The handstand push-up

March’s skill focus is the handstand push-up. It’s one of the more fun, party-trick-like movements we teach here at Alchemy, but what does it take to be able to perform one?

It’s a process that starts with the basics. First, you must be able to support yourself in a push-up position and bang out multiple reps. Once you’ve built up the upper body strength necessary to perform full chest-to-deck push-ups then you can move on to pike push-ups.

Pike push-up

Pike push-ups develop the upper-body strength needed to hold an inverted position minus the additional challenge of kicking up into a handstand hold.

In a good pike push-up position your back is flat and your arms are stacked over your shoulders. (Don’t round your back. A rounded back in this position will lead to neck and shoulder pain.)

Once you have the strength to be inverted in a pike push-up, and feel comfortable upside down, you can begin to work on handstand holds. In a handstand hold your weight is stacked over top of your body. As with the pike push-up, shoulders should be stacked over arms and body position (core, legs) should be tight and engaged. Look forward, not down. Do not arch your back.

Handstand hold: good, all stacked.


Handstand hold: bad positioning, arched, looking down.

Once you’re able to maintain a handstand hold you can start to lower your body. Make sure you have a solid base. That means your head and hands should form a tripod (think a strict press, only upside down) with your hands out a few inches in front of your face.

Good base: arms & head form tripod.

When you are in a solid tripod position you are able to drive your hands down into the mat and keep your shoulder and back engaged to press up. Important to note: always keep the majority of your weight in your hands and not in your head/neck!

Bad base: no tripod. Arms are beside ears.

Don’t sweat it if your first handstand push-up remains a distant goal. It is a process that takes effort, time and practice. The good news is though that you can build that necessary strength by working on pike push-ups and negative handstand push-ups (kick up into handstand and slowly control yourself to the ground until your head touches the ground. Don’t press yourself back up.) In a negative or during a handstand push-up you can make it easier by placing an an abmat under your head to reduce the height of the push-up. Put these tips into practice and have your handstand push-ups ready before the summer season kicks into high gear.

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