As a trainer, I’m always trying to improve the way people do things. In other words, I like to help people do things better. Giving a better high-five is no exception. At the end of a good round or a good workout, I want to congratulate my students and fire them up with a good high five. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting a high-five, fist, bump, or a hug from a client that is feeling pride and gratitude.
So, you can see how I get disappointed when a student gives me a limp, poorly timed high-five. It’s not just the lack of enthusiasm that gets to me, but it’s also the poor technique. A lazy, unenthusiastic, half assed high-five is unacceptable, but poor technique and proper mechanics.
You may ask…”Who cares about being able to give a good high-five? Why would anyone write a blog about proper high-five technique? What does giving a good high five have to do with throwing a good punch or a fast fastball?”
It may not seem like it, but giving a good high-five is mechanically very similar to throwing a powerful punch, throwing a hail Mary, or a fastball.
The high five is cool because it’s dynamic and it makes some noise, like a celebratory firecracker on the 4th. The high five is cool because you have to sync your movements with the movement of another person creating a cognitive connection to the physical movements of yourself and another person. In today’s world, a high five and the hand shake is the only way to congratulate someone through physical contact (contact with other human beings is a necessity) while also avoiding sexual harassment lawsuits. Physical contact with another human being is actually a necessity for good health and longevity, and it’s a great way to strengthen your connection and bond with someone. Touching palms with a high-five is a great way to make a loud noise while transferring energy between people.
The high-five is also cool because it mimics the throwing motion. Slapping fives with someone, or accelerating your palm outwardly from the body and twisting your upper body, is just like throwing a ball, or a spear, or a punch. The throwing motion is so innate to our biology, that human beings may not have survived caveman times if we didn’t develop the ability to throw spears and rocks to hunt and fish.
So, if you want to be able to throw faster and harder, then you should want to know how to give a better high-five.
To give a good, noisy and dynamic high-five, you have to maximize the speed of your hand at the point of contact. A quality high-five is achieved when both hands reach maximal speed just before coming together to clap. The faster the hands are moving when they make contact, the more energy, and the louder the noise.
So, if you’re trying to maximize your hand speed, then you’re going to want to follow the same principles athletes use to increase hand speed when they’re throwing a baseball, a football, throwing a punch, or spiking a volleyball.
The first thing you can to do to increase the velocity of your hand is to move your body. The more your body moves when you throw your high-five, the more energy you’re able to put into your celebration slap. Try to involve your entire body and move your core as you throw your hand, just like when you throw a baseball or a punch. The more body weight that is moving at the time of impact, the more that your hand will be accelerated, and the louder your high-five will be.
Second, timing is everything. Poorly timed high-fives don’t make much noise, and they’re also a danger to your health, as they often lead to jammed fingers and chipped finger nails. A properly timed high-five will make lots of noise, as the hands come together just as they reach peak velocity. Getting the right timing down requires that you pay attention to the other person’s movement and bodily position. This means you have to “feel” where they are and correspond to their actions. It’s called getting in sync with someone, and it increases the connection
Third, you need to twist everything. Maximizing the speed of your hand requires you to maximize the unique, and innate leverage of the human body. As homo sapiens, we have evolved to run and twist our upper and lower body because of our upright, two-legged gait. Our strongest and most powerful movements are made when we twist our core, shoulders, and hips, which are the heaviest parts of the body. Counter twisting the hands, elbows, knees, and feet, and twisting everything. By twisting the left and the right side in the same direction, while also twisting the upper and lower body in the same direction, creates powerful movement. Using proper timing, synergistic, whole-body movements that
Finally, to maximize the speed of your hand at contact, you have to relax. Essentially, you’re trying to create a whip with your arm, just like when you throw a baseball, a football, or a punch. The motion starts from the ground at the feet, and increases in speed on it’s way to the top in the hand. Then, a wave of motion moves upward through your knees, hips, shoulders, elbow, wrist, and fingers, each one leading the next, until the wave breaks and the whip cracks. The whip-like motion of the arm creates a lot of speed in the hand, and the resulting energy creates a loud clap. This wave/whip-like motion is made possible with relaxation. If you’re too stiff, you won’t be able to move your hand very fast, and your high-five, your punches, and your fastballs will lack speed and power.
Why does any of this matter? Well, I can always tell when someone is a true martial artist when I try to teach someone how to give a better high-five. The person that looks at me funny and wonders why I would ever bother trying to fix someone’s high-five technique is not the martial artist. The martial artist is the person that is intrigued interested and enthusiastic about improving the way they way they do things. The person that wants to improve and get better is the martial artist. The person that is interested in learning how the body works and how its performance can be maximized, that is the martial artist. The martial artist knows that the point to life isn’t giving high quality high-fives, but that the point to life is to spend his time and energy improving the quality of his high-fives, and to continue the path of self-improvement and evolution. He knows that inner peace and fulfillment is found in the actual pursuit of the perfect high-five, instead of the material benefits gained from achieving the perfect high-five.