A handstand push up is a challenging movement and one that can take years to achieve. The strength, balance, and awareness that is required in a handstand push up can take your training and physical fitness to a new level.
Have A Quality Handstand
Virtuosity is one of the most crucial qualities when developing your handstand push up. Just like everything in the gym, there’s a set of progressions that are necessary when training a movement. Coach Gretchen wrote a great article about that here. When specifically talking about the handstand push up, you should first focus on movement quality, then isometric holds, then lowering yourself down (eccentric), and then bringing yourself back up (concentric).
An important thing to reflect on is, can you move safely in the handstand push up position? Do you have any wrist, shoulder, or neck pain? The honest answer might be yes, you experience some or all of those. If that’s the case, then your time might be better suited to address those first before specifically training for a handstand push up. After you have the requisite joint mobility and health then it’s time to get upside down.
Let’s say you have a quality handstand and feel pretty safe doing it. This is the most crucial place where you need to leave your ego at the door and focus on your movement quality. Yes, you might be able to do a couple of quality reps but what happens when you’re asked to do 50 of them after overhead lunges. You might realize that handstand push ups are pretty darn hard and might require some extra work. If you’ve ever been in a similar scenario or want to work towards a push up, here are a couple of ideas you can implement in your training before or after class.
Perhaps the most widely known technique used to develop strength or skill is Every Minute On the Minute work. If you’ve been around SoCo for any time, you’ve probably noticed we do a format of this at least once or twice a week.
In an EMOM, it’s easy to implement in your training, simple to follow your progressions, and the intensity is typically a littler lower allowing for volume to be added in.
If you have 10 minutes after class, you can follow:
3-5 Strict Handstand Push Ups.
You can also play with EMOMs and base it off of your strengths and weaknesses. If you know your handstand push ups start failing once you get out of breath, add in another movement or change the duration. For Example:
Minute 1: 200m Run
Minute 2: 5 Handstand Push Ups
A little more aggressive than an EMOM but a valuable method is a volume test. An example would be:
50 Strict Handstand Push Ups
These tests work great as you get direct feedback on your progress. If it takes you eight minutes to do 50 reps and then 12 weeks later it took seven, you just progressed. It can also be used to help your EMOM progressions. If those 50 reps took eight minutes then doing six reps each minute in an eight minute EMOM is probably near your max.
One thing you can do knowing that is adding a rep or two to the first four minutes for a total of eight reps each minute and then dropping back to the six reps. Over the course of eight minutes you just progressively added more volume in.
When starting a workout the first couple of handstand push ups might feel great… until they don’t. Handstand push ups are rarely programmed alone and often come with something else that can tax the shoulders and core. If your arms just got spent by doing a minute of burpees or pull ups and now you can’t lock out your arms, you know where your limitation is.
An example to train this would be:
A1: Near Max Effort Tricep Extensions
A2: 10 Handstand Push Ups – As Fast As Possible
-Rest 2-3 Minutes-
This advanced structure targets a particular limiter you might be facing. By directly changing the stimulus to challenge your limiter you’re now forcing an adaptation you may not see while only doing the movement.
Weighted and Deficit Variations
Variance is huge when creating an effective stimulus, hence ‘Constantly Varied’. An effective way of doing so, is by altering the movement. Although you might not see too many people doing handstand push ups with a weighted vest, you might have seen someone do a handstand push up from a deficit. The value in these variations is that you get a specific adaptation depending on the variation. If you’re in need of strength biased or strength endurance adaptation, the weight vest will help. If you’re in need of working past a sticking point you have, the deficit will help overload those muscles.
An example could be:
A: Find 3RM deficit strict handstand push up
B: 5 Sets:
3 Strict handstand push ups – at half of your 3RM deficit
You now have a couple training methods that you can use to take on a more structured approach to training your handstand push ups or applying the same methods to getting your first push up. These methods are dependent upon your fitness goals and should be treated as such. You’ve started your own fitness journey by investing and working on yourself. By doing so, self-improvement is one of the few places you truly find yourself. There’s the popular saying “how you do one thing is how you do everything” and handstand push ups are no different.