Handstand Push-up Progression

The handstand push-up (HSPU) is another basic exercise that should be in every serious bodyweight strength trainee’s arsenal. It helps develop your shoulder, triceps and core strength. It also helps if you’re working on your free-standing handstand. And it’s a good thing to stand upside down from time to time, for circulation ‘n stuff.

The HSPU is very straight forward to progress to. Once you get the basic technique to kick up into a handstand against the wall, all you need to work on is your pushing strength in this position. I suggest starting this progression when you mastered regular push-ups.

Let’s dive into it.

Pike Push-up

The pike is your first step on your way to a HSPU. Get into a downdog pose. An elegant way to get into this position is to get into a basic push-up position. Then walk your hands back towards your feet. It’s okay to stand on the balls of your feet for this. Keep your legs straight and get your arms and torso in one line. The bend at your hips should be about 90 degrees.

If keeping this position is a problem due to some inflexibility in your hamstrings or calves, spread your legs a bit.

Lower yourself down until your forehead slightly touches the ground. Push back up into lockout to finish the rep. Keep your abs and quads engaged during the movement. The only thing that should be moving are your arms.

You should be ready to move on once you can perform 15-20 crisp reps.

Hindu Push-up

The hindu push-up is similar to the pike, but has a higher range of motion. Get into the pike position again, but this time, spread your legs a bit further so your feet are about shoulder width apart.

Lower yourself down like in the pike push-up, but take the movement further by lowering down your hips and moving your head forward and up, until you lock out your arms again and have an over-arched back (almost like the yoga pose “cobra”). It’s hard to describe, so have a close look at the pictures and the video at the end of the article.

Visualize a very low bar in front of you that you want to slide under for this part of the move. Once you’re in this arched position, simply raise your hips back up, keeping your arms locked, until you’re back in the starting position.

You have to actively engage your abs for this exercise. Performed with perfect form and controlled speed, hindu push-ups can be challenging. Try to nail 10-15 really clean reps before you move on.

Decline Pike Push-up

We’re now approaching HSPU territory. For this progression, you’ll have to find something to put your feet on. The pike position should still be kept, meaning legs and torso are at 90 degrees.

Find an elevation for your feet that fits your strength level. It should feel challenging but you should be able to bang out at least 5 reps. Once you get to 10 reps, find higher surfaces.

If you can get 10 clean incline pike where your torso is completely vertical and your legs parallel to the ground, you can start increasing the range of motion. Find something to put your hands on, like a couple of books. Now perform your pike and lower your head past your hands down to the ground.

Once you’ve nailed this for 10 clean reps, it’s time to find a wall.

Handstand Push-up

When I talk about HSPUs, I’m referring to the wall-asissted version. Freestanding HSPUs are a whole other animal and deserve their own tutorial.

Find a wall (or a bar with the right height like in the pictures), stand in front of it, facing it. Put your hands on the ground, about shoulder width apart. Your hands should be about one length of your hands away from the wall. Kick up your feet against the wall by catapulting one leg up and pushing off the ground with the other one. This might take a bit of practice, but should feel natural after a few sessions.

Now simply lower yourself down and try to push up again.

If you can’t push up again, start by practising negative HSPUs.

Just lower yourself down until your head touches the ground (–> headstand) and come off the wall. Kick back up. Practise this as long as you feel you have control over your body when in handstand position.

You can also hold the handstand position for time. Work up to a minute.

As for form, keep your whole body as straight as possible. It’s okay to have a slightly arched back. You can look down at the ground when lowering down. This way, you see the floor before you hit it accidentally and also increase the range of motion a bit.

Here is a video that summarizes the steps of the HSPU progression.

Once you’ve nailed the HSPU, keep it in your arsenal and practise it regularly. Perfect the form, use it as a strengthening drill to get better at hand-balancing or to simply get a nice set of shoulders. If they get too easy, increase the range of motion like you did with the incline pikes or tackle the infamous free-standing handstand push-up.


That’s it for today, peeps. Do your handstand push-up progressions and let me know about your progress in the comments below.