So you want to do more hand stand push ups and are looking for a progression program are you? The handstand push up (HSPU) is one of the more envy inducing movements that you can find from the crossfit games all the way to your indoor garage. Not only is it insanely difficult and one of the more athletic movements but if you can pull off the hand stand push up you'll set yourself up for a level of muscle growth in your shoulders and upper back.
Step One: Stop worrying about doing a strict handstand push up
Yes, of course we want you to do a strict HSPU at one point but to start, we need to work on a loose movement. A strict HSPU involves a tight and strong core as well as a stable shoulder position so let’s work up to that.
The only caveat is that I do not want you to get all loose with your form and potentially injury yourself. You can certainly use a little body language but don’t go over board.
Step Two: Hand and Heel Placement
I don’t care what type of advanced progression you find out there, everything comes down to your hand placement. You hands must be 6-12 inches away from the wall and wider than shoulder width at all times. Have your palms facing forward.
Your heel placement is equally importantly. Have your heels touching the wall.
Step Three: Strong Core
You’ll never have any progression with your handstand push ups if you can’t maintain a strong core. Check out our Crossfit core strength article here.
Get your core strong now lower your head until the top of your head touches the floor or mat.
The KEY and I can not stress this enough, you need to stay tight in your core the entire time as you begin to press back up.
Building strength to do your first handstand push up
There’s two avenues we can go down here to help you build strength for your HSPU. Of course you can do more reps of the movement and that alone will increase your strength but I favor the approach of performing a few key accessory lifts.
Accessory lift #1 Seated dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell press.
The reason that the seated variations work so well is because you can control the tempo as well as eliminate any leg drive. Since the goal here is to perform a strict handstand push up, we want to maximize shoulder strength.
Accessory lift #2 Push Press
Yes, I am aware I just said we need to perform movements seated to eliminate the legs but I want you to get used to driving with your legs and handling heavier loads FULLY overhead. This is key. You must get fully overhead in order to maximize the movement.
Accessory lift # 3 Pike or Box Handstand Push Up
This can be done all types of ways once you place your body into a pike position. The closer you can bring your hands to your feet the more difficult and “real” the movement will be. This is also a fantastic addition to any Crossfit upper body muscle building workout as well. Make sure to queue yourself to push away.
Accessory lift #4 Negatives
Okay now we get to the good stuff. You’re going to go through all the paces and now is the time. Perform ONE full rep lowering yourself for at least 5 seconds until your head touches the floor. I want you to aim to drive back up, try to complete one rep.
Accessory lift # 5 L sits/Dips
I love both L sits and Dips for developing handstand push up strength as your triceps are critical for upper body pushing. Here's our article on how to do L sits.
So how do you we put all of this hands and push up knowledge into a progression?
Weeks 1-4: Build HSPU Strength
Get comfortable overhead. Perform seated dumbbell shoulder presses and pike push ups three times per week varying your rep ranges and weight.
It’s also good to perform some upper body mobility exercises to maximize your range of motion.
I personally love high rep pressing with negatives to really increase shoulder strength. Also check out our crossfit ab workout here to increase overall core strength
At the end of the first 4 week phase, attempt to set up one hand stand push up. Can you comfortable get in the range? Just the set up and a hold, no reps.
Weeks 4-8: HSPU Negatives
I want you starting each workout with negatives. Aim for 1 full rep at the start of every training sessions regardless if you perform an upper body or lower body day.
At the end of each week, I want you to try to perform 1 full rep with NO negative.
Weeks 8-12: Reps
You’re now going to perform holds on all your movements. I do not want a full rep at the start. Every workout begins with holds.
Every workout ends with 1 full rep.
See there’s no magical programming here. You’re just building strength in the muscle groups and ranges of motion involved in the handstand push up. A progression program is the same. You just repeat this but perform more of the training reps of the HSPU. That’s all.