Saturday, January 18, 2014

Do More Handstand Push-ups!

193 Reps of Handstand Push-ups in 30 minutes was how I saw fit to bring in the New Years.   I re-accepted this challenge and really surprised myself by blowing past my previous-best 30 min HSPU's of 175 reps two years ago despite being really limited for the past 8 months about doing them since I couldn't get myself into a handstand with my bad knee.  Prior to that I was a machine, super-setting well over 100 reps with an equal number of pull-ups.  So, this was a nice kick-off to 2014. 

Push-ups are as important to any BW strength-apes as pushing stuff overhead should be for weight trainers.  Pressing overhead is a fundamental movement for the human body and handstand push-ups are the BW answer to getting this important work in. 
There's a good reason why I included pictures of the HSPU's so often in the last few entries here.  I consider it that important of  a movement and, the ACL rehab months notwithstanding, there is rarely a week I let pass by without doing some sort of HSPU.  If you're going to choose BW as a primary method of strength training, you're going to need some overhead work.  Unless you use weights (no quarrel there from me, just to clarify), this is the movement you need to be doing.  It might even be a movement that you should do even if you do move weights. 

...and I have no tan whatsoever? 
How is it possible that I've been in Florida a year...

While I generally refuse to use any term that Joe Weider used, I think there is something to the logic that keeping a muscle under tension as long as possible that builds strength.  I'm not referring to any tricks with messing with rep range or time per rep here.  What I do appreciate is a movement where there is very little, if any, opportunity to somewhat rest.  You can make an overhead press easy on the shoulders and upper back by resting the bar on the upper body before you press it again.   With a HSPU, the bottom is the hardest part of the movement, akin to stopping in the hole of a squat.  The top is a handstand.  Both are still work on the targeted muscles.  Unless you rest on your head (which I've always found very uncomfortable), there really is no rest and you just have to keep moving and finish the set.   Maybe that's why guys as far flung as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Anderson did them. 

Falling firmly in the "people who are smarter than me" category of information I've picked up over he years tells me that the HSPU is a good movement for shoulder strengthening and injury prevention.  Has anyone ever heard about how weighted presses with the elbows in (neutral grip) are easier on the shoulder?  Well, the HSPU puts the arms in the same position as the neutral grip on dumbbells and logs.  I don't recall the exact science behind this but using my own body as the test subject, I'd say that there is logic to that idea.  My shoulders aren't Atlas Stone-like huge but are easily the most bullet-resistant joint on my body.  I never have problems with shoulder pain and by doing them regularly, I'm talking about twice a week, for a half-decade. 

Yeah, it's popular to shit on trying to be healthy when strength training but let's face facts:
You can only get away with being strong but not healthy for so long. 
 Eventually, you won't be either.

As previous-stated in a past entry, you can wring a lot of strength training benefits from this movement without a whole lot of monetary investment.  You can progressively increase difficulty on this one by moving your hands in closer, putting more emphasis on the arms than the shoulders.   Then, there is always the option of going deeper by pushing up with your hands elevated.  Inches count with this approach and don't be ashamed to increase the height by just three inches.  What I'm getting at is start on your fists.  Then you can progress to those push-up handles, parallettes, cinder blocks, boxes, etc.  I've even done these on Perfect Push-up handles.

Three years ago in Sacramento...

 Naturally, be prepared to have your reps cut way down... as you go down.  Just remember the same cues that you use with your overhead press work:  glutes, abs and quads tight.  It gets easier to get loose as it gets harder to get down.  If you feel like your back is going to fold in half then you're pushing things too fast. 

If you can't do a handstand pushup, there's no reason to offer yourself as a sacrifice to the Norse Gods just to make yourself useful to humankind.  You could always start with pike push-ups, elevating your feet as you get easier.  After that, try these with your back against the wall until you get good enough to rest your feet only...or do them free-standing.  Granted I haven't gotten to that point yet for no other reason than I haven't tried to get to that point.  At this point in time, I just want to get strong and I'll worry about balance another day.  

In case you're worried about headaches, I can assure you that you'll get used to being upside down in time.  You won't be in that position long enough to cause any harm either. 

Handstand push-ups suffer from a combination of relative obscurity and the same intimidation factor as it's fraternal-twin movement, the pull-up.  That could likely be due to the fact that it's done in a handstand position, something that lots of people struggle with.   Still, work things out and find some way to do some of these.  If 350 lbs Paul Anderson, who could press a 300 lbs dumbbell, found it in his body to do handstand push-ups, then so should you. 


Anonymous said...

Yup awesome movement, perfect compliment to the pullup. It's humbling to try and do these.

Luke said...

Hey, thanks for great post on HSPu! :) I prefer to do them Paul Anderson style (stomach to the wall instead of back to the wall). Do you think it's as beneficial as your way of doing HSPu? Oh and congratulations on your terrific achievement - wow so many HSP in such a short time! :)

Anonymous said...

congrats!You would say you did about how many reps each set?
long time no see (but have always read your blog)
-workout warrior

Anonymous said...


If you dont mind me asking, what was your most successful route to a higher number of handstand pushups when you were starting out? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You have all the reason, i read some interesting in and think ur way is better but a little difficult.

Fannes said...

Absolutely supported, see my blog to understand what I mean :)