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Building the perfect press workout

Learning to press to handstand is truly a humbling experience for most. The press to handstand combines strength, flexibility with technique on a unique level. The requirements on the body are not just high but come in a wide variety making training at times overwhelming. 

Here I will break down for you what exactly you have to train to get your press and how you should combine exercises in your workout to get the most out of every single session. 

Home | Knowledgebase | PRESS TO HANDSTAND

Building the perfect
press workout

Learning to press to handstand is truly a humbling experience for most. The press to handstand combines strength, flexibility with technique on a unique level. The requirements on the body are not just high but come in a wide variety making training at times overwhelming. 

Here I will break down for you what exactly you have to train to get your press and how you should combine exercises in your workout to get the most out of every single session. 

What is a
press to handstand

The press to handstand is a straight arm drill that aims to bring you from your feet upside down into a handstand with straight arms and without jumping. 

A press to handstand can be performed passing through a deep straddle arriving in a straddle or middle split handstand or a press can be performed with legs together coming through the L or pike handstand. In this case the press is referred to as a pike press to handstand. 

The press can be made easier by starting with the feet elevated thus shortening the range that the legs have to travel. A press can be made harder by starting in an L sit or stalder position, by elevating the hands or by adding ankle weights. 

on the body

First thing when setting out to build the ultimate workout is figuring out what we actually have to train. When breaking the press down into its 3 separate part, the take off, the compression period and the unrolling into the handstand, it becomes more obvious what the clear requirements are on the body. Without understanding what needs to be trained you can not expect to make goal specific gains!


Hamstring mobility is king when it comes to presses to handstand. The more flexible your hamstrings are the higher your hips will be during take off meaning the less your hips will have to travel. Flexible hamstrings means you can fold in half or in other words you can compress easily. The more you can compress the less you have to lean your shoulders towards the front during the take off and compression period. This means less pressure on your wrists and shoulders making your press more sustainable and appear effortless. 


No matter how flexible your hamstrings are you will require a minimum amount of shoulder strength as you have to transfer weight from your feet into your hands. The less flexible your hamstrings are the stronger your shoulders will have to be. 

To build basic shoulder strength you can work on pike push up and basic planche progression but adding press specific shoulder conditioning will be necessary as well. 


Mostly overlooked and absolutely underrated when it comes to the press to handstand is your back. It connects the shoulders with the hips and is responsible for pulling your hips up and over. 

The idea is to use the lower back muscles to pull the hips into an anterior pelvic tilt. This requires mobility, coordination and strength. The best way of getting started training this key aspect of the press to handstand is by completely separating this from your press to handstand training and basically dry swimming for a while. 

Hip flexors and compression strength 

Something that on the other hand is quite overrated when it comes to the press to handstand is compression strength. Don’t get me wrong, of course the hip flexors have to pull the legs in to get into a tight position but you have to keep in mind that your hip flexor strength will never be greater than the resistance created by a lack of hamstring mobility. For most people simply investing more into hamstring mobility instead of punishing yourself with compression strength will often bring greater and more sustainable results. 

Handstand ability

Now I always recommend to start training for the press as early as possible even before an athlete is able to handstand well but eventually the goal is to make it up and to stay up. You can only stay up if you can actually handstand. This means on top of all the things discussed above we also have to work on our handstand form and control.

your routine

Now that we have established the base requirements for the press to handstand we can move on to making a plan on how to achieve these things. Placing everything into 1 complete workout planned through from start to end will allow us to train goal specific whilst tracking progress and staying organized. Only by knowing what to do in each workout will you be able to make adjustments to train more or less to accelerate progress or possibly reduce pressure on the body.

The exact order of things you do in this workout can change and throughout my career I’ve tried plenty of different ways schedules and theories. Out of all the ways of structuring a press workout this is what brought the fastest, most sustainable and consistent goals to my clients and I. 

Warm up

Whenever you train, every single workout must start with a warm up. This is an essential step to prepare the body for the pressure you are about to put on it. Break a light sweat, signal your brain that it’s go time and wake up your mind muscle connections. 

Warm ups should not tire you out and ideally be close to the movement patterns you’ll be using during your coming workout. 

Wrists and shoulders 

You know what the best way to recover from an injury?! Not even to get injured in the first place which is why every time you get upside down you have to start with injury prevention work for your wrists and shoulders. 5 min a day will literally keep the doctor away. 

Focus on shoulder rotator cuff exercises and stretches for your wrist with possible activation work if your wrists are hypermobile. If you are struggling with closed shoulders in your handstand here is the perfect moment to sneak in a couple shoulder stretches to get rid of your banana handstand. Focus on passive stretches paired with active elevation work.

Technical handstands

Depending on your available time this following block can consist of as little as 2 sets to simply warm up your upside down awareness to 45 min of full fledged handstand training. This is your opportunity. You are warm and at the gym. You might as well profit and improve your handstand control! Only thing to make sure of is that you leave some juice in the tank for the press training and conditioning after.

In order to make your handstand practice more press specific focus on straddle handstand exercises such as straddle jumps to handstand, straddle slide aways and straight to straddle leg isolation. Straight single leg isolation such as the single leg L will also be greatly beneficial for your press training!

Hamstring Mobility

Put on a thick sweater, leggings and some sweats on top. It is time to stay warm as we stretch! We want to mobilize our hamstrings for the pike and pancake. Use passive stretches in a combination with PNF stretches for best results. 

Stretching will temporarily increase your end range of motion for 20-40 min giving you an ideal opportunity to gain a couple inches of advantage for your press.

Press Progressions

You are at the height of your training. You warmed up your handstands, you are stretched and flexible, when the day comes that you will get your first press it will most likely be right here at this moment. Assuming you stay warm you will have about 20 min before your body will get less flexible again so let’s not waste any time. 

Start with your hardest press progression and technical skill. This can be for example the press to handstand from a box, the bench zombie press or the wall assisted press. No matter where you are currently at this is your moment to break through! 

Keep in mind that this is still technical training. These should not be the drills to completely tire out your shoulders just yet!

Press Conditioning

With the technical sets being done it is time to finally get into conditioning. Now it is time to finish off 1 press related body part at the time. First off are the shoulders. Focus on take off related drills such as walking deads, planche progressions such as assisted tuck planche lifts or wall planche negatives and lastly finish with 3 sets of your current handstand push up progression. In all of these focus on form and keep the exercises goal specific.

Follow this with compression strength or in other words core and hip flexor conditioning. The classic go to are sitting leg lifts but hanging leg lifts, L sit progressions and v ups are just as great. Get creative, keep it fresh whilst staying consistent!

Post Workout

Finish your workout with light post workout stretches to feel good after training. Your wrists, hip flexors and anterior deltoids did a whole lot of work just now. Roll them and stretch them gently.

Make the Routine
work for you

This general outline will work for everyone and with this approach to training everyone can learn to press. Yet, it is recommendable to make some adjustments to the routine. There are really 2 types of people learning to press. Athlete 1 is more flexible and less strong. Athlete 2 is stiff yet quite a bit stronger. Both athletes have advantages and disadvantages. Both athletes need to learn basic pressing technique whilst potentially making slight adjustments to precise movement patterns yet both athletes will get advantages out of adjusting the above explained routine slightly.

You are strong and stiff

The problem that you are facing is that you can not compress. Stiff hamstrings will hold you back from perfecting your press to handstand. The solution is to stretch significantly more. You will want to take the mobility part of the above mentioned workout and do it on 2 more days per week in addition to the stretches during your workout. These 2 additional flexibility sessions can be longer. Your main priority is getting your hamstrings to loosen up!

Whilst you wait for your hamstring flexibility to improve you will have to settle pressing to handstand with less ideal technique and alignment. Lean your shoulders more towards the front and use your surplus of strength to get up. Just make sure you are not placing too much pressure on your wrists due to the extreme shoulder lean. Training with parallettes will be highly recommended here!

You are mobile but less strong

For you, making it up in the press can come quite easy as you are so good at stacking your hips on top of your body before take off that you can skip part 1 of the press almost entirely. In your case it is achievable to press up almost without leaning the shoulders. Your problem is more that you are too mobile to hold the final position of the press the straight handstand. You have to invest into getting much stronger. 

3 full body workouts per week should do the trick here. You can do this conditioning right after your press workout or you could remove the conditioning part from your press workouts and simply do separate sessions. This training can be bodyweight exercise focused but does not have to be. Building raw strength is often easier and more convenient using free weights, barbells and cable pulleys.

Building strength will take some time but keep in mind whilst the beginning might be hard but as soon as you are able to control your mobility upside down you will have a wider variety of skills and drills to choose from compared to most other handstand athletes. 

the workout

Splitting a workout means dividing an existing workout in 2 or more parts throughout your week. There can be few reasons why an athlete might choose to do so. In the case of the press to handstand it usually boils down to 2 reasons. 1) being that the entire press workout is too long and it does not suit your lifestyle or because you already have an existing routine of strength and calisthenics training and doing handstands, conditioning and flexibility work in 1 does not fit your schedule.

One of my favorite ways of dividing the press to handstand workout in 2 parts is to do 1 day with all exercises where you place weight on your hands and 1 day where you don’t. This will allow you to focus more time on each part, you will be able to train every day getting a high practice frequency and your wrists and shoulders will get a full say to recover between workouts. For this split you would do the wrist and shoulder prehab, handstand training and shoulder/take off conditioning one day and the flexibility part paired with technical press training on the forearms and compression strength the other day.

Follow this split to build base coordination and strength but come back to doing full press workouts when you believe you are getting ready to achieve your first full press to handstand in the near future. 

As you can see Press to Handstand training can seem overwhelming but it really does not have to be that way. Analyze what you need to learn, create a precise plan and follow it. If you want to take the guesswork out of it and get a continuous workout plan customized towards your goals, current level and preferences than check out my Press to Handstand Academy online program.

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