Tag Archives | Handstand Pushups

Crazy Hand Balancing Feats

Regular handstands just don’t cut the mustard for you anymore? How about hand balancing on rolling dumbbells or high-fiving a friend in between handstand push-ups on a barbell? Yeah, that should do it.

These and similar feats can get pretty taxing on the wrists, so think twice before trying to replicate them. It would be wise to master balancing on hand balancing stands first.

Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups
Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups on Amazon
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Crazy Battle Of The Bars at LA Fit Expo 2015

LA Fit Expo is among the biggest fitness events in the USA, featuring 24 competitions including parkour/freerunning, feats of strength, strongman, powerlifting and many more, along with Battle of the Bars.

The video below is from the main event of the Battle of the Bars between Tatted Strength and Samer Delgado. Get ready for parallel handstand pushups, parallel and regular planches, various levers, jumps, spins…and even a backflip on a bar and a six-fingers planche.

The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing
The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing on Amazon

I was actually there, but haven’t had enough time to really enjoy the show as I was too busy running a booth with my brother for our herbal company, SuperMan Herbs. If you are tired of supplement companies who load their products with all kinds of stuff and want to focus on your health first and foremost, check us out at SupermanHerbs.com .

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Seemingly Effortless 30 Freestanding Handstand Pushups

This guy managed to achieve his goal for 2015 and perform 30 freestanding handstand pushups. He mentions being able to churn out only 10-15 a year ago, whereas the plan for the end of 2015 is 50 freestanding handstand pushups.

How to do the One Hand Handstand by Professor Orlick
ow to do the One Hand Handstand on Amazon

And I am pretty sure he’s going to make it.

https://youtu.be/K3qh8qxO8mM?t=22s

Start your handstand training today and achieve your own goals as soon as possible.

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Hand Balancing Training Variations

When it comes to handstands and hand balancing in general, there are many ways to train and progress. In this video we have a chance to see quite difficult hand balancing moves by Pablo Molina.

The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing
The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing on Amazon

Starting with a straight handstand, Pablo goes on to walk on hands and perform various hand balancing moves, including press handstand and even unsupported headstand; but he also shows some amazing one arm handstand variations and handstand pushups on hand balancing stands, which make balancing easier and increase the number of stunts you can perform. Check them out here.

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Handstand Training – My Ten Cents! – Guest Post by Paul “Coach” Wade

If there’s one thing we can all agree on in the world of strength and conditioning, it’s this: The National Handstand Council (NHC) has done a freaking terrible job of promoting the benefits of the handstand.

Why have they failed? Well, partly because I just made them up. But that’s no goddam excuse is it? Superman is made up, and you don’t see Lex Luthor all up in your face, right? So he did his job. But the NHC? Jesus. Useless. Guys want to work their pressing muscles, and they hit that bench press. Or reach for the dumbbells and do some shoulder presses. Some of the hardcore dudes might work some barbell standing presses. But handstand training? Good luck finding that in a gym, right?

You suck, NHC!!

But luckily the strength world does have a champion for handstand training; a man who has tirelessly promoted the strength and conditioning benefits of the old upside-down work so effectively that he has pretty much become the face of handstands on this here internet. This hero’s name is Logan Christopher. When Dragon Door formed the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) to instruct athletes in all aspects of bodyweight training, I pretty much begged Logan to get on-board: he’s so much more than “the handstand guy”, but hell, nobody knows handstand training like Logan. History, methods, kinesiology, you name it.

The bottom line: you gotta have those handstands!

I have probably been doing some kind of handstand training since before most of you reading this were born. Bill Pearl used to say that no one approach to training would take care of you for your entire life, and this has certainly been true for me and handstands. In fact, my approach to handstands has gone through at least four different stages.

 

The Brutal Basics: Wall Handstand Holds

When I first started calisthenics, I basically did two pushing exercises: basic pushups and handstands against a wall. This was in my early twenties, and in jail: no weights, no machines, no benches—nothin’. It seems primitive by today’s standards, but looking back, god damn—what a wonderful way to start off! I’d do pushups to work my chest, triceps and front shoulders, then at the end of the workout I’d flip up against the wall and just try and stay locked out for as long as I could. I knew I was doing great work for my muscles as I felt the burn viciously intensify in my delts, traps and arms. Oh man, wonderful stuff!

Brett Jones

The great Brett Jones holds a perfect wall handstand—in Alcatraz!

 

I still look back on that early training and thank God I didn’t have access to a modern gym the way today’s guys do. Most wannabe strongmen nowadays sit on their asses on padded benches to press—or worse, they lie down! When you think about the artificial nature of this, you’ll realize how nuts it is. How often in the real world do you ever need to summon huge strength while you are sitting down? Or lying down? Hell, real strength is ground-based. Training while you are carrying your entire weight through the floor forces the entire body to work as a unit to become stronger. Think about it…if this principle is true when your feet are carrying your weight, how much truer is it when your hands are carrying your weight during training?

The answer: much truer. If you want to begin to really tap your strength potential, get on your hands, son.

 

In My Prime: One-Arm Work

I trained this way a few years. I eventually got to the point where I could easily hold wall handstands for over a minute, so I switched to one-arm wall handstands. Oh, fun fun fun, boys and girls! One-arm work does stuff for your body you would never imagine. Your joints have to lock harder to support you, training the hell out of those elbow tendons; plus, my hands became hugely stronger. Just supporting your weight entirely on one hand throws enormous stresses through the soft tissues, and even the bones of your mitts. It made my hands tough as hell—and not just my grip, but my wrist strength and finger extensions too. All with no grippers or external weights. In fact, I wasn’t even trying to train my hands!

Over time, I moved away from the wall and embraced old-school hand-balancing. Again, I used very few exercises. I worked with elbow levers, one arm elbow-levers, free handstands, and one-arm free handstands. I didn’t build much more muscle this way; but boy, did I get stronger! Plus, I was learning to use the muscle I had built already. Over time I fused these core techniques into one “super-technique”—the pushup into a one-arm handstand from a one-arm elbow lever. In reality, there’s not a huge amount of “pushing” in this move. Do it right, and you kick up with your legs, building a head of momentum that carries you up. But it is an amazing movement, and I still feel privileged that I ever learned it at all.

 

Max Shank lever

The mighty Max Shank busts out a two-arm elbow lever.

I think it was during this period that I began to understand the true benefits of handstand training. It’s functional—it really teaches you how to use your body as it was meant to be used. I’ve heard a lot of writers diss on bodyweight, especially the idea that it’s a natural way to train. What the hell is natural about a handstand? They say. Well, I disagree with this attitude. Learning to hold the body up on the hands is natural—in fact, it’s practically hardwired. We just choose to ignore it. We are one of very few species that has chosen to walk exclusively on our hind legs—all other species (and our ancestors) naturally also used the forelimbs—the hands. When we are babies we begin to explore the world by crawling, by walking with our feet and hands.  We get up from the floor by pushing through our hands. When we run at high velocity and tumble over, we inevitably spin into a handstand, if only for a split-second. Handstand training is just a scientific extension of these very natural (but mislaid) movement patterns.

 

HSPUs Convict Conditioning-Style!

When I started coaching guys a few years later, none of them were interested in the arcane arts of hand-balancing. Elbow levers? Shit, why?! They just wanted to get as diesel as they could, as quick and easy as they could. Swole shoulders, boy! So I trained them with handstand pushup progressions up against a wall. Rest assured, I strenuously experimented and “pressure tested” these techniques in my own little “lab”: and just about doubled the size of my deltoids by doing so.

Man, if you’ve never worked your handstands like this, it’s a brutal and super-efficient way to build huge levels of muscle and tendon-strength. You begin with inverse positions to train your body to being happy upside-down, set against the wall. When this gets easy, the handstand pushups begin. Since you’ve pretty much taken the balance element away, all the resources of your body and brain can be devoted to pushing.

 

one hand handstand pushups

With convict-style handstand pushups, who needs barbells?

The effects are not unlike heavy barbell presses, but with one exception: they strengthen and build up the vulnerable shoulder and arm joints, instead of tearing them down. Howcome? For one, the hands are flat—instead of gripping as they push. The old-timers who trained me were convinced that gripping while you push (as in barbell presses, bench presses) causes all the elbow and forearm problems so prevalent in gyms today. The flat hand cures these. (In nature, guys pushing heavy objects always do it with a flat hand. So why do we clench our hands while pushing in the gym?) Also, your elbow and body positioning is much more authentic during handstand work—in the gym, guys are forever pushing their elbows out, putting the bar behind their neck, and so on—this is all unnatural and wrecks those shoulders. Another major point is that your range-of-motion is limited by nature during handstand pushups—yer head gets in the way. This change alone cures a huge amount of shoulder problems.

These progressions went on to become a mainstay of my book Convict Conditioning. I stand by this type of work for bodyweight bodybuilders, and guys who want to build muscle, strength and joint health without the balance element of traditional, free hand-balancing.

 

OBHB: “Old Bastard Hand-Balancing”

As it stands, my next “big” birthday is a few short years away, and it has a 6 in it…unfortunately, the 6 ain’t on the good side! In the last five or six years, my inverse training has taken another definite turn. I still love being upside-down, but these days I do things different. Gone are the super-heavy handstand pushups against the wall—in their place, I’m back to traditional styles of hand-balancing. I play with stuff like:

  • Perfectly straight, still, free handstands
  • Timed free handstands (with a body-curve allowed)
  • Asymmetrical free handstands (different arm and leg positions)
  • Handstand transitions: bridge to handstand, forward bend to handstand, etc.
  • Walking on the hands
  • Sideways walks on the hands (try it!)
  • Headstands and shoulderstands

This keeps my interest up, maintains muscle and strength, and keeps my shoulder girdle healthy. And more than that—it’s fun for me. After years of grinding out HSPUs, learning to use balance and equilibrium again is interesting. Discovering the similarities between grace and strength is enjoyable—creative, almost. Will I ever go back to heavy asymmetrical unilateral handstand pushups? Probably. Almost definitely, someday. But like old Bill Pearl said, you need to shake your training up if you want to stay interested and in this game for the long haul.

balance and strength

Balance and strength go together better than most folks realize.

The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing
The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing on Amazon

In many ways, this kind of training makes me feel like I’m going back to my roots. My first real calisthenics mentor, Joe Hartigan, was a huge fan of handstands, or “inverse work” as he sometimes called it. For Joe, the most important element of this type of exercise wasn’t muscle or strength gain at all—it was the fact that you were upside-down, or “inverse”. He was convinced that spending time wrongside-up had amazing health benefits, like flushing the lymph system, toning the circulation, and filling the brain with large volumes of fresh blood (he felt that this “fed” the pineal and pituitary glands, the “master glands” of the endocrines, thus optimizing hormonal output). In fact, Joe lumped headstands and shoulderstands into the same group of exercises as handstands. He often performed simple headstands for prolonged periods. I sometimes thought he was crazy—and I wasn’t the only one—but his results weren’t crazy. The guy was a strength legend, pretty much up to the day he died.

Handstands and hormones? Maybe kid. Maybe.

***

So perhaps you can see just from my own brief training bio that there are many ways to skin that cat…many ways to work on those hands God blessed you with. Which is the “best” approach? Basic handstands, gymnastic elbow-lever tricks, HSPUs against a wall, or old-school hand-balancing…?

Hm. Let me answer this way. For many years I was kind of obsessed with finding the ultimate method of calisthenics. But since working more closely with Al Kavadlo—the greatest calisthenics coach in the world—I’ve realized that there is no ultimate way. If you are enjoying your training, and getting better without screwing up your joints, hell, you are winning the game. That’s what it’s all about kid.

Now go get on your hands.

Paul “Coach” Wade is the author of the best selling books, Convict Conditioning and Convict Conditioning 2. These books are a must have for anyone interested in bodyweight training.

 

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Progression Workouts for Handstand Push-Ups

This video is divided into two parts, featuring variations of handstand pushups in the first part and progression exercises for handstand pushups in the second part.

Hand Balancing Made EasyHandBalancingMadeEasy_on_Amazon

More specifically, in the first part of the video you’ll see some amazing feats:

  • Supported handstand pushups (against the door)
  • Raised handstand pushups (against the door)
  • Freestanding handstand pushups
  • Raised Freestanding handstand pushups
  • “Scissor” handstand pushups
  • “Diamond” grip supported handstand pushups

Whereas in the second part you’ll discover how to go from shoulders push-ups to partial supported handstand pushups and finally to negatives and climbing up against the wall, before trying out your first handstand push-up against the wall. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups to learn how to perform them as soon as possible.

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10 Progressive Bent Arm Handstand Presses

Bent arm handstand presses, of the various sorts we’ll cover below, are an awesome show of strength and skill.

The hard part about that is that they require lots of strength and lots of skill to do. That’s probably part of the allure, but it is also what makes them unattainable for most, unless they spend the dedicated practice required.

The difficult part of the skill equation is that you must balance the whole time while doing these. They’re a far cry from doing handstand pushups against the wall. I would recommend to anyone that really wants to get great at these, to spend your time building a solid free handstand first. I would say until you can hold a handstand consistently for at least 20 seconds that you should build your strength another way, as you focus on that skill. (On that note, my Secrets of the Handstand System will help you get there.)

The difficult part of the strength equation is that they have you handle your entire bodyweight with your upper body strength. If you’re a hundred pound gymnast this may not be a big problem. For the rest of us it is.

I remember working on the frogstand press early in my hand balancing career. Not only was the balance hard but each rep was like a max effort press. This makes it hard to work on the “skill” of the movement when it takes everything you’ve got to do it. And it limits the total reps you can do for practice, whether you make them or not.

All bodyweight exercises need to be progressive. That’s one of the hard parts about these. There is no clear progression. You can’t just unload your bodyweight unfortunately. So what I’ve set out to do in this article is give you ten progressively harder presses to work with.

Note: These are all BENT ARM presses. Straight arm presses are an entirely different animal, requiring more flexibility as well as a different kind of strength to do.

We start with the easiest one. Of course to do this you need to have a minimum of strength and balance. We talked about the balance part. As for strength I would recommend being able to do at least 5 handstand pushups against the wall before starting here.

The order of this list is open for some debate. Due to leverages and other factors some people may find that certain skills are easier than others. But I’ve worked with this awhile to find that it works well for me and others I‘ve trained.

1. Frogstand Press

The frogstand is known by a few different names like the crow in yoga. it’s a basic hand balancing skill that can help you on working towards the handstand. So on that note, its great that its also, the starting place for the bent arm presses. From a frogstand, with the knees on the outsides/backs of the elbows, tip forward more and press up into the handstand.

2. Straddle Press

Usually the straddle press is done with the arms locked out, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be used in a bent arm variation. Spread your legs fairly wide with the hands placed on the ground. Bend the elbows, taking your full weight onto the hands. Bring the legs around and up as you push up into a handstand.

3. Headstand Pushup

Start in a tripod headstand position with your legs straight overhead. From here press up with the hands until you come to a handstand. To make the press a little easier put the hands a little wider than shoulder width.

Headstand

The starting position for this press.

4. Pike Press

Similar to the straddle press, the only difference in this movement is that you’re legs are kept straight and together. This decreases your leverage, forcing you to counterbalance out further and makes it harder to do.

Bent Arm Pike Press

Just after the start when the legs raise off the ground.

5. Handstand Pushup

Kick up into a handstand with the hands shoulder width apart. Lower down touching your nose to the ground and press back up. This can be done with a straight or a curved back, they just change the angle of the press slightly.

6. Tuck Press

Start sitting on your knees (seiza position) on the ground. Press your arms into the ground lifting your body off. Tilt forward, bending the arms then press all the way up to a handstand. This move forces you into a lower starting place and is thus harder to do.

The starting position of the tuck pressup.

The starting position of the tuck pressup.

7. Belly Roll Pressup

There is some skill involved in this movement. You need to learn how to use your momentum and make a good transition as you do it. This is best to do on a padded surface. Start on your knees with the hips straight. Roll forward, arching the back. Your hands will come touch the ground above your hips. Use the momentum to help you press up into the handstand.

One of the steps in the belly roll to handstand.

8. Tiger Bend

Start in a forearm stand, that is balanced across the length of your forearms and hands. This requires a curved back position. Shift your weight forward so that you can come onto the hands in the bottom of a freestanding handstand pushup position. Press up. This requires a more narrow stance of the hands and thus requires significantly more strength.

Tumbling Illustrated
Tumbling Illustrated on Amazon

9. Elbow Lever Press

Start in an elbow lever position with the body held horizontal over the ground your weight resting fully on the elbows. Raise the legs up as you start to press with the hands. The hands will need to rotate on the ground to move towards a regular position as you press up.

Elbow Lever

From here press up to a handstand, rotating your hands along the way.

10. Prone Press

Start laying on the ground stomach down. Place your hands by your hips. Lift your whole body and press up to a handstand in much the same way as the lever press. Since you’re starting lower and must support your entire weight, without the elbow support, this one is quite a bit tougher.

This list was made to exist without any tools, like stacked objects or handles. With those added in, you could build out the list a lot further. Also there can be more intermediate steps like playing with hand width more to make each move more or less difficult.

Also note I have not yet personally achieved steps 9 and 10. As I work more towards these I may find some better intermediary steps.

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How to Do a Handstand Pushup

We’ve all seen them. They looked real cool and impressive. Here are some ideas on how to do a handstand pushup.

The first thing to do is to warm up your shoulder muscles. You can do this by simply shrugging your shoulders several times. Continue by making your arms into wings and flapping them up and down. A final exercise is to swing your arms in a circular motion around the shoulder socket. These will get your shoulders in the correct condition. Once you are warmed up, you are ready to begin the handstand pushups.

Beginners who want to know how to do a handstand pushup should use a wall or spotter for support. Start by placing your hands about a foot from the wall. While locking your arms, kick your feet up and over until you are touching the wall. Once you are in the vertical position, slowly lower your body down to the floor. It is a good idea to put a towel or pillow under your head to avoid injury or banging your head on the floor.  Lower your body to the floor as far as you can go. Make sure you do this slowly. A fast movement will not train your muscles properly. Do as many reps as you can. If you kick out of a handstand after each repetition, you will help train your muscles to prepare for the weight load when you do your handstand pushups.

If you have done a handstand pushup before, you can try a more challenging approach by getting into a headstand position and raising your legs up to your elbows.  From here, you can lift your legs vertically to form the handstand shape.  Another good strategy is to simply walk over onto your hands while your arms are fully extended above your shoulders. You just lean forward and walk your legs up to the upright position. From there, you can press down and up. If you’re looking for a real challenge, try doing a handstand pushup with your legs at a 90 degree angle. Be careful not to put too much stress on the shoulders. They are easily torn.

Once you know how to do a handstand pushup, you will be hooked.

Hand Balancing Made EasyHandBalancingMadeEasy_on_Amazon
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Handstand Pushup Benefits

Handstand pushup benefits are many. Some might even call it one of the greatest exercises ever invented.

  1. Strengthens the triceps, shoulders and chest
  2. Strengthens many stabilizer muscles
  3. Requires coordination and balance
  4. Can be an effective muscle builder
  5. Provides the benefits of inversion
  6. Its an impressive skill few people can do
  7. Can be handled very progressively

HSPU Benefits

Handstand pushups strengthens the triceps, shoulders and chest

The triceps are the muscles on the backs of the upper arms. They are used in extending the arm at the elbow. The shoulders or deltoid muscles are used in raising the arm overhead. The chest or pectoral muscles primarily bring the arms forward. Depending on how much arch is used in your handstand pushups, you can use these muscles more or less.

With different variations of these exercises you’ll emphasize or downplay these muscles to different degrees. But these aren’t the only muscles in use…

Strengthens many stabilizer muscles

In order to keep your body overhead you need more then just the prime movers to be firing. For example, the lats, the big muscles on the back, will be used to stabilize your body in air. In fact, a number of people have reported their pullup numbers going up just from doing handstand pushups.

Part of the reason for this is covered in the next point…

Requires coordination and balance

The handstand pushup requires more coordination and balance then handling a similar weight in the military press for instance. While this isn’t to say that a barbell doesn’t take any coordination or balance, any handstand position simply takes more. Just remember the first time you kicked up into a handstand against a wall. Chances are you weren’t quite sure where your body was in space. And this is doing a handstand against the wall, not even in the open.

So while the balance isn’t a huge part of this move, it is in there. There are many people that can push a barbell equal to their weight overhead but don’t have the coordination necessary to do handstand pushups.

Can be an effective muscle builder

Handstand pushups are a good exercise to build muscle. When done for higher reps, you can certainly add size to your shoulders and arms especially. They may not equal a barbell in gaining mass for one simple reason. As you’re adding muscle you’re gaining weight, and that is going to make this exercise harder, as opposed to any weight lifting exercise.

Full Range Handstand Pushup

Handstands provides the benefits of inversion

Inversions are known to provide a number of benefits by themselves. This can be something simple like a headstand but handstand pushups certainly count. These benefits include reversing the flow of gravity, which can relax the muscles (not likely in this exercise) but also to add in circulation.

You can read more about the benefits of inversion here.

Its an impressive skill few people can do

This may be the most important benefit of handstand pushups. When you can do these effortlessly you are in a class above most people. This skill can be made much harder in a number of ways too, which will make it even more impressive, like doing full range handstand pushups, one arm handstand pushups, or doing them freestanding.

Hand Balancing Made EasyHandBalancingMadeEasy_on_Amazon

If you’re looking to impress your friends, family or a member of the opposite sex 🙂 it’s worth a shot to improve your handstand pushups.

Can be handled very progressively

Unfortunately many people believe that the handstand pushup is just one exercise with not much variation in it. This is far from the truth. Did you know that just changing the position of your arms can dramatically change the difficulty of this exercise? The same is true with your head position too.

There are also other methods like doing partials that can make this exercise suitable for just about every level. For a whole lot more on progressing with handstand pushups click here.

Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushups

We’ve covered seven different handstand pushup benefits here and there are even more. But you won’t get any of them if you don’t DO the exercise. If you’re not doing handstand pushups already start adding them to your routine. If you are, I’d love to get your comments about them below.

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Handstand Press Progression

Here is a great video that shows handstand press progressions in action.

I’m not sure over what span of time these clips were shot but it shows a man making lots of progress on a variety of handstand presses. There’s some very cool stuff like freestanding handstand pushups on bars with a weighted vest.

Hand Balancing Made EasyHandBalancingMadeEasy_on_Amazon

It starts off with straight arm presses moves onto planche work, and then a whole variety of handstand pushups. At the end you’ll see some lever work, pullups and a couple one legged squats.

Thanks to Frank Dimeo for calling this video to my attention.

By studying this video you’re sure to gain some ideas on finding a handstand press progression that works for you.

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