Handstand Push Ups

One of the complaints a lot of people have about bodyweight training is, what they think to be a lack of direct shoulder work. To say that you can’t work your shoulder muscles without weights is just plain ignorance. Handstand push ups are one of the most challenging shoulder movements you could ever do.

What’s even better, is they also challenge your core by forcing you to stabilize your body through the movement.

But this is a very advanced movement that requires a trainee to work hard, and to build up to doing the movement. It would take a very special athlete to be able to jump right in and do a full handstand push up right away. That is why we have a progressive plan to help you get to doing a full handstand push up. 

Step 1: The Pike Push Up

To get started, we suggest using the pike push up. A pike push up is performed by bringing your feet closer to your hands, and allowing

Pike Push Up

your butt to be much higher than your head.

This will move the stress of the exercise from mainly your chest and triceps, to your shoulders and triceps. It will start to get your body used to the stress of the handstand.

Chances are, doing this exercise on the floor will get easy very quickly.

In order to keep making progress, you will need to make the exercise more difficult so you can move to the next step in the progression. Here are a few ways to do just that:

  1. Put Your Hands On Something. This will add to the range of motion that you are going through, therefore making the movement more challenging.
  2. Put Your Feet On Something. By placing your feet on something like a plyometric box, the shoulders will take on more of your body weight.
  3. Do Both. Combine both of the above suggestions for a real challenge.
  4. Do One And A Half Reps. Instead of just doing a full rep, do a full rep, followed by a half rep and count that as one.
Once you’ve mastered these movements, you will be ready to move on the next step in your progression.

Step 2: Handstand Push Ups Against A Wall

Now it’s time to get into a basic version of the handstand push up.

Find a wall, preferably one made of brick, stone, or concrete. Place your hands about 6-8 inches away from the wall, and kick your legs up so that you are balancing against it. You are know in a good handstand position, and ready to do the movement.

Lower yourself under control as low as you can. You want toward being able to touch your head to the ground. If you can’t do that right away, don’t worry, just lower yourself as far as you can and work toward going deeper and deeper. If you are unable to lower yourself at all in the beginning, that’s OK too. Just practice holding the position for as long as you can.

Just like the pike push up above, you can place your hands on something to help make the movement more difficult. When you can knock out 3-4 sets of these with no problem, it’s time to graduate!

Step 3: Handstand Push Ups

Guess what? It’s time to do the real thing!

Even if you are really strong doing the movement against the wall, these will still be incredibly challenging. You may not be able to do any at first, and you may have problems getting into the handstand position. Ask a partner to help balance you in the top position of the handstand before you begin the movement. Once you are stabilized, you can have your partner let go.

You may also find that getting low enough at first is a huge challenge. Again, lower yourself as far as you can, and eventually, you will build up to full range of motion.

After a full workout like this, you will find that your shoulders are on fire, your triceps are smashed, and your core will be sore.

This is all a great thing, and is a big part of the reason handstand push ups are such a great addition to your workout regimen.

Step 4: Making Handstand Push Ups Even Harder

So, think you mastered the handstand push up, and now you’re ready for the next challenge?

Cool! Let me introduce to you something called parallettes. These are a mini version of gymnastic parallel bars, and are very easy to make yourself for very little money. They aren’t just great for handstand push ups either! There are a plethora of other exercises that can be performed using this little tool.

We will get into those types of specifics later, but for now, here is a free, step-by-step guide to building your own parallettes.

Have fun with those, and of course, good luck with your handstand push ups!


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