How to master Handstand Push Ups (HSPU)?

HSPU (handstand push ups) is one of those movement when I first started Crossfit I thought was insane. Now I actually look forward to WODs (workout of the day) with HSPUs. Practising progression movements is the key to building adequate strength. One day you’ll pleasantly surprise yourself. It’s not really as daunting as it looks. And remember:

“Believe that you can and you’re halfway there”!!!!

Progression Movements

Step 1 – Use a Box

Start with your knees on a small box, then progress to a larger box on your toes. The idea is to keep your chest as close to the box as possible, keeping you more vertical. The degree will be dependent on each athlete’s capability as everyone’s strength is different.

Step 2 – Practice kicking up

Practice kicking up to the wall.  The problem we see is that most newbies start by placing their hands on the floor and then trying to lift their legs. This provides insufficient momentum and you’ll either fall to the side or can’t get up at all. Start by:

  1. Don’t think that you are going to fall as the law of attraction says if you think you will, you will. Remember the wall is there. I know it’s hard. The last time I was upside down before Crossfit was probably primary school. For some reason it felt easier then. 😛
  2. Stand upright approx. 1-1.5m away from the wall. Depends on how tall you are. The idea is to leave enough space so you can step into the move.
  3. Visualise where your hands should be placed. The correct width is the same as if you are doing a shoulder/push press. It should not be wider.
  4. Then take one step towards the wall and remember to keep your elbows locked. The step towards the wall gives you enough momentum to kick up.
  5. For good habit building, look straight ahead and not at the floor. This keeps your spine straight.

If you want, one option in a WOD is to do one kick up, one push up. This is gives you the feel of kicking up against the wall.

Step 3 – Kipping & the Abmat

Strict HSPU is hard. Start by:

  1. Using as many abmats as you need. As you get stronger, slowly remove them.
  2. Play around with the distance you require from the wall. For kipping, you tend to need to be slightly further away. If you have a tendency to fall forward, then maybe you are too close.
  3. Learn to kip. This is done by curling your knees into your chest, keeping your hip against the wall and kicking up and push up at the same time. It’s a matter of practice to get the timing aligned. Everyone is different however for me I found it easier to keep my knees apart, rather than in front of me (when in the curled torso position). Please note that your knees are still close to your chest. I find keeping my knees apart makes me less likely to fall forward. Having said this, I’ve seen many athletes kip with their knees together. The best bet is to test which works for you.

Things to remember:

  • Hands should be shoulder width apart like in a shoulder/push press.
  • When pressing up try to keep your elbows straight pointing backwards. It help to ensure that your hands (aka index fingers) are parallel and not splayed out. This technique is explained well in the Chris Spealler video below.
  • Keep your belly and butt tight at all times.
  • The closer your knee is to your chest, the more kipping power you will generate.
  • When you get stronger you may want to use plates with your abmat. Generally a 15kg plate with an abmat means you are doing the HSPU RX or on a flat surface. This is equivalent to using no mats at all however provides a friendly surface for you head. Add plates if you want to start deficient HSPUs.

Pictures speak a thousand words so below are some videos I found super useful.

“Watch, learn, practice and then modify it to what works best for you”.

Chris Spealler explains how to be efficient with HSPU

The important thing to remember is that there is always a “START” for everyone, somewhere. If you think it is impossible it will be impossible. Start at the progression you are comfortable with. Even if this is a push up on your knees or even a hand release push up, it’s still a start. You can only get stronger. Work hard and practice outside of your WOD time! We hope you’ve learnt something here that will assist you in your journey to Master HSPUs. Feel free to comment including tips that you found were useful to you.

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