The reason I’m writing about handstand pushups is that recently I’ve been strapped for time and needed to find creative and fast ways to train. So I’ve been doing a two-part routine for my upper body along with some pick-up basketball for my legs and overall conditioning. The routine is really simple and saves me tons of time because I don’t need to go to the gym. Here is what I do.
I train with handstand pushups and dumbbells at home and do various pull-ups, chin-ups and dips at the playground in front of my building when I’m walking my lab Lucky in the evening.
Speaking of super hero shoulders, this weekend we went to see the new Prince of Persia movie. Jake Gyllenhaal really trained his ass off for the role and got into amazing shape. Actors tend to do two things for roles like these – they get to a really low body fat percentage and get very developed shoulders. Anyway – the movie was fun – I was afraid I would be disappointed because of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, but luckily I was wrong.
Here is a video we shot at the terrace of our gym of the handstand pushup. There were two trainer chicks who were peeking from the door to see what the hell the crazy Yavor was up to lol. Watch and note the four simple steps for learning the exercise.
What Is The Handstand Pushup?
The handstand pushup is an exercise for your upper body where you press your full body weight from an inverted position. You either lean against a law or do them without support – something I aspire to learn soon.
The great thing about the handstand pushup is that you need zero equipment- just an empty wall and a stack of books (to decrease the range of motion) when you are starting out. After a few short weeks you will notice your shoulders getting visibly more muscular.
Proper Technique for the Handstand Pushup
One thing you should definitely watch out is the placement of your arms – this is something I read about in the book Convict Conditioning. Basically the arms mustn’t go to the side of your body like in a press behind the neck, but follow their natural position, similar to how you would perform a military press, with your elbows pointing forward.
Trust me, you don’t want to make the mistake of doing handstand pushups with your arms to the side. Although I knew it wasn’t a good idea and despite the fact that I also read it in the book, I proceeded and trained with a wide stance (it wouldn’t happen to me – yeah right!). The result – nasty pain inside the shoulder from the injured rotator cuff. Here is an example (video) of wide stance handstand pushups. Again – don’t do those. One final tip is to look forward instead of at the ground. This will align your body right for maximum strength.
How To Get Into A Handstand
- Put your palms on the ground 1-2 steps away from a wall. You want to place them roughly shoulder width apart. A good idea is to put them wherever it feels the most comfortable for your body.
- Kneel with one leg below your body. This leg will be just below your rib cage.
- Extend your other leg behind you. Keep this other leg relatively straight.
- Press with the leg that’s below you. You want to press up just a little bit.
- Swing the trailing leg up. The swinging of your rear leg will do most of the work.
How To Make Handstand Pushups Easier
There are two ways you can make the exercise easier. One is to get stronger which will happen with this program after 6-8 weeks. The other way is to start with a very limited range of motion. I recommend putting a stack of books that you don’t use and limit the range of motion as much as needed so you can get at least 12 reps the first time you train the handstand pushup.
You will start training with this huge stack of books (or pads). Adding a rep every day you will soon hit 20 reps. The next step is crucial. Decrease the stack of books by the smallest increment – for example an inch is a good increment.
Here Is Your Action Plan
- Train often. You need to train the handstand pushups very often – this is the only way to get good at them. I recommend doing them 5-6 times per week.
- Rest. At least once per week take a day off completely from training.
- Do at least 3 sets. You need volume so the stress is enough for your muscles to develop.
- Alternate between repetition ranges. Mix it up between 13-20 rep sets, 8-12 rep sets and 3-7 rep sets.
- Add reps. For 8-12 and 13-20 reps sets the best way of progress is to add at least one more repetition every workout.
- Add sets. For heavy 3-5 rep sets, add sets instead of reps.
Freestanding Handstand Pushups
As I wrote, one of my goals is learning the freestanding version of the handstand pushup. Here is a video of ana amazing young athlete, who teaches the freestanding handstand pushup. His channel has videos of breath taking feats, such as jumping over 6 people. And, the guy seems to live in a super exotic place, straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.