Over the past two and half years, my main goal has been to develop and produce solid training programs for our GMB curriculum.
It’s been great to work through each training modality from the basics to the advanced movements while designing programs, and improve my own skills in the process.
I even got to revisit a big skill last year in preparation for Rings Two, and I enjoyed the challenge of such a tricky movement!
But since we wrapped up our curriculum (for now!) last December, I was finally able to take on some new challenges and start working on movements and new skills just for the fun it.
And I knew exactly what I wanted to take on…
Taking on the Holy Grail of Hand Balancing
I was ready to turn the focus back to my own training and choose a skill that would challenge and invigorate me. I decided to focus on achieving the one arm handstand (OAHS).
The one arm handstand is a very advanced level movement that looks really cool, and takes a long time to master.
In short, it’s a highly difficult movement that takes a lot of skill to perform.
You may have seen this move done before, but it’s usually performed against a wall. That’s not the true form of the movement, so of course my goal was to master it in its purest form – freestanding and independent of any props!
After three months of training six days a week, sometimes involving two a day training sessions, I was able to hold a OAHS for 3 seconds fairly consistently.
How did I do it?
The answer – By taking a systematic, progressive approach to my training, and by enlisting the help of an excellent teacher to guide me.
Do not even think about trying to learn the OAHS until you have a solid regular handstand. That may seem obvious, but it has to be said.
Everyone has challenges they need to overcome along the way to a goal, and it was no different for me. My primary hurdle was my prior shoulder injuries.
I was actually very nervous about taking on OAHS training because of these former injuries – I didn’t want to risk getting hurt, or worse!
It was clear that I needed to find a good coach.
The Coach finds a Coach
I teach and coach others for a living, and have built up my own athletic ability over the years to be able to perform some advanced-level movements really well.
But every coach needs a coach in order to grow and progress at his or her craft.
There is infinite value in working with an experienced coach on a tricky movement, as compared to trying to figure it out all on your own, without a dedicated program to guide your training.
And when you want to learn a new skill (especially a tricky skill), it’s always better to find a mentor who has mastered that skill and who is, more importantly, capable of teaching this skill to others. It’s also much safer to have someone guiding you through this movement because it can be tough to determine on your own if you’re performing the progressions correctly.
And for me, there was no doubt that Steve Atlas was the ideal coach for the OAHS.
What was it like to work with Steve?
One word: AMAZING.
Steve is an incredible coach, and I highly recommend you join in on one of his seminars or programs if you have the chance.
Each day I’d get feedback from him either in the form of a quick video response or an email. He is an extremely passionate guy and goes out of his way to make sure his students get the best he has to offer.
He wants you to know what you need to do and he’s going to bust his ass – and yours – to make it happen.
Each day, each attempt, each fail, and each success is only a very small stepping stone to a very small progression.
This isn’t just something that you wake up one day and can just do.
There is so much going on in the OAHS that it can drive you crazy from day to day just thinking about it. I’m very sure I wouldn’t have gotten this far, this quickly without Coach Atlas’ guidance.
In the interview below, you’ll get a first hand look at Coach Atlas’ methods, motivations, and passion for what he does.
Tips from the Training Process
Do you want to nail the OAHS? Here’s what you can do to get it in just three short months….
It’s not that simple and there are a lot of factors that will determine how quickly you achieve a OAHS. But here are some general tips to keep in mind so that you’ll be better prepared to take on OAHS training.
Tip #1: Achieve a 1-minute handstand
It really helps to start this kind of training with an already high level of skill and strength in the standard two-hand handstand.
If you have trouble holding a standard handstand for a few seconds, you’ll need to adjust your expectations on getting the one arm handstand.
Don’t take on the OAHS until you can do a standard handstand hold for one minute, maintaining scapular elevation in a decent vertical line. Then work on your straddle handstand!
Tip #2: Block out at least 2 hours per day to train
You’ll also need dedicated daily practice time, and a lot of it.
If you don’t have at least a couple of hours a day to spend working on this, you may be better off tackling another skill.
That’s not to say that you couldn’t get it over the course of time, but you’ll be looking at two years or longer. You really can’t just play around with the movement in your spare time and expect success.
I performed two workouts a day for at least 4 days a week. Each session was devoted to the handstand with a simple focus on the progressions set by Coach Atlas for the day.
Tip #3: Take advantage of “skill memory”
My warm-ups consisted of the standard handstand, held for time and practicing the prior progressions that I had already worked up to.
For example, a typical warm-up could consist of:
- Straddle sides to sides
- Coming up onto five fingers
- Coming up onto four fingers, and so on.
This part of the training is extremely important and should not be neglected.
Warming up and starting with the previous levels gets those levels of skill “in your bones.”
You’re strengthening your body and your “skill memory” every time you practice, and it’s worth every second and ounce of effort you put into it.
The OAHS is a humbling skill and I have had incredible ups and downs in this whole process.
When I started, I was so excited to get moving on towards the OAHS, but after a couple of months of hour upon hour of handstands, it became mentally as well as physically fatiguing. I was still excited, but there were also days where I felt overwhelmed and questioning why the hell I was subjecting myself to this! But I’m glad I persevered and didn’t miss a planned training day.
This perseverance, along with the solid base of the years behind me, helped me to achieve this first step in the OAHS. I just kept on showing up and did the best I could on that day, and did it the next day again and again.
There were days when I started my warm-ups and thought, There is no way I can get “whatever” progression today. I would start in with my handstands and it wasn’t until after maybe the 20th set that things would start to groove. I’d be tired and frustrated but I found that no matter what, if I continued going back, I’d eventually make a small breakthrough, and those breakthroughs added up. I learned something every day.
Also, a great unexpected benefit from all this training is my improved patience.
The entry into the OAHS is a very gradual process and if you rush things, your balance will be off and you’ll fall out of line. It can be very temping to want to pull your hand up off the floor and throw it out to the side as soon as possible! But it doesn’t work like that.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
- I’ve spent so many hours kicking up into a straddle handstand with a sharp focus on scapular elevation.
- Then I pushed down even harder as I dropped one leg to the side to set up for lifting the hand.
- Next, I would re-check my breathing and made sure my legs were tight and toes pointed, as I went up on five fingers, then two, and finally 1 finger.
- Then as I was poised and ready to exhale and let my hand float, I’d screw it all up and fall just because I lost a bit of scapular elevation and I was too tired to push back into it. But I still had 15 sets left to go in the workout!
This is what developed my patience. And since I knew I had to get back up there and do it all again several more times, I sure as hell made sure not to rush it again!
Maybe the next attempt will be the one, but chances are it will be just another rep and I’ll have to buck up and try again.
It’s all about patience and perseverance.
Just The Beginning
I’m still in the early stages of one arm handstand training, and I’m happy for the few seconds of hold time that took months to achieve.
Although I’m excited that I now have the ability to do a cool trick on demand, the most fulfilling part about this practice was being able to focus on a single movement and utilize my training time to get out of my head and just focus on the present moment.
With the right foundation and proper coaching, and some patience and persistence, you can achieve so many things at any level and at any age. It just takes time.
I don’t recall there ever being a day that wasn’t tough. But I’ve enjoyed the entire journey and I still look forward to each OAHS session and improving the skill, cleaning up my lines, and making it as graceful as possible.
Thank you to Steve Atlas and the crew at GMB for standing behind me and believing in me. I’ve got a lot more to work on with the OAHS, and I can’t wait!
Where to Start
If you want to take on the one arm handstand, then you’d better hand a solid handstand on two hands.
We’ve got a lot of hand balance resources on this site, but if you want a very structured program with lots of video tutorials covering every aspect of getting started with getting upsdie down, the I highly recommend checking out this free beginning handstand course I made.
It’ll get you started in the most efficient way possible.
Then you’ll be ready to tackle the OAHS.
If you have any questions about the OAHS, handstands, or taking on big challenges, drop a comment below, and I’ll help you out.