I’ve Been Challenged to a Fitness Duel! [Help me learn how to do a handstand push-up, please!]

by Charlotte on December 26, 2012 · 22 comments

The fastest way to get me to do something dumb is to challenge me and, like most entertaining things in my life, this one started on Facebook. My friend Matt (also known as the Strongman competition guy who taught me how to do a proper chest press and then had me turn upside down and stick my feet in the handles of a TRX until I was hanging like a trussed turkey so obviously we have history) challenged me to do a REAL handstand push-up.

Problem 1: I don’t know what that means. I thought I’d been doing real ones the whole time. Apparently not.

Problem 2: Upper body strength… not my forte. But hey, if it means not cracking my noggin open I’ll probably be extra motivated?

So I did what any good friend would do and turned it back around on him, saying I’d accept his challenge if he accepted mine and did the splits. Which he then did… a lot better than I’d expected him to:

SO now I have to put up or shut up and since we all know that I will never stop talking that leaves me with this, a patheticallydesperate-yet-sincere cry for your help:

And if anyone else has a fitness duel for me, as long as it’s not stripper-robics I’m SO IN. Email me!!

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi/Dragonmamma December 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Sorry, kiddo…I do them exactly the same as you do! (Except that I do them on top of a fat gymnastics mat, so that if my arms collapse while I’m lowering my head then maybe I won’t get a concussion!)


meanliving December 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Oh, you gotta go full range of motion on that sucker. Head to the floor. Or, even better, get/make some parallettes so you can go negative. Would kipping the handstand push-up count? Because I bet you could do a kipping HSPU now (strength-wise, I mean), if you could just get the motion down. I can’t even come close to a true HSPU unless I kip it.

If you want to do this the hard way and actually EARN that move, you can use bands to gradually increase the load you’re pushing, like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyqNj86r03s. Those are really super fun–highly recommended, even if just for giggles.


Leth December 27, 2012 at 7:21 am

How do you kip a HSPU? I can kip pullups, but I can’t even begin to imagine how you’d kip a HSPU…


Kirsten December 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COcfdJ9N7sA

I assume most people don’t count it as a “real” HSPU the same way most people don’t consider the kipping pull-up to be a “real pull-up”. :P Whatever, either way you get to the top and bottom of the movement! :)


essbee December 26, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Um, it gets worse. Not just full ROM, as stated above, but certain serious gymnasts and Crossfitters insist on open-floor HSPUs.


To which I generally say: BWAHhahahahahaha. There’s also the ring HSPU variation.


This has higher suckage factor of freestanding (instability, yay!) but at least you can use the straps to help keep your feet over your head.

However, full range of motion up against the wall is generally the standard. Parallettes will definitely help. You can cobble them together really easily and cheaply with PVC.


Good luck! I’m still self-spotting with a barbell rack and putting a fat, doubled up mat under my head. I can do about two. So you’re already way ahead of me! Damned by faint praise, I suppose, but hopefully it makes you fell a little better. :)


Katie December 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I’m already impressed, both with your handstand pushups and Matt’s splits. You’ve both got me beat!


Rebecca December 27, 2012 at 1:39 am

Get your husband or a tall(er) friend to act as your support instead of the wall–
have them gently hold your ankles, and keep your legs WIDE.

Wide legs and wide hands will help you keep your balance better.
See if you can start on your head, and push away from there.

If you stick with the wall, put down a pillow to cushion the (almost) inevitable *thump* of getting your head to the ground.

I’m really proud of my current personal record for handstand pushups: 10.

(And I mean FULL, all the way down to the ground and back up, full!)

C’mon, Charlotte! You can doooo eeeeet! :D


Jess December 27, 2012 at 9:23 am

Charlotte! I found this! Maybe it will help? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1QrX_KHNxs


Kim December 27, 2012 at 10:19 am

Wow! I’m impressed with your current version!! I don’t think I can even do a handstand much less a push-up in that position. (maybe if someone held my feet)
I’m with you on making it a competition – always!!!


Meghan@themeghamix December 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

Charlotte – you will totally nail this! Sounds like you’ve got good tips already, but start with paralettes and box pushups to increase your range of motion. Once you’re solid on those (10 good reps linked), progress to doing tiny range of motion handstand pushups on the wall – I did mine to a yoga block for a while. Then google “kipping handstand pushups” – they help a TON. I nailed my first one yesterday, so I know you can do it, too!


Emily December 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Charlotte, you are so FREAKING ADORABLE. That is my only contribution to this thread, sorry I don’t have any helpful advice but for real, I just love you!


Kirsten December 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm

In CrossFit land, at least, to do a workout with HSPUs “as prescribed”, you just need to touch your head to the ground, and balancing against a wall to do it is okay. (Well, that was a couple of years ago, I guess I’ve been out of the CrossFit scene for awhile but I assume the basic standard hasn’t changed…) It looks like you’ve already made really good progress. When I was trying to get my head closer to the ground, I found that using bands or elevating my feet on a box didn’t help at all. The one thing that worked was doing a LOT every day, like every time I walked by a certain wall in my house I’d stop and do a few. (I believe they call this “greasing the groove”.) To improve how deep I was going I stacked a bunch of DVD boxes at a height where I could touch my head to the stack and do a few repetitions like that. Then every week or so I would remove a box so I was going a little deeper. I never did get all the way to the ground, but then I get distracted easily and often don’t stick to my goals. :)


Jody - Fit at 55 December 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Just doing what you did is amazing to me!!! I say KUDOS to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)


jennifer December 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Rooting for you, Charlotte!! :)


Bek @ Crave December 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Looks pretty darn good to me- maybe slow it down and get some more depth? And try not to lock out your elbows so much? Who knows?! You rocking it girl!


Susan December 28, 2012 at 5:31 am

Nice job…wondering how your plantar faciitis is coming along? Wishing you the best :)


Tami C. December 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Ditto what Kirsten said on “greasing the groove.” Also, Nia Shanks has a great video on HSPU progressions:



manja December 29, 2012 at 1:42 am

I actually don’t have any more advices/comments about the actual handstand push up, but I was wondering why do you take a spring for the handstand, especially since I don’t have any doubts in your core strenght (and not going into a handstand with your hands on the floor from the start). Then I saw it on other HSPU videos posted here too. Is this for any specific reason or is it just more like a habit? Nobody commented on that but that’s the first thing that surprised me :) I’m used to hands on the floor, THEN jump into a handstand thing (from yoga) and at least for me (core was/is way weaker than arms) that makes huge difference. Especially in controling the movement, I can’t do it on the open floor yet but this is one of the ‘tricks’ that do give you a lot of stability (plus you can prep/activate your shoulder gridle properly).
Also that’s the only way you could work on pressing up into a handstand, if you ever get challenged on that XP (check wide leg handstand press, I mean c’mon that’s a freaking beauty:)


Matt December 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I’ve been working on hspu for a while and most most success I’ve had is to apply a grease the groove method. Practice it multiple times each day at least 5-6 days a week. The idea being is to use a rep range and or range of motion so it’s not overwhelming. Just practice, practice and then more practice.

Good luck Charlotte!


Matt December 30, 2012 at 7:44 pm

I’ve been working on doing this myself for a while now. The best method I’ve come across is the old grease the groove method of training. Instead of practicing a few sets of HSPU a few times a week I have been doing a set sets throughout the day every day.
It really helped my nervous system get used to the exercise and make it feel more normal so I could then work on getting stronger with it.


Jess January 2, 2013 at 2:00 am

I’m impressed with both of you! Wow!


R January 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Your handstand pushup! I don’t know what’s “right”, but if you can do THAT, you’re probably most of the way there!

Can you do a how-to-do-a-handstand without falling on your face post at some point? I’m assuming I need more core strength to stay up there? Maybe I should start with headstands first.


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