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Thu, 11 Aug 2005 03:35:00 +0100

Due to popular demand, I now have an RSS feed for the new site. You can subscribe here -

I'm adding this post so that those with an RSS feed to this blog can now change their subscription to the new feed. Thanks all.


Wed, 13 Jul 2005 05:27:00 +0100


When I started this blog last year, I suspected it may outgrow itself. Things have been getting a bit hard to navigate, so a change was in order. And that change has finally come - Beast Skills, the web page.

You'll have to bear with me as I tweak things over the next coming weeks, but the site is fully functional right now and has all its content. This will probably be the last post on the blog, but I will continue training posts on my new site.

Thanks to everyone for their support. Enjoy the new site!

One Arm Pullup

Sat, 02 Jul 2005 01:34:00 +0100

Got it! Cranked my first one arm pullup in the gym today, both left and right arm, full hang, chin well over the bar. Kind of surprised myself. I've been doing one arm chins (palm facing me) for a couple weeks now, but the pullup (palm facing away) felt just out of reach. Maybe it was all just mental.

Anyways, I'm excited. And I really want to put together a OAC/OAP tutorial. I'll start laying it out and taking pictures in the coming weeks.

And just a quick note and question for those working the skill. With the OAC, my body seemed to turn in one direction, while the OAP my body turned the opposite direction. Example - one arm chin with the right arm, and my body wanted to turn counter clockwise. a one arm pullup with the right arm, and my body wants to turn clockwise.

The turning with the OAC is easy enough to fix with the free arm, but what to do with the free arm on the OAP? Put it behind my back? If someone has experience with that, feel free to comment. I'll continue playing around with the skill. Good luck to everyone with their training.

Handstand to Elbow Lever and Back Up

Fri, 01 Jul 2005 17:05:00 +0100

So here is the solution to the challenge I posted about a month ago, plus a few recent training pictures at the end.Something to keep in mind for this challenge - While you may have the elbow lever down, and your handstand may be solid, this exercise will really test your total body control as you transfer between the two skills. If you have difficulty with the strength, I recommend working on your handstand pushups and especially your handstand press.So here we go.Lowering DownThe main thing you have to focus on while lowering from a handstand into an elbow lever are your HANDS. Therefore in the description below, I've included a picture of the step, as well as the corresponding hand position.Alright, you'll start off in your handstand, with fingers pointing forward. Nothing new so far. ------------------------------------------------------------You'll then you start to bend the arms and dip your head forward. If you recall, this is similar to the position for the handstand press, except your legs are out straight this time. Your fingers can begin to turn outwards slightly, but it is not essential you do that right now. While this is a transitional position, you should still be balanced. If I can hold it long enough to take a picture of it, it's balanced. ------------------------------------------------------------For the next step, your arms have bent to 90 degrees and your face is near the floor. At this point you'll want your hands turned outwards so that it is easier for you to stab your elbows and prepare for the elbow lever. If your fingers are still facing forward at this point, you will find it difficult if not impossible to stab in your elbows. ------------------------------------------------------------In the final step, you will simply turn your hands and point your fingers towards your feet as you level out your body into an elbow lever. If you recall back to the elbow lever tutorial, this hand position will allow you to open up the angle of your arm and balance the skill. So if you find yourself stuck in the previous position, remember to turn your hands and open up your arms. ------------------------------------------------------------The one error I see in this skill is slamming your body into the ground instead of stopping above the ground in the lever. As I said, this skill is about control so you'll want to work on your shoulder strength to control the descent, and your core muscles so that you can maintain a straight body as you level out. ******************************Pressing UpOf the two skills presented here, I'd have to say that this is probably the harder of the two. In the elbow lever tutorial, I gave a slight hint on how to start this move. If your arms are at a 90 degree angle while you are trying to hold an elbow lever, then your feet will raise up. You'll use this to your advantage now as you go from an elbow lever to handstand. ------------------------------------------------------------Once your arms are at 90 degrees and your legs start to rise up, you'll want to push downwards with your hands. The motion will feel similar to a handstand press up, but you should try and keep your body straighter. A slight arch in your back and legs is ok. If you get stuck here, work on your shoulder strength. ------------------------------------------------------------You may notice at this point that my hands have not changed position. They are still facing backwards. I find it easier to press up into the handstand position before I turn my hands, rather than moving hands mid-press. If you find one way works better for you than another way, then go with it.At this point in the skill, I'm upside-down with a very awkward hand position. It may happen in practice that you'll fall over toward your head at this point. Remember back to the handstand press and the ways to fall safely out of a handstand. On your head is not one of them! While I usually pirouette to get out of a bad handstand, I act[...]

Elbow Lever Challenge

Fri, 10 Jun 2005 01:34:00 +0100

Well, I would've posted this about a week ago - but I'm in the process of moving right now. Add on top of that my new ISP made a mistake in sending out my internet equipment, and I'm forced to use public library computers for the moment.

So apologies for no recent post, and much apologies to all those who have emailed me and having been waiting a solid week for a response. Once I get online at home, this post will be up and running. Thanks.

The Elbow Lever

Sat, 21 May 2005 17:59:00 +0100

I've been making good progress with the one arm elbow lever - So I figured it was about time to write up something on the two arm elbow lever, more commonly referred to as simply 'the elbow lever'.For those unfamiliar, the elbow lever is a position where the body is held up horizontal to the ground. But unlike the planche (where there is NO support along the length of the body), the elbow lever uses one's elbows as a resting and balancing point for the body. This makes the skill much easier than a planche.An elbow lever - It's a fairly simple skill really. There's just several key points in order to find the correct position.The HandsYou'll want to put your hands down on the ground about shoulder width apart, with the fingers pointing to the side, or even slightly backwards. This hand orientation is essential in balancing the skill correctly. The Elbow StabWhat's this about stabbing? Well, as I mentioned before, your body is resting and balancing ON your elbows. In order to do this, you need to learn the correct place to put your elbows. This placement is called "stabbing". As you can see from the picture above, you'll be placing your elbows to either side of the middle. The placement of the elbows is fairly intuitive, as your elbows aren't going to be able to meet in the middle of your body, and if they are placed any farther out, then your body is not resting on them.The picture below shows a single elbow stab into the correct position. Your elbow should rest right at the edge of your six pack. If you were to take one arm and stretch it across your body like so, then you can easily find the correct position. It should feel like your elbow is sitting into a groove. Of course, this is also a good stretch to do if you find inflexibility is making the elbow stab difficult.You can also work the traditional shoulder stretch to help any flexibility problems. When your elbows are stabbed, your arms will be parallel or turned slightly outwards. If you try this skill on a set of parallettes or rings, your arms will definitely turn outwards, forming a trapezoid in the empty space. The StartWith the correct hand orientation, hands about shoulder width apart, you'll want to lean forward and "stab" both your elbows in at the same time. You should start to feel the support that your elbows will be giving you.If you are having problems getting your elbows into position. Beside stretching during each practice session to increase flexibility, you can also hunch your back over. I find this helps in getting the elbows into the right position. Whether you start with your body in a straighter position, or hunched over is unimportant if you can extend into the elbow lever in the end.The EndAfter you stab in your elbows, you'll want to arch your body to make it more horizontal. This will lift you off the ground and into position. There are three main points to remember when extending into the elbow lever. You'll be doing these all at the same time - 1. look upwards - the spine follows the head, so looking up will flatten things out.2. lift up your legs - you'll feel this in your lower back, as you'll essentially do a reverse hyper extension of the back.3. lean forward - you'll have to lean forward and open the angle of your arms to balance correctly. Elaboration of this point follows.oh yeah . . . and don't forget to breathe. I know it's hard, what with your arms stuck in your gut, but it helps to cut down on the red face.The Arms and BalancingThe most common mistake regarding the arms and balancing that I see is keeping the arms at a 90 degree angle. This is simply because that arm angle feels more natural when you are pressing something away from you (in this case, the ground). Doing this will put your body off balance, and your legs will generally rise upwards as you fight to stay up. So if you find your face heading toward the ground, like the picture, then it's often a matter [...]

And Now for Something Completely Different

Mon, 09 May 2005 01:55:00 +0100

I've been getting a bit of traffic through my blog and it's great to see the volume and diversity of the people. I greatly appreciate all the feedback and comments that I've been receiving. Thanks to the good people at, I'm able to see where everyone is coming from, like so:


And below, in no particular order, is a list of countries I've seen visit over the past couple weeks. It's really cool to see all the countries - it's starting to look like an attendance sheet at the United Nations.

Hong Kong
United States
United Kingdom
Republic of Korea
Czech Republic
Bosnia and Herzegowina
South Africa
United Arab Emirates
Serbia and Montenegro

I guess what I'm trying to say is that this site has been growing at a healthy pace. And it's necessary that it starts to change into something else. For these past several weeks, I've been planning and working hard to bring about this change.

Things are a bit crazy for me now, but I do promise more tutorials. I've got at least four in my head now that I want to post. Even if you don't see multiple updates or much activity in the next couple weeks, I can promise you that I'm working hard on this site. Stay tuned.


And now, so there's a bit of relevance to this post. Here's some some great pictures of bodyweight skills.

This first photo is of an unknown man doing handstands on some chairs. It looks like he may be at an army camp. I love this photo simply because its age shows how long these skills and feats have been around.


I hate to say "there's nothing new under the sun", but if you dig around you'd be surprised how much has been done in the past.

This next photo is of the Bouley Brothers - Armand and Tibbet. I don't know which is which, but I have to say that the top man is holding the closest thing to a "victorian" that I've ever seen. It's certainly higher than a regular front lever.


So maybe you want to grab a friend and give this a go. . . or you could just pick your jaw up off the floor and get back to training! Good luck!


Wed, 27 Apr 2005 05:01:00 +0100

Here is my tutorial for double leg circles on the mushroom. What you'll read below is one of my most technical posts to date. For those unfamiliar with what the skill looks like, scroll all the way down to "Odd and Ends" for links to video clips. For those who are working towards a circle on the mushroom (and eventually the pommel horse), I hope this guide will give you the best analysis of all the movements necessary to learn this skill. I'll just be covering work on the mushroom, since I figure if you're working the circle on the pommel horse, you're beyond the scope of this page.Despite the tome written below, the double leg circle isn't that difficult to pick up. Well to clarify, it's a skill that takes a short time to learn, but a lifetime to master.And for the first time on this page, helping me demonstrate the skill, is Chuck: He's from Ikea, a town in Sweden.*crickets chirp* Anyways...The Mushroom For those unfamiliar, here are pictures of some training mushrooms. It's quite obvious how the apparatus got its name. The mushroom is a training device that's used to teach circles and flairs for the pommel horse.Introduction The circles I describe will be going in a CLOCKWISE direction. So switch up lefts and rights if you are practicing a counter-clockwise circle. I will be referring to various positions on the mushroom with numbers, or by simple comparison to a clock face. Here are the positions and corresponding numbers (1 being the start, of course): Next, we'll talk about where you should be putting your hands on the mushroom. Even though it may feel intuitive to put your hands near the middle of the mushroom, you'll actually want to put them a bit off center, away from your body as such: So they'll be shoulder width apart, in the top 1/3 of the mushroom. When you get your hands on the mushroom, you'll understand where to put your hands so that they're forward of the center. I'll describe the importance of this below.So together, your hands and the numbered positions will look like this: Now we'll learn the first position and walk around to each point on the circle. These are the GENERAL positions you want to be in when going around in a circle. I will get to the specifics of each position later, when you start getting off the ground.The First Position To get yourself into the correct position, place your hands on the mushroom as described above. You'll want to put your legs together, get your body in a neutral to slightly arched position, and lean slightly over the mushroom.Below is David Kikuchi of Canada, showing nice form for the first position. The two biggest mistakes made in this position are lifting the hips up and away from the mushroom, and not leaning over the mushroom enough. As Chuck demonstrates below: hips up too high leaning too far away Both will throw your circle off-kilter from the beginning, as both mistakes take your body away from the mushroom. You're going to be circling over top the mushroom, so you need to keep your center of mass over top the mushroom. Like so: first position Next, we'll be WALKING around the mushroom into the second position, cause you've got to learn to walk before you learn to fly.The Second Position For a clockwise circle, lift up your left hand from the first position and walk around 1/4 of the mushroom to your left. When you get to the second spot, you'll want to put your body in a position like so: side view front view Keep your body in a straight position; don't sag down on top of the mushroom. You'll want to keep the hips close to the mushroom and lean over that right arm. Below is a picture of Ivan Ivankov of Belarus, in which you can clearly see the lean involved. As far as the hand goes, Chuck is lifting his arm up in such an exagerrated manner so that he remembers to lift it when he's flying around the circle. I suggest you do the same.T[...]

A Better Straddle Planche

Mon, 25 Apr 2005 23:42:00 +0100

So I was sitting at work today thinking about how my planche progression was coming along pretty well. And it occurred to me that I had only snapped pics of a one-legged planche. How does my straddle planche measure up now?

Well, I drove home from work, kicked off the shoes and grabbed the camera. Results as follows...





I guess I still don't know where my legs are, but I'm hitting a straddle planche, more or less! And I'm balancing it on the ground, which is even more exciting. It felt much more solid than my previous parallette straddle planches.

So I guess I can recommend to work the one-legged planche in order to bridge the gap between the advanced tuck planche and straddle planche. It seems to have built up my shoulder strength enough to make extending into a straddle easier.

As far as the circle/flair post goes, I'm trying to finish up the circle post by tonight. It's pretty extensive and is taking a lot of time. I won't even be addressing the flair until another future post. But don't worry, you'll have more than enough to read right now.

Research and Development

Sat, 16 Apr 2005 23:58:00 +0100

Hello there! While you're waiting for the tutorial on circles and flairs, I figured I'd post up some pics of my current training, simply because it's been too long. So here for your reading pleasure, is my progress...The first big thing to announce is that I'm working the one arm chins again. I can crank one if my arm is slightly bent, but I'd like to be able to pull one (and eventually many) from a complete dead hang. I got back into this skill with some heavy two arm chins. Heavy meaning, building up to 150% bodyweight. And I hope to continue to up that weight. I keep the reps low, no more than 5 a set generally, for the sake of my elbows. I'll end up a session with some lockoffs and negatives with the heaviest weight. This helps finish up things when I can't pull up with the weight anymore. I'll also give myself a good day or two of rest inbetween sessions to let myself recup properly.Next, the progress that I'm most excited about is my one arm handstand. I've been trying to work this everyday for short sets. This plan has helped tremendously.As far as technique, I've started to focus on really pressing my supporting shoulder out (just like a regular handstand), keeping my body very, very tight, and most importantly - lifting the other hand up slooooowwwwllllyyyy. If you whip that hand off the floor too fast, you'll just throw yourself out of balance from the very beginning. In addition, I'll often try to hold myself up on one hand for as long as possible, while the fingers of my other hand just barely brush and touch the floor for balance. I've tried the skill with legs together and split. Splitting the legs lowers my center of gravity slighty, and helps to balance a bit - especially at the end of the set when I'm tired.For the first time, I feel I can slightly control my one arm handstand balance. Like I said, I'm excited.I snapped this next shot, because I thought it looked good with the picture on the wall... haha... The planche is moving forward, slowly but surely. Here's a pic of my one legged plance on the parallettes. I'm trying to straighten the bent leg out slowly, bit by bit. It's going to take some time though. The position on the ground feels much stronger now. It use to be hard to hit anything close to this on the ground, but now I don't need the extra deathgrip on the parallettes to pull it off. I'm not too concerned with the elevated butt/crooked body right now, since it's a bit difficult to line things up with one leg out and one leg in. On the ground especially, I feel like I'm going to knock my knee. As I build up the strength in my shoulders, the legs will straighten out and I'll be able to level myself off, and my shoulders are definitely getting stronger.The main exercise I've been doing recently is planche pushups with my feet on a chair. I find it very important to really lean as far as possible and get into the planche position at the top of the rep. I've been adding weight to this exercise by throwing some plates in a backpack and putting the whole thing on my back. This exercise is great work for the front of the shoulders and chest. I feel like I've been making good steps by combining this with static planche holds.Finally, I've been playing around with the wide handstand a bit. Balance is particularly tricky because the hands are turned 90 degrees from a normal handstand. The one problem with training this is that I run out of floorspace quickly as I begin to move my hands outwards! Working something like this seems like a good way to get yourself ready for the inverted cross. And now that the weather is getting warmer and the daylight longer, I'll be taking my rings to the local playground and working on both the iron and inverted crosses.So that's what's been keeping me busy for the past several weeks. This is the part of the [...]

Circles and Flairs

Tue, 12 Apr 2005 04:03:00 +0100

By popular demand, I'll be making my next post about circles and flairs on the mushroom and pommel horse. First, I'd like to stress right here that I was NOT an elite athlete, just merely someone on a club gymnastics team.


But even still, I think I can provide enough technical explanation to start someone out. In the end, you'll want to listen to your coach of course, but I hope to help anyone who may not have adequate coaching at the time.

The Handstand

Tue, 05 Apr 2005 06:44:00 +0100

The handstand - a fundamental skill if you are interested in bodyweight exercises. Working it will build strength and help develop total body coordination. I'll be throwing a lot of information at you in this post. Before you dive into this tutorial, I need to explain something. I'll be describing the handstand piece by piece, so that you can better understand the form and technique. But when you train the skill, I want you to put those pieces together in your head. As I said, it's an exercise in total body coordination. Do not get so focused on one part that you confuse yourself and neglect another part. Everything must work together. So read through everything first and try to get an overall sense of the skill.Oh... and make sure to practice A LOT.We'll start with the "modern" handstand as a base to jump off. This is a straight handstand that is the standard in gymnastics these days. With your body in a straight line, this is also considered the "cleanest" looking handstand. I'll describe variations as I get to them. Let's start from the top . . .The feet When you first start training, try to keep your toes pointed. Yes, this is mainly for aesthetics. You could still perform a handstand with hook feet, but I feel that when I straighten my toes it helps to line everything up. The feet point upwards; the body flows in that straight, upwards direction. The legs When you first begin, you will also find it easier to try and keep your legs straight and together. Keeping them straight will prevent them from flopping around like limp noodles, making things harder to control. Keeping them together will prevent them from flailing about as two different entities. You've got enough on your mind trying to coordinate the rest of your body. So help simplify things and keep those legs together for now! The torso The torso is one of the major components that will determine the look of your handstand. As far as your torso is concerned, a straighter handstand is achieved by slightly tensing the abs to keep your body in line. You will get handstands like this: If you were to relax your abs a bit, let your torso and legs fall towards your backside, and bring out your head (discussed below) then you'd wind up with handstands like this: Gymnasts back in the day held handstands with this significant curve in their backs. For this reason, I'll call this the "old" style handstand. As gymnastics changed, the handstand was straightened out for both aesthetic and technical reasons. The modern form allows harder, more complicated gymnastic skills to be performed. The shoulders You'll want to really extend and engage the shoulders. This tension will give you greater control. Think of shrugging your shoulders upwards or trying to push into the floor. The difference looks like this: unshruggedshrugged The head and arms You'll find your head position will be the single greatest factor affecting your back/handstand shape. Why is this? Because the spine follows the head. If you really pull your head out (to look at the ground for instance), then your spine will follow suit and bend. This will give you that banana shape. Try and keep your head between your arms as much as you can. Instead of pulling your head out all the way out to stare at the ground, try to look upwards a bit with just your eyes. This will help to keep your head in and your back straight.To those familiar with the Brazilian martial art known as Capoeira, the head is brought between the arms even more, so that a Capoeirista can watch his opponent, instead of the ground. Two capoeiristas square offa neutral head position allows one to see their opponent. So you've seen three styles of handstands - modern, old, and capoeira. You may be asking yourself "whi[...]

Simple Handstand Press

Tue, 22 Mar 2005 04:37:00 +0000

Today we'll look at the handstand press, a relatively simple move that'll put you up into a handstand. We'll be looking at the bent-arm, tucked press which is the easiest of the lot.Not surprising, you'll need to develop a handstand, then the pressing strength.If you don't have a handstand, throw yourself up against the wall and practice. I'll assume that most reading this have a handstand, are working towards one, or know how to work towards one. If demand calls for it though, I'll write up a short piece on working towards a handstand. Eh, I might do that anyway in the future...When you have a good solid handstand (5-10 seconds at least), then you'll want to start working on the pressing strength to get up into that handstand. Enter, the handstand pushup. If you can do this up against a wall, then you're almost there. Just work on the exercise and get your reps up to around 5, at least. That way, when you press into a handstand you'll have enough strength to balance yourself, rather than expending all your energy on one press.Can't quite do the pushups? Well, throw a pillow/cushion under your head and work on lowering yourself down SLOWLY to the ground. Please don't dive head first through your floor! These negative repetitions will help to build the necessary pressing strength. During these negative reps, you can work on stopping yourself in various positions along the way, as well as pressing back up only a couple inches, instead of the entire way. All these things will help build up your shoulders.Need something more hardcore? Grab yourself a set of parallettes (like shown below) or two sturdy chairs. Kick up and work on a FULL range handstand pushup. Just like before, if you can't get the full range right now, you can lower yourself down slowly or try pressing up while a few inches above the bottom. If you do decide to do this, be careful, especially with chairs. You have to kick a bit harder to get your legs up higher and I don't want to hear about anyone putting their feet through their wall.Another thing I've tried recently is to attach ankle weights to myself and press-up. I've got to start working these on the parallettes or attach a couple weights to my belt, because the weight I have on now (15lbs) isn't that difficult. Just make sure you get into position by getting slowly into a headstand, then pressing up. If you kick up with ankle weights on, you WILL put your feet through your wall! In any case, it's another idea to work with. But I'm getting ahead of myself. If you can do several regular handstand pushups, you have the necessary strength for this skill.Now the obvious question people might have is.... can't I just work my military press in the gym? Sure you can. I just like to train as close as possible to what I'm working towards. Working handstand presses against the wall will get you use to pressing upsidedown and even get you prepared for the *gasp* free standing handstand pushup!So it's your choice really, but that's my preference.On to the press. You'll want to get into a tuck position and put your hands out about shoulder width in front of you. Take note that your shoulders are higher than your hips right now.Now what you're trying to do next is to get your hips higher than your shoulders. We'll do this by bending the arms. There will be tension in your arms and shoulders at this point, as you are now holding your bodyweight in the air. Keep yourself tucked. And despite what it may look like (?) don't rest your knees on your elbows. Your elbows are close by, but provide no support. In addition, don't bend your arms too much. If you bend them to 90 degrees, you'll mash your face, as you can see below. But trust me, if you ever do this, you won't the next time.[...]

I had to take a short break

Fri, 11 Mar 2005 00:06:00 +0000


So as I mentioned before, I had a bad case of elbow tendonitis. I gave it a good two weeks of proper rest. I mean, I didn't do so much as a push-up on it. I even gave up squats for that time, since even holding the bar on my back was causing some discomfort. Yes, this all drove me crazy, but it needed to be done.

Well, now my joints feel much better. No more tendonitis flaring up everytime I do a pullup.

So new updates will be coming soon. I've got enough material swimming around in my head for three updates at the least, and that's just for starters. I've just been a bit busy now to put it all down properly. But look for something in the next week.

Stay tuned...

L-seat progression and tricks

Mon, 21 Feb 2005 06:41:00 +0000

For those completely unfamiliar, this is an L-seat on the rings. As you can clearly see, the legs are bent at a 90 degree angle to the torso, so that the entire body forms an "L" shape. Hence the name.I realize that for some reading this page, this is far too basic. Patience! I'm starting from the beginning and will be discussing skills and progressions that should leave everyone busy for quite some time.But first... training for the L-seat.The L-seat has no motion to it, and requires very minimal balance. It is a simple skill that is easily acquired by building the necessary strength. What's one of the best exercises for building that strength? HANGING LEG RAISES!! Of course, straight legs is more advanced and if you can do a hanging leg raise with straight legs, then you're probably already able to do an L-seat. For those who do not have the strength quite yet, just hang and raise your legs into a tuck. Or you can head to the gym and use one of these machines- If you are building up your strength with the machine above, make sure you are working your repetitions strictly. Bouncing and swinging your legs up is cheating and is a waste of time. No momentum!What if you have no pullup bar or regular access to the leg raise machine? No problem. I didn't have all that "fancy" equipment either when first learning an L-seat. You know what I used? The ground! Imagine that. First, get your hands by your sides and lift yourself off the ground in a tucked position. If this is a struggle, just continue to work on the position until you can easily hold it for an extended length of time. When holding the tuck becomes simple to do, I want you to work on holding yourself in that same position but up on your fingers instead of a flat palm against the ground.So while you started off with your hands like this... You'll now want to work on supporting yourself up on your fingers, like this... This will build strength up in your fingers and become very helpful in future tutorials (hint hint). Careful not to pop a tendon in your finger though. If your hands are feeling fatigued, do not try supporting yourself on your fingers. And if you feel that there's absolutely no way your could support yourself up on your fingers, then work on finger tip pushups to build up that strength.When you do have the necessary hand strength, go back and try the tuck position up on your fingers. The remainder of the progression will be shown up on fingertips.So now that you've gotten the tuck position, we'll extend a leg out to put more stress on the muscles. Make sure to switch off legs to build strength evenly.And of course, the next step after that is the L-seat itself. Your legs should be straight, and this should be a pretty easy position to hold. If your legs are bent and/or you are shaking to hold the position, then take a step back and work some more on the previous positions. If your body is leaning real far back to hold the position, you also need to take a step back. The torso should be perpendicular with the floor.Quite simple, right?Below are a couple fun tricks you can do with the L-seat, and below that we have some skills that will take you beyond the L-seat.For these L-seat tricks, you'll want to get back down on your flat palms. This is for the safety of the fingers, which would most likely be injured due to the stress and motion that would be placed upon them. To repeat and restate - You should not try these tricks up on your fingertips!L-seat walkingNow that you're an expert on the L-seat, get up into the position and try walking forward. You'll find it easiest to keep your arms straight and simply lean back and forth while moving your hands forward. L[...]

Tendon Strength

Mon, 14 Feb 2005 04:13:00 +0000

Unfortunately, I've been spending the past several weeks in recovery from elbow tendonitis. An increase in my one arm chin-up training left my joints screaming and even a simple two arm chin-up was a pain. I'll give the one arm chin training at least another week's rest, but I'm back to most other exercises.I figure now is a good time to speak of the basics of tendon injury and strength. This will probably be a very basic review for some, but I hope to educate others who are not as familiar.What is a tendon? A tendon, simply put, is what attaches your muscles to your bones. In the picture above, you can clearly see the relationship between the three. As the muscle contracts, it pulls on the tendon, which moves the bone.Importance of tendon strength If we understand the relationship between muscle, bone, and tendon - we can see the importance of strengthening the tendons. To make an analogy, imagine your muscles are your car engine, and your tendons are the tires. Now you may have a lot of horses under the hood, but if your tires aren't good enough, then you're not transferring as much power as possible. The whole system needs to be strong.So let's look about a bit more at the muscles and tendons.First, here is detail of the muscle The muscle is composed of groups of muscle fibers. When one trains to increase the size of ones muscles (hypertrophy), the muscle fibers increase in size. While a larger muscle definitely helps generate force, it is not always indicative of true strength. For example, a bodybuilder's main goal is to increase this muscle hypertrophy all over his body. Are bodybuilders the strongest athletes out there? Certainly not. My love and respect to Schwarzenegger, he's very strong, but his training was for muscle growth, not necessary raw strength - such as a powerlifter or olympic lifter trains for. It's just a different training goal, that's all. And don't even get me started on these bloated bodybuilding freaks of today... There are plenty of Olympic weightlifters who look nothing like bodybuilders, but who toss monstrous amounts of weight up over their heads.Looking good for a bodybuilding competition may suit some, but if you want muscle that will work as well as it looks, then you've got to strengthen the tendons to be able to transfer the power. Again, don't take me wrong, bodybuilders are still very strong, but pound for pound, you can't beat the weightlifters.Difference in TrainingGenerally speaking, weighttraining workouts that advocate higher numbers of reps and sets for far less than maximal weights will promote hypertrophy and work the tendons to a lesser degree.To stress the tendons, heavier, near maximal weights for less repetitions should be used.Some places, like the hand, absolutely require strong tendons for staggering feats of strength. This is because hypertrophy in the hand will occur, but only to a limited degree. It's the tendons that must be stressed and strengthened to create incredible power. My hand strength training has never consisted of high repetitions with lower weights. This is why Ironmind created the Captains of Crush high spring tension grippers. It's high tension that will build hand strength, not endless repetitions with a weak store gripper.Tendon injury and recoveryWhen training with higher poundage, we must remember the stress put on the tendons and allow for adequate recovery. This is especially true of the hands, which can be injured easily and which take a long time to come back from injury. Lower weight, extremely repetitive actions can also cause tendon damage. (think tennis elbow or carpal tunnel)My training mistake for the OAP involved usi[...]

Start With The Back Lever

Sun, 23 Jan 2005 21:53:00 +0000

In the ranking of strength skills on rings, on a scale from A to E, the back lever sits at the A level. This means it is one of the easiest strength skills to perform. That being said, it should also be one of the first skills you master. Especially if you are working towards higher level skills like the front lever (B level) and planche (C level). The back lever builds upper body strength and teaches the important skills of total body tension and coordination. Alright, square one . . . First, you'll grab the bar (or rings), get into a tuck, and invert yourself. Simple enough. Continue bringing your feet over your head until you can get in the position shown above. For those who never did this as a kid, this exercise is called "skin the cat". You'll want to then bring your feet and legs back up over your head to get back to the start. When you first start this exercise, you will want to stay tucked as you bring your legs up and down. As you get stronger, work on keeping your legs straight and moving your piked body back and forth. Soon you'll get strong enough to start trying some positions. Whichever position you choose to work on, I find it helpful to straighten my body as soon as possible. On the rings, this is simply achieved by getting into an inverted straight hang. With a pullup bar, you have a bar and doorframe to contend with, so simply straighten like in the picture above. If you feel ready, try lowering down into a one-legged back lever. Having one leg tucked-in will take some of the weight off the skill. This position feels a bit odd in comparision to a regular back lever, but it is easier. If the one-legger gets too easy, just straighten yourself out and lower down into a back lever. I find it easiest when I look at my feet as I lower down, so I can see when I'm horizontal. After you level out, just pick up your head and look forward. In performing any of these exercises or skills, make sure you land on your feet when you drop off the bar or rings. Smashing into the ground face-first isn't fun for anybody except the people watching. So don't do it. Land safe. Other that that, the most important tip I can give you for performing the back lever, is to lock your back and arms together. Below, anatomy man will show you the muscles that you should be fusing together. By keeping things tight, you will create tension in your upper body and recruit the large muscles in your back, instead of just your arm muscles. I've tried to demonstrate the difference in muscle tension in the following pictures. In this picture above, I am using my arm muscles when holding the bar, but I'm am not using my back muscles as greatly as I can. Here, I have flexed my arms and back muscles to create tension in my entire upper body. As I said, it should feel like your arms are locked to your lats (your latissimus dorsi, your wings, your back!!). So in the end, this is what your back lever should look like if shot from above. Use as many muscles as you can. Why make it difficult by only using your arms? The back lever really isn't that hard to get down. If you already have a bit of pull up and dip strength, you might be able to pull off this skill at first go. Good luck! [...]

The Progression of Things

Tue, 18 Jan 2005 02:33:00 +0000

First, my front lever is much more solid now. It use to be a strain and struggle to hold one. No longer... a shot from the back and a shot from the front I've been jumping up into a front lever just about every time I went through my door. No long workouts, just short, frequent ones. The constant repetition helped tremendously in strengthening the skill. I can actually say I have a front lever now. My one arm handstand has become the forgotten child. I don't tend to practice this too much at home due to the very real risk of injury when I fall over to one side. Therefore, I only work on it at my gym in the matted room... with plenty of space. In any case, I'm seeing a bit of progress and my current state has me up on one hand with a one finger assist. It's always tempting to snap my assisting hand up to my hip and try and hold a one arm handstand in practice. While this generally gives me a short-held o.a.h., it's not going to give me a solid one! If I can gradually lower the assistance needed from that finger, until I can curl up my hand off the ground into a fist, then I'll have it solid. What am I aiming for? CHECK THIS OUT. This guy holds a one arm handstand for an easy 10 seconds. The video is from style2ouf, a french breaking site with some incredible clips. Guess that creates a good segue into a video of my straddle planche attempts. Like the last video, it'll only be hosted for a week. (size 17.1 mb) I filmed this on Jan. 6th when I was able to wrestle my work camera back to my place. The film is crappy, but you can see my current state of planche training. I still don't know where my hips and legs are, and the straddle planches are shaky, but there's something there! There is definitely something there. It's been such a long fight, so I'll take what I can get. I think if I start training this skill like the front lever - with a shorter number of reps more frequently - it will really help to bring things along. OAP training took a bit of a blow this past weekend. The skill feels like a real grind, so I figured I would work on my endurance for the one arm chin, so I increased assistance to 15 lbs. With this assistance, I'm training to get 5 reps. When I can get 5 reps, I'll drop the assistance down to 10 lbs, etc... Well, I got a bit overzealous since the reps were easier. Too many sets later, I still felt ok. But two days later when I went to do some regular chin ups?? Oh man, the elbows started screaming!! Tendonitis, damn. I tried some more chins today and the elbows still yelled a bit. Things are getting better, but I have to watch myself closer now. No more all-night one arm chin workouts. I'll still work for 5 reps, but I'll keep the sets at a much lower number. On a positive note, my regular chins feel weightless. And my one arm assisted chins are definitely moving faster than before. I've been very pleased with my hand strength training. Here is a picture of my #2 close. Hmm, well you'll have to trust me that it's a #2. I first closed a #2 a few weeks ago, but some KTA training has me smashing it consistently now - even with my left hand. I even no-set closed it with my right hand! For those unfamiliar with the grippers, a set is assistance from the non-closing hand so that you can get all your fingers around the gripper. The set puts your fingers in a better position and gives you a bit of a headstart on the close. When I can no-set the #2 consistently with both my hands, I'll start up another cycle of KTA training to mash my beef builder super master gripper - it's about a 2.5 in terms of difficulty. If you have any sort of interest in [...]

A Video! and more chair handstands...

Wed, 12 Jan 2005 03:58:00 +0000

I was able to make this quick video of myself demonstrating and briefly explaining the chair handstand. The video is grainy, the sound is iffy, and my ad-libbing leaves something to be desired, but it should clarify the entire process I outlined in my last post.


(size 20.8 mb)

Due to the way in which I'm hosting this video, it'll only be available for one week. If you really want to see the video after that time, just shoot me an e-mail.

This next picture is a shot of me doing a chair handstand on a "high stack". It's just three chairs stacked on top of each other. I'd only try this trick with those particular chairs, because they are identical, sturdy, and have flat tops and bottoms.

And despite what every single spectator said, they are not held together in any way. Oh yee of little faith...


I hope this shows that the chair handstand - and perhaps any skill I mention on this page - is as much a matter of mental control as physical. There's really no difference between a handstand on a high stack and one on the ground. Only your mind makes the distinction and creates the fear.

This next picture is a skill called "the illusion". I tried to describe it in a previous post, but this picture will do a better job explaining. It's what I'm doing in my profile pic (the pics are same event, a year apart).


It's easy to see that my left hand has a straight shot to the ground, so that the seat of that top chair is completely unnecessary. If you want to give this a shot, start by putting another chair under the front legs of the top one, then work on tilting the top chair off that support chair. Or better yet, ask me. I won't throw up anymore about the illusion unless there's demand for it.

Whatever you do, do not... please do not try the illusion unless your regular chair handstand is spot on perfect. Another chair and two more feet in height can really hurt you in a fall.

And finally... the double illusion. You can see the idea of the single illusion taken to another level (literally!). I'm the top dude on the left side.


I've seen pictures of professional performing groups have 7 or 8 people in one of these illusion poses. They make the chairs smaller as you get to the top, and the lean is greater to fit everyone in. It looks pretty amazing!

Whew, that's enough chair handstands for awhile now. I'll make another post regarding my training progression in a day or two. I also hope to put together a few more tutorials soon. Good luck to everyone with their training.

Handstands on Chairs

Mon, 03 Jan 2005 15:15:00 +0000

Performing a handstand on a chair is one of my favorite skills to do. Not surprisingly, it's also the skill I'm most requested to do. A handstand on the floor is impressive to many people, and handstand pushups even more so - but as soon as you throw a familiar object into the mix, people tend to pay a bit more attention. Everyone is familiar with a chair, and the thought that someone could press a handstand on one seems impossible. Physical Prerequisites: First, you should be able to hold a solid handstand before you even look at a chair. I'm not talking about a 3 second hold, I'm talking about a 30 second hold. Each and every handstand you do on the ground should be in control, and you should be able to come down on your feet in control from every handstand. Having a press handstand is tremendously helpful, although not entirely essential. The ability to do handstand pushups is also a great help. The more arm and shoulder strength you have, the easier this should be. I'm laying out these physical requirements because I want anyone who tries this skill to be ready and safe. You must remember that this is not a handstand on the ground. Whereas you might fall forward onto your head and shoulders when learning a regular handstand, this is not an option on the chair. Everytime you come down, you should be in control. Training Precautions: 1. Start up against a wall, just like learning a regular handstand. Chances are that you aren't use to the arm position and things will feel a bit odd. The wall will help should you need it. 2. Use a sturdy chair. I'm using a folding chair in the pictures below, but I'd consider that slightly advanced. You want to start with a solid wood chair with a back that is not too high. If the chair back is too high, your bent arm will be crammed up against your body and the handstand will be much more difficult, if not impossible. You also don't want to use a chair that may fall to pieces while you're upside-down on top of it. 3. Clear things away from you. Yes, I realize that I'm in the middle of my room with weights, computer, bed, and/or windows to kick, but I have tremendous confidence in my technique. When you first try this skill, your technique might need some work. Clear a space around you for safety's sake. 4. Look out above! Some forget that they will be trying a handstand a couple feet off the ground. If you have low ceiling or light work above you, find another place. Some may not appreciate footprints on their ceilings either. 5. Come down safely. When you are lowering yourself back down to your feet, try to do so in a controlled fashion. This will prevent any stupid injuries caused by slamming back down into the chair and then tossing yourself backwards onto the floor. In the event that you lean too far forward/left/right and start to fall, pirouette while holding onto the chair so that you can land on your feet standing. Alright, now that the disclaimer is over, onto the skill. The first important detail is proper hand placement. Your hands will be a bit off-center. If you picture the chair as a square, then your hands will be on opposite corners. This placement is essential for balance and control. If you place your hands in the middle like you are lining up a regular handstand, then balance will be difficult. Make sure that the hand that is on the back of the chair is the closest one to you. That arm will be bent during the handstand, so it needs to be back close to you. The hand that is on the seat of the chair will be further away from you. Grab around the front of the [...]

Holy Straddle Planche Batman!!!

Thu, 23 Dec 2004 06:04:00 +0000

Three cheers for digital cameras!! No sooner did I post about my difficulties with the straddle planche, then I decided to give it another go and use the digital camera to see my exact body position.

Lo and behold, on one of the first shots, I see this!

What a site to see! Although. . . where's my head???

I took several more pictures with different camera positions. Most were a better shot of my ceiling or my bed, than anything I was doing. With a bit more trial and error and some dumb luck, I was finally able to get some decent shots.

a little high for my taste, not quite as level as the first.

Better, legs still look a bit high.

Eh, a bit too low now.

Alright, now I'm just too tired.

After this fiasco, and the crooked one legged planche shots previously taken (the camera rested on a pile of pillows), I'll just ask for my girlfriend's help in picture taking.

But I digress.

This time around, I just leaned forward and pressed into the straddle planche instead of lowering down. I think it was easier because I was not wasting energy balancing in a handstand from the start. Each was held for a solid 2-3 seconds on average.

Most importantly, I pinpointed the root problem I have with my straddle planche - I don't know where my legs and hips are!!! Of course I'm trying to level my body out, but since I'm exerting maximum effort (and things get worse when I get tired), I just don't have adequate awareness of where I am in space.

Interestingly enough, I always thought my efforts looked like the last picture in the line. I was flexing my lower back so much, that I was sure my hips were far too low. But apparently, this was not the case.

It was all pretty exciting, and I know now that I can use the straddle planche in training. I'll still focus on the advanced tuck and one legged planche, as I can hold those longer. In addition, I'll start focusing on the advanced tuck pushups with more gusto now. When I improve my time on those skills, I'll improve my hold on the straddle planche and be able to control my hip level.

And once the straddle is mastered, it's just a hop, skip, and jump to a full planche, right? hello? hmmm.

EDIT: I'm hoping to catch a video of this in the very near future. I may not be holding it for any considerable time, but even a short video removes the doubt of photo trickery.

A New Path Towards the Planche

Sat, 18 Dec 2004 14:03:00 +0000

In my planche training, I've seen pictures and read about the straddle planche. I've even lowered down into one on some parallettes. But in all my training, it's never felt comfortable trying to hold one, or even get into the position. For the visual learners, here is a great picture of a straddle planche: Note - this is not me. Although, I'd say the resemblance is uncanny! So my problems with a straddle planche - It's my hips, I think. I'm just too inflexible in my hips!! Flexibility has never been my strong suit, so until I start a dedicated program for working towards my splits, I'll have to find another way to get to the planche. Enter. . . The One Legged Planche This planche position felt great. It was a little bit harder than the advanced tuck position, but still felt very strong. My hips are a bit higher than I'd like, but I think this is on account of my tucked leg. Straightening of the bent leg should help me flatten my back out more. In the very least, my extended foot is in line with my shoulders and head. Holding the position for the camera was not that difficult, it was trying to fit my entire body in the shot! Speaking of the spatial limitations of my room, I also like this one legged planche because I'm not kicking things, as with the straddle planche. It's obvious that the progression for this one legged planche is to slowly extend the tucked leg until the two are together and I'm in a fullout planche. Interestingly enough, I've been working a similar position for the front lever. Instead of trying a straddle front lever to work up to the front lever, I simply extended one leg and varied the extension of the second leg. If it worked for the front lever, why not the planche? After the shot above, I met up with a friend of mine and his brand new kettlebells. For those unfamiliar, kettlebells look like this: Cannonballs with handles. I'd heard the praises of these weights for quite some time. But still, I wasn't sure if swinging or clean & jerking a kettlebell would be far superior to doing the same with a dumbbell. I mean, it's just a change in handle position, right? Wrong. I guess I should've known, as I was first surprised at the simplicity and effectiveness of the block weight (see my home gym post) Anyway, the kettlebell is absolutely incredible for swings. If I used one for nothing else, it would make the cost worth it. They're much easier to grab with two hands for swings, and much more resilient to the inevitable dropping that will occur. They'll generally smash into the ground bottom down, so there's little chance the handle is going to break off. Swinging and catching from hand to hand was great fun, as was turning the kettlebell over in the air and recatching. Even using a 16 kg (35.2 lb) kettlebell for swings, as light as it was, felt great and really got the blood flowing. My buddy had a 16 kg, 24 kg (52.8 lbs), and 32 kg (70.4 lbs) kettlebell that we used to crater the grass outside my gym. Clean & jerks, snatches, and shoulder presses felt great with these kbs. And I learned of the "bottom-up" press. You simply grab the kettlebell like you're going to shoulder press it, but you keep the ball above your hand. You have to grip hard and feel the balance in order to press the kettlebell and not have it come back down on your forearm. After the quickest hour and 1/2 workout of my life, I headed back home and snapped this picture: Fantastic to see that I'm consistently hitting the same position. I'm looking forward to[...]

Active Recovery

Wed, 15 Dec 2004 21:42:00 +0000

Finished up a week of KTA training this past Saturday. I'm mashing the #2 again. The high volume gripper work leaves your hands with a soreness not regularly felt. The best solution for this? Contrast baths!

It goes as follows:

Get yourself two buckets, fill one with water as hot as you can stand, and the other with cold water and a couple trays of ice cubes.

Stick your hands in the hot water. Open and close, stretch and crack them for about 2 minutes. Take them out of the hot water and put them into the cold water for 2 minutes. Switch back and forth several times.

At the end of it all, your hands might look something like this:

Nice and red from all the blood flowing through them. This will take the ache away and allow your hands to get stronger.

This whole concept is referred to as active recovery. The theory of active recovery is to help your body along in its natural process of healing itself. You may often hear someone say that the body doesn't get stronger when you work out, but when you rest. This is very true. Only with rest can the body adequately recuperate and recover. Anything you can do to help the recovery process will only help to make you stronger.

For other body parts, try a bit of light stretching or light work with bands. Both will get blood rushing to the area without breaking down and taxing the system. The idea is to help circulation, not to get in another workout.

If you're not thinking about recovery, then you're wasting a lot of time that you could use to get stronger. So grab some buckets, grab some bands, and get to it!

Home Gymnastics and The Front Lever

Thu, 09 Dec 2004 03:02:00 +0000

My front lever isn't that good at this moment in time, so I was happy to grab the doorframe the other day and hit this:


And from the other angle it looks like this:


I've got to chalk this up to my slightly bent arms though, because my front lever on a pullup bar with straigher arms isn't quite this strong yet. Regardless of that all, it was a fun skill to grip the doorframe and hover horizontally in my kitchen for a bit.

And while we're on the subject of front levers, how about some pics for inspiration?

In this first one, we've got Brad Johnson working a one arm front lever. He has a kettlebell in his one hand, what weight I can't recall. When I get around to pulling some pictures off of videos, I'll post up a front lever of his that he performs on some ceiling rafters. Absolutely amazing hand and body strength!!

And this second picture is the from another person who inspires me, John Gill.
Here is his classic one arm lever picture:


The front lever is actually rated the same difficulty as the iron cross in gymnastics, but it doesn't get nearly as much pomp and circumstance as its brother. Despite that, it's still a fun skill to work at and as you can see from my pictures above, can be performed around the house.

If you haven't seen it already, Coach Sommer has an excellent progression for the front lever here. (Planche training too!)

The Planche, part 2

Tue, 07 Dec 2004 03:51:00 +0000

Posted my tuck planche pic (seen below) up on the Dragondoor forum. A much better response than I anticipated!! I got "excellent progress" "nice!" and "I'm envious".

This type of strength training tends to keep me to myself, so I think I lose a bit of perspective as to my progress. I have come a long way!! But I know I've still got a ways to go. The challenge is the appeal for me. Setting an impossible goal and reaching it. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it...

On the hand strength front, I've started up another cycle of KTA training, or Kinney Training Applied. It's a workout plan developed after Joe Kinney's training methods. Joe was the first man on earth to close the Ironmind #4 gripper. It takes an estimated 365 pounds of force to close that #4 gripper. I have one. . . . it feels like a brick. I can currently close the #2 gripper, or about 195lbs of force.

These grippers are heavy duty. The approx. strength of each is as follows:
Trainer - 100lbs
#1 - 140lbs
#2 - 195lbs
#3 - 280lbs
#4 - 365lbs

They can all be purchased at There's even a "guide" and "sport" gripper which take about 60 and 80 lbs to close, respectively.

With the KTA I'm planning on closing the #3 sometime next year. Quite reasonable, I think.