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How to Do a Handstand Pushup

The handstand pushup is one move that will catapult your confidence and have you feeling like a fitness badass! A quick peruse of any fitness Instagram account will demonstrate how much we revere the handstand pushup––and how much it intimidates us.

It is a move reserved only for the super-fit, or can we mere mortals learn to do them successfully?

Why do handstand pushups?

Aside from impressing your friends, are there any real benefits to doing handstand pushups? Here are some of the massive benefits of this fantastic exercise:

  • Although a handstand pushup is mainly an upper body exercise, it holds benefits for your whole body. This power move will strengthen almost every upper body muscle, including your shoulders, delts, triceps, traps, and pecs. But it will also activate and strengthen your core muscles and engage your hamstrings, glutes, and quads.

  • The core strengthening aspect of handstand pushups can’t be understated. Being upside-down requires our body to stabilize itself along the midline (helping you sculpt a six-pack). Of course, a strong core has more benefits than an attractive appearance––it protects you from injury during workouts and enriches your physical life outside of the gym.

  • The handstand pushup is a compound exercise, meaning that it works multiple joints and muscles beyond the obvious ones. Because it strengthens your whole body, it also provides a metabolism boost. This leads to calorie burning, fat loss, and increased bone mass.

  • Finally, this is an exercise you can do anywhere—no special equipment needed, just a wall and maybe a mat or pad for comfort.

Related: How to Do Your First One Arm Pushup

How to do a handstand pushup

Before we proceed, we should say that this is an advanced move despite all of the advantages of doing handstand pushups. It may not be a safe or appropriate exercise for everyone. So proceed wisely.

Following is a progression of movements that will help strengthen you and get you ready to do your first handstand pushup. Begin in the progression wherever your fitness ability puts you. Don’t rush it.

Pike Pushups

 Man doing a pike pushup

This will start you on pushups in general, building strength in your arms, shoulders, and back. These will also get you used to being a little upside down.

  1. Begin in a downward-facing dog (yoga pose).

  2. Slowly lower your head and shoulders toward the ground.

  3. Remember to keep your elbows tucked close to your sides (no chicken wings).

  4. Engage your core and pull your shoulders back.

  5. Once your forehead has come close to the ground, slowly push yourself back up to the starting position.

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Modified Handstand Pushup

 Man doing modified handstand pushup

Once you feel comfortable with the Pike pushup, you can move onto the modified handstand pushup.

  1. Place both of your feet on a surface like a workout bench and place your hands on the floor.

  2. Adjust yourself so that your body forms a 90-degree angle between the surface and the floor. Your legs and back should be straight.

  3. Lower your body until your head touches the floor.

  4. Slowly push back up with your arms to the starting position.

Related: Diamond Pushups: All You Need to Know

Handstand Pushup against a wall

Man progressing to handstand against a wall

Even if you aren’t great with the modified handstand pushup, you can still move onto this one. Here, you’ll bravely use the wall to hold you up.

  1. Stand facing a wall.

  2. Kick your feet up as you handstand until your feet are against the wall.

  3. Engage your core, glutes, and thigh muscles.

  4. Lower yourself carefully to the ground as much as you can.

  5. Push back up and repeat.

If you’re concerned about hurting your head, you can use a pillow or a yoga block under your head. And if the initial handstand is challenging, you can stand with your back to the wall and brace yourself with your hands on the floor. Then walk your hands back toward the wall as you walk your feet up the wall.

The Handstand Pushup

 Man doing handstand pushup

Drumroll please … now you’re ready for the real deal handstand pushup!

  1. Place your hands shoulder-width apart and about 8 to 10 inches from the base of a wall - facing the wall.

  2. Kick one foot up and then the other to a handstand using the wall to steady yourself.

  3. Don’t rush number 2. Try kicking up slowly until you figure out how much force it will take to get you upside down. If you still can’t do it, ask a friend to guide your legs up until your feet are braced against the wall.

  4. Keeping your abs and glutes actively engaged, tucking your ribs, pointing your toes to tighten your quads and hamstrings, straighten your body from head to toe.

  5. Grip the floor with your fingertips and slowly bend your elbows until they’re at a 45-degree angle and your head nearly touches the floor.

  6. Push hard back up, pressing your palms into the floor while you straighten your arms.

  7. Repeat.

  8. Now that you can do the handstand pushup, practice, practice, practice. New moves like these can’t be perfected if you only do it on the weekend. Spend a little time every day doing these handstand pushups.

Related: What Muscles to Pushups Work?

Bonus form tips

Congratulations, you did it. Here are a few tips to ensure your form is right. This will prevent injury and help you enjoy your new skill.

  • Activating your core and keeping your ribs ‘tucked’ ensures that your lower back is not hyper-extended. So engage those abs!

  • Keep elbows close to your sides at a 45-degree angle as you lower and raise your body.

  • For greater stability, squeeze those glutes, point those toes, and grip the floor with your fingertips. Channel your inner gymnast.

  • Don’t rest too heavy at the bottom of this move. ‘Sitting’ in the bottom position will make it especially hard to push your body weight back up. It’s not great for your neck, either.

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Final thought

Mastering a move like a handstand pushup will make you feel like a superhero. You won’t be able to do it overnight (don’t try it), but you now have the steps to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Yes, it’s possible, you can do it!