Whether you’re an experienced CrossFit athlete or are new to the game, handstand pushups are hands-down one of the most intimidating workouts. 

Chances are, you may have made some less-than-perfect attempts or have just been sitting them out. If so, you’re not alone. While handstand pushups are a seriously challenging workout, they are far from impossible, and you don’t need to be an Olympic gymnast to pull them off. 

Below is a simple guide to building your strength, improving your technique, and working your way up to doing perfect handstand pushups that will rock your upper body, core, and glutes, and make you the badass of the gym. 

3 steps to get started doing handstand pushups

Regardless of your starting fitness level, this three-step progression can help you build the strength you will need while giving you the chance to refine your technique. Start by adding the first exercise into your routine 2-4 times a week and, when you feel like you’ve got it down, progress to the next step.  

1. Pike pushups

Pike pushups are a great starting place for beginners. They build the strength in your back and shoulders that you’ll need to hold the handstand position.

To do pike pushups:

  • Begin in a downward facing dog position with your fingers facing forward.
  • Keeping your core engaged and your shoulders back, bend at the elbows and lower your forehead toward the floor, as low as you can go. Your elbows should bend back, not out to the sides.
  • Push up to the starting position and repeat.

2. Modified handstand pushups

Are the pike pushups feeling easy? Time to move on to step 2, modified handstand pushups. This exercise will help you get used to being upside down doing pushups with your feet elevated. 

To do modified handstand pushups:

  • Prop your feet up on a surface, like the wall or a piece of gym equipment, so that your legs are parallel to the floor and your body is bent at a 90-degree angle 
  • Maintaining the 90-degree angle, bend at the elbows and lower your forehead toward the ground, as low as you can go.
  • Push up to the starting position and repeat.

3. Handstand pushups against a wall

Once you’re feeling strong in your modified handstand pushups, it’s time to get into the full handstand position. Using the support of the wall will help you build up the confidence you’ll need to do a freestanding handstand pushup.

To do handstand pushups against a wall:

  • Start by standing facing the wall. Give yourself room to kick up into your handstand. If you’re worried about falling on your head, you can place a pillow or yoga block against the wall before you begin.
  • Placing your hands close to the wall, kick up into a handstand position, leaning against the wall for support.
  • Squeezing your glutes, thighs, and abs, bend at the elbows to lower yourself toward the ground, as low as you can go. 
  • Push up to the starting position and repeat.

Transitioning to freestanding handstand pushups

Now that you’ve built up your strength and confidence, it’s time to step away from the wall and give the freestanding handstand pushup a try. 

How to do a freestanding handstand pushup:

  • Start by placing your hands about 6-12 inches away from the wall, shoulder width apart with your palms facing forward.
  • Kick up into a handstand with your feet against the wall to get your balance
  • Establish your balance away from the wall in a strong midline position
  • Bend at the elbows and lower the top of your head toward the floor, as low as possible
  • Push up to the starting position and repeat

handstand pushups are a great long-term fitness goal, but they take serious strength and balance, so don’t be discouraged if you have to keep working up to them. 

Keep trying and go back to the other steps as needed. If you’re having a hard time transitioning to the upside-down position, try incorporating more handstands into your regular workout routine. Whether or not you achieve perfect, freestanding handstand pushups, this progression will help you build strength, balance — and most importantly — confidence.