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Arched Back in the Handstand Push Up

One of the main mistakes in the HSPU is to arch the back when pushing up. This can happen at every single progression and step of the progress. Arching of the back occurs due to a lack of strength or simply after developing the habit of arching the back after repeatedly training too difficult progressions. Not only does a HSPU with arched back not look great but also does risk of injuries increase quite drastically and you won’t train the targeted muscles.

But why does the back arch?

Extreme arching of the lower back changes the angle in the shoulders and allows you to use your chest muscles significantly more efficiently. We do the same thing on a heavy bench press when trying to place the body in a more advantageous position.

At the bottom position of your Handstand Push Up you have to drop your feet more before trying to push back up. Keep your head further in front in the direction of your fingertips. Aim to angle your body more and hold this angle while pushing up. Like this you will be able to use your chest significantly more without arching the back. Your body wants to use the chest naturally which is why you are arching your back.
The body naturally arches the back. To arch the back the shoulders have to close. Closing the shoulders creates the necessary angle to engage the chest while pushing up. This shows that we definitely need this angle in the shoulders as the body is asking for it. To achieve this angle without arching we have to bring the feet towards the side of the tummy. In order to do so without falling towards the feet we need to move the head more in front as a counterweight.

Was all my training for nothing?

Not at all. Even though you weren’t training as efficiently as you could have, you still developed specific muscles and coordination. If you realize that your back is arching you have to take a couple steps back. Work an easier progression or less reps. Build strength and awareness before revisiting this more advanced progression.

You can use a couple different strategies here to build the missing strength. Drop sets are a good approach if you are already able to do some reps with a straight back. Simply do as many reps as possible with top form, then drop down one progression and pump out a couple more reps. This can work no matter what progression you are currently at. In some cases like the L handstand push up it is easy. Simply place your knees on the box for the second half of the exercise. In other cases you have to get more creative.

Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where the gap between 2 progressions seems too big. Here you could work with external weights. Look for a soft weighted vest to wear. Go to a progression where you can quite comfortably do 8 reps. With the added weight you should only be able to do 4-6 reps. Work your way up to 8 again. Then come back to the harder progression harvesting the fruits of the extra power you gained.

The only limit here is your creativity. Comment below or reach out in private if you have some ideas or limitations you are not too sure about!

The secret solution

If you are sure that you have enough specific strength yet your back still arches, the reason might simply be habit, lack of faith or lack of technique. Keep in mind that you are not just pushing up in the bottom position but also reversing the direction of the movement making this the hardest moment of the HSPU. Simply resisting for a moment and waiting for the movement to get easier does often help. When first training for the HSPU it is normal to feel for a moment as if it is impossible to push back up. Wait for a moment, have faith and let the direction of movement reverse.

You also want to make sure that you have adequate weight in your fingertips. If the weight drops towards the back of the hands you won’t be able to push with your arms and shoulders as your center of gravity is off.

I am strong enough. For sure!

One good way of forcing yourself to push back up without arching the back is to place a yoga block in front of your hands. This will force you to push upwards first before initiating the backwards movement with your face. This is highly useful as a natural reaction is often to move the face back towards the hands and with that to arch the back before pushing back up.

The yoga block trick will work for any progression and really works wonders.

Arching the back in the Handstand Push Up is nothing to be ashamed of. Not taking action and trying to fix it is a completely different story though. The only reason why you are training with poor form is due to your ego. Leave it at home and work reasonable progressions. Build strength, control, awareness and stay healthy.

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