Tuesday Tips: Twisted Grip Handspring (from the ground)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t teach this trick, and I don’t perform it– and I’ll explain why in a minute. I’m putting this entry up because I’ve gotten a TON of requests on how to do this move, but a lot of the requests worry me a little bit.

I’ve noticed that often, when people ask for help with the move, they say that they’re getting pain in their top wrist, or lower elbow–especially if they’re working towards an iron X. So it appears to me that maybe some people are putting this move on their “to do” list, without fully considering if it is right, or appropriate, for their body. For some reason, the same person who is freaked about doing a cupped grip shoulder mount or a regular split grip cartwheel– because it’s “scary”–has no problem throwing her legs up in the air in a twisted grip handspring. When people ask me for help with this, I often ask what else they’re working on. Because if you don’t have a controlled shoulder mount, or a controlled iguana lift or headstand, then– well, I hate to say this, but you have no business working on a twisted grip handspring. People! It’s an advanced trick. I don’t care what anyone else says– if you’re doing this, you should already be strong before you even start working on it.

When you put your top wrist in position, twist your chest and hips to face the ceiling, and then lift, you are bearing weight on joints (your shoulders and wrists, primarily) that are not meant to be bearing weight in that position. Think about it: we say shoulders down and away from your ears for a reason, yet most people are not able to set up for a twisted grip from the floor without having their shoulder right by their ear! You need a good deal of shoulder flexibility, and wrist flexibility, to even get ready to go. If you have the joint mobility, and this is a trick you really want to nail, then by all means work on it! You’re a grown up and you can make your own decisions. But make sure that you are working on stabilizing that top shoulder, and engaging through the upper body (lats, pecs, shoulders) to pull up, instead of hanging off the top arm and letting most of your weight fall on the bottom arm (which can also cause pain in the lower elbow). And if you don’t already have other inverts in your repertoire like cartwheels, handsprings, and ayeshas– with OTHER grips– then you won’t understand the proper engagement in the lower shoulder, and will be bearing weight on it without using muscles to pull the shoulder blade into the right spot in your back.

I know that quite a few studios teach this move with a kick to get your legs up. And this is where I’m getting on my soapbox a little bit (more). I’m firmly of the school that you should never, ever, kick into anything. A controlled leg sweep is acceptable, but if you are kicking and need momentum to get up, you’re not using strength to lift and you sure as heck will have a hard time properly engaging everything you need to in order to stay safe. Butterflies and fairies aren’t going to hold you up once you get your hips in the air– you need core and upper body strength to hold it. Right? If you really want to get familiar with the position, I would recommend working on it as a transition from an aerial move (inside leg hang/scorpio, cross ankle release/layback/recliner) and really exploring balance and getting super strong and comfy with that.

The point that I’m trying to drive home here, is that not every trick is for everyone. I’ve heard of a LOT of injuries from people working on this move, so… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but just because a move is trendy or really really awesome and impressive looking– doesn’t mean that you should try it. If you are looking to make sure that your joints and body is in good shape, healthy, and happy for years to come, make sure to listen to it!


Tomorrow’s post: Head over Heels…