As you might have guessed from my photos and posts, I am totally obsessed with everything there is to learn and know about handstands. During my quest of the holy handstand grail: gathering as many repetitions, information and hours spent on my hands I have come across many wonderful practitioners and incredibly talented performers and teachers. This is the 9th issue of my ALL ABOUT HANDSTANDS Interview series, which I have started to share the many beautiful souls out there who dedicate their time on one or two hands instead of their feet.
SASCHA BACHMANN aka THE GERMINATOR
Sascha's performances are breath taking. You can see him at the moment in New York with Cirque Du Soleil's Luzia which incorporates a certain kind of light show. If you're not in NYC you can find cool routines and workout inspiration online or get coached via FaceTime and videos.
1. Tell me something about yourself: Who are you now, what did you do in the past and what are you passionate about?
My name is Sascha Bachmann and I am a professional acrobatic performer and coach. I travel the world together with my wife doing all kinds of shows. Currently I am working with Cirque Du Soleil in a show called Luzia. Together with my wife and the support of other people I am in the progress of creating an online teaching program for acrobatic performing arts, such as hand balancing, contortion and aerial straps.
What I am passionate about is definitely a question that I ask myself frequently and the answer has changed drastically over time. I believe being able to every day do something that excites you and at the same time being able to afford a comfortable living is the true meaning of living a rich life.
In the past, the only thing that really mattered to me was learning new tricks, getting stronger and improving my technical level. Not too long ago this started to get boring and I had to re-evaluate what I actually love about going on stage. After lots of self searching and countless questioning performances, I realized what really excites me about going on stage is grabbing people's attention. Being able to make them feel something. It is an absolutely magical feeling to perform and hold a huge crowd of people on the palm of your hand. Getting the opportunity to decide what and how they're feeling and having them forget about their everyday lives and everything around them, even just for a second is what truly thrills me.
Falling in love and starting a family has taught me that there is more than just selfish performing. When I'm performing on stage I forget everything around me and live only in the moment. I've come to realize that it is the same when I am teaching. The opportunity to put my personal interests aside and being fully focused on the success of a student turns out is something that I absolutely love as well. I've found the joy and obsession in helping people become better.
Using my own experience and having learned from countless mistakes gives me the opportunity to help others achieve their full physical capabilities. And that is something truly unique and fascinating for me.
2. How does a ‚normal‘ day in your life look like? How much time do you spend on your hands per day?
A normal day depends quite a bit on where I am at and what kind of show I am performing in at the moment. These days while traveling with Cirque Du Soleil I am fortunate enough to have a huge gym/warm-up area backstage where I can do all my training. Here is a rough outline of my current days:
Wake up as late as possible since I get to bed pretty late
Day often starts with 20 min fasted cardio, preferrably outside
Then quick stretch & breakfast at home
Depending on the day, next is teaching or taking classes
Big Top Time:
I’ll get to the big top roughly two hours before the first show
First thing: get make-up done, which takes around 30-45min
Warm-up & training
I’ll usually do some core warm-up exercises like the ‘Germinator Heat-up’ Routine & exercises for injury prevention
Then a big stretch session & work on acrobatic/tumbling skills since I’m trying to integrate them into a new act
Once the first show starts:
With the show starting all my backstage movements become very precise and calculated. We do a lot of little things on stage hence time backstage is limited and often we’ll be busy changing costumes and warming-up.
I’ll do all my hand balancing training during the show:
Before my act I have about 15min to warm-up on the floor.
During intermission I is where I’ll train on my own canes for future projects.
The time after the show is used for cooling down and maybe doing some weight training. Summer is coming and it’s coming fast…
Later at night at home it’s time for emails, music editing and other projects. Of course my day drastically changes when my wife and pup is around. On those days the priority is to spend quality time together, film new content for our social media pages and work on new choreographies.
So basically: there isn’t really that much time on my hands since I got a lot things and exciting projects going on. Over the years I have become very time efficient and learned exactly what my body needs and where I need to give myself time.
3. What is the ‚craziest‘ One Arm Handstand variation you can do and what is your favorite Handstand of all?
That's a good question. I think the shape that turned into my logo was always something that I was proud of and people found very appealing. (top image)
The front flip that I do on my canes as the opening move of my big act is something no one has ever done. I am not too fascinated by positions anymore because with enough patience and hard work anybody can learn them. For me it is more fascinating when someone is able to connect them well with movement and I as an audience member can get completely lost in the performance.
4. At what age did you start training? Did you do Ballet or…?
I started artistic gymnastics at the age of 6. It was in Germany at a club that my grandpa helped build. Gymnastics was hard for me and I was not very inspired, which lead to quitting it at age 14.
I was simply not good enough to make the team. In a sport as competitive as gymnastics when you’re not the best you’re no one. It was very difficult for me at that time but today I view it as one of the best lessons learned and generally one of the best things that ever happened to me.
At age 15 I moved to Montreal to join the National Circus School with the dream of becoming a circus performer. All the frustration and knowledge from failing at gymnastics bundled up inside of me motivated me not only to train all day every day but gave me the ability to train smart. I was always eager to learn more, especially from much older performers and soaked everything up like a sponge.
5. I have read on your website that you are a team with your wife and that you met while performing (I’m just guessing here)… Please tell us about your Love story ;)
What can I tell you about that.. meeting and being with my wife has completely changed my life. Falling in love with her has been the most beautiful adventure of my life thus far. She is my daily inspiration. She makes me so proud. She is my rock and gives me a reason every day to push hard and to be the best self I can possibly be.
We met performing in a show in Europe and ever since barely spent a day apart. A bit over a year ago we adopted a beautiful French bulldog puppy named Klarita who has brought so my joy and sunshine into our lives. Currently the two of them are at home in Kiev taking care of some business while I’m on tour with Luzia.
Nastia comes from a background of rhythmic gymnastics and her sister has a very successful school for gymnastics in West Hollywood. My wife is a very active member of team Coach Bachmann and together we are planning to revolutionize the way people train handstands, Aerials, flexibility and generally acrobatic performing arts & general health. Nastia has also choreographed plenty of my stage work and we are currently working on a duo act together. More of that to come soon.
6. Is the world prettier upside down? Why do you train Handstands? I get asked this and find the question very amusing. For people who don’t train handstands it seems to be a mystery.
No. Absolutely not. Handstands are hard and unforgiving. Especially if you do it as a professional performer. It doesn't matter if you go perform in front of 500 or 5000 people, you have to be excellent. And you have to be excellent every time. And you have to be excellent for everyone.
But if it is that hard and unforgiving than why do I do this? A question that I have asked myself many times. For a long time my simple answer was because I'm good at it - I've trained my whole life. Anyone who has put as many hours and as much pain into something as I have into hand balancing has to be outstanding at whatever that thing is.
The real answer though is that I absolutely love it. I have the capability to do things that nobody in the world is able to do. The thrill of performing a successful act is undescribable. Putting together a new sequence over weeks or months and then finally seeing the outcome on video makes every second of it worth it. Plus I love training, I love keeping my body in shape and pushing it to another level. And for real high level hand balancing your body needs to be everything: strong, flexible, enduring. You need to be able to move yet be aggressive as well as still when necessary.
I've rarely seen anything as complex as hand balancing and even after 20 years it still surprises me every day.
Over time I’ve also realized that I find myself at peace when I’m hand balancing. Nothing matters but the one handstand right in this particular moment. In a world of a traveling performer things are never very safe nor are they certain. In a handstand I found my own little sanctuary. The one thing I will always have and can rely on. The one variable that never changes So I guess yes, in a way one could say the world is prettier upside down. But it was a long way to paint this world the way I like it.
7. What are the most common mistakes in training handstands and how to solve them?
The most common mistakes when training handstands is expectation management. People expect to see quick changes and fast improvements because they see people on the internet who are able to do certain things.
What they forget is that these people have trained many many years and might come from a sports background. This doesn’t mean at all that you won’t be able to learn a handstand or even become better than the people you look up today, but what it does mean is that one has to accept the fact that things move extremely slowly.
Another thing we forget when seeing a photo on social media of somebody doing a perfect Handstand is that this person might have taken 100 photos on 20 different days and just posted the perfect one.
Another big mistake is not training smart. Even though it might look easy and straightforward, handstands and especially handstand training is very complex. It’s not only about being able to balance but being able to balance upside down. It demands a high range of motion, healthy joints, lots of strength and technical knowledge. So having a coach or some kind of instructional manual is quite necessary.
8. Beginners always wonder on how to get started with training handstands when there is a lack of strength. How would a short training sequence for strength building look like?
Honestly, getting started is much simpler than one might think. While handstand training can get quite complex, the first steps and assessing where you need to start, doesn’t need to be. Let’s break down the Handstand. The first thing to notice is that we need our wrists, elbows and shoulders to support our whole body weight.
Assuming you are not strong enough to hold a handstand let’s check if…
You can hold a pushup position
If that’s possible, try an inverted shoulder press position
This is where you’ll try to place as much weight as possible -straight from the top- onto our hands, with your butt high in the air and over your shoulders
Is that working? Great! Now how about actually performing a push up in that position?
Next try putting your feet onto a box, chair or a table. Do the same thing. And before you know it you’re already doing a support L-handstand.
From there you can start putting the feet even higher against the wall and in no time & with little effort you’re doing a Handstand.
Besides wrists and shoulder strength, you’ll also need a good core to keep body tension. Doing elbow planks and general core work is essential.
At the same time doing rotator cuff exercises for general health and injury prevention just like basic stretching should not be forgotten.
This might seem like a lot and feel overwhelming at first but with a good plan this doesn’t have to take more than 20-30 minutes a day and should make you feel overall healthier and move you quite quickly towards your goal of doing a Handstand.
9. How can I get started to work on a One Arm Handstand? Is it possible to learn this skill without a teacher?
It is absolutely possible but of course much harder. What I would suggest is to focus on the basics. Learning a one arm handstand with a coach who can spot you is not easy and takes time but without a good spot it is much harder but very much achievable.
I have learned a rough version of most of the skills that I do now without a coach. I was surrounded by great hand balancers but didn’t have a coach myself. Just keep on showing up and put in consistent training.
The biggest blessing of today’s day and age but also its biggest problem is that you have plenty of hand balancing coaches and tutorials on YouTube and other social media. This makes it quite easy for everyone to pick up hand balancing. The problem is just that most of these tutorials are either simply wrong or unfortunately don’t go enough into depth. This causes people to get stuck with bad technique that will stop them from improving or, in a worst case scenario, lead to injuries.
This is the big reason why we decided to go ahead with the Coach Bachmann online coaching project and put as much energy and resources into it as possible. We have realized a huge amount of people are interested in learning handstands but simply don’t know how. I’m hoping that with these programs we can help everybody pursue their dream of doing handstands in a healthy and correct way.
10. How do you eat? Meaning, what style… vegan, veggie, paleo etc.. Do you use protein powder or other supplements?
Nutrition is definitely a huge aspect of my life. Unfortunately, what I eat strongly dictates my body shape, how much I weigh and ultimately how I can perform. If I eat lots of heavy foods for a couple of days I will very quickly put on weight but at the same time I can lean out pretty quickly if I swap to salads and a rather lean diet.
Lucky for me over the time I learned how to use this to my advantage and can now easily influenced my looks and body structure depending on what kind of shows I perform.
Generally, what’s always important to me is health over performance. I might want to look extra lean for a show but if I realize my body is craving a certain things I will definitely give in and eat exactly that. No show or photo shoot is worth risking your long term health. If I would have a big and naughty cheat meal for example I would still make sure to eat high quality foods and plenty of veggies and fruits on the side.
Also with all the traveling it can sometimes get difficult to give your body everything that it needs or simply because certain countries might not offer a big selection of veggies or certain protein sources that you might like. With this understanding it became quite easy to figure out what kind of supplements to take. It’s not always easy to fill up on everything. So think about what your body actually needs and what you might not be able to get and then add the appropriate supplement to your diet.
One big rule has always been never to supplement a few meals in a row. Always try to go natural real foods. Supplements should generally be an addition to your diet. Not a replacement!
11. What was the last book you read?
kickass yoga - the book ;)
12. What was the last thing (tool, toy, food… anything!) you bought that made your life easier?
Maybe not the last thing that I have bought but definitely one of the most useful tools for warming up and injury prevention was a fat wrap and heat cream. This might sound a bit weird but really was an absolute game changer. I would put the heat activating cream on my back and sides and put the fat wrap around my body to keep the heat in. I wear it for the last 30-60 minutes before my show or generally during training. Often I'll take the wrap off just before going on stage. Ever since I've started doing that my back injury rate has dropped enormously and my general quality has skyrocketed.
13. Where can I train with you? Any upcoming events, online coaching etc?
We do have plenty of workshops coming up and I am personally always on tour with different shows so chances are high I will pass through a town near you! Either have a look at our website or our Instagram page and if no city close to you is listed get in touch and shoot us a message.
On our social media pages you will also find plenty of videos with plenty of different training exercises to get inspired for your own training.
We are also on the final straws of finishing our 12 week online hand balancing program and of course always offer private one on one teaching. Basically the options are unlimited and we are striving to offer the perfect fit for everybody’s desires.
Find out more about Sascha here:
Instagram: @coachbachmann @thegerminator
Youtube: Aerial Straps
Youtube: My wife's duo act