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How And Why I Progressed To Doing Freestanding Handstand Push Ups

Updated on April 3, 2013
Attempting a freestanding handstand push up.
Attempting a freestanding handstand push up. | Source

Handstand Push Ups

A handstand push up is a vertical push up. Your hands are on the ground and your feet are in the air. Since you are lifting your whole body it requires much more strength and balance than a standard push up. The main muscles used are your triceps, shoulders, abs and back. You need to do more than push yourself up and lower yourself down. Your core muscles and leg muscles are used to hold your body in position. To make it easier you can do it against a wall.

Handstand push ups are one of the best exercises you can do to build upper body strength and are great for getting bigger stronger shoulders. Another reason I wanted to do them is because I like to challenge myself and try new exercises. It reduces boredom.

Doing a difficult exercise or attempting to do them also makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. As I get better at the exercise I can tell that my body is changing. You can do handstand push ups with the assistance of a wall or do freestanding handstand push ups. Freestanding aka freestyle handstand push ups are much more difficult than wall handstand push ups.

I started by using a wall and then switched to freestyle handstands. When using the wall I knelt down close to a wall, put my hand on the floor in front of me and then moved my feet up the wall. As I walked my feet up the wall I walked my hands closer to the wall. When I was in position I repeatedly lowered myself down and raised myself up. My face was facing the wall. Wall handstand push ups can be hard on the paint so you might want to skip to freestyle push ups.

The hands should be shoulder width apart, your feet should be together and you should be looking forward. While attempting freestanding handstand push ups you should try with your feet farther apart to make it easier to balance. Later when you are better at it you can try it with your feet closer together. To make it easier don't go all the way down. You can increase the difficulty by placing your hands on something that is higher than the ground and lowering yourself past them.

Me doing handstand push ups against the wall.
Me doing handstand push ups against the wall. | Source


I worked out 6 days a week doing push ups and planks. While working out I could tell that my abs, triceps and shoulder muscles were getting a good workout based on the pain. There was not a lot of pain but enough that I could tell what muscles were being used. Based on my exercise performance as well as the look and feel of the muscles it was really easy to tell the exercises I was doing were making me stronger. Since my muscles were bigger and stronger I decided to see if I could do handstand push ups against a wall. To my surprise I was able to do them on my second attempt. My first attempt failed because I was worried about falling. The exercises I had done provided me with enough strength to do the handstand push ups.

The first step is to prepare your muscles. You need to do exercises that work the right muscles and the exercise needs to be difficult enough that your muscles become stronger. If you don't experience muscle soreness then you are not doing enough. If your muscles are really sore for a long time then you are doing to much. The second step is to do the exercise while staying focused. Doing a difficult exercise for the first time requires a lot of focus. You should not be distracted. Since I was worried about my wall I did not continue to do handstand push ups against the wall on a regular basis. Instead I figured out how to do freestanding handstand push ups.

Recommended Strength Exercises

I did a variety of push ups and planks before I could do handstand push ups but there are a few exercises that I think helped me with the transition more than the others. If you don't want to do standard, diamond, incline, decline and one handed push ups as well as elbow planks, side elbow planks, planks and side planks like I did then you could try focusing on just a few of them. Doing it my way I was able to do sets of handstand push ups against a wall in 6 weeks.

Practicing decline push ups will help prepare you for the handstand push ups. I used a set of stairs so I could raise my feet. When you raise you feet you need to lift more of your body weight. As I became stronger I moved my feet to a higher step. Before attempting the handstand push ups I was doing incline push ups at the steepest incline I could. My feet were on the fourth step. Decline push ups are a lot easier than handstand push ups but a lot harder than standard push ups. It is a good idea to get good at them first. I recommend that you should be able to easily do a set of 12. If you are taller than me you might be able to raise your feet to the fifth step.

Side planks are a difficult exercise because one arm is in the air. As the name suggests you start in a raised push up position and then lift one arm into the air and shift your body so you are looking sideways. The raised shoulder should be lined up above the other one. Even after the decline push ups became fairly easy I still had trouble holding the side plank for 40 seconds. If you get good at the side plank it will be a lot easier to do handstand push ups.

Doing one handed push ups puts a lot more weight on the arm you are using. Using a set of stairs you can raise your upper body to make it easier and then gradually move down a step at a time. It requires both strength and balance. Put one arm behind your back and lean towards the arm on the ground.

If you can do decline push ups, side planks and one handed push ups without too much trouble you should be strong to do handstand push ups against a wall. To do freestyle handstand push ups you need to do exercises that help you get into the handstand position and you need to strengthen your core muscles. Your core muscles like your back and abs help you balance and maintain proper form.

The Frog Stand

Before you can do freestyle handstand push ups you need get your body into a handstand position. The frog stand can help you with that. To do a frog stand you get into the frog position. Bend down with your hands on the ground close to your feet. The knees are on the outside touching your elbows. It is important to keep your knees and elbows together while doing the exercise. Raise your legs while lowering your head. The movements should be slow and controlled.

Your palms should face diagonally outward. It is a lot easier if your arms are bent enough to rest your elbows on your knees. Since you will probably land on your head a few times use a soft floor or an exercise mat. When you get into position try to hold it for 60 seconds. Even after doing handstand push ups against a wall I found the frog stand to be extremely difficult. I could do handstand push ups against a wall easier than I could hold a frog stand for a significant amount of time. The first day I tried it I was only able to hold the frog stand for a few seconds at a time but I kept working at it day after day.

It is a pretty safe exercise if you have an exercise mat but it can be frustrating at first. There were a lot of failed attempts.

Me doing a headstand.
Me doing a headstand.

Freestanding Handstand

It is a good idea to practice some headstands and get good at doing them. After practicing frog stands and headstands you can start transitioning to the handstand. Get into the frog stand position and then raise your legs into the air. Don't try to raise your legs up all the way or keep them raised for more than a few seconds until you practice a lot. I would get into the frog stand position and quickly raise my legs. Then I would drop back down and do it all over again a bunch of times. Another option is to do a headstand. Then push up so your head is off the ground. I practiced both methods. If you rush yourself you may fall forwards. It is better to fall onto your feet.

When you are strong enough you should be able to hold the handstand position for a significant amount of time. After that you can work at doing handstand push ups by lowering and raising your body. The person in the video below makes it look easy. I recommend practicing on a soft surface. You may want a spotter but if you are careful you should not need one.

The Transformation

Handstand push ups are a difficult exercise. However even if you never actually do a handstand push up the training is going to significantly improve your body. By the time I was attempting handstand push ups I was in great shape. You are going to look and feel better if you put in the time and do the training. It is not just about doing handstand push ups. It is about improving your body. The handstand push ups and the exercises you do to prepare your body can significantly change your appearance. The exercise are great for improving your triceps, shoulders and abs. They also work well for getting rid of fat.

I have done push ups, decline push ups, one handed push ups, handstand push ups against a wall, frog stands, headstands and brief handstands. While I can't quite do freestanding handstand push ups yet I am getting a little stronger every day. For me the journey is more important than the destination. The real goal is to improve.


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    • FreeFly07 profile image

      Craig Wilson 5 years ago from Sibiu, Romania

      Great info!

      ...even though I will never even attempt to do such push-ups :)