6 Progressions To Help You Improve Your Handstand Pushups (HSPU)

Does seeing Handstand Pushups (HSPU) on the WOD make you feel discouraged instead of energized? You’re not the only one. The HSPU is a gymnastics movement that no one learns overnight, but by following the progressions below, you’ll be able to do proper handstand pushups safely in no time!

Handstand Pushup Progressions

  1. Regular pushups
push up

Before attempting the handstand pushup, you need to be able to do 15-20 regular pushups in a row with no problem.

To make sure everyone’s on the same page, a regular pushup is performed by placing the hands a little more than shoulder width. The body is straight. You’re on your toes. When descending, the elbows should bend towards you (not out to the sides). Touch your chin to the floor and then push yourself back up while maintaining the body straight.

  1. Pike pushups
Pike push up from Athletic Muscle

Once you master the regular pushups, pike pushups would be the next progression. If you can do regular pushups already, you’d start with these.

To do pike pushups, keep your hands in the same position as in the regular pushup. Bring your feet closer towards your hands so that your hips are up. Your body should be in an inverted “V”.

In this position, perform a pushup by bringing your body slightly forward. The elbows should bend towards you as in the regular pushup. Tap your forehead on the floor (or on an AbMat) then push yourself up. As far as reps, you should be able to do the same or more than regular pushups in a row.

  1. Elevated pike pushups
Pike Push Up

When pike pushups become doable, start elevating your feet by placing them on a box. (You can also start by placing your knees on the box and then progressing to feet on the box.) Place an AbMat close to the box so that your body is in an inverted “V”. Your hands should be in the same position as the previous pushups. Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor. Perform a pushup just like you have been when doing pike pushups. You should build up to three sets of 12-15.

  1. Wall Walks
wall walks

This progression will help you get used to being inverted without fearing that you’re going to fall. We’ll learn how the gymnasts do this movement.

Start in a plank position with hands on the floor and the bottom of your feet against a wall. “Walk” your feet up the wall while walking your hands towards the wall. Go as far as you’re comfortable then build up from there. Your goal is to bring your face close to the wall so your nose touches it. It may be uncomfortable in the beginning so it will take practice.

The purpose of this exercise is to get your shoulders strong and get you used to being inverted. For this progression, you should be able to do at least 10 effortlessly.

  1. Handstand Hold
Handstand Hold

When you have the wall walks down, it’s time to move into the handstand hold. In the handstand hold you’re holding the handstand as long as you can. If you’ve never done this, don’t expect to be able to hold for a long time. Start with three seconds if that’s what you can do. Increase the amount of time you hold yourself up until you reach 30 seconds or more.

  1. Kick up
handstand kick up

Once you’re comfortable doing the handstand hold, it’s time to progress to the kick up. This is where you kick one leg up and follow with the other leg so both feet are up and you’re in an inverted position.

It’s not as easy as it looks or sounds. It takes practice. To do these, put your hands in your usual handstand position. Keep the leg you’re going to kick off with bent and your other leg straight. Bring the straight leg up and then kick off with the bent leg until both feet are on the wall. As with everything you’ve been practicing until now, this will take time so don’t be hard on yourself.

Strict Handstand pushups

And after you’ve mastered all the progressions, it’s time to master the handstand pushup. Up to this point, you’ve been building up to be able to do handstand pushups. And even at this point, you may not be able to do many. That’s OK. Start with as many as you can with the good form you’ve learned and you’ll be knocking these out in no time.

strict handstand push up

For these you’ll have to get into an inverted position against a wall. Keep in mind here to bring your head down until it TOUCHES the floor or an AbMat and then push yourself up.

A note of caution here: When performing strict handstand pushups, you should not be supporting your weight with your head at any moment. And you should not come crashing down on your head. That’s dangerous and can result in spinal injuries.

As mentioned in the beginning, the handstand pushup is a gymnastics movement. It’s not an easy exercise, take your time learning and mastering the progressions. The point of all this is to strengthen your body safely.