A goal is a milestone at best
But never a finish line!
Handstand push ups are awesome. Not only do they look cool but they are also incredible training for strength, physique and hand balance technique.
What I probably love most about them is that they can really be whatever you need them to be. If you’re already rather strong and advanced you can do them freestanding for technique, in an L for shoulder bodyweight bodybuilding or chest to wall to really finish off your upper chest. Additionally you pick up plenty of other cool drills along the way to the freestanding HSPU such as the bent arm press or lower to the bent arm planche. Freestanding handstand push ups only work if you commit yourself to placing your weight in your fingertips which is a valuable lesson for anyone training handstands.
Improving your handstand push up can be difficult as multiple things have to come together.
A) you obviously need raw strength
B) you need to be able to hand balance for further progression as your sets get interrupted every time you fall
C) you need to develop a decent understanding for mechanics and weight transfer.
Bringing all of these things together will take some time and you will hit multiple roadblocks along the way.
Here are 3 that I see rather frequently and how to overcome them:
Let’s say you’re already pretty strong and let’s even pretend for a moment your handstands are pretty solid as well. You work your way down with full control. You even come back up like it ain’t no thing. Yet, on top you struggle. You lose balance towards the back of your hands and it becomes impossible to balance your handstand on top.
The problem here is that you’ve been preparing the wrong movement pattern the entire time. Chances are high at the top of every L handstand or pike push up you lock out nicely, looking at the feet and throwing your shoulders into flexion.
Why do you and many others do that? Cuz it feels awesome!! Maybe. I don’t know. Fact is though it doesn’t make any sense. Instead look at your hands the entire time and focus on your alignment on top. Keep weight in the fingertips and and work on fully elevating your scapula in every rep. Prepare for your actual goal!
One of the most common problems with the HSPU is an arched back when pushing up. This can happen in a freestanding handstand push up or really at any possible progression.
The main reason for this happening is simply that you’re not strong enough yet. You have to take a step back and work a previous progression more to build up sufficient strength and awareness.
If not strong enough your body usually arches naturally to change the angle of the shoulders and with this gives you the opportunity to use your chest muscles primarily. Your pectoralis (chesticuls) are much stronger than the shoulders alone.
We need to now try and build more strength in the shoulders and upper chest to make up for this lack of strength. Drills that work especially well for that are dead hspus in all progressions where you place your head on the floor in each rep and chest to wall HSPU.
The first helps develop strength in the very bottom phase of the HSPU. The second increases upper chest strength and coordination.
Now this is a pretty specific problem that some of you might never hit because it is not a progression that everybody includes but it represents a much bigger issue. You know when you try a new strength move and nothing moves at all. You feel like the muscles that you are supposed to engage simply do not exist in your body?! Well it happens quite regularly actually. So nothing to worry about here!
The key here is to find progressions to make the load on this muscle smaller or the angle more advantageous to identify this muscle. We need to build up strength of course but especially precise coordination and mechanical feeling. In the headstand push up we can simply elevate the head. Do 3 in every training and slowly work your way down towards the floor one baby step at the time. Couple weeks or even months from now you will be able to push up from the floor without even realizing you made any gains.
No matter where you are currently at in your journey I always recommend taking a step back if stuck. Fix the form of your progressions and do a couple extra reps before coming back to the big one. Staying clean and in control will help you make proper form a habit which is absolutely necessary to stay healthy in the long run. The more progressions you can find on your journey to the full freestanding handstand push up the better. Build strength and control in the precise movement and in all small variations around it.