I also enjoy reading good solid books on training.

Chris: It sounds like you train a lot, so did handstands ever work their way into your training?

Sam: I didn’t train handstands immediately prior to reading your book [part of the The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide].  I had been working towards handstand pushups against the wall, but I stopped doing these at the end of last year.  I had been working on them for a really long time, and felt it was no longer a productive exercise as my progress had all but ceased, regardless of what I tried.

Chris: Your progress on handstand pushups halted, but you still wanted to learn freestanding handstands?

Sam: Since I participate in a sport where body control and spatial awareness are crucial, I figured handstands would improve those qualities immensely. Also, I don’t really have consistent access to weights, so I need ways to strengthen my body with nothing but itself if I want to be consistently improving. Handstands in and of themselves get you stronger, but more importantly they are the gateway to movements that need freakish levels of strength.

Chris: But before you started using The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide, you hadn’t worked on handstands at all….so what was holding you back from trying to learn freestanding handstands?

Sam: I assumed the time commitment required to get a freestanding handstand was gargantuan. As such, since handstands weren’t on the top of my priority list (largely due to time constraints), they didn’t make the cut of what I could spend my limited time working on.

Chris: Most people grossly overestimate how much time and effort is necessary to achieve the freestanding handstand. It definitely holds them back.  There is also a fear of wasting time on something that is not achievable.  Did something change for you?  What prompted you to finally get started?

Sam: When I saw a program from a legitimate trusted author that said 5 minutes a day was all I needed, the time constraint was no longer an issue. That means that I didn’t have to sacrifice any of my other goals to achieve a freestanding handstand, so I started working on them.

Chris: …and then you hit your first 20-second handstands within 30 days of using my methods.  Mission accomplished in less than one month!  I received a lot of videos from you doing handstands near your friends and family.  How did they react when you started throwing up handstands everywhere?

Sam: They weren’t surprised at all. They’ve viewed me as a fitness nut for a long time, so they’re already desensitized to my unhealthy obsession with stuff like this.

Chris: Being a nut like that is a good reputation to have…I should know.  A lot of people are scared of what others will think – but most of the time people are pretty positive.  That aside, what was the most important change to your handstand training that helped you to succeed?

Sam: Training the handstand in the style of skill training (5 minutes per day, 6-7 days a week), as opposed to workout style (for example, 3 days a week for 15 minutes).

Chris: This is definitely one thing that most people overlook, but its so important.  Handstands are a skill and need to be trained frequently!  But even with a small 5-minutes-per-day commitment, its can be hard to stay motivated.  How did you stay in the zone, and stick with handstand training?

Sam: I enjoyed the process itself (usually), but on the days I didn’t, knowing my goal would be achieved within 40-60 days kept me going. Knowing there is a definite end in sight (and knowing to expect that end) is critical to continued effort and progress.

Chris: But did handstands help with your MMA?  Or was it just this cool parlor trick you learned?

Sam: While my handstands were going from “iffy” to “okay”, my footwork in MMA improved dramatically. By no means did I do a scientifically sound experiment, where I eliminated all other variables and determined the only reason for improvement was working handstands. There were plenty of other things that could have been the cause or contributed to my footwork improvement.  The improvement however did coincide with my handstands getting significantly better. Do with that information as you see fit.

Chris: Based on all you learned, what would you tell someone who is just starting to consider training freestanding handstands?

Sam: Everyone has 5 minutes somewhere in their day. And it’s not like you’re committing to 5 minutes a day for the rest of your life. Just 4 weeks, 28 days. Five minutes a day for 28 days is almost a laughable commitment. If you told someone that was your New Year’s resolution, they’d give you a nice sarcastic round of applause. I have class from 7:30 am to 10:45 pm. What’s your excuse?

Chris: There is no excuse really.  If you have a goal, you should go out and achieve it…epecially if it only requires a small time commitment!  So what’s your next goal, Sam?

Sam: I think handstand presses are next in line, because they’re really cool, and they’re a great body weight exercise for your lower back.  Exercises like that are very hard to come by.

Become The Next Success Story

Sam Handstand Press

Does Sam’s story sound familiar? Do you find yourself consumed by your sport, your life, your family, your commitments and responsibilities?  Where do you find the time for learning things that will enhance your life?  Things enable you to hit lifelong goals?

Fortunately, there are several people like Sam that inspire us.  They show us that it only takes a small (almost laughable) time commitment to achieve things that you have been putting off for months or years.  Even if you think you are “too busy” like Sam, retired like Lyle, or big like Greg.

If the handstand has been on your list of goals for a while, people like Sam show us that it’s still possible to squeeze it in.

Sam was able to adapt his training and create a system for handstand success.  Sam came from an MMA background, and already had a solid foundation of strength, so he only needed to take a few key steps to hit his goal.

This isn’t some sort of “quick fix”.  Sam still had to put in a month’s worth of consistent training.  But these small changes have a huge impact, not just on handstand training, but in all aspects of living a fit and impressive life. It’s usually only a small set of changes that have the biggest impact.

Sam took action:

Sam set aside time: Sam felt like he had too much in his schedule, and that handstands were going to take a lot of time.  Once he learned that you can get to your first handstand by training for just 5 minutes per day, he carved 5 minutes out of his busy life to train his handstand.  Maybe that was before breakfast every day, or after dinner.  Maybe he wasn’t so regimented…but he did fit in his handstand training, 6-7 days a week.  And once he had the habit in place, it turned into an addiction.  Because you can train handstands nearly anywhere, he was training for much more than 5 minutes every day.  He would throw up handstands here and there and everywhere.  It didn’t feel like a burden at all.  This is typical for people who develop the handstand habit.

Strong Sam turned skillful: Like most MMA fighters and serious athletes, Sam was already strong enough to hold himself upside down for 45-60 seconds.  He had a good foundation of strength – just the foundation you need for hand balancing.  But he didn’t realize that the handstand is mostly a skill at that point.  Once he realized that, he was able to change the way he thought about his training, which opened the door to consistent training, and nearly-obsessive practice.

Sam practiced daily: Nearly everyone I have ever worked with overlooks the value of consistent, habitual practice. Sam was no exception.  Sam used to look at the handstand as a feat of strength, thinking it needed to be trained in the same way as a pull-up or deadlift: taxing workouts that require rest and recovery.  The handstand is different, though.  Handstands are a skill, and skills need to be practiced regularly.  As Sam told me in one of his first emails: “The main thing this taught me is there’s no comparison between 5 minutes/7 days a week and 15 minutes/3 days a week.”  If you want to get to the handstand, you need to be consistent and frequent!

Sam asked for help: Do you ever watch those TV shows where celebrities learn to figure skate or dance in just a few weeks?  What about that guy at your gym who seemed to go from powder-puff to beast in 6 months?  Sure, these people aren’t ready for a pro career, but they are still crazy impressive. But how did they get so much better in such a short period of time?  Aside from consistent practice, they are locked in a room with a private teacher who answers all of their questions, and shows them the way.  They ask for advice.  When I first started training martial arts, I had stayed late every night to ask questions of my instructors.  I was doing advanced holds, and sparring with black belts within a two months.  Sam knew the value of having someone to ask for help, and reached out to me at least once a week with a fistful of questions.  I gave him answers, and he made progress with every email.  Don’t underestimate the value of having a trainer in your pocket.

Sam found his manual: Sam clearly knew the benefit of good information and going in the right direction, so he found a guide he could trust and followed it to the letter, immediately. Sam knew that he had classes, training and family consuming his time…he didn’t want to waste time researching random handstand progressions online – an effort that usually results in getting overwhelmed.  While most tutorials and videos are created with good-intentions, they are usually lacking in research and results.  The material in The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide has results and reputation behind it.  It set him in the right direction and spoke his language. He didn’t waste any time.  By taking this no-nonsense approach, Sam hit his goal within one month.  What progress have you made in the last month?

Congrats to Sam on achieving the handstand faster than anyone I have ever met! We are already working together to help him achieve his first handstand press, so he can continue to master his body for his sport.

When will you be sending in YOUR success story? (Seriously, I am getting in the habit of collecting these things.  I love success stories.  Even if you didn’t use my book – send me your story so we can feature you on the site too!)

If you think you’re too busy, then set aside the next 5 minutes to practice handstands.  Five minutes is less than most of your bathroom breaks, lets be honest.  Start with 5-minutes a day and a small step in the right direction.  You will make progress!

And then celebrate your success, like Sam!


PS: I’m proud to say that Sam used the materials in The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide to help him succeed on his journey. Wouldn’t you be proud?  It enabled Sam to hit a major training goal in four weeks.  The guide spoke his language, laid out things in a step-by-step progression and gave him a blueprint for success. If you are struggling to learn the handstand, constantly get overwhelmed or think handstands take too much time, you are underestimating 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 program, as long as you pick one and hit your goal!

3 Responses to “Strong Sam: A Mixed Martial Arts Fighter Who Achieved a Handstand in 30 Days”

  1. Sean September 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Question on 5 minutes a day: I’ve been using a stop watch to time myself – I start it when I flip up my legs and stop it when I drop back to the floor. To get 5 minutes is taking me about 12 of these attempts. So the actual time investment is about 15 minutes with rests between the 12 actual handstands.

    Is this right? Am I understanding the “just 5 minutes” correctly? How am I suppose to be measuringu 5 minutes a day? Right now I can only get an average of about 20-25 seconds per handstand.



    • Chris Salvato September 27, 2013 at 5:04 am #

      For the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, I leave the decision on how to spend your five minutes with you. Basically, do whatever keeps you motivated and consistent. For some people, that means doing 5 minutes of handstand visualization/meditation 3-4 days a week, and a 5-minute block of training that may include just 2-3 holds + rest. For other people, that means counting only the time while you are inverted.

      Once you get past the 60-second handstand, and you move on to bailing, you will find that you need to just start a clock, then stop it after 5 minutes. After all, each bail only takes 2-3 seconds, and counting only the time in a handstand would mean several dozen attempts. 🙂

      For most people, the best way is to start your stopwatch and just train until you hit the 5 minute mark. That includes rest, visualization, milling around, and actual handstand holds. For Challenges #1 and #2 (the ones in the free book), 3-4 days of physical training works best, with the other days of the week used to do handstand visualization and let your body recover (since this is a strength building phase). Beyond that, daily physical training is much more effective.

      I cover many more details about taking that 60-second wall handstand and turning it into a freestanding handstand in my book, The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide, but my explanation above should get you through to the base-level of strength necessary to pursue that goal. 🙂

      Keep up the good work and stay consistent! Let me know if there is any other way that I could help.

  2. PMSGoog September 24, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    What about bigger guys like 5-11ish and 200 lbs (lean and mean) who don’t have chicken legs. Alot of the handstand stuff out there shows smaller ladies and gents. I’ve seen plenty of postings about handstands, but nothing really helpful for the taller, heavier legged people trying to get the Free-standing HS right? The postings just say keep trying but I’m convinced there IS a difference between the taller and smaller people trying this out.