Going upside down: getting your first HSPU

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Handstand push-ups may often scare beginner athletes. People just starting doing CrossFit cannot believe they’ll be ever able to perform one! Of course, the way to your first strict HSPU may take some time, but it’s definitely a feasible task for most of us.

We’d like to point out that athletes do handstand push-ups not only for the sake of performing them. This is a beneficial movement for the whole body and great training of balance and coordination. 

Strict HSPUs develop shoulder strength and stability that is crucial for heavy snatches and jerks. HSPUs also teach us to keep a tight, braced midline. Tight core is essential for most CrossFit and many daily movements.

To perform a correct handstand push-up, kick into a handstand with your arms straight and elbows locked out. Bend the arms and go down until you touch the floor or other target with your head. Press up, getting back into the starting position. At the end of the movement, the elbows should be locked out and your heels should touch the wall.

We gathered useful information and tips from CrossFit and Gymnastics coaches to help you on your way to your first HSPU. 

Check out the training and scaling ideas below!


1. Perfect body position

Full control over the lower back and pelvis is a must for HSPUs. It’s difficult to meet the movement standard with an over-arched lower back. Relaxed abs and arched back may also result in back pain, so it’s better to invest some time into building midline stability

Aim for a straight line from ankles to wrists. It should feel similar to holding a hollow position on the floor. Squeeze your abs and butt to feel the firmness in the whole body. 

2. Get comfortable with kicking into a handstand

Devote some time to learn the kick-up, make sure to keep the arms locked out from the start, do not bend the arms. Find a comfortable stance, it should not be very narrow, but within 90 cm.

3. Box HSPU

Put both feet on a box, walk on your hands as close to the box as your mobility allows you to be in a vertical position. 

Look into the box, not at the floor. Keeping your core tight, bend the arms until your head touches the floor. Then press up and lockout the elbows. 

This is a great exercise for your shoulders and for getting confident with your handstand.

4. Seated Dumbbell Press

It’s a must for shoulder strength and stability. Seat on the floor or a bench and perform low-rep sets of dumbbell press. For example, take a relatively heavy one for you and do 6 sets of 5 repetitions. 

The seated position ensures doing all the work with the shoulders. You can combine this exercise with other HSPU variations or use it to prepare your body for a handstand.

5. HSPU Negatives

Negatives are great for developing strength, they work perfectly when you work on your very first strict HSPU. Kick into the handstand, with your elbows locked out, start bending the arms and lower slowly all the way down. 

The movement should be controlled, keep tension in the arms and abs all the time. Once your head touches the ground, stand up and repeat.

6. Assisted HSPU

If you have a training partner, try assisted handstand push-ups. The first part will be the same as a negative HSPU. Once your head touches the floor, your partner will need to pull your legs up while you press with the hands. End the movement by locking out the elbows. 

7. Scaled HSPU

This is the last progression before you get your first strict HSPU. Put a plate or abmat where your head should touch the floor.

From the starting position with arms straight, go down until your head touches the target. Then press up.

Every week or two make the target lower to increase the range of motion. Remember to have your core, glute, and legs tight, do not arch the lower back. You’re almost there!

8. Kipping HSPU

 It’s recommended to start practicing kipping handstand push-ups after you are capable of doing 3-4 strict ones. It means that your shoulders are ready for higher volume. 

To perform a kipping HSPU, kick into a handstand and lower your head to the floor. Now, instead of pressing up with the arms, push your lower back to the floor, band the legs, pulling your knees to the chest. From this position, powerfully kick up with the legs and push with the arms at the same time, locking out the shoulders at the end. 

It’s important to keep the body straight and do most of the work with the legs kick to prevent shoulder fatigue. After devoting some time to practice, you’ll understand the efficient timing and kipping HSPUs will feel easy and fast.

Good luck! Join us to receive future updates and become a part of the WodNow community!

Oksana Protsyk

Oksana is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and Endurance Coach at an affiliate. 

Currently working on peaking competitors’ and recreational athletes’ performance for the CrossFit Open.

Try now WodNow app

WodNow is suited for all those people or athletes who workout regularly and want to improve their level of fitness by challenging themselves with increasingly hard workouts.