Progression- Handstand Push Up- Handstands

At least once a week I teach at a personal trainer institute.  Here we teach our students how to become knowledgeable, ethical, efficient and savvy personal fitness trainers.  Now-a-days anyone can claim to be a trainer and worse than that, people can take a quick weekend certification for $50 and claim to be a certified personal trainer.  This is pretty deceitful and although it is true, they will not have an understanding of the field as our students will upon graduation.

Anyway, some of my students are into Crossfit and love prescribe handstand push ups for their clients.  Although I don’t recommend this progression for any regular person to just get up and try without practicing basics, I do think most people can accomplish a handstand push up if they have a little bit of patience and follow some simple guidelines (no, I’m not crazy and yes I really think you can do this).  

Just know that this isn’t necessarily a form of structured exercise, it’s just a cool little trick that you can show off with or cross off another item on your bucket list. Of course you first need to master a regular stationary handstand.  You can tips on how to do this here: Introduction- Handstands.  The 3rd progression in that blog post is a “Head stand to Hand stand”.  This is when you get into a tripod position with your head and both hands touching the floor in a triangle shape, then press up to a handstand.  I would also recommend mastering that progression before jumping into a handstand push up.

Here are the steps in order for you to do free-standing handstand push ups!

  1. First and foremost: Warm up.  You’re going to be literally pressing your body up with just your shoulder and your triceps.  This isn’t like a push up where some of your body weight is supported by your feet or learning to juggle Introduction- Juggling.  You’re entire body weight is going to be pressed so therefore make sure you warm up with some light aerobic activity (running, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, skips etc..), then some more difficult joint-specific activity (push ups, shoulder presses, arm swings, walking on your hands as your drag your feet), then some activity specific movements (handstand or headstand to handstands).  This should get your adequately warmed up but just remember to take your time with it, don’t over do it and if anything hurts, go on to a different blog post 🙂
  2. Great.  Now what I would suggest is NOT to use a wall.  If you use a wall, you’ll start to rely on the wall for balance and unfortunately, you need to develop and maintain balance throughout the entire range of motion if you intend to do a free-standing handstand push up.  Using a wall will get your through the whole range of motion but will not allow you to develop specific balance throughout your movement.  Instead of developing the strength to go throughout the full range of motion and then developing the balance to do it free-standing, why not develop balance while you develop strength and get to your goal faster?
  3. Instead of using a wall, I suggest using pillows or couch cushions.  First place 4 or 5 pillows of 2 or 3 cushions on the floor.  Do a handstand and hold it right in front of the pillows so that when you’re inverted, you’re facing away from the stack of pillows.  This is step one.
  4. Step two is slowly try and lower your head down so that you can rest it on the stack of pillows once you get there.  This takes some seriously strength.  Try not to bash your head into the pillows but instead, slowly lower them down so you can hold a headstand with your head on the stack of pillows and hands on the floor.
  5. Repeat that process and once you feel comfortable, go from 5 pillows to 4, from 4 to 3, from 3 to 2 until you’re able to slowly lower yourself down until you head makes contact with the carpet (try not to do this on hardwood floors… it hurts hitting your head on wood).
  6. The last step here is to complete your headstand to handstand progression after you have slowly lowered your head to the floor. Once you get here you did it! If you’re able to slowly lower yourself down, tap your head to the floor and push yourself back up without falling over, that’s a free-standing handstand push up!  Just be patient and take your time with it.  Building the strength and balance to do this will definitely take weeks if not months.  Emphasis on the ‘s’ in monthS.

Here are a few tips on mastering this trick:

  1. Do not use a wall to start.  I know I said it before, but in my opinion it would be an unfavorable way to train.  Start off with the steps to perform a basic free-standing handstand then use the pillow/cushion technique listed above.  The reason why some people use the wall is to build strength without needing to stabilize.  But in order to do the trick you need to stabilize.  Building strength before you learn the moves is like getting really good at a poor form squat, then trying to correct your form with hundreds of pounds on your back.  It doesn’t work as well as if you developed perfect form and balance, then pack on the weight.  Straighten before you strengthen.
  2. If you’re having trouble bringing your head up from the floor, try bending you knees and hips toward your chest then aggressively push them back up to build momentum.  It will be a little easier to press yourself from a headstand to a handstand this way.  It’s not ideal but at least you’re balancing with no support.
  3. Use hand blocks or parallel bars.  If you’re wrists start hurting day in and day out, consider using hand blocks.  They’re simply just blocks of wood (2in x 4in) that you can use to wrap your fingers around the edges to take some of the strain off of your tendons.  If your wrists are still hurting, use small parallel bars so your fingers can wrap around the bars and you can straighten your wrists a little more so they’re not do bent.  It’s a little harder to balance this way so make sure you’re able to do your free standing handstand on hand blocks or parallel bars as well.

Now this trick itself is hard enough but if you were interested in learning a progression…

  1. The one progression I have for you is to use parallel bars or handstand canes.  If you use either, the spot at which you place you hands is off the ground.  Therefore, when you lower yourself down so your head reaches the floor, you’re going to be going down than you would if you were trying this on the floor. You might not even get your head to the floor using handstand canes.  If you want to check some out, here’s a link to what I sell on Etsy:


Good luck guys, you’ll need it.  Let me know how it goes!



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