What is the best way to learn how to do the handstand push up? If you are a total beginner
and you want to be able to pump out 15 reps, full range of motion. Check out this article.
If you look at a gymnast what is the first thing that you notice about their body? It’s most likely their biceps and shoulders. They have trained this mostly through bodyweight. So if you are able to pump out 15 full reps of handstand push-ups, you are likely to have some good shoulder development. Not only the development, but also the strength that comes with it. Which is beneficial for many other exercises.
Strong shoulders are rare in this world. Though it is a key sign of a well-developed physique. Strong shoulders showcase power and masculinity.
What are the handstand push up benefits?
The greatest benefits of the handstand pushups are that you will build great shoulders, awesome strength and general shoulder function at the same time. You will need stability, coordination and proprioception (knowing where your body is in the space). This also means a lot of core strength is involved.
So what is the best way to build up this exercise? How to learn the handstand push ups the fastest way? A lot of people are stuck at a certain point and can’t get any more reps or they are stuck some other way. I’ll show you what you can do if you are stuck.
Let’s dive into it.
If you are a complete beginner wanting to learn how to handstand push-up, you want to prepare your wrists. Obviously also, if you are more advanced, but especially if you are just starting out. Your hands need to adjust to the pressure on the joints. If you are in a handstand you should be aware that your full body weight is pressing down on your wrists in an extended position. This is a huge load they need to bare. So stretching and warming up is essential to prevent injuries.
I injured my wrists a lot in the beginning and this was because I felt a warming up was not needed. Learn from my mistake and please do warm up. It will save you a lot of trouble.
How to Warm Up the Wrists Properly
The best way to warm up is the gymnastic way. Get on your knees and put your wrists on the ground. Lean slightly forward until you feel pressure and stretch. Hold this for 15 seconds. Repeat it for 3 times.
Now do the same but put your hands inward. So fingers pointing at you:
Now put your hands on the outside part and press down a bit until you feel a stretch/pressure.
Repeat for 3 times, 15 seconds.
Now hold your hands and turn them fully each side. 20 seconds each side.
So what is the ultimate progression if you are a beginner?
- Push Ups – Different variants
You should be able to pump out some push ups. If you can’t do this, work these first. Aim for at least 15 push ups with great posture.
How to do push ups with great posture? Check out my diamond push up guide for proper core activations and hand positioning.
Your hands should be underneath your chest.
If you can do push-ups, go for the diamond push ups. This way your triceps, upper chest and shoulder take more load. Great way to prepare for the actual handstand.
- Handstand against the wall
This is a very important step to get right. You should be able to hold a handstand against the wall for 30 seconds, the right way.
What do I mean by the right way?
A lot of people hold their handstand against the wall like this:
Though you should be able to hold the handstand like this:
Note that my stomach is turned in and I have a slightly hollow body position. This is the position you work within the actual handstand push up. Your core is activated. If you are struggling with this, try it on the floor first.
Lay on your back on the floor and fully stretch yourself out. Now lift up your feet a little together with your arms. Flex your stomach slightly so you press your lower back in the ground. This is the position you should be able to hold properly. It looks like this:
If you are able to hold yourself the right way against the wall, try to fully extend your elbows for maximum muscle engagement. This way your shoulders get more work. You flex your shoulders in an isometric way (constantly flexed without the muscles getting any oxygen), which is the hardest form of contraction. A great way to start out.
You can do this exercise during the whole cycle. Even if you mastered the handstand push up, you can still practice this one. If you want to eventually do free handstand push ups you need the balance as well. So this is an essential exercise if you want to be able to balance yourself properly.
The next step in this regard would be to let your stomach face the wall. This way you force yourself in the slightly hollow position. Great for your nervous system to adjust the right muscle activation properly. When it comes to balance this is the part that is the most important. Letting your brain get used to the position you are in. Activating the right muscles at the right time. This is gained through repetition. Exercise this a lot and you will pick the fruits I promise you.
More on the free handstand in another article.
Pike push ups on ground
This variant you are changing your angle so you have more shoulder engagement which is what you want. It looks like this:
Aim for 6 – 10 reps before progression to the next one.
- Elevated feet push ups
You can play with the height of this one. I recommend you aim for 1 meter in height. The higher you put your feet, the more shoulder and upper chest engagement you have. Aim for 6 – 10 repetitions before moving to the next one.
Shoulder push ups
Now it becomes more fun. This is starting to look like an actual handstand push up, but with less weight. You basically are not lifting the weight of your legs this time. Great exercise to activate and train the right muscles. Also, aim for 6 – 10 reps.
Put your elbows more inwards instead of outwards. As this is the way you will be performing your handstand push up in the later stage.
- Handstand push-up, negatives
Now you are going to do some negative handstand push ups. Try to go down in 6 seconds and put your feet back on the ground. Kick yourself back up and go again. build this up until you can do 8 negative repetitions for 3 reps.
- Handstand push-ups
Now it’s time to try the actual handstand push ups, on the ground first. This means you cannot go full range of motion yet, but this part is essential in order for you to go full range of motion.
Put your back against the wall, straighten your legs and keep them next to each other. I recommend taking off your shoes and find a wall you can slide your feet up and down easily. This is much more comfortable then putting 1 foot up the wall and bouncing back and forth.
Build it up until you can do 3 sets of 6 – 10 repetitions.
- Full range handstand push ups (parallel bars or blocks)
Now you are going to grab parallel bars or blocks so you can dip yourself further than on the ground (see picture). This is the hardest variant. If you can’t fully do this one yet, go 1 step back and try that with ankle weights.
If that still doesn’t work go and do this exercise with negatives for 6 reps. If you master this one, you will have some serious shoulder mass going on and look masculine and powerful. For paralettes: I used push up grips a lot which I don’t think are best. Now I have these, which are way better. They allow more range of motion and it comes with better grip as well (wood).
Give it some time for each stage to fully build your handstand. If you have access to a gym you can make use of some supporting exercises like the lateral raise. If you plateau, the standing shoulder press works the same muscles as the handstand push up. Though with the handstand push up your core is differently involved. But you can try that one as an alternative if you have a sticking point.
So in summary, these are the stages from ultimate beginner to advanced:
1. Push ups – different variants (regular and diamond push up)
2. Handstand against the wall
3. Pike push ups on ground
4. Elevated feet push ups
5. Pike push up, elevated feet
6. Handstand push-ups, negatives
7. Handstand push-ups
8. Full range handstand push-ups
If you want to master the handstand push up you should be able to do 15 full range handstand push ups.
Remember to always warm up your wrists in the beginning. And the stage 2 I recommend doing after you are done with your main exercise.
Hope this guide helped you out and you start seeing some results quickly.
If you have any questions or you feel something is missing, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you soon.
Founder of Masters Of Bodyweight