Workouts

The 5 Exercises You Need to Get Better at Handstand Pushups

The classic CrossFit move brings together elements of strength, balance, and flexibility. Here’s how to perfect it for your routine.

Handstand Pushup
Dustin Snipes

There are few moves more badass than the handstand pushup. “It’s the ultimate combination of core strength, upper-body strength, shoulder stability, balance, and flexibility,” notes Liz Adams, a head CrossFit coach at New York City’s ICE NYC. “You’ll even get your heart rate up a bit.” Crank a few reps out against the wall and you know your fitness is on point.

But as intimidating as the handstand pushup can look, it’s also a highly achievable goal for most women. “To master this high-skilled gymnastic movement you need to build a foundation,” explains Adams. (You also have to be comfortable with spending some time upside down.) It all starts, she says, with perfecting a basic pushup. Here’s how to make it all happen.

1. Full pushup

Begin in a pushup position with hands on floor just outside shoulders, legs extended behind you. Shift shoulders slightly forward, then lower your chest to just touch the floor, pointing your elbows behind you. Press back to start, locking your arms at the top.

Goal to move on: Aim to complete 10 full pushups with perfect form.

2. Tripod

Begin in a full pushup position with a rolled-up or elevated mat between your hands, palms on floor just outside of shoulders. Lift your hips and bring the top of your head forward and onto the mat (such as an abs mat). “Think about creating a triangle, with your head being the top point on the middle of the mat and your hands the base,” says Adams. Walk feet forward, bringing your left knee on top of left triceps, and right knee on top of right triceps, lifting both feet off floor. Find your balance, then kick both legs back into a full plank.

Goal to move on: Complete 10 reps, feeling in control of the movement.

3. Pike pushup

Begin with your hands on the floor outside your shoulders and your legs extended behind you; lift hips toward ceiling in a pike position. Rise up onto your toes and shift your weight forward while bringing the top of your head to a mat, keeping hips lifted. Then shift weight back to heels.

Option: To increase the challenge, you can also do this move with your feet elevated onto a plyo box.

Goal to move on: “You should start to feel comfortable being upside down,” says Adams.

4. Kipping handstand pushup

Put mat on floor next to wall and stand a few feet away, facing wall. Bring hands to floor and kick heels up to wall, arms and legs extended. Lower your head onto the mat, maintaining the tripod position with your hands as your base and the head as the top of the triangle. Slowly bend both knees toward arms and kick back up, straightening arms, extending legs, and bringing heels back up the wall. Repeat, lowering top of head to mat while bending elbows, then kicking heels back to wall as you press up.

Goal to move on: Complete 10 reps with good form. “Most female athletes are able to do the kipping version before the strict handstand pushup,” says Adams

5. Strict handstand pushup

Begin as in the kipping handstand pushup, kicking heels up onto wall and bringing hands on floor shoulder-distance apart. Lower top of head to just touch the floor, keeping abs braced, then press back to full arm extension.

Build your base

Get to the top of the handstand pushup sooner by strengthening key muscles with these essential exercises, advises Adams.

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