Exercise Anatomy

5-Minute Fix: Handstand Push-up

Three tweaks to improve your handstand push-up


“Women are more fearless in going upside down but have more issues with strength,” says Allison Truscheit, USAW, a coach at CrossFit Synapse in Tarzana, California. “Men are a little more concerned about going upside down but are stronger once they get there.” What Truscheit really means is: Almost everyone has a hard time with the handstand push-up. Here’s help.

Fix your position: “Think of the HSPU as an upside-down squat,” says Truscheit, who placed 47th worldwide in the 2012 CrossFit Open and took sixth place in the highly competitive Southern California region. “Your hand placement is just outside your shoulders and your hands are slightly turned out, just like you would be doing in a squat. You want to keep a completely hollow-body position so you look like a banana. Suck in your ribs, tuck your bellybutton in, and squeeze everything nice and tight. The more board-like you are, the more stable you will be.

Learn to kip: “The biggest problem I see is people flailing their legs and not translating the power into their shoulders. You want to treat a kip like a push press. You do a small explosive dip with the legs, and that translates through the hips and into the arms,” Truscheit says. “You can either frog your legs or bring your knees down to your chest like a tuck, just don’t wait at the bottom. The same way you don’t want to hold your dip in a push press, you don’t want to hold the bottom of a kip.”

Scale it: Instead of stacking ab mats or putting your feet on a box, Truscheit’s preferred method of scaling HSPUs calls for two pull-up bands. The first band goes over a bar just like you are going to use it for a pull-up. The second band simply hangs from the loop of the first band. Put one arm through each end of the second loop so you are wearing it like a backpack. Next, kick into a headstand, wrap your legs around the band and push up into a handstand. If you don’t have a pull-up bar that is next to a wall, you can stack some boxes for support.