Many times in the gym, I go through my handstand and backbend sets and receive very satisfying gasps of awe. This is usually followed by the question:
“Are you a gymnast?”
I find this laughable because I was actually kicked out of gymnastics camp as a small child. Apparently I wasn’t coordinated, motivated enough, or both. However, years later I set out to prove my instructors wrong. This post is all about how, and why, you too should tackle this amazing move, and how it is never too late to learn something awesome.
Why should you learn the backbend recovery? Simply put, the backbend recovery should be in the arsenal of any person who wants to look like these lovely ladies from team USA. Gymnasts not only do amazing things, but they look amazing because they do amazing things. Each core gymnastic move is full of muscular benefits, from the planche to the handstand. Furthermore, each move doesn’t take very long to do. If you can master just a few (I’m still working on the planche) you can take a 2 hour long work out, condense it down to 30 minutes, and still be fantastically fit and strong.
The backbend recover has many muscular benefits, which change the more flexible you become and your technique. The more flexible you are, the more you rely on abs, back muscles, and hip flexors. However, the backbend recover is also fantastic for your glutes, and the push off involves your shoulders. The biggest benefit I have found has been a very noticeable change in the definition of my abs. I’ve never been one to have a flat stomach, but my backbend recovers have taken me as close to that goal than I ever have been before.
Note, working about 2-3 days a week, it has taken me about a year to develop a backbend recovery. Given, this has never been a core goal, but the flexibility and the strength take time to develop. Don’t expect to see results immediately. But from one gymnastics failure to another, this move is something that can be done by anyone of any age who has a good physical fitness base. All it takes is a little time each week.
The first step is to build up your backbend flexibility. Trust me. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to do a backbend recovery. Practice your backbends by remaining in them for 30 seconds to 1 minute intervals. If you cannot perform a backbend, lay on an exercise ball and do cobra stretches until you can. Make sure you stretch so that you feel it in the front of your body, especially your chest to your shoulders. You should NEVER feel any pressure on your backbone. Your backbone does not stretch, it breaks or fractures. Your backbone can already do a backbend, and it is actually the muscles in your chest and stomach that are preventing you from completing your goals. By putting pressure on your backbone, you run the risk of injury.
The next step is to get up into your back bend, in a way that will help train your muscles for the recovery. Check out this video by fit for a feast. What is important is at minute 1:45. Note how she gets into the back bend. By practicing this technique, on both sides, I was prepped mentally and physically for attempting to go into a back bend from the standing position.
Next, you need to work on being able to go into the back bend from the standing position. First, stretch your wrists out to prepare them for the sudden impact when you go backwards. Next, set up an exercise step with a mat on it to a height where you feel comfortable. Lean back, and flex your back so that you feel the stretch through the front of your body. This will protect you backbone.
Next, lean backwards until you are in a modified back bend with your hands on the step. If you need to prep mentally, don’t put your hands over your head, but dangle them at your sides and lean back until you feel the bench. This way you have an idea of how far down you have to go. You can also go off to one side or another instead of straight back a few times, to better see the bench as you go down. If you have a friend, you can use a spotter. You have the strength and the flexibility. This part is just mental.
Gradually move the step down in height until you can do a full back bend from a standing position. Now you are getting somewhere! Practice sets of this every work out, until you can do at least two sets of 4. Now you can practice the recovery too. Bring the bench back, and building it up in height until you can raise yourself up in a recovery. Then do the same thing you did with the back bend from the standing position, and gradually work until you do not need the step anymore.
A few helpful things I’ve noticed, is to think of the recovery as more of a forward motion. Since I am still building flexibility and strength, I end up bending my knees and throwing myself more forward. If I fail, I end up in the kneeling position this way too, and not on my head.
Make sure to breathe, and with all that effort you may feel slightly dizzy when you force yourself into the standing position. This is normal, because all the blood is rushing away from your head. You can mitigate this effect through practice, cardio, and being well hydrated.
So go forth and conquer! You have all the information you need. Now all the rest? It is up to you! Good luck!
This week in Updates:
Oh my gosh so many things to cook this week! I’m so excited! I’m going to have to put out like three recipes on this post just because I have too many things I’m working on to keep saving them up. Polenta has really opened up a whole other world to me, and I’m becoming better and better at seeing possibilities depending on what I have in my fridge. It is really fun! Also….
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS!? I just found out that my co-op has shampoo and conditioner and lotion in bulk! So yes, non organic stuff is cheaper, but if I buy the organic in bulk it is like the same price! I also feel very good about myself, because why waste all those shampoo containers? Why not reuse and recycle? Clearly I need to do a new post detailing all the things you can buy in bulk besides dried goods. Why did not one ever tell me this before?
Finally, I also found some friends! They are in a meet-up group called Living Simply In Sactown. Finally, some other people who won’t think that my attempt at sustainable living is crazy! We are watching a documentary called Small is Beautiful next weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited. I want to live, as much as I can, in a way that positively benefits my neighbors, my country, and my world.
The Recipe(S!): Oregano polenta grilled cheese bites, orange cranberry mung beans and rice, and spicy curry mung beans and polenta
Polenta Grilled Cheese Bites
Grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort food, but what do you do if you don’t have bread? Or, if like me, bread is too expensive? Polenta is dirt cheap, and with some cheese and oregano, you have a perfectly delicious hot melty bit of goodness. Eat with a fork or let it cool for two minutes, and eat with your fingers. I couldn’t wait until it cooled! It smelled too good!
Salt to taste
To make polenta from scratch, go here.
Heat olive oil in a pan, and add a half teaspoon or oregano to the olive oil. Once it is warm, grill the polenta in slices until slightly brown. Flip. Place cheese in slices on the polenta, and cover until the cheese is gooey. Remove from heat and stack in nice little sandwiches. Enjoy!
Orange Cranberry Mung Beans and Rice
I made this during a particularly hot week when the idea of heating up anything for lunch was unbearable. All I wanted was something simple and sweet, and so I bought some orange peel, dried cranberries, and made this. It was just what I wanted. Mung beans are idea for sweet and protein filled dishes, as they are actually often used in dessert. They also do not require any pre soaking! I really like this, and I hope you like it too!
2 Tbs Orange peel
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried rice
1 cup dried mung beans
2 tbs honey
Makes 7 servings. Boil water for rice with 1tbs orange peel. Make the rice. Boil water and make the mung beans (takes about 30 minutes in boiling water until soft). Mix finished mung beans and rice with the honey, cranberries, and remaining orange peel. Let cool, then enjoy!
Spicy Mung Bean Curry with Polenta
You can use this easy curry with mung beans or something a little less green, like black beans and rice! No need for anything fancy. It is simple and delicious!
Red pepper flakes
Cook polenta and mung beans. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil and ½ tablespoon of curry per 1 cup of beans. Mix in red pepper flakes to taste. Enjoy with your polenta!