Learn The Handstand Push-up

Proper Technique & Progressions

At my gym, we’ve been working with our clients quite a bit on building up their Handstand Push-up technique. I wanted to share some tips and a couple of videos with you today that I think will help you master this move and also explain why this is such a valuable exercise.

A Fun Party Trick?

When I first brought the Handstand Push-up to my clients, I had one woman ask me, “Does this exercise work, or is it just a fun party trick?”

I didn’t flinch at her assessment, because at first glance, that’s what this exercise might look like. Flipping your legs into the air and performing a handstand like you’re eight years old again may not seem like serious training to those wanting to get in better shape.

Learn The Handstand Push-up - Proper Technique & Progressions

Benefits Of Handstand Push-ups

This brings me to my first point: The Handstand Push-up brings out your inner kid. How often do we do gymnastic type exercises now as adults? We rarely challenge our athletic skills as much as we should, and the Handstand Push-up (HSPU) does just that.

Here are some other great reasons to give this exercise a try:
• It’s a great shoulder exercise, because it puts the shoulder in a neutral position and forces the stabilizers to work
• It’s an incredible exercise for your core (abs, low back, glutes and entire trunk region)
• It challenges your athleticism and power
• It requires balance
• It feels really awesome when you land your first one

A lot of people then ask me, “Why can’t I just do a shoulder press and get the same effect?”

To that, I’ll answer, “You can, but this is just another variation that brings in more of a full body style of work, similar to a push-up on the ground.”

When performing the HSPU, you are getting much more muscle recruitment, and like I previously mentioned, you are challenging yourself with an athletic exercise instead of just moving weight in one single plane of motion.

Getting Starting With The Handstand Push-Up

I don’t expect you to just jump up on the wall and start banging out the HSPU. Here are a few tips for a successful progression.

(1) Get Comfortable Being Upside Down

Wall Walk: Practice first by placing your feet on the wall and walking up. This will help you get comfortable being upside down.

Decline Push-up: Stick one foot on the wall with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Kick the other foot up, so that both feet are on the wall, and you’re now in a decline push-up position. Now, walk your feet up the wall as far as you can, keeping your legs straight and your core tight. Perform 5-6 decline push-ups, taking care to keep your back flat and tight (arching is common at first).

You don’t have to get to a certain level on the decline push-up to then be able to perform the HSPU. That’s simply a practice move, and the HSPU is actually quite a bit more comfortable on your shoulders.

(2) Kick Up To The Handstand

The next step is to practice the kick up of the handstand. Face the wall about 4 feet away. Pick one leg that will be your “take off” leg. I like to use my left, so I push off that and let my right leg go in the air first.

1. Walk toward the wall with some power and plant your hands about 6 inches from the wall.
2. Kick off that foot you established as your take off leg. Using your hips, kick your other leg into the air as high as you can (hint: You must commit to this, don’t go slowly).
3. The goal is not to get all the way up, just get comfortable kicking the leg up.
4. Perform 5-6 kick ups, going as high as you can.
5. Do this every day for a few days, and then before you know it, you’ll have the confidence to get all the way up.

(3) Performing The Push-up

Once you have the confidence to go all the way up to the push-up, consider these tips:
• Keep your hands flat on the floor.
• Kick your legs up high.
• Let your heels and your butt hit the wall.
• Don’t worry, your head will not hit the wall.
• Once you get up into the HSPU position, just try to hold it for 5-6 seconds. Practice a few days of holds and then give the push-up a try. Note: You won’t get very far down initially, and that’s okay. It’s all about keeping a straight line with the body and locking in your core and legs. Perform as many as you safely can.

When & Where To Do The HSPU

Use this exercise as a substitute for push-ups every few workouts. While you’re building it up, just use it as a supplemental practice exercise during your upper body or full body training days.

If you want to try it in your home or basement until you get comfortable, I think that’s totally acceptable. Most people aren’t comfortable just doing these in a commercial gym setting. Remember, it’s all about getting confident and just take as long as you need to build it up, but make sure on each flip up, you’re committing!

Here are a few videos of how to perform the decline wall push-up and the actual HSPU. Leave a comment and let me know if you tried it.

Callie Durbrow

Callie Durbrow is the owner of Durbrow Performance Training and the author of Strong and Sexy in 25 Minutes.

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