Handstand Pushups

For the 2015 goals, many have included Handstand Push-ups (HSPU).  The following progression has worked for many, and we will use it to get our HSPU on.  From Chrisstroud.net

Handstand pushups progression template for CrossFit

Learn more about the the full RX Gymnastics Course to progress you along with pull-ups, handstand pushups, rind dips, and muscle ups.

This is the third article is a series for developing bodyweight movement capacity for CrossFit. This article outlines a handstand pushups progression. The order of this series is as follows:

In this post I’ll outline a framework for progressing through the stages of handstand push up development for the purposes of CrossFit. The phases will start with not being able to get into a handtand against the wall or push up to being able to doing strict handstand push ups, Diane unbroken (21-15-9 HSPU and DL’s), and being proficient at high rep kipping handstand push ups — which for many CrossFitters (especially women) kipping is a necessary skill to be proficient at in order to be competitive at the open and regionals.

Within CrossFit the four foundational gymnastic oriented movements that are tested the most are pull ups, ring dips, HSPU’s, and MU’s. Within that there there is a high correlation in performance between the pull ups, ring dips, and muscle ups. The handstand push up has carryover capacity from the aforementioned triplet but needs to be addressed individually more-so than the others and as such this progression will stand apart in many respects from the development of the other skills. Furthermore, the progressions for handstand push ups have a higher degree of difficulty in terms of technique and body position in comparison to the pull ups and ring dips and for that reason the last post in this series will have video/pictures of each progression to help you progress more efficiently and safely throughout the phases.

Phase 1 – Prerequisite Handstand push up specific work

Current ability: Less than 10 standard push ups.

Goal: 10 standard push ups

Notes: There are tons of ways to being able to develop your push ups but here is a relatively simple yet effective method. There are two phases of a push up progression. The first phase is when you can’t do a push up yet. During this phase your goal is to do sets of 12-15 at the most difficult progression you are able to do (see below for progressions). Once you are getting past 15 reps then move to the next difficulty level. The second phase is when you can do 1-10 standard push ups. During this phase you’ll still be doing a 3×12-15 at a easier progression but also rotate through the following rep schemes to help you get to 10 unbroken quicker.

Phase 1 – prerequisite stage for HSPU
1 2 3
3-58reps EMOM for 10 minutes. If you do more than 8 reps than move to a more difficult progression. If you get to the point where you can’t do 3 when the minute comes up then move to one of the easier progressions for the remainder of minute intervals As many as possible in 3 minutes. Move up :15 each time until you reach 5 minutes or move to phase 2 Accumulate 100 reps throughout the day. Do them at work.The bank. Kitchen. Bedroom. ect. Do not do them all at the gym.
Push Up Progression – Ordered by difficultly level

There are 10 push up variations. Every other day you will do 3 sets of 12-15 with 3 minutes rest at whichever progression you’re at.

  1. Wall push up – vary body angle to make more/less difficult
  2. Incline push up on 30″ box – vary body angle to make more/less difficult
  3. Incline push up on 24″ box or bench – vary body angle to make more/less difficult
  4. Knee Push up with 3 ab mats under chest
  5. Knee Push up with 2 ab mats under chest
  6. Knee Push up with 1 ab mat under chest
  7. Standard knee push ups
  8. Standard push up on the way down, knee push up on the way up. Switch to 4×8-12 rep scheme for this progression.
  9. Standard push ups 1 on the minute for 10 minutes. Work your way up to 3 on the minute for 10 minutes.
  10. Standard push ups 3 sets of max reps with 3 minutes rest between sets. Once you can do 10 push ups on the first set you are all set to start phase 1 for HSPU’s.

Phase 2

Current ability: 10 standard push ups. If you are not able to do 10 push ups yet, scroll to the bottom of this article for a simple push up progression.

Goal: Comfortably kick up into a handstand against the wall, hold position with tight abs and no arch in lower back for 20 seconds, and comfortably come back down.

Notes: If you cannot touch your toes with straight legs then your encouraged to do hamstring stretches daily till you can.

How to: The progressions for phase 1 does not require a lot of time to recover. You can go through phase 1 workouts 4-5 times a week.

Tips: Once you are able to get into a handstand position against the wall you can get through phase 1 quickly (7-21 days) by practicing handstand holds throughout the day. Since this is a isometric contraction in a stable locked out overhead position the risk of doing too much on your shoulder musculature system is fairly small. The risk from this movement will come from a sudden increase volume in flexion on your wrists which may cause wrist pain. If your wrists begin to hurt or swell then ice them (20-on-20-off 3 times) and take 3-7 days off from handstand training.

Phase 2 HSPU template
DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3
10 walkouts getting your hands as close to your feet as possible (Video. Go to 2:50) 10 Incline inversions with highest box possible (Video. Go to 2:17) 10 minutes practice of wall climbs to handstand facing the wall. Try to get as close to the wall as possible.
Practice light as a feather drill Practice kicking up to a handstand against a wall safely and holding handstand position against a wall Practice kicking up to a handstand against a wall safely and holding handstand position against a wall
Drills for learning stable body position

I couldn’t find videos for these two drills to help learn to be stable in the lumbar and shoulder joints. I’ll include video’s for these in the last post of the series.

  • Light as a feather
  • Standing shoulder arch

Phase 3

Current ability: Comfortably kick up into a handstand against the wall, hold position with tight abs and no arch in lower back for 20 seconds, and comfortably come back down.

Goal: 1 strict handstand push up.

Objective: Develop overhead pressing strength.

How to: Rotate days 1-4 until you are able to do a strict HSPU.

Phase 3 HSPU template
DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4
General Volume Specific General Volume Specific
Accumulate 20 knee on box handstand push ups. Go up 5/week till you are at 40. Each week make it a little more difficult by using a higher box or getting chest closer to box 10×1 slow and controlled negatives to the ground. Go up 1 rep a week till you move to the next phase. 3 sets of 4 elevated pushups. Once you can do all 12 reps at a certain height move up 3-6 inches 10×1 slow and controlled negatives to the ground. Go up 1 rep a week till you move to the next phase.
2 sets of 8-12 pike push ups
Negative HSPU progression

The negative HSPU will be a staple in phases 2-5. It is performed by getting into the handstand position and lowering your self at a 3-4 second pace. Notice I said lower and not drop! The purpose is to move through this range of motion controlled, and not just moving through the range of motion for the sake of checking it off in your note book. Do them right and take your time. It should go with out saying but as you move into using a deficit the time will increase as the ROM increases. Furthermore, while performing this movement there is a propensity for most to accelerate as you get closer to the end range of the movement. Your singular goal is to fight that propensity and gravity so to try and keep the same pace throughout the entire movement on the way down. Once your head is on the ground or ad mat you can just come out of it.

  1. 3 ab mats
  2. 2 ab mats
  3. 1 ab mat
  4. the ground
  5. 2″ deficit on box with ab mats in-between.
  6. 4″ deficit on box with ab mats in-between.
  7. 6″ deficit on box with ab mats in-between.
  8. 8″ deficit on box with ab mats in-between.
  9. Shoulder touches box

Phase 4

Current ability: 1 strict HSPU.

Goal: 3 strict HSPU and 10 kipping HSPU

How to:Rotate days 1-3 until you are able to reach phase 4 goals.

Phase 4 HSPU template
DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4
5×5 deficit HSPU at most difficult progression you can handle. Rest as needed between sets 3 sets max kipping HSPU with 4 minutes rest betwen. As many kipping HSPU’s as possible in 3 minutes. Add :30/week till you get to 5 minutes. Each week the goal is to get more reps than the last. 1 strict HSPU EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) for 10 minutes. As you get better feel free to add reps.

Phase 5

Current ability:  3 strict HSPU and 10 kipping HSPU

Goal: 6 strict HSPU and 20 kipping HSPU

How to: Rotate days 1-4 until you are able to reach phase 5 goals.

Phase 5 HSPU template
DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3
Volume Recovery Intensity
4×5 deficit HSPU at most difficult progression you can handle  2-5 strict HSPU EMOM for 10 minutes. Start with 3-5 the first set. Each set after try to hit a minimum of 2 but more if you can  As many kipping HSPU as you can do in 5 minutes.

Phase 6

Current ability:  6 strict HSPU and 20 kipping HSPU

Goal: 10-20 strict HSPU, 30-50 kipping HSPU, and full ROM HSPU on 18″ boxes with shoulders touching. Develop capacity to do kipping HSPU while fatigued.

How to: Rotate days 1-4 until you are able to reach phase 5 goals.

Phase 6 HSPU template
DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3
Volume Recovery Intensity
3×5 deficit HSPU at most difficult progression you can handle  1 max set of strict HSPU. Rest 1 minute. 1 max set kipping HSPU.  2 sets of: 5 strict HSPU. Rest 20 seconds. Max kipping HSPU. Rest 2 minutes.
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