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How To Master the Handstand Push Up (HSPU)

The handstand pushup is one of the most brutal yet impressive bodyweight movements. 

Achieving the handstand pushup (aka the HSPU) shows mastery of the body. 

This is because the HSPU requires strength, stability and balance.

In this blog post we cover:

  • HSPU prerequisites
  • How to Progress to HSPU
  • HSPU tips and cues
  • How to Progress after HSPU

HSPU Prerequisites

1) 10 second Handstand - to learn the Handstand Pushup you must obviously be able to perform the handstand.

Learning the handstand alone can take months of daily practice to learn.

Luckily its not so demanding on the body and is a great thing to practice on your rest days!

Consider using the ASCENT to minimize wrist pain during practice.


2) 80% of bodyweight OHP - a Handstand pushup is essentially the close chain version of the over head Press (OHP).

You body is inverted but the movement is essentially the same. 

To perform a handstand pushup requires pressing your bodyweight (minus the weight of your arms).

Furthermore, the range of motion is slightly less, unless you use Paralletes to achieve a deeper HSPU.

Therefore, you only need 80% of BW to get the full HSPU.

How to Progress to The HSPU

To gain the strength and balance required to perform the handstand push-up. We recommend perform these 9 exercises!

Basic Exercises - these will give you the oevrall upperbody strength to acheive the handstand push up.

  1. Handstand
  2. Decline Pushups (weighted) - video attached
  3. Incline Bench Press
  4. Dips
  5. Over Head Press

Specific Exercises - these will give you the specific upperbody strength to achieve the HSPU.

  1. Overhead Plate Press (video attached)
  2. Pike Pushups
  3. Floor HSPU

1. Overhead Plate Press

Instead of pressing straight up, you must lean back to compensate for the diameter of plate.

This mimics the movement of the Handstand pushup very well, and translates very well to it.

To perform this exercise with more than one weight plate. Use something like this item.

It makes it easy connect plates together so you can lift more than 20kg.

2. Pike Pushups

A pike pushup is essentially an assisted HSPU. It is easier because your legs hold some of the weight and helps with balancing.

Use a platform like a plyo box or weight bench to elevate your legs to increaes the difficulty.

You can also use a weight vest to further increase the difficulty.

3. Floor Handstand Pushup (HSPU)

Place your feet up against the wall to help maintain your balance as you perform your hand stand push up.

You can either face the wall or have your back against the wall. I prefer the back against the wall.

The best method (video attached) for HSPU on the wall is to bend one leg and to have the other air suspended in the air.

This method allows you to perform farther from the wall, to allow you to have your head in front of you which better mimics the real HSPU.

Handstand Pushup (HSPU) Que and Tips

1. Keep legs tight - You body is one piece connected together. Therefore, keeping the legs tense and tight will help you balance better and will help your upper body push better as well.

2. Warm up - This exercise is hard on the shoulders and can cause things like tendonitis and bursitis.

Make sure to warm up specically focussing on external rotation exercsises before starting.

This is especially important if you have a desk job. Thats because you are hunched over the entire time causing your shoulder to be internally rotated.

3. Use chalk or gloves - Chalk will enhance your grip allowing you to balance and push better.

weight vest using olympics plates

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plate loading weight vest

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plate loading weight vest

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How to Progress After The HSPU

Once you achieve the HSPU and can perform more then 5 reps, its time to make it harder!

There are 3 ways to do this.

  1. Increase Range of motion - Use paralletes or a ledge to give your head space so you can go lower and deeper on your HSPU.
  2. Add Weight - Use a weight vest to perform weighted hand stand pushups. You can use a dip belt too, but it’s not nearly as safe or comfortable.
  3. Do both - By adding range of motion and adding weight it is doubly harder! (see Bottom right video)

About the Author

Remy started calisthenics in 2014 and has mastered advanced movements such as the one arm pull-up, front-lever, one arm muscle-up and more.

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