December 7, 2011
December 11, 2011

With a lot of one rep max testing going on this week, and after a long grinder on Tuesday, things slowed down a bit for Thursday’s class and focused on some skill application.

Skill 1:
Handstand Push-Ups

Everyone began with a set of 5 scaled HSPU’s, with knees on a box and both hands on small boxes to ensure full range of motion. To slightly scale up, raise your knees by placing a bumper plate on the box. To slightly scale down, place your feet on the floor (or on a short box) but keep your hands on the small boxes. The key to the scaled versions is “verticality;” i.e., ensuring that your torso is not only as vertical as possible at the bottom (with head touching the floor), but remains as vertical as possible as you press back up – don’t allow the spine to arch and the chest to flatten out, which turns the movement into a decline push-up.

For the slightly more advanced members of the class, those who have substantial HSPU’s under their belts, we had a special version of the HSPU to try: Wall Facing Band-Assisted HSPU on parallettes/dumbells.

But if these athletes can already do HSPUs, why use the bands? Because, in this case, the bands weren’t there to assist them as a strength supplement. Admittedly, we’re not big fans of using bands to aid in facilitating HSPUs, at least not where a lack of strength is concerned. There are plenty of more adequate progressions to help you build strength and comfort in the handstand position. Instead, use of the bands Thursday aided athletes with their balance when facing into the wall, creating a situation where these athletes could work on maintaining good hollow-body position and form through out the movement while still tapping into their strength.

In the line of handstand progress, we often start with our backs to the wall. This allows us to develop strength and comfort in the handstand position while also allowing us time to play with body alignment. However, handstands facing away from the wall do not encourage a proper hollow handstand posture. In fact, most athletes will allow themselves to over-arch in this position:

This is where handstands facing the wall come in. Practicing handstands facing the wall helps to ensure a proper hollow, upright handstand position:

(Cheers to DrillsandSkills for the photos, taken from their Handstand Push-up article.)

Unfortunately, handstands facing the wall don’t allow as much leeway with balance as facing away from the wall does. Thus, when HSPUs are called for, most CrossFitters default to the facing-out position, which allows them to focus on strength rather than balance and position. Thus was born our band-assisted HSPU facing the wall.

By having people face the wall, we allowed them to concentrate on maintaining a good hollow-body position through-out the movement. However, by simultaneously using bands to assist with balance, we also ensured that they would be able to incorporate their strength. In fact, in this set-up, the bands will allow you to pull your feet away from the wall, and perform an assisted free-standing HSPU if comfort allows. Additionally, placing people’s hands on parallettes/DBs requires full range of motion, but also helps in learning to keep the elbows in towards the body.

These are not for everyday use, but are simply another tool in helping to develop proper posture and form. Speaking of development, to help cement in all this form and posture, as well as build some all-around strength, these movements were then used in a follow-up workout.

Skill WOD 1:
2 (or 1) HSPU on the minute for 15 minutes

Using the scaling option most appropriate for you, perform 2 HSPUs on the minute for 15 minutes. If performing a full two reps isn’t possible, or if form begins to overly break down on the second rep, switch to 1 rep for the remaining time.

Skill 2:

We’ve been covering kipping a lot lately, but Thursday’s kipping review had a slight twist to the end of it. Before the twist however, the entire class ran through the same progression of 1 x 3 Hanging Arch & Hollow Position Holds (for reference on what this looks like, check out our November blog-post with accompanying pictures).

Hollow Position: Shoulders up with the hips tucked forward and low back pressing into the floor to create a rocking-chair shape while on your back.

Arch/Hyper-Extension Position: Shoulders up and thighs raised with the hips tucked back and abdominals pressing into the floor to create that same rocking-chair shape while on your stomach.

This was followed by a set of 4 or 5 smooth kips (putting the two positions together in a seamless but controlled movement). Then the twist: instead of applying the kipping to pull-ups, Thursday’s kipping practice would be used to help develop kipping Knees-to-Elbows.

The function of the kipping in the K2E movement is the same as the pull-up. However, where, in the pull-up, after drawing our knees up towards our abdomen, we would add a hip “kick” to pull our chests back into the bar, we now continue to draw our knees up past our waist and in to our elbows.

Adding the kip to the K2E will obviously help you improve your numbers in the knees-to-elbow movement. However, kipping K2E can actually act to help improve your basic kip. First, it will really drive home the importance of keeping your scapula retracted while hanging on the bar. Relaxing the scapula and allowing your shoulders to pull-up towards your ears will effectively close off your shoulder muscles and rob you of the ability to press away from the bar. Second, kipping K2E requires you to pull your head back as you press away from the bar and into the hollow position. This will help angle the torso up towards the bar, allowing you to raise your knees high enough to touch your elbows. Leaving your head forward of your arms will force you to remain in a vertical position, make it near impossible to get your knees anywhere close to your elbows (thus turning the movement into a hanging leg raise instead).

Once again, to help nail these points into place and build up a little more strength in the process, everyone was given the chance to put this practice to use.

Skill WOD 2:
3 x AMRAP Kipping Knees to Elbows

It was a little tight using the bars on the court, especially depending on your height, but doing them in that set-up will serve to keep your form in check, demanding control over the movement instead of wild leg-swinging (which will inevitably send you crashing backwards into the wall). If you’re struggling to apply the kip to the K2E continuously, take the same approach that we use for the pull-ups, and try a few kips, one full K2E, and then try to immediately regain your kip.

Excellent work – look for more skill work in the near future, but more importantly, look for us to start applying more of the skills and progressions in actual workouts. Until then, keep practicing.

Also, if you haven’t already, please be sure to RSVP for the Holiday Get-Together. See you all on Sunday.



  1. Steph says:

    Ah, so that’s why those peeps were on the band. I was wondering about that. Makes sense.

    I did the metcon on the boxes and did 2 per round until round 12 where I was told that my back was starting to arch on the 2nd one. I scaled down to just doing 1 rep for the rest of the rounds. I found it helpful to look at the wall behind me to get that hollow position.

    First time trying kipping k2bs and it took a few tries to get the hang of it, although at best I was still only stringing 3-4 together and not successfully bringing my knees all the way up to my elbows. Those definitely need work.

    Looking forward to Sunday’s workout! Very excited about the upcoming CFDC holiday party, 1 more week!!!

  2. Erica says:

    They did not look as much as bands, as they did more like a torture device. I’m glad that I had to modify because it looked like a complicated device.

    The HSPUs, even on the box, were challenging. At first it seemed like 15 minutes was forever, but they flew by. Amelia and I were noting how some reps felt really rough, while others seemed easier (and not because we were sacrificing depth, I don’t think). My back is feeling really jacked today!

    I struggled with the kipping situation. It feels like a really unnaatural movement for me, however I really enjoy watching others do the motion because they make it look so fluid!

    Calves are still very sore, which Chris pointed out, is because I’ve been coming up on toes a lot on the thrusters. whoops.

    I love grinders 🙂 I’m not afraid of them, hehe.

  3. SBV says:

    Missed class due to the annual OGC Holiday Party. Don’t worry, though — I was able to keep pace with the class by doing this workout at lunch. I put 25# bumper plates under my hands for the HSPUs and lowered my head to an Ab-mat. I managed two reps for minutes 1-9 and one rep for minutes 10-15. This was a neat way to get in some volume rather than the usual 5 x 5 format. HSPUs remain a glaring weakness of mine, but I’ve been drilling them at least once per week. I’m hoping to have a breakthrough at some point between now and Charlottesville, but these (not to mention ring dips, push-ups, and other pressing movements) are proving to be a difficult nut to crack.

    I was able to develop a rhythm on the knees-to-elbows, but I’m kipping my brains out. There has to be an easier way to get your knees to touch your elbows.

  4. Amelia says:

    I did the HSPU’s on teh box and managed to stay at 2 per round throughout the 15 minutes.

    Back and shoulders are (still) feeling it.

    I was able to string together a few kipping K2E’s which was exciting. They are fun once you ge the flow down! Need to practice more.

  5. Sara says:

    I loved the HSPU skill work. I wish I caught on to what Tom was saying about pulling my feet off the wall and pressing out of the handstand during the 6pm class. Might have been a bit easier during the 15 sets. I think I made it to 7 or 8 rounds of 2 with hands on the dumbbells in the bands and then dropped to one rep each minute.

    I got 11 lopping k2e.

  6. edgy reggie says:

    Fun times in class. As others mentioned, I enjoy the skill work…especially those skills that are lacking, needs improvement, or both.

    As the lead picture on the current blog shows, I did the handstand pushups on the (tall) box. Thanks to Coach Sara for the adjustments and for the critique. Thanks also to Coach Tom and to Coach Salty for their critiques on my form. I was able to perform two reps (with my head touching the ground on every one) for all fifteen rounds.

    For my kips, I need to remember to start in the hollow position with my head back. With that adjustment (thanks Coach Salty), I was able to string together better kipping knees-to-elbows.

    Again, this was a great class.

    (By the way, this was another great blog write-up as well.)