Let’s break this complex movement down!
My first tip is just to take your time. Take your time building the strength and confidence to do this movement. It’s recommended to do regular presses for a long time before completing one of these. Also take your time setting up each time before you flip over.
In order to begin doing handstand pushups you should be able to push press your body weight. This will give you the ability to stabilize your own weight overhead or upside down. You also should work with a coach to learn how to flip over against a wall.
The breakdown and instructions below assume that you have done both these prerequisites.
The ab-mat can do more than just cushion your head for this movement. It is also great for showing you where to put your hands. Place the mat about an inch away from the wall. When you flip over you want to place your hands at the corners of the mat furthest from the wall with your fingers slightly angled out. Another way to think about the width of your hands is “just outside your shoulders”. This is the same width we use for our strict press. If you flip over for the pushup and your hands are too close to the wall you will likely fall back away from the wall within the first rep or so. But if your hands are too far away then you will lean into the wall too much and the press will feel impossible. Hands too far apart? Not a lot of strength out there and if they are too close it is going to get awkward fast.
Head Placement and Gaze
This is something I overlooked for a long time, but is truly critical if you are ever going to feel proficient and stable with a handstand pushup. Again your goal is to make this movement as much like your standing presses as possible. When pressing with a bar you keep your elbows in front and your head back. In other words, when your hands are even with the top of your head during any other press they are in front of you, not out to each side by your ears. We want to mimic this position with the handstand pushup.
Let’s go back to the ab-mat. When you place the mat down an inch away from the wall be sure to put the logo closest to the wall. This logo is the target for your head on each descent. If you keep your hands at the far corners (nearest you) and your head is on this logo then you should now be in a proper pressing position. Your hands are in front of your face and elbows are aimed away from the wall. We call this our tripod, our head and two hands form a nice triangle of support for us to hang out in. One last piece that helps with this bottom position is looking in the correct direction. You never want to look at the mat. Instead look at the opposite wall and this will keep the top of your head on the mat.
What does my butt do??
An odd question, but I’m glad you asked! This gets mixed up a lot when athletes are trying to learn the handstand push-up. At the top of the push-up your butt should be off the wall with the legs and hips locked out. At the bottom of the push-up (only if performing advanced kipping HSPUs) your butt should be on the wall. For strict HSPUs, which we recommend, keep the legs locked out and butt off the wall the whole time.
These are the basics and how we teach the movement at Trinity Strength. Remember never rush! If you want some more guided focus to build the strength and mobility necessary for this movement reach out to one of our coaches today!