Solve the Handstand Push-up Riddle with This 1 Powerful Exercise
Strap in for this simple, yet highly effective overhead pressing progression that will not only take you a step closer to a handstand push-up but also prepare you for other beastly pressing variations. With the tips provided here, all of your overhead positions with benefit, including those found in Olympic Weightlifting, rock climbing, and handstand training!
Modifications of simplified movements or a series of step by step movements must be used to build specific strength, awareness and required mobility when you can’t yet perform the goal movement. Rather than risking an uncontrolled and potentially dangerous descent during handstand push-up training, take a few steps back, slow down, and work the basics so that you can take huge leaps forward in the future.
Our simple progression to take you one step closer toward your headstand push-up, and, eventually, the handstand push-up, is the box headstand push-up.
Notice that the elbows remain completely stacked over the wrists at all times, whether the athlete is in the L-Handstand position or the bottom of the Box Headstand Push-up.
Headstand vs. Handstand Push-up
What is the difference between a handstand push-up and a headstand push-up? In our Foundation Series, we define a headstand push-up as starting from a headstand, with the top of your head at the same height as your hands. A handstand pushup-up is slightly more advanced and begins with your hands the same height as your shoulders.
The Box Headstand Push-Up
For all the Yogi’s in the house, this is like a downward dog push-up, with your feet on a box. To get started, put your feet on a box, bench, bed or any other object at about hip height. You want to be able to have a starting hip angle of about 90-degrees (L or ½ Handstand) here for every rep, starting with your arms completely straight. As you descend with control, move slightly forward with your head, making a tripod with your hands and head, before you push back up to a straight-arm starting position.
If this is out of your reach you can take one step backward to that downward dog position with your feet on the floor, and do the headstand push-up starting and finishing in downward dog position.
The Important Stuff
In any bodyweight strength endeavor, in order to get stronger, you must always choose the path of most resistance. This movement is no exception. Make the easy stuff feel harder now, so that the harder stuff feels easier, later. The goal in your box headstand push-up will be to mimic the overall feel of a handstand push-up even though your feet are on top of a box, striving to shift as much weight into your arms and off of your feet as possible.
Keep your elbows vertical over your wrists, and be sure to fully open your shoulders at the top of every single rep. There should be a straight line from your wrists to your hips in a proper starting position. Give a nice big shrug at the top (scapular elevation) and never rush or use momentum.
You can start to build confidence with inverted pressing by performing partial reps of this difficult and intimidating progression. Just be sure you don't grow stagnant here. Work toward full ROM using eccentrics (see our pro tip below 😉
Pro Tip: If pressing up is too difficult, use eccentrics, or controlled lowers, to build strength in this specific range of motion. Simply Start in the L-Handstand, lower as slow as possible, and then drop a foot down and to assist yourself back to the top. Repeat these lowers, or eccentrics, for reps and you’ll soon build the necessary strength to go both directions!
Film Yourself and check your own form or have US check your form
This one is technical, so the best way to check your form is to film yourself. You can then send in your footage to be reviewed by a GymnasticBodies Performance Coach using the online video review submission (a complimentary service for all online students), if you have questions after checking your own form.
The world of Gymnastics Strength Training might seem daunting for a newcomer, but rather than feeling overwhelmed, take small steps on your path toward mastery through our Foundations Courses, expert online coaching video submission service, and our engaging and informative community Forum.