So I thought it might be fun to share one of the assignments from this past week- that I thought was pretty cool, and that I did completely last minute on the due date (which happens to be today), oops. It took me HOURS! ( and I feel like it needs to be shared, if only for my own sanity, for wasting so much time on something that is only worth like 10% of my final grade- on an amazingly beautiful summer day- but that is a conversation for another post)
The assignment was to pick a functional activity that used all of the muscle groups we’ve learned about so far, and break it down. I chose the handstand. Now, I don’t really know how functional this activity is for “everyone” but it is an activity that I do regularly, along with those who do yoga, cross fit, or gymnastics.. So I just went with it.
(Totally borrowing these photos from the good old inter webs)
The handstand uses practically every muscle group in your body to maintain balance and form while flipped upside down, making it an extremely complex functional activity. While there seems to be quite a bit of strength involved, the balance is where the work really comes in. The cooperative relationship of the muscles on both sides of the body achieve and maintain the alignment of the bones which allow us to balance our weight evenly over the base of our hands.
Starting bent over, the hands are placed on the floor shoulder distance apart with the fingers and thumb splayed apart to make for a wide and stable base. (Fingers abducted by: Dorsal Interossei, Abductor Digiti Minimi. The thumb is extended by: Extensor Pollicis Longus, Extensor Pollicis Brevis.) While simultaneously flexing the wrist, (Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus & Brevis, Extensor Carpi Ulnaris) pronating the forearm, (Pronator Teres, Pronator Quadratus) and extending the elbow joint, (Triceps Brachii- both heads, Aconeus). The shoulder is fully flexed and the arm slightly abducted to keep the arms “over head”, (Anterior Deltoid, Pectoralis Major, Posterior Deltoid, Supraspinatus) with the Coracobracialis helping to maintain the shoulders stability. The shoulder blades are in an upwardly rotated and protracted position with the contraction of Upper and Lower Trapezius and Serratus Anterior.
The Hamstring group flexes one of the knees, allowing that leg to act as a spring, catapolting the legs over head. Now the rest of the work begins! The trunk muscles together are responsible for much of the balance in this posture. Muscles are active on both the posterior and anterior aspects of the body to maintain the stability and integrity of the posture.
On the posterior aspect, the head, neck and spine are extended, Spenius Capitus and Spenius Cervicis have this action covered at the head and neck level. However they get help from all three of the muscles of the Errector Spinae group, Transversospinalis and Interspinales which are also responsible for the extension of the neck, but also the spine. On the anterior aspect, the Rectus Abdominis, External and Internal Obliques are contracting, keeping the trunk flexed to oppose the posterior muscles. Toss in the Transverse Abdominis, and all four of these muscles are contracting to compress the abdomen as you "draw the navel toward the spine" to achieve a solid core which will translate into balance.
As we move upward toward the legs, the hip is slightly flexed, legs are straight (as the knees are in extension) and drawn together as the feet reach up toward the sky. Hip flexion is occurring with the contraction of Iliopsoas, Sartorious, TFL, Rectus Femoris and Pectineus. Pectineus works double time and helps in the adduction of the legs. The Gracillis, Adductor Longus, Adductor Brevis, and Adductor Magnus muscles also aid in the squeezing of the legs toward the midline. Finally the knees are in extension by way of the Quadriceps group, (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedialis, Vastus Medialis).
There you are, a handstanding pro!