What’s harder, getting a handstand or keeping it? Logically speaking you’d say getting it and you’d be correct but try saying that when you’ve just got your first back lever, your first handstand or your first muscle up!
So often you will get your first muscle up or lever, or handstand and want to keep hammering it in the hopes of it ‘not getting worse’. It makes sense, you’ve worked your ball sack off for this and there’s no fucking way you’re letting it slip now! So the training frequency doesn’t change and in some cases it actually increases……
But is this increase justified; do you need to do all this work?
No. And I’ll illustrate why with my own experience first. This year saw the biggest improvement in my handstand as I dedicated 2019 to sorting it out once and for all, as it’d always been a weakness of mine. 3 months into 2019 I saw great results, I could hold it on cue and for decent time frames – and with an ever improving line. All I did to get this was a diligent but regular as clockwork 10 mins per day, everyday.
Come June I was having issues with my right wrist as a result of high volume handstand work and most probably sub-par entry technique (over-kicking). I eradicated this by having my form rebuilt courtesy of UlrikOnHands at his and Tom Merrick’s awesome handbalancing & bodyweight strength workshop in July this year. However, I banged my wrist right at the beginning of November and as far as I know I had a light fracture, which made bearing any weight on it as good as impossible.
As a result, handstands were out for a month plus! Currently the wrist is finally getting back to decent standards and I’ve recently returned to handstand holds thinking I’d have lost my skill altogether………but no, they’re actually just like they were! Granted, they feel a touch rusty but I can still balance in the same line as before with a WHOLE MONTH of ZERO training/practice.
All of this goes to show the body isn’t as fickle as you fear. Once a skill is hard wired and deeply ingrained, it takes a while to be forgotten – especially if you’re training the body as a unit in other ways. And it shows a maintenance dose doesn’t need to be anywhere near as high as you’d think. Obviously if you were looking to improve something beyond your current level then you’d need a higher frequency but even then the deciding factor is the effectiveness of the practice/training.
Even in the case of muscle ups, back lever or other calisthenic skills the same rings true. I never train back lever directly at all now and it’s still available whenever I want it. Steven Low reiterates these sentiments in the epic book, Overcoming Gravity 2, suggesting a good maintenance strategy as working a move either into the end of the warm up or at the beginning of a workout, once to thrice weekly but for low volume.
So this is true for EVERY skill?
Obviously the higher the difficulty of the skill, the more work will be needed to keep it. Take the front lever for example, that’s a notoriously hard hold to keep without ever working on it. Guys like Lee Turner and Sven Kohl of Cali-Move have attested to this, too. You’ll find the more strength demanding the skill, the more maintenance needed to retain it. Hence why moves like one-arm chin ups and full planche tend to go missing at points during a training career when not greased regularly.
But those are more advanced skills. Intermediate skills such as handstands, muscle ups, back lever and other ring skills are definitely easier maintained than the monkey mind will have you believe.
The tricky thing about frequency is it’s very individual and therefore hard to give simple yes/no answers on. Generally speaking though, less always tends to be more. There are a multitude of high regarded coaches that have been forced into this line of thinking, purely due to the results they’ve seen anecdotally with their clientele. The likes of Dominik Sky & Jason Ferruggia come to mind – both are strong proponents of reducing your current workload and making better gains long term.
The world of calisthenics & bodyweight strength training is a marathon not a sprint. It’s all heavily dependent on tissue quality, tendon strength/conditioning, neural sequencing and individual response rate. These facts alone should have you playing a more patient game but fear not, your handstand won’t go too far south if you leave it alone for a few weeks.
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.