Six Tips for Perfecting the Handstand Push-Up

Looking to spice up your push-up routine? Why not try flipping them on their head–literally–with the handstand push-up. This topsy-turvy move is the perfect way to up the ante in the gym, but proceed with caution when attempting these upside down push-ups. We talked with John Warnek, Head Coach and owner of Iron Cross Athletics in Phoenixville, PA, to get some advice on improving our handstand push-up technique and tips on how to ease into this advance exercise.

“If you tell someone that’s strong enough to flip up to the wall and get their head to the floor and come back up, they’ll do it,” Warnek said. “But there are definitely ways to make this easier and make it more efficient.” Here are six tips for perfecting your handstand push-up technique.

Know the Basics

Also known as a vertical push-up or the inverted push-up, handstand push-ups test an athlete’s strength and balance. The upside down move begins in the handstand position, with the heels of your feet resting against a wall. “Basically, you kick up to a wall, you get your body nice and rigid, you lower your head to the floor, and then you press back up to the top,” explains Warneck. While traditional push-ups support approximately 70% of your body weight, handstand push-ups lift nearly your entire body weight.

Focus on Your Shoulders

“The first thing to talk about is shoulder positioning,” Warneck stresses. “What a lot of people try to do is like a straight line–hand, head, hand in a straight line. What you actually want is more of a triangle. I get my fingers pointing toward the wall and when I get up there, I’m going to try and twist my elbows so the inside of my elbow is facing the wall and the point of the elbow is facing back into the room.”

Crossfit Handstand Good vs Bad Form

Suck It In

While handstand push-ups rely heavily on triceps, shoulders, and deltoids, this move cannot be executed properly without engaging your core. Knees should be bent slightly to get your feet to the wall, but your back should not be arched drastically. Ensure your core is tight and your stomach is slightly concave.

Get Mobile

Shoulder mobility is key in executing handstand push-ups. Before flipping upside at the gym, run a simple test to check your shoulder mobility: Stand with your back to the wall, pull your shoulders back, and raise your hands up. You should be able to stretch your arms back to the wall. “You’ll see a lot of people, especially guys who have been bench pressing all their lives, they lost a lot of shoulder mobility,” Warneck reveals. Work on your flexibility, especially in your shoulders, before attempting handstand push-ups.

Pump It Up

Having the balance and strength to kick up to the wall and hold yourself upside down is only half of the battle. You also need to be strong enough to lower your head to the floor and raise yourself back to the starting position. It’s important to build the strength necessary to complete the upside down push-up move. To build strength, “we have you do shoulder presses usually with dumbbells or a bar,” Warnek describes. “Still trying to stress all the same things: To create the hollow body position, elbows out front, shoulders pulled back.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Handstand push-ups aren’t easy, but there are simple things you can do to work your way up the wall. Practice holding the handstand position against the wall and slowly add in lowering-and-raising targets with the help of coaches. Warnek also adds, “Somebody who has never kicked upside down… we have them go headstand first, then we get two people on either side and actively lift them just to make sure they can support themselves upside down. Then we can work on kicking up.” Lastly, Warnek suggests “regular old push-ups on the floor” as a good step towards getting strong enough to do handstand push-ups.

Originally published at

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