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Handstand Push Ups — How to get started…

Written by shapeshifter
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round

Back in the day, Diana Ross turned music upside down with her Motown cool… But when it comes to bodyweight cool, handstand push ups are at the top of the heap. Few bodyweight exercises can rival its display of strength, timing, coordination and balance.

The ultimate version of the handstand push up is freestanding. But you need to have a rock solid handstand in order to be able to do it. While you’re working up to that, you can still take advantage of the amazing strength and coordination benefits of the handstand push up by doing it against a wall.

Obviously these are advanced exercises.

But if you do have the strength and hand balance to start doing this exercise against the wall, you’ll be impressed with the results. And using the “palms” of your feet against the wall to help pull yourself up when you’re just getting started is a very effective strategy.

To make it even easier, you can also use a fence or low wall and actually hook your feet over it. That allows you to pull even more with your legs as you press off the ground with your arms.

Here are a few of the technical queues to remember…

  • Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back throughout
  • Lower your head until you just feel the ground
  • Exhale throughout the pressing portion to engage the core
  • Keep your glutes, quads and core tight throughout

If you can only do a handful of presses at a time, a great training protocol to use is cluster sets. Pop up into position and do 1-2 reps below your maximum (if you can do 4 reps normally, do 2 to 3 reps). Drop back down and count to ten then get back into position and do 1 to 2 more reps. Continue that until you get to 10 reps total then rest for up to 2 minutes before starting again. Do a total of 3-6 of those cluster sets.

Let us know in the comments how you do. And please feel free to share your own handstand push up tips…

 

 

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shapeshifter

28 Comments

  • LOVE this exercise…it’s my favorite for building shoulders even though I have a full gym in my basement. All kinds of variations you can do with them though I never got to the point of being able to do full freestanding.

  • Yes it is cool, and I can’t yet do them, but for pure coolness the full planche push-up (which I also cannot yet do) is right up there with it. Thanks for the wonderful guide, maybe someday I will be able to work up to this.

  • This is perfect! I have just started implementing this exercise, against a wall of course as I also lack the balance and strength right now to do them free standing, into my bodweight exercise regimen. Excellent video! I think I have said this in a couple of other comments but I love this website because honestly, every day I learn somet new and innovative way to challenge my body. Thanks so much Adam!

  • Adam,

    This is a great exercise for building upper body strength. However for those of us who cannot kickstand upto the wall yet are there other options for doing this exercise?

    Vinny

  • Thanks Adam

    Only just got to the stage where I can handstand up against the wall. Cannot yet do a press that is my goal. Can handstand for I minute next week intend to do 2 minutes then I will give the press a go.

    Thanks

    Sonny

  • Hey Adam!

    Once again, you impress us with your awesome strength! Truly difficult exercise which I would LOVE to be able to do one day… 🙂 Any tips for helping the blood to not rush to the head too much? I can handstand against the wall but I feel like my face will explode if I’m upside-down too long 😀

  • Hey Deb,

    Although I reckon you probably already checked this, just make sure you’re breathing while you’re in the position. Focus on abdominal breathing, using the exhales to maintain core activation. Also, how’s your blood pressure? If it’s normal, and your breathing is dialed in, I’d say the best thing would be to slowly condition yourself by staying in your handstand a tiny bit longer each session…

    Cheers,
    Adam

    • Thanks for the reply Adam – funny, but I didn’t realise I was breathing too quickly and shallowly – abdominal breathing made a big difference. Will start working on the press once I can hold the handstand for a minute and still feel fine. Love your work 🙂

  • I’ve always wanted to be able to do these. Right now, I have added the push-ups with my feet on a bench and my butt in the air. (I think I saw this movement here, courtesy of John Romanello). I can only do a few, but maybe handstand push-ups are in my future. Anyway, many thanks for another terrific training video.

    Scott Jones

  • Hey Adam ,
    As always , no words can describe our thanks for these awesome videos and tips.
    I can do handstand against the wall and execute a single rep , but after I get down I feel my wrists are dislocated from their place and I have to return them back by graping the wrist with the opposite hand (right hand for left wrist and vice versa). Any tips or alternatives for helping me to solve this problem ?

    Thanks

    Ahmed

  • Hey Ahmed,
    Thanks for the kind words. 🙂
    If you do a search here on the blog for “wrist desk jockey” you’ll find a couple posts Ryan did for wrist strength and mobility. That might help.
    You can also use dumbbells or those “perfect push up” gizmos in order to keep the wrist in neutral alignment while pressing.
    Hope that helps.
    Cheers,
    Adam

  • Unbelievable.. I have always wanted to do a handstand pushup! Currently I am in the second level of Rocca Press (with Leg on the Chair). Its too damn hard! I can imagine the size of my shoulders if I ever reach the handstand pushup. Working on it!

    Abi,
    Training with Bodyweight

    • HaHa… 🙂
      Yeah, I’ve had that question more times than I can count. And I’d love to say that I have some secret calf training method. But the truth is I do absolutely NOTHING specifically for my calves. Most of it’s genetic. I’ve also gotten heavy into the Olympic lifts lately which has brought them out even more.

  • Hi Adam,

    This is fantastic stuff — very straight to the point and accessible to all levels. Keeping the shoulder blades “pinched” or in one spot is a problem I often deal with and see others messing up too. It’s so tempting to push all the way up and lose the shoulder position.

    I’ve found a good way to also vary the shoulder head work is to sometimes switch which way I do hand stand push ups against the wall. Sometimes I’ll face the wall and “climb” me feet up the wall begin careful not to tip forward during my reps. I find this builds shoulder strength across the entire muscle group and a more balanced muscle over time.

    Great article and good advice, thanks!

    JB

  • Thank you for such an amazing exercise. Tried the rocca press this afternoon, going to graduate up to level 2 then hopefully in a few weeks do my first handstand push up.

    There was another skill I wanted to learn.

    Are you supermen able to do a off ground push up? This is where your whole body is suspended in the air while you do push ups.

    If so I would really like to know how you get there

    Thanks
    HB

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