Handstand push up progression

Overview: Handstand push ups provide an excellent bodyweight workout for the shoulders. They primarily work your anterior and lateral deltoids and the muscles in the back of your arms (your triceps). They also engage the muscles of the upper back (the trapezius).

Form: When performing handstand push ups, make sure your upper body, your arms, and your head remain in a straight line.

Notes: Handstand push ups also help building up towards unsupported handstands. A strong core and strong shoulders will help you find your balance and maintain the position more easily.

Choose one of the following variations as a starting point and perform 3 sets of between 4 and 8 repetitions with periods of between 1 and 2 min of rest between each set. When you can do 3 sets of 8, move on to the next exercise in the progression. 

Incline military press push ups
 1. Incline pike push ups (a.k.a. incline military press push ups). Place your hands shoulder-width apart on a raised platform. Bend at the waist keeping a straight back. Your outstretched arms and torso should form a straight line. Bring your head to your hands.
Incline Chinese push ups
 2. Incline pike diamond push ups (a.k.a.incline Chinese push ups). Place your hands with thumbs and index fingers touching each other,  on a raised platform. Bend at the waist keeping a straight back, and bring your head to your hands.
Military press push ups
 3. Pike push ups (a.k.a. military press push ups). Same as above, without the platform. Make sure that your head travels directly between your arms. Try to keep your head, arms and torso all in the same straight line.
Chinese push ups
 4. Pike diamond push ups (a.k.a.Chinese push ups). Same as above without the platform.
Decline military press push ups
 5. Decline pike push ups (a.k.a. decline military press push ups). Same as above with feet on a raised platform, and hands on the floor.
decline Chinese push ups
 6. Decline pike diamond push ups (a.k.a.decline Chinese push ups). Same as above with feet on a raised platform, and hands on the floor.
 7. Wall bent waist handstand push up. Walk your feet up the wall, keep a bent waist (you will need to remain some distance from the wall), then perform a push up. Make sure your head and torso remain in line with your arms.

 8. Wall bent waist handstand diamond push ups. Same as above with hands in 'diamond' position.
 9. Wall half handstand push up. Facing the wall in a handstand position, lower yourself till your arms are half bent, then come up.
 10. Wall handstand push ups. Lower yourself all the way down, until your head touches the ground.
 11. Wall handstand diamond push ups. Same as wall handstand push ups, but with thumbs and index fingers touching each other

 12. Wall raised handstand push ups. Using parallets, push up handles, or any raised platform such as dictionaries, benches, chairs, etc, to increase the range of motion.
For this version of the exercise, you will need to be facing away from the wall, rather than towards it.
Gradually build up the height of the platform to increase your range of motion.

34 comments:

  1. I have popping in my left shoulder when I do these. I have a history of rotator cuff problems with this shoulder should I avoid this exercise or are there any substitutes that I could try

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    1. If the exercise is causing you pain, then you should absolutely avoid it. In which case, replace it with dips (provided you are pain free during this exercise also), so every session for you will include both dips and push ups. However, you should also see a physio, as it sounds like your shoulder needs some rehab.

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    2. I had popping in my shoulder until I took up swimming, doing full range motion with my strokes. Also bone broth and ACV diluted in 8 oz. water helps

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  2. What would you suggest as an alternative (while working on flexibility) if you don't have the flexibility to bend at a full 90 degree angle as some of these require?

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    1. I'm assuming you refer to pike push ups & diamond push ups here... Move on straight to the next variation (decline pike push ups)

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  3. For the bent waist exercises (specifically numbers 7 and 8), is it ok to put your legs on an elevated platform that goes above your waist when you stand up straight?

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  4. is it ok to just drop HSPU and just do pushups and dips? i just find dips/pushups more fun than HSPU's...will i be missing i a lot? are dips enough to replace HSPU's?

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    1. I would strongly advice you against it. HSPU have a lot of carry over to other bodyweight exercises, and they are one of the very few complete movements for the shoulders... Why would you drop them? They don't require any equipment, and you can easily and gradually build up your way to them...

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    2. awright thanks. i think i'm just being a sissy because i'm not quite used to be being upside down...HSPU's it is then FTW.

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  5. Would this progression still work if I skipped the diamond variations? The close grip really seems to aggravate some old wrist issues I've had.

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    1. For variation #7 are your knees bent or straight, me feet tend to slide down the wall.

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    2. I keep them straight, but to be honest, it doesn't matter. It's the upper body that's important here.

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  6. Awesome thank you so much, and your site is awesome.

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  7. 10 -> 11 is too much for me. I progressed to 3 sets of 8 for step 10, no problem, but could just barely do 3 sets of 4 half versions of step 11 maintaining good form (hollow body, balanced, etc.). Maybe it's just me, but I think perhaps a half-diamond handstand push up could be added to mirror the progression from 8 -> 10. Thoughts?

    For reference, I'm just getting ready to start incline one arm push ups and I'm working my way through vanilla dips. Maybe I'm just not far enough along on the other progressions?

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    1. Yep, do half-diamonds if it's too much of a step. The other progressions will help also.

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    2. Thanks, brother. Do you think that might be a good addition to the progression here on the site? I wonder if anyone else has struggled with that step.

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    3. I struggle with the 5 to 6 step which is also to diamond transition. I think diamond just means more here than in normal push ups

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  8. I am unable to do pike push ups, as i cannot get into the correct position. Probably too tight hamstrings..? (Unable to touch my toes as well, without bending knees) Any tips or similar exercise to get to the handstand push up?

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    1. My hamstrings are very tight. I have troubles sitting up straight with just my legs out in front of me when sitting down. When I do pike pushups I do them elevant and just bend my legs a little. It allows me to get straight up and down.

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    2. I have the same issues as well, I can just about sit up straight with my legs in front of me - hurts in my hamstrings though. I'll work on that with the stretches. In the meantime, with these I'm trying to keep my arms and back straight, but I'm just having to keep my legs a long way back...

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  9. hi! first thank you for all the info out there!
    When i do hspu is this a big difference between facing the wall and facing away ? and it's this okay if i do always facing away the wall?

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    1. Great question! I find it much easier to get my feet up the wall and ready for HSPUs by getting in to a handstand first.

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  10. Hello!

    My lower back doesn't line up properly in exercises 1-4 but strength doesn't reach to 5. Can you advice me some how?

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  11. 11. wall hspu : do I have to get my chest down to my hands or do I have to get my head to my hands?

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  12. Hey there,

    Would you recommend (or advise against) doing regular hand stands as you progress to the HSPU to become familiar with the exercise without straining your muscles as much?

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  13. Hi there,

    Great website! One question here. During any of these movements, my elbows ache. Is this because I'm beginning or due to another reason?

    Thanks.

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  14. Hello,

    First thanks for all the info. It's been a couple months I follow your program and I've been spreading the word to friends.

    My problem is the diamond pike pushups (4). I cannot lower myself enough for my head to touch the ground, I collapse first. Is it okay to do half of the movement or should I repeat the position (3) until 12/12/12 ?

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  15. Is it abnormal when doing the beginning progressions to feel like you have inadequate flexibility in the hips and lower back? I'm trying to get the right angle but it feels like im planking more than anything else while doing decline pike pushups. I have nothing to really record myself but I don't feel like I'm achieving the solid 90 degree angle you're performing with despite being able to blow through a solid 5 sets of 8.( when i try to reign in my hands closer to my feets positioning my knees bend and hamstrings tighten ) If it is a common thing what would you suggest for flexibility in those areas if not the stretching regimen you already provide? or is having your feet and hands closer together necessary for the progressions you've outlined?

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  16. GMB has a great video tutorial showing the hspu progression. The tutorial shows the elbows in form that is advocated by Kelly Starrett and is generally accepted as a more stable position for elbows, shoulders and wrists. Also, it has a gentler opening progression. Love your site btw. Having a lot of fun with this workout �� Particularly love the infographic. Keep up the great work Nick!

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  17. How deep should the handstand diamond push-ups go? I can do regular handstand push-ups until my head touches the ground but can hardly get half way with the diamonds!

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  18. why are there handstand push ups and normal push i
    ups? is there any diffrence .. why you dont make a progression form 1 arm pushups to handstand push ups?

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    Replies
    1. One is vertical, the other is horizontal. They are very different.

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