Laura is a keen acro yoga practitioner (if you don’t know what this is – check out this amazing video!), and as part of her practice, is working towards performing the impressive straddle press handstand.
With this in mind, we began training together in March 2017, with the aim of increasing Laura’s upper body strength and dynamic core control.
In order to meet Laura’s goals, we decided to focus on the three key areas involved in executing a straddle press handstand:
Low back and gluteal strength (to draw the pelvis and legs up and overhead)
Arm, shoulder, and upper back strength (to support the body during planche and inversion)
Dynamic control of the deep core muscles (to improve balance and stability throughout the sequence)
The programme I designed therefore consisted of compound leg exercises to strengthen the low back and glutes, and upper body free-weight exercises to strengthen the arms, chest, and shoulders. In order to activate the ‘inner unit’ of the core, I included a range of exercises that required a combination of balance, resistance, and controlled movement. In contrast to exercises like planks and crunches, which can help support the abdomen by bracing the outside of the body, these exercises target the small stabilizing muscles inside the abdomen and around the spine, which help support the low back during motion.
Laura has a strong background in fitness and her technique, proprioception and outer core strength were excellent before we began working together. For this reason it was tempting to initiate training at the hypertrophy stage. However, as Laura had limited experience of working with free weights, I decided to begin at the conditioning stage, to introduce her muscles, tendons, and joints to the mechanics of working with weights at low-moderate intensity. Laura did not feel the need to work on her cardiovascular fitness, so we did not include this in her programme, other than during the warm up.
Instead of increasing the amount of weight Laura was working with throughout this phase of her programme, I progressed the difficulty each week by increasing the neural demand of the exercises. This meant altering exercise variables such as stability, novelty, symmetry and complexity. These variations meant Laura was challenging her muscles, core, and nervous system in different ways each week, which helped wake up as many muscle fibres as possible, and build a solid foundation from which to increase her strength in future weeks.
Example session (Week 5):
Marching, upper body mobilisers and spinal rotations
Jogging, jump rope
Dynamic stretches, squat and reach, squat jumps
Compound legs (2 sets of 12 reps):
Kettlebell deadlifts (8 kg)
Kettlebell squats (8 kg)
Squat jumps on BOSU trainer
Upper body with core stability (2 sets of 12 reps):
Overhead press (1.5 kg dumbells) with squat on BOSU trainer
Pec flys (1.5 kg) with shoulders on Swiss ball
Lat pulldown with resistance band (medium), sitting on Swiss ball
Single arm seated row with resistance band (heavy)
Swiss ball pike into headstand
Mountain climbers with feet on gliders
Reverse plank into pull-through (hands on yoga blocks, feet on gliders)
Foam roller / stretch
Laura in action:
Laura has been extremely dedicated and has made amazing progress over the last 6 weeks, with increased confidence working with free weights, and an ability to perform complex, destabilized movements with excellent technique! She is also progressing well towards her goal of the straddle press handstand, by lifting herself slowly, with control, from a Swiss ball pike position into a clean headstand. Impressive!!
During the next stage of our training I’ll introduce Laura to hypertrophy training, in order to develop greater muscle mass in her upper body. We will also introduce some deep core isolation and breathing exercises, and take some time to discuss the increased nutrition requirements that go along with this type of training.
Thank you Laura, and a huge well done for all your hard work!
Beth :) x