Extremely good article on progressing to handstand pushups

Zero to 10 handstand pushups (HSPU)


Picking the proper progression for gymnastic movements is very important.  Based on the athletes strengths and weaknesses we need to use the right challenge to increase strength.   We need to practice repetition of the movement or a movement pattern that we will be learning, but at the same time we need to keep creating challenge!

There are hundreds of progressions that you can use to make this happen, these are some simple ones  for handstand pushups that do not require much equipment. When it says a rep count (ie. 5 reps) that means you do all of them in a row, anything less than that is scaling it back, and you should remain at that progression until all the reps can be done in a row.

If you are at Zero HSPU’s right now, don’t expect this to be a couple weeks, this is going to take you some time, don’t be afraid to spend up to a month on each progression IF you are still finding challenge.

1.) 20 strict pushups: Before challenging the overhead pressing position we should be fairly strong with bench press or more practical for application to HSPU’s are regular pushups.  The standard for the pushup is Hip/Chest/Chin hit the ground simultaneously.  Any form failure is a zero for the rep.


2.) Handstand hold/walk ups:  Be able to comfortably hold yourself inverted for 60 seconds.  BREATH… if getting up into the handstand is going to be a problem or you are having trouble with shoulder endurance, handstand walk-ups are a great progression to build that shoulder strength.  Start in standing pike position.  Walk hands one hand length at a time with straight arms until your body is extended with hands forward of your head.  Repeat the process in reverse until back in the pike starting position.  10 walk-ups is a good starting point.  be able to do 2 or 3 sets of this before moving to the next progression.

3.) knees on a box: using a box or chair you can create the right angle of the HSPU, you will want your hands to be a bit wider than where you would do your regular handstand.  The closer your hands are to the box the more upright your torso will be and the closer this will feel to an actual handstand pushup.  Build to doing 15 reps x 3 sets


4.) Pike pushups: with straight legs bend at the waist and set up the arms as before.  Do a pushup until your head touches the ground.  Build to doing 15 reps x 3 sets


5.) Partial range hspu: get into the handstand position and practice lowing until just before you lose control and press out of that… 15 reps

6.) Controlled descents: Get into the handstand position and with a partner lower yourself down to the bottom and have you partner pull you by the thigh/knee up and you press it out.   build up to 10 reps of 4 second descents x 3 sets (ie 5 reps at 2 seconds, 5 reps at 1 second… than 10 reps at 2 seconds ect…) this progression will take a little while.

7.) Self spotted HSPU: Start in a headstand and then reach to a box or a set of P-Bars and use your legs to help assist the HSPU.  The lower the box the harder this will be.  Use your hamstrings to pull yourself up.  This movement feels a lot like a glute ham calf raise if heavy assistance from the legs is required.

8.) Handstand pushup:If you have been this patient and got this far without trying a handstand pushup, Do 1 HSPU.  Focus on a flat back position and a super tight core as you press it out.

9.) Controlled descents with extra range of motion:  Add a 4″ lift under your hands, with weight plates or boxes something stable and that will allow your head to pass through.  Repeat the progressions under step 6 (10 reps of 4 seconds descents x 3 sets)

10.) Handstand pushups:  you should be well on the way to doing reps by now and once you can obtain 5 reps we can do repeated efforts of that and your controlled descents to build to doing 10 strict hspu’s

11.) Added range of motion: Now that you have 10 hspu’s under you belt start adding range of motion, generally an inch at a time is a lot to work with.

11.) HSPU’s with bands: this will require very light bands and a partner to help you get the bands in place, do not attempt this until you feel very comfortable with at least 10 HSPU’s.  The bands will add tension through the entire body and force the athlete to press faster than normal HSPU’s, along with the added resistance.   

(information obtained from Crossfit London)

About Rick Lange

My goal is to give out training advice that has helped me tremendously. I am 54 yrs old and have been training almost all my life. Weight training...bodybuilding, and powerlifting have been my focus. I ventured into cycling, road and mountain biking and triathlon for a while. Lost lots of weight in order to make myself competitive. Then decided to come back to my roots....weight training. I have a very athletic background, having participated in football, baseball and track in my school days. I am very proud of my accomplishments racing motocross and jet skiis. Also ejoyed windsurfing , kayaying, water skiing and snow boarding/skiing as well. Rick Lange
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