“The handstand is the first step to developing a catlike capacity for landing
on your feet.”—Greg Glassman
A distinguishing factor between CrossFit and many other fitness endeavors is its goal to develop both the breadth and depth of our fitness. Many (if not most) fitness programs are primarily concerned with developing the depth of your fitness in a specific type of activity: runners want to run far or fast; cyclists want to ride far or fast; powerlifters train to lift as much weight as possible for just one repetition; even triathletes, although expanding to three disciplines (swimming, cycling, and running) are still focused primarily on cardiorespiratory fitness despite the seemingly “multi-disciplinary” nature of a triathlon.
CrossFit separates itself in focusing not only on the depth of the fitness it attempts to develop, but the breadth of that fitness as well. The breadth of fitness CrossFit seeks to develop is expressed in its 10 general physical skills. If you don’t know them, you should read about them. Or ask one of your other coaches. But for purposes of my advice to you today—learn to feel comfortable and safe upside down—the 10 general physical skills include strength, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. Which brings us to learning and practicing handstands. That is right, getting upside down. On our hands.
In his CrossFit Journal article aptly titled Handstands, Coach Glassman (a former gymnast) points out that the benefits of the handstand include improved balance, core strength, shoulder strength, and spatial awareness, recognizing that “the difference between tripping and landing on your feet versus knocking your teeth out is profound.” Who could disagree?
There are reasons to challenge ourselves at the box and learn and do new things—in a controlled and safe setting—which may make us uncomfortable at first but have real world benefits. Every single one of is going to fall at some point in our lives, no matter how “safely” we attempt to live. Most of us will fall many times during our lifetimes. What are those falls going to look like? Do we end up with broken hip, fractured wrists, ripped ligaments, or maybe even a catastrophic head injury? Or do we fall with grace, come away with just a few scrapes and maybe end up looking like a Spiderman instead of a now injured klutz?
We need to learn to get upside down, feel comfortable there, learn how to fall safely—and do so in a controlled, protective setting that advances our fitness. In CrossFit, one way we do that is through the handstand. You will get the chance to practice this week and many times in the future. I suggest you take full advantage of it. Not because you want to get to Regionals or the CrossFit Games, or because you are trying out for floor exercises on the U.S. Olympic team, but because it could literally save your life.