Handstand Push-ups

You can train every muscle in your body without ever going to a gym or lifting weights, you just have to be creative!

The overhead press is one of the most fundamental strength training techniques out there – and for good reason. Overhead pressing is a great way to build upper-body strength as well as a strong core. Barbells and kettlebells are great for pressing, but no matter how strong you are, handstand push-ups are a unique challenge and must be treated as such. Get ready to flip the classic overhead press on its head – literally!

Pike Press
If you aren’t strong enough to do a handstand push-up yet, the pike press is a great way to ease in. Pike presses allow you to train the movement pattern without having to bear your entire body weight. Start off in a “downward dog” position with your hands and feet on the floor and your hips piked up in the air. From here, lower yourself down until your nose touches the ground and then push yourself back up – that’s one rep.

Once basic pike push-ups are no longer challenging, you can progress them by elevating your toes on a bench or step. You will wind up looking like an upside-down letter L, with your body bent in half from the waist. Try to keep your back straight by taking the stretch in your hamstrings. You can bend your knees a little if you need to in order to keep your hips up over your shoulders. Elevating your feet places more of your weight in your hands and gets you closer to a full handstand push-up.

Wall Assisted Handstand Push-up
Once you can do fifteen consecutive feet-elevated pike presses, you’re ready to try a full handstand push-up against a wall. Kick up into a handstand with your back slightly arched and your fingers spread out. Engage your core muscles and keep your body tight as you lower yourself down and press yourself up. Make sure you touch your nose to the ground on every rep to ensure a full range of motion.

Handstand Push-ups on Parallettes
If you want a bigger range of motion for your handstand press, you’ve got a couple options. You could use a set of parallettes or you could set up two benches (or other sturdy objects) alongside each other with enough room for your head to fit in between. Any method that allows you to drop your head below your hands will add a new challenge to your handstand push-up.

Freestanding Handstand Push-up
The freestanding handstand is a tricky move to get the hang of on its own, adding a push-up to it takes things to a whole other level!

The freestanding handstand push-up requires tremendous strength, balance and total body control, so before you think about training for this move, I suggest getting to the point where you can do at least ten wall assisted handstand push-ups and hold a freestanding handstand for a minimum of thirty seconds.

When performing handstand holds, I’ve often found it helpful to look in between my hands. With the freestanding handstand push-up however, I’ve found it better to look a few inches in front of my hands. Since the balance changes throughout the range of motion, I recommend practicing static holds at the bottom and middle positions of the range of motion to help train for this feat.

The One Arm Handstand Push-up
Often discussed, though never actually executed, the one arm handstand push-up is the holy grail of bodyweight strength training. In theory, the one arm handstand push-up is the ultimate calisthenics exercise. However, a full, clean rep has never been documented as far as I know. I have no doubt that someone will eventually perform one (and get it on video), but in the meantime the rest of us will just continue to train hard and keep the dream alive.

Watch the video below for more:

56 thoughts on “Handstand Push-ups

  • By Alec Goenner -

    There is documentation it’s in a book called “convict conditioning” It’s a good read and all about bodyweight exercise. Check it out and let me know what you think.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Hey Alec – I’m familiar with Convict Conditioning, but it does not contain any documentation of this feat. In fact, Jim Bathurst (who appears on the cover of CC) has written extensively on his blog about his quest for a one arm handstand push-up. He’s getting close, but he’s not there yet!

      • By Divya Kothari -

        Awesome! Article Brother Al…. But I think this following video isnt too far from a One Arm Pushup though it is a little 90 Degree Pushup too!


        • By Al Kavadlo -

          Hey Divya – I have seen this clip many times and it is extremely impressive! However, a one arm handstand push-up it is not.

          • By Divya Kothari -

            😛 🙂 Anyway the Dream remains alive!

          • By Al Kavadlo -


      • By Ty -

        Bathurst is BeastSkills guy right? Thought it might be good to post related tutorials:

        *basic handstand 

        *handstand pushup beginner 

        *HSPU intemediate 

        *freestanding HSPU 

        *clapping 2-arm handstand push ups 

        *1 arm push up http://www.beastskills.com/tutorials/tutorials/45 *1 arm elbow lever  http://www.beastskills.com/tutorials/tutorials/56  *http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Competition/Hoffman/YorkHandBalance/yorkhb.htm he links to the york handbalancing course

        One thing I’ve always wondered about approaching the 1-arm push up is, assuming people have both the 2-arm HSPU and the 1-arm pushup, whether it would be better to keep doing HSPUs for high reps and offsetting the weight (like your CC basketball tricks) or whether to just do 1-arm 1-leg push ups and progressively elevating your feet (eventually against a wall).

        I can’t find anything for that, though I think Pavel might have something in Naked Warrior about elevating the foot for 1A1L PUs.

        I have to re-read JB’s blog because I can’t remember where he mentions the quest, though it sounds familiar, would like to link relevant posts.

  • By Diazp Br -

    another one suggesting CC too!! hehe
    this video came up fast uh, havent heard of the pike press seems a good alternative for beginners gonna try em
    another great video al!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Yeah, someone recommends that I check out CC just about every single day. Glad you liked the vid!

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  • By Mike Lieberman -

    Damned bro. Now you are just showing off!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Haha! I’m not just showing off – I’m educating, inspiring AND showing off! 🙂

      • By Mike Lieberman -

        And that’s what makes you so awesome. Keep it up!

  • By Matt Davidson -

    Well done sir!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Matt! Good to hear from you!

  • By Sincere Hogan -

    Great info, Al!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Sincere!

  • By Duff McDuffee -

    Great video Al. I’ve recently returned to working on HSPUs again. I’d been trying to work up to them by doing partial ROM against the wall, but decided it would be better to get full ROM in the pike pushups first.

    One way to progress in the pike pushup if it’s too hard to do full ROM at first (as it is for me) is to keep feet on the ground and start in a “downward dog” position. Get up on the toes and hinge at the hips and do a pike pushup with head between hands. Then over time move the hands closer to the feet, then raise feet up on a bench, then follow your progression. 🙂

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Duff and congrats on your progress! Also, good call on the modified down dog style pike press as a precursor to pike presses. Hindu push-ups could be a good place to build up from as well.

  • By Rkimble -

    So much inspiration!!!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Right on! Go get ’em!

  • By Mcsammyd -

    im sure you have tried this but jst in case you hvant you may like to try this trick, its a way to make the pike press harder is to tuck the head right in so looking at your belly and lower all the way till your shoulders are a few cm of the floor then press back up

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Hey Sammy – thanks for the suggestion. I actually haven’t tried that – I’m not sure if I even have the flexibility to! By the way, I just checked out one of your videos – you’re quite the hand-balancer yourself! Nice work!

  • By Jenifer -

    Totally fun, Al, as usual! 🙂

    I do the pike ones using a wall. it’s sort of an in-between step. it’s fun.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Jenifer! There are infinite ways to modify these exercises. Glad you’re having fun with it!

  • By gil -


    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Gil! Hope you’ve been keeping up with your workouts!

  • By Dean Gutberlet -

    Nice work Al, I enjoy keeping track of your workouts and incorporating them into my routine.
    Whats your take on a helper holding your feet rather than using a wall, for wall assisted?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Hey Dean – thanks for your comment! I think having a spotter hold your feet is a great way to practice handstand push-ups if you have a training partner. Just make sure they aren’t giving you too much assistance!

  • By James Walbourne -

    Listen to this man, he knows what he’s talking about!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, James! I think it’s safe to say the same about you!

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  • By Max -

    thx from russia man)

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      You’re welcome, Max!

  • By Joseph EPICFitness -

    love it

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Joseph!

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  • By Kai -

    I’ve been told to practice this 5-6 times a week with a day of rest and 3 sets of as many I could do! Is this beneficial? Should I do less?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      That seems a bit excessive to me, but different bodies have different capabilities.  The only person who knows how much you can handle is YOU.

  • By Ty -

    I think there’s an episode (or possibly opening sequence) in the anime series “One Piece” (it’s about pirates) where this one tough martial arts guy gets tossed and stops himself from falling onto his head with 1 arm.
    He doesn’t ‘push up’ per se, but his head is only around a foot from the ground, and when we combine that with the speed he was falling at, the amount of strength needed to come to a complete halt is really impressive.

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  • By Jonathan F.V" -

    Hey Al! For the one arm handstand push-up, I’m totally convinced it’s doable! I recently succeeding doing one with only one finger assistance on each arm, feet against a wall. It’s still going to take a long time before I have it, but I’m convinced that I’ll eventually do it. With the feet on a wall first, then eventually freestanding, then eventually freestanding on a higher object to get full ROM. 🙂

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Congrats on your progress, Jonathan!  Make sure to send me the video when you get it!

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  • By paul -

    hey Al I can do 11 handstand pushups against the wall I was just wondering what your advice would be to increase reps, I would like to get to 25

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Keep practicing!

  • By Joseph -

    Amazing stuff Al! I need to practice some handstand push ups (wall assisted). 🙂

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Joseph!  Get to work!  🙂

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  • By Thomas Nassif -

    Hey al! I can manage five or six of these against a wall, but I was wondering. Do you recommend doing them with your hands right up against the wall or about a foot or so away from it? Thanks

    • By Jonathan Ferland-Valois -

      Definitely a foot or so from the wall. If you do them with your hands against the wall, there’s nowhere to put your head (you’re supposed to put it in front of your hands).

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