Handstand pushup

Handstand pushup: How to get there

Do you want to learn the handstand pushup? You’ve come to the right place. This versatile exercise not only looks impressive but is also effective for building strength in your shoulders, triceps, and upper back. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process of training towards your first handstand push-up.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the handstand push-up is an advanced calisthenics move, so it requires some foundational strength and stability. We’ll break down the progression into achievable steps to help you build up the necessary strength and skills. Let’s dive into the exciting journey of mastering the handstand push-up!

Table of Contents

Requirements for Handstand PushUp

Before you start training for the handstand pushup, it’s essential to meet several prerequisites.

First and foremost, you should be able to hold a handstand with proper technique for at least 30 seconds. If you want to learn about good technique and how to progress towards a handstand, check out our blog on learning handstands.

Additionally, you should be able to perform at least 20 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, and a 15-second L-Sit to meet the strength requirements.

If you’re new to calisthenics or bodyweight fitness, download our Free calisthenics workout plan for beginners. Work on building your fundamental calisthenics strength before delving into advanced skills like the handstand pushup.

Handstand Pushup Technique

Hand positioning

The first thing you do when starting with a handstand pushup is placing your hands. Maintain a width of at least shoulder-width apart. However, in the beginning, it will certainly help to go for about one and a half times shoulder-width.

By adopting a wider hand position, you reduce the range of motion (ROM) of the exercises, lowering the intensity. This is especially advisable for anyone taller than 1.75 meters, as the leverage from your legs makes the exercise extra challenging.

Next, spread your fingers and grip the ground to have a good hold on it.

Starting position (handstand)

The starting position for your handstand pushup is the standard handstand. Pay attention to 4 key points:

  • Wrists, shoulders, hips, and feet are vertically aligned in a straight line
  • Shoulder blades are fully extended
  • Pelvis is tilted (posterior pelvic tilt)
  • Abdomen, buttocks, and legs are fully engaged
  • Toes are pointed
Handstand leren - handstand met goede en slechte techniek

Handstand pushup movement

During the handstand pushup, you perform a diagonal pushing movement. This means you don’t go straight down but at an angle forward.

The goal is to touch the ground with your head approximately 30 – 40cm in front of your hands. Keep your entire body engaged, forming a straight line.

Create this diagonal pushing movement by bringing your shoulder blades into a protracted (forward-pushed) position. Then, bend from your elbows, bringing your shoulders forward. It’s crucial to keep your elbows stable and certainly not move them backward. This technique ensures proper engagement of the targeted muscles and helps maintain control throughout the movement.

In 4 exercises to the Handstand Pushup

How do you train towards your first handstand pushup? For this, you’ll need to use simpler variations of the handstand pushup.

Below, you’ll find 4 exercises that will gradually help you achieve your first handstand pushup. These exercises all involve the same diagonal movement but at a lower intensity.

By training these exercises for an extended period and progressively increasing the difficulty, you will eventually reach the handstand pushup.

Pike Push up

The pike pushup is a variation of the handstand pushup where your feet remain on the ground. This is the first step on your training journey towards the handstand pushup itself.

To perform a pike pushup, follow these steps:

  1. Start in a pushup position with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Push yourself up until your body forms an inverted V-shape.
  3. Bend your elbows as you lower your body towards the ground and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

When you can perform this exercise for 4 sets of 6 reps, it’s time to move on to the next variation.

Elevated pike pushups

In the elevated pike pushup, you use a raised surface to place your legs, shifting the center of your mass forward. This increases the intensity of the exercise. When performing the elevated pike pushup, there are several points to keep in mind:

  1. Align your wrists, shoulders, and hips in a straight line above each other.
  2. Maintain tension in your legs, and do not bend your knees.
  3. Focus on a diagonal push path.

Once you can perform this exercise with your body weight for 4 sets of 6 reps, you can progress to the next exercise or add weight to this variation if desired.

Wall Handstand Pushup

By training the handstand pushup against the wall, you eliminate the balance element of the exercise. This allows you to focus entirely on building strength and learning the correct technique.


  1. Assume the handstand position with your abdomen facing the wall and your hands approximately 30-40cm away from the wall.

  2. Align your wrists, shoulders, and hips in a straight line above each other while keeping your feet in contact with the wall.

  3. Lean slightly forward and bend your elbows until your head comes approximately 30cm in front of your hands.

  4. Keep your feet against the wall and engage your core, glutes, and legs, forming a diagonal line with your body.

  5. Push back up to return to the starting position. This completes one repetition.


Pike hold to handstand pushup

With the last exercise, you reintroduce the balance element to handstand push-up training.
Find an open space with a soft surface to avoid injuries in case of a fall.

Start this exercise from a pike position. Then perform the pike pushup. When your head is nearly close to the ground, shift the center of your body as far forward as possible.

The goal is to lift your feet off the ground. Extend your legs, aligning them in a straight line with your upper body.From this position, straighten your elbows until you reach the handstand position.


Assistance exercises

In addition to performing specific progressions for the handstand push-up, it’s crucial to incorporate exercises into your workout that address your weaknesses. Building more strength in your shoulders, chest, and triceps will undoubtedly make your handstand push-up easier. Read below to discover the assistance exercises we recommend.

Weighted dip

The weighted dip is arguably the most crucial exercise for building strength in calisthenics. By adding weight, you can easily scale your progression. Ensure that you perform the weighted dip with your shoulder blades in the correct position: protracted and depressed (pushed forward/down). This way, the weighted dip maximally complements the handstand push-up.

Useful calisthenics equipment: try using a dip belt for your weighted dips. A dip belt is far superior over a weighted vest, since you can load up a lot more weight, as well a follow a cleaner bar path.

Gornation Dip belt
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Shoulder press

Certainly, the shoulder press is a crucial addition to this list. This exercise is perfect for developing the raw strength required for a handstand push-up.

The shoulder press allows for straightforward weight addition, making progressive overload easily applicable. By consistently increasing the resistance, you can systematically build the strength in your shoulders, triceps, and upper body, which is indispensable for mastering the handstand push-up.

Incorporating the shoulder press into your routine not only targets the specific muscle groups involved in the handstand push-up but also contributes to overall upper body strength. Remember to maintain proper form and gradually increase the load to ensure steady progress in your calisthenics journey. Keep pressing forward, and you’ll undoubtedly see the benefits in your handstand push-up performance.


Indeed, even though the primary emphasis in the handstand push-up is on the shoulder and arm muscles, it remains a full-body exercise. Your entire body needs to be engaged throughout to execute a complete repetition successfully. Practicing the L-sit provides a straightforward way to train the activation of your abdominal and leg muscles while tilting your pelvis.

The L-sit is an excellent complementary exercise that targets the core and lower body, enhancing your overall body control and stability. By incorporating the L-sit into your routine, you not only strengthen key muscle groups but also improve your ability to maintain tension and balance, both crucial elements in achieving a seamless handstand push-up.

Consistent practice of the L-sit contributes to the holistic development of your calisthenics skills, fostering a more comprehensive foundation for advanced movements. Embrace the challenge, and you’ll find that the benefits extend beyond the specific muscles required for the handstand push-up, enhancing your overall body awareness and control.

Safety Tips for Handstand Pushups

Here are some tips for safely performing handstand pushups:

  1. Ensure a Proper Warm-up: Before starting handstand pushups, make sure your muscles and joints are properly warmed up. Performing handstand pushups puts significant pressure on your wrists and shoulders, so a thorough warm-up is essential.

  2. Gradual Progression: If you’re new to handstand pushups, it’s crucial to progress gradually. Don’t rush from pike pushups to wall handstand pushups too quickly. Building a strong foundation of strength is essential before advancing to more challenging progressions.

  3. Focus on Breathing: Pay attention to your breathing. Inhale while in the handstand position, lower yourself down, and exhale as you push back up. Proper breathing helps maintain control and stability during the movement.

Remember, safety is paramount in calisthenics, so take your time to master each progression and listen to your body throughout your training.

Handstand pushup parallettes

If you experience wrist pain while training the handstand (push-up), try practicing these exercises with a set of parallettes! By using parallettes, you align your wrists in a straight line with your forearms, reducing the pressure.

GORNATION Low Parallettes
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How can I progress or scale handstand pushup?

There are various ways to progress with handstand push-ups and gradually make them more challenging. One approach is to start with pike push-ups, where you keep your hips elevated, shifting the weight toward your shoulders. Once you master pike push-ups, you can move on to wall handstand push-ups. Finally, you can transition to freestanding handstand push-ups to further increase the difficulty.

It’s important to progress slowly and in a controlled manner, allowing you to build strength and technique for the more advanced variations. Remember to consistently work on foundational exercises and overall strength improvement.

What are the benefits of training the handstand pushup?

Handstand push-ups are an excellent way to train your shoulders, arms, and core. In addition to building strength in these areas, handstand push-ups can contribute to enhancing your balance and coordination. Incorporating handstand push-ups into your routine challenges multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting overall upper body strength and stability. The dynamic nature of the exercise engages your core muscles to maintain balance throughout the movement. As you progress in mastering handstand push-ups, you not only develop physical strength but also refine your proprioception and body awareness. This exercise offers a holistic approach to strength training, making it a valuable addition to your calisthenics repertoire.

Which muscles do I train with handstand push-ups?

Handstand push-ups present a formidable challenge, emphasizing the engagement of key muscle groups such as the shoulders, triceps, and chest. Beyond these primary muscle targets, this exercise also actively involves the core muscles, works the back, and contributes to forearm strength. Incorporating handstand push-ups into your routine not only promotes upper body strength but also enhances overall stability and muscular coordination. It serves as a comprehensive workout, engaging multiple muscle regions simultaneously, and adds a dynamic element to your fitness regimen.

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