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Handstand Variations You Have to Try

Handstand Variations You Have to Try

Your favorite upper body training program’s favorite upper body training program.

From time to time, I’ll start to feel like I have a decent amount of relative strength, and then the Olympics will roll around, and I’ll spend a week watching gymnasts compete. The strength, power, and flexibility they posses immediately shatters my confidence and I waddle home with my tail between my legs.

When asked what body type I’d like to have, I always answer with 1a. A gymnast, and 1b. A sprinter. Why? You don’t ever see out of shape gymnasts or sprinters. You do however see plenty of overweight and out of shape long distance runners… but I digress.

So, if these two body types are the ones I aspire to, why not train like they do (within reason of course)? Strength gains are my ultimate goal, meaning the bulk of my training will consist of heavy, compound, lifts such as squats and deadlifts, but why not incorporate bodyweight, gymnastic-inspired, movements into the routine as my accessory lifts? They’ll be a nice compliment to the heavier lifts, and provide an overall well-rounded routine.

For the gymnastic portion of my training, I plan to add in new, BASIC, movements such as:

  • Handstand Pushup
  • Front Lever
  • Back Walkover
  • Cartwheels/Round-offs
  • Rolling - forward & backward
  • Maybe a back tuck…maybe

For the purposes of this particular article though, we’ll focus only on the handstand pushup. If my progressions improve in the other movements too, I’ll continue the series to include the other movements mentioned above.

Disclaimer: I’m an absolute beginner and the majority of the movements I plan to incorporate into my routine for the next couple months will be progressed slowly and safely.

But why incorporate handstands and handstand pushup variations?

  • They’re great for developing strength for the shoulders, arms, chest, and even your back and abs, i.e. pretty much the entire upper body
  • They help create core stability as you must keep that “stiffness” in your torso during the exercise
  • They improve your overall balance and body awareness (proprioception)
  • When performed correctly, they improve your shoulder joint stability
  • No equipment is needed so they can be done anywhere…your home, the park, the beach, etc.
  • They provide variety. We typically perform pushups and presses for our chest, arms, and shoulders…this is a great way to challenge the body in a new and effective way

Important Point - These are not for everyone. Anyone with shoulder, elbow, and/or wrist issues should probably stay away from handstand variations. Until pain free and cleared, do not attempt these, as the risks outweigh the rewards.

Having discussed the clear benefits of handstand variations, let’s look at how to perform the movement. To do so, we’ll start with the basics first and proceed from there.

I decided to connect with an extremely smart colleague of mine who is a heck of a lot better at handstand pushups than I am. Max Shank, owner of Ambition Athletics, has been incorporating bodyweight movements into his routine for a while with tremendous success. This clip will show you a series of progressions in order of difficulty:

1. Elevated feet pushups - box to chair, to table, to wall

2. Crow Pose

3. Wall

4. TRX
Holds -

5. Free-standing

6. Rings

Where do I fit these into my routine?
Handstand pushups are a ‘upper body push’ movement, so they fit into your routine where chest presses, pushups, or shoulder pressing exercises fit. Starting out, I wouldn’t be too concerned with sets and reps, just work on increasing your time on the ‘holds’ every session. Once competent with those, you can then begin working to add the pushup repetitions.

Example 1
Lower Body Hip Dominant - Deadlift
Upper Body Vertical Press - Handstand Pushup
Rotational - Tubing Torso Rotations

Example 2
Upper Push - Handstand Pushup
Upper Pull - Pullup

Upper Push - Pushup
Upper Pull - Inverted Row

Final Thoughts
Handstand movements are a great, underrated, exercise that will really challenge you in new ways. They’ll mix your normal routine up and the extra blood flow to the brain will provide benefits too! And hey, you never know… the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are right around the corner.

21 / 08 / 2017 1R