I wish I knew a thing or two about good form when I first began doing calisthenics. Unfortunately, the concept of good form and execution never really crossed my mind as a teenager.
In my early days (2008-2012), I focused on the bodybuilding aspect of calisthenics (i.e., sets and reps) and I wasn’t exposed to any information about form. I saw computers and the internet as a source of entertainment rather than education. Google and social media were unfamiliar to me, and I didn’t know of any educational YouTube channels or influencers to follow for tips.
When attempting bodyweight skills, it was all about trying to replicate the advanced moves that experienced practitioners in my neighbourhood could do. I had a little bit of a Crossfit approach too. If my handstand looked at least 70% like one, I was happy with it regardless of my arched back or bent arms. Bad form didn’t stop me feeling a sense of achievement from learning new skills either. I had no notion of building strength through progressions; I was just going for it.
Looking back now, I think I could have injured myself. I used to do back levers with an arched lower back because my upper back and core muscles weren’t strong enough. My shoulders, chest and biceps always took over which put them in a vulnerable position and under enormous stress. I remember feeling pain in my elbows after each attempt.
I used to do banana back handstands for years too. Back in the days, my goal was to walk on my hands as far as possible and arching the lower back and bending the knees helped with that tremendously. Unfortunately, that was putting my lumbar spine under pressure and I could’ve injured it if I wasn’t as flexible.
I also used to muscle up by relying on a bit of kipping momentum, therefore losing on the benefits of the exercise. It looked ugly and messy. Instead of kipping, tucking the knees and resting my chest on the bar before a struggled push to the top, I should have strengthened my lats by doing explosive high pull ups diagonally.
Now, I value practising with good form because I want my handstands to translate into a handstand push up or handstand pirouettes. When I try to do these with abs relaxed and pelvis untucked, I easily lose balance.