The handstand push up is without a doubt, one of the most powerful upper body exercises you can do for adding strength & muscle to your shoulders and entire upper body.
In addition to the benefits of adding strength and muscle mass, the handstand push up will make your shoulders feel 100 x healthier than ever before.
Your abs will become tighter & stronger from performing handstand push ups, your triceps will become stronger and more muscular and as you're about to see in the 2nd video below, the handstand push up will also improve your strength in all of your upper body resistance exercises.
Check out the first video on how to correctly perform a handstand push up:
There is a progression to building up to the handstand push up as well.
Most can not just jump into the handstand push up and begin cranking out reps.
But first, watch this 2nd video of "Curls" smashing the strongman Log Clean & Press at the 2008 DeFranco's Strongman Challenge, where Curls tooks 1st place in the college division.
Curls attributed his prowess in the log clean & press to his daily practice of the handstand push up.
The Progression We Use: When Curls first started practicing the handstand push up he was scared to be upside down and could not perform 1 rep.
So we began with handstand holds for time against the wall.
Slowly, we progressed to mini reps, where only a partial range of motion was used.
After a few mini reps, we would hold the lock out position for time.
Soon after, we progressed to 1 full rep and then holds for time.
Then it was 2 reps and holds for time.
Remember, strength is a skill, practice it often if you want to improve.
The previous video on hand walking will improve your handstand push up strength.
Give it a go and check out Bodyweight University - where you'll discover how to get strong as hell using only your bodyweight.
Comments, Questions, Additional Tips? Let it be heard by posting below. We hit 26 comments last time. Can we hit 40 + comments this time? Let's do it!
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Matty Wichlinski says
a lot of people out there seem to be under the impression that all pull ups are to be done with a huge kip, due to watching a lot of CrossFit videos. While there is a place for that to build endurance, there is also a place for the slow reps and the static holds to build the insane strength that i see a lot of people missing the boat on nowadays just to say they got “x” amount of pullups. I do all styles of pullups and pushups and don’t neglect weaknesses. Gotta love it
It’s funny that you put up a post about the handstand pushup because I just started doing them a few weeks ago.. and like Curls, when I started I was just worried about being upside down. I’m 230 and have had major shoulder problems from learning exercises the wrong way when I was in college, so I was also nervous about tweaking my shoulder while in a handstand.. but, I’ll say this..
Doing handstand pushups have not only created a lot more stability through my shoulder joint, but they’ve helped to develop strength and stability through my shoulder girdle too.. I feel much stronger, have developed a lot more mass through my upper back and shoulders, and haven’t felt any shoulder pain.
Thanks for covering this exercise. Keep it up!
Jason Yun says
Handstand pushups are an awesome exercise. I’m trying to progress where I don’t need the wall anymore. But it’s sssuper tough! Keep the vids coming, Zach!
pretty sick vid zach, i gotta start practising these!! 240 pounds but like you said with curls haha if i practise enough and keep trying ill be able to do them 🙂
marc wooding says
Just returned from a short break in the sun (we don’t get a lot of that here in England) so i have missed some of your recent vids, My man you can’t beat some body weight exercises, Handstand push-ups Lee here at Girevik-uk can pop them out allday long, (both lee and myself only weigh between 150lb and 175lb each) Don’t know if you have mentioned any sort of ring work (Trapeze rings) but they are a real kick-ass workout, just look at the bodies on any gymnast, you can take these away on holiday with you (real light-weight) and use anywhere you can hang them, tree bough, kids apparatus at the park etc.
You can’t really take your kettlebells or other weights on a plane can you, but rings and straps pack nicely in your case.
Keep up the exceptional work Zach, love receiving your informative emails daily, you and the boys are an inspiration.
“KEEP ON KETTLEBELLING” from all here at Girevik-uk
p.s. will send pics of lee’s back to show you just what can be acheived from ring-work
Handstand push-ups kick ass, big time! Awesome to superset with pull-ups and chin-ups!
With practicing it often your talking about pavels grease the groove or no?
fellas, awesome comments.
@marc – can’t wait to see those pics!
I love rings, I just HATE setting them suckers up!
Matty, always love your replies and seeing your thoughts on training.
For those just starting, believe it or not, we have some of our best handstand push ups coming from our 200 + lb guys!
I had a few wrestlers last season focus on a circuit of 3 exercises for max rounds in 15 minutes:
– rope climb
– handstand push ups
– KB swings
here and there they added a few sets of deadlifts for 2 reps ea. set
these dudes got seriously f**ing strong!
off to hit some pull ups!
Good video Zack. I love bodyweight training.
Any where, any time. It just doesn’t matter.
Christopher Reed says
Little personal aside here on the bodyweight training- when I was first getting started with training at 16 years old an integral part of my original strength program involved handstand holds and pull-ups to develop shoulder girdle stability for the clean and press movements I was doing for football training.
I hated the pull-ups and the handstands because I sucked, I didn’t see immediate results and to be honest lifting my body weight wasn’t as fun as cleaning 185 and 200lbs! I loved throwing the big weight. I quit on the bodyweight exercises! What a HUGE MISTAKE!!!
Lucky for me I never experienced any shoulder injuries or mishaps because of this. What’s interesting now is how my training mentality has totally changed! I believe in building “sweat equity”– you need to put the time in training with just your body weight and mastering it before using training tools like barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, sand bags etc. that involve dynamic force application.
I now realize the value (and training effect) that body weight training has for any level of athlete! Awesome exercise and it answered my earlier question from the hand walking posting- thanks Zach!
Yours in Health,
Danny Wright says
Here’s a quick tip to take your handstand press up to the next level without any equipment.
Simply-assuming you have the strength, on your descent instead of going down to your head touch your forehead to the ground…you’ll notice the difference in difficulty and the benefits will follow.
Keep it strong,
Jamie Sulc says
Great post again Z. I used to do a ton of handstand pushups with my old training partner. I’ve been training by myself for quite a while now and really just forgot about the handstand pushup until this post. I’ll definitely be adding them back in!
I agree with Matty W on the pullups. Use all different types of pullups. Use slow reps, fast reps, static holds to build crazy strength and jack up your back. I’m not a huge fan of kipping. I think it takes away from the exercise completely! But, to each his own. I guess!
Rish G. says
Awesome post. I make sure that I do handstand pushups during 2 out of the 3 workouts for the week. One of my favorite routines is to skip rope for around 2 minutes(or to a count of 75-100) and then crank a set of handstand pushups. I do 12 of these rounds but alter them with dips. So the rounds go like this – skip rope to a count of 75 to 100-handstand pushups as much as possible-skip rope to a count of 75 to 100-dips as much as possible and repeat 12 times (for a total of 6 sets of handstand pushups and 6 sets of dips). I’m deep fried by the end, sweat oozing from every pore of the body.
Zach, for the handstand to be considered complete, shouldn’t the nose or the forehead touch the ground?
At present I’m stuck at 4-5 handstand push ups(nose to ground) and just can’t go beyond that number? Any suggestions on how to increase the count?
Matty Wichlinski says
Here’s a video i did a few days back that implements different bodyweight exercises as well as tools, such as barbells and sandbags. Use all your tools and gifts for maximum results.
Eric Dempsey says
Another awesome post. I’m an underground supporter 100%. Keep up the great work.
hmmm… I actually try these from time to time… thanks for the extra KICK and motivation to make these part of my routine… You are the MAN Z-BOY~ nice soft landing… yes SIR~ 🙂
great post zach..
I’ve had previous wrist surgery and I’ve found that using pushup handles that it decreasing pressure on my wrist. FYI for everyone out there
keep it up man
Another great video Z. It’s always great to hear that the beasts like Curls have the same hesitations and concerns that we mere mortals have when approaching these new things. It provides the encouragement and motivation that allows me to push past the initially failures and stumbling box. I look forward to posting my next reply locked out on one arm, toes to the sky.
Stephan de Souza says
I have not tried handstands yet, cause when I try, I suck.
But thanks for breaking it down; defintiely get trying.
Pull-ups, wheelbarrowing and handstand-pushups. Three things to begin doing commonly.
Thanks Zach, you’re a life saviour.
Never back down,
Awesome Exercise! I’m gonna go crank some of these out right now! Also for those of us without a good training parter, walking side to side while in the handstand leaning against a wall is a great substitute for the wheelbarrow walking drill.
THESE ARE GERAT NO DOUBT! HOOOGAH!
I haven’t done these bad boys in….well, too damn long. Will be from now on!
oh man, awesome comments!
@Rob – yep, push up handles will do, or Hex DBs work great as well, I’ve seen Ross Enamait use cement cinder blocks to increase range of motion
I have an OLD Weider hand balancing course which shows the same
and yes guys, use the wheel barrow to build up to the handstand push up
you need to practice what you’re NOT good at as well as ADD exercises that support what you’re trying to do
for example, I will other rowing motions and even barbell and dumbbell curls to improve pull up numbers
I will perform various push ups with weight, without weight, with various hand spacing – all to help improve the bench press
i have some more vids coming tomorrow, I wanna see more comments though, help spread the word and let’s keep the discussion pumpin!
Handstand push ups are a staple in my program… they teach you the correct way to press from the lats instead of raising your shoulders. I make my wrestlers walk on their hands and perform handstand push ups religiously. A good way to build up your reps is to use the ladder method. Kick up and do one rep. Come back down and shake out your arms for a second. Then kick back up and do 2 reps. Continue adding one rep to each set til you have 2 reps left in the tank. After resting a few minutes feel free to start the ladder over again.
Brendan Ford says
Z keep it coming, I am loving your idea’s and am a believer as I am getting new records all over the place. Thanks for the inspiration.
Im not even close to performing a handstand pushup but Im saving this exact blog page to my favourites as Im gonna need it for hints and motivation for when I try to attempt these bad boys!
i think whats equally as impressive is the picture of the couple. that’s just amazing! And yes, I do quite a few bodyweight stuff since I can’t really go to a formal gym but handstands I havent quite tried.
boris bartley says
I love this stuff,you are so on track. The funny thing is I have being doing hand stands since i was a kid and yes it works big time that’s fact. Nuff respect Zach.
I love handstand pushups. I can do about six in a row. It is a total feat of strength. My cousin who works out all the time with body weight exercises can not do them and at the family reunion I was finally able to show him up. It was awesome!
Zach, good choice going green… stick with it and make it a slow transition, your body will do the rest
Hanstand push ups are awesome. Takes great strength and balance to do them. I like to also do them with one foot in the TRX. Great for core stability. Keep up the hard work Zach!
I was vegetarian for 6yrs and have the greatest respect for those who can maintain and build performance with that lifestyle. As I age, become more educated, and see guys like Hinds and Mahler, I am very close to embracing the “green warrior” lifestyle, the right way this time. Green doesn’t have to equal Kermit performance and physique. I have always been a huge fan of the handstand pushup! I also use static holds/partials as a finisher after shoulder and tricep work. You are always on point!
zack and crew,as a young guy in football,judo and finally lucha libre(i had a great mask,tights and black shiny boots) all of the strength ,conditioning and warm up stuff was bodyweight exercises.pushups rope climbs,free squats etc. were the method that got you there. this still works today. my father had a great pocket book about bodybuilding written by Fallon and Saunders i believe,this fine tome had sections that dealt with weights,strand pulling and bodyweight. all excellant instruction with exercises such as swings,clean and press and yes even hand stand pushups. we did a ton of these in judo! what is old is suddenly new again!!
I train my gymnasts through this motion using a spotter. This will really help you through a full range of motion right from the beginning.
Rock Curlee says
Thanks for the video Zach/Curls. I used to do these in college (>35 years ago). Back then I did them like Curls and flipped over into the handstand with feet against the wall. Yesterday afternoon I tried to do them that way and was hesitant about flipping over. I got on all fours facing away from the wall and “backed into” the handstand. It’s actually very easy to get into position that way and I did five without any problem. I’m going to start doing them a lot now thanks to the video. Rock
This video just, once again, proves how ahead of the curve you are Zach. I work with professional fighters and law enforcement, who are just now beginning to see how effective these are (after I’ve been having them do them for months).
You RAWK brother, thanks again for a great post and keep up the amazing work!!!