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Handstand pushups are an exercise that CrossFitters embrace and non-CrossFitters typically ignore. This needs to stop. “As an upper-body movement, handstand pushups shine,” says Bill Shiffler, C.S.C.S., CF-L1, owner of CrossFit Renaissance in Philadelphia. “In addition to being a great movement for the shoulders, it also makes your core work hard.”
Handstand pushups are difficult but highly scalable, with easier variations providing the same benefits as the full-throttle version. Below are Shiffler’s progressions, from easiest to hardest.
Start in a pushup position with your feet against a wall. Walk your feet up the wall and then walk your hands back until you’re in the top position of a HSPU. Hold for 15 seconds. “Always practice ‘active shoulders,’” says Shiffler, “lifting your shoulders up toward your ears and maintaining a nice tight shrug.”
Sitting on a flat bench, perform dumbbell shoulder presses with your feet a few inches above the floor. “It will be tough to maintain your balance,” says Shiffler, “so be sure to keep your abs tight.”
With your hands on the floor, place your feet on a bench and lift your hips up (into a pike position), putting as much of your weight as possible over your hands. Bend your arms to lower yourself until your head touches the floor, then press back up.
Starting from the inverted wall hold (facing the wall), lower your head to the floor and press back up. “Start with your hands far from the wall,” advises Shiffler. “The closer your hands are to the wall, the harder the movement will be. Once you’ve got your hands all the way to the wall, you’ll more or less be doing handstand pushups.”
“Kick up on the wall so your heels are touching, lower yourself until your head touches the ground, and press back up,” says Shiffler. “There’s your first handstand pushup.”
Implement any of the above moves into an upper-body workout. “If you’re able to bang out five or more solid reps,” says Shiffler, “they can definitely serve as your primary shoulder movement for the day.”