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Finding and Developing Your Handstand Push-Up by Carl Paoli - CrossFit Journal

In Gymnastics/Tumbling, Videos

October 31, 2010

Video Article

Join gymnast Carl Paoli, Kim Bozman and HQ trainer Adrian (Boz) Bozman as they teach handstand fundamentals by applying gymnastics to elite CrossFit skills.

In Part 1, learn how to stabilize your handstand through the hollow-body position. According to Paoli, one of the misconceptions with the hollow-body position is that it is “closed down.” Paoli says: “It’s actually the most neutral position that we can possibly find in our body.” Find out how to challenge yourself with the hollow-body position and develop midline stability.

In Part 2, Paoli focuses on the headstand to develop head and hand position for a handstand. “In order to set ourselves up for success in the handstand push-up, we need to have that headstand down solid,” Paoli says. Using a stable triangular set-up, athletes will be able to develop control and balance.

In Part 3, Paoli scales the handstand push-up for different skill levels. The first step to getting inverted is a handstand push-up with your feet on the ground, working the distance between feet and hands and stance. The next step is elevating the feet to increase the difficulty, scaling elevation and stance. With smart progressions, you can make the handstand push-up accessible for any athlete.

Part 1: 5min 17sec
Part 2: 3min 58sec
Part 3: 4min 02sec

Additional reading: Three Important Ab Exercises by Greg Glassman, published May 1, 2003.

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26 Comments on “Finding and Developing Your Handstand Push-Up ”


Andrew Bueno wrote …

Carl is my hero


wrote …

This will help a lot with developing my HSPU.

Question: when doing the HSPU against the wall, I tend to bring my head down into a straight line with my hands (hands on either side of the head) rather than the triangle position that Carl is having the Bozs do. Should I be bringing my head down into the triangle in that case rather than the in-line way that I've been doing?


wrote …



wrote …

Is there a part 4? Would be nice to see the next step of an actual proper HSPU done correctly.


wrote …

-Adam, I highly recommend you start working on the tripod "bottom position". It will provide better balance due to a greater base of support, better shoulder position in the hole that will allow you to generate more torque safely and make the HSPU more efficient and progressive as you get stronger and move onto parallette and/or ring work. Not to mention your press, push press and jerk will be SICKER than ever!

- Rebecca, there are more parts coming up soon. Thanks for watching.


wrote …

hey carl great video !!!

i hav no problem in doing hspu with my toe rested against the wall but when ever i try to take my toe away from the wall i trip ..what should i b doing to do a hspu with out any support ???


wrote …

In the words of JJ - Dyno-Mite! I really needed this demo/coaching points to get my HSPU going. Thank you much Carl you are a great teacher/coach.


replied to comment from Rebecca Chambliss

Agreed! Where's the continuation?!


wrote …

Thank you very much. This is very helpful to me, as I develop my HSPU. I can see the scaling, and how it will lead to the HSPU. Great work!


wrote …

Carl - this is so timely for me! Handstand press ups have been a goat of mine for a while. As i have tight shoulders/thoracic areas I've avoided them for a long time but am making a concerted effort to work on them especially due to the side effects on your overhead lifts. Look forward to the next parts and if you discuss hand position as i notice people use one of two variants usually.


wrote …

very good instruction. I just started doing HSPU's maybe a month or two back without any real direction for proper method. I will now use this information to practice the different steps. I am sure it will make me feel more comfortable being inverted and hopefully better stability too.


wrote …

awesome! thx carl and cfjournal!
my goat is gettin smaller... :)


wrote …

Fantastic stuff!

I'm working on developing my handstand pu and this is a great start (perfect for today's WOD). I've been doing progressions in WODs for a while now and working on my headstands between workouts. I've also been trying to teach my son headstands too. The tripod approach looks like a great starting point for both of us and a great way to do my progressions during WODs till I get this skill.

Big thanks!


wrote …

got my first headstand with out any support y'day after watching the video and doing basic thing right.tks carl .. crossfit journal keep them coming.


wrote …

Carl's da man! I miss you guys over at SFCF!



wrote …

Carl's da man! I miss you guys over at SFCF!



wrote …

Thanks Carl,( Boz and Kim too).

Not only does a series like this reaffirm the incredible value of CF Journal but it also goes a long way to helping me break down the "Myths" of CrossFit to others outside the community who are interested but a bit hesitant in making the step into Crossfit.

Allowing those new to Crossfit to see a perfect example of "scaling" and "progression" of simple to complex movements goes a very long way. It immediately takes away the "Image Beast" that some people have of Crossfit and the difficulty of its training methods.

Thanks for giving a great series of how to help take this complex movement and break it down so that "Even a CaveMan" could do it... sorry Boz ;-)



wrote …

I was wondering if you could take somebody that is not skilled (less than proficient) at the movement and use them along side boz,kim, or yourself carl. You guys make it look so easy but i think it would help to see someone struggle and then transform because of the technique and cues that you are recommending. I love this series. Keep it coming!


replied to comment from Carl Paoli

Thanks for the reply Carl. Any chance you might want to come out to Japan sometime to do some teaching? :P Bring KStar with you!

Anyway, back to the HSPUs: will there be a video or written article outlining a template for progressing to doing full handstand push ups? The one and only time that I did 'Diane', it took me a little over 23 minutes. I think my time will have gotten better since, but I don't know how much. HSPUs are a big goat of mine, but I want to make them a lot better :)

I also would love to have the added benefit of upping my pressing ability too! My max is still only about 80% bodyweight :(


replied to comment from Sean Murray

Carl, I second Sean's comment, very timely. Thank you for breaking these movements down; the triangle chalk was very helpful for me to visualize the correct tripod position.

I too am eager for the next parts.

Thanks again for giving back to the CF community and sharing these! As others have said, makes the CFJ annual fee more than worth while!


Jennifer McKenzie wrote …

When Adrian had his feet on the higher box, he had an impressive degree of flexibility in his hamstrings. I can imagine that someone, not as flexible as adrian, would struggle to keep an extended lumbar curve due to lack of hip flexibility. Is there a different way you would progress the HSPU at this point so that someone could still get their hips high if they can't get into that position?

Thanks! Great video series. My husband got a back flip after watching you and we're using this advice today in a HSPU clinic. Keep it coming.


replied to comment from Jennifer McKenzie


First of all, so cool you are able to use these progressions in your HSPU clinic. That's what this is all about!

Second, no need to worry TOO much if you see slight flexion in the lumbar spine. If you feel the need to be super rad and look sexy from head to butt I recommend you bend your knees a little bit to give your back some slack or simply extend the hip by pushing the box and feet back or pushing your hands forward. Either way, the goal is to provide the athlete with a guideline to build up to HSPUs and understand where “the line of push” is in order to find proper pushing mechanics and balance while inverted. Eventually the body will be fully extended and tight hammies will not really be relevant.

If that answer doesn’t help I have some other tricks in the bag, but now you at least have another tool to spot tight posterior chain. YAY for Crossfit!


wrote …

I have wanted to develop my HSPU as well but steered away from it because of some problems with my right shoulder. However, now that I see your suggestions for progressively developing this exercise, I'm more comfortable with wanting to try it now.

Thanks for the video...


wrote …

great job in breaking down an impressive movement. looking forward to the next set of videos. In the meantime this set of videos have left me with plenty of progressions to work on.


wrote …

I was WAAAAY off in practicing my HSPU. I have much work to complete in the hollow body position. I am doing some skill work related to HSPU every workout. Plus, I do some hollow body work now at the end of every workout. I'm up to 47 seconds. I never realized how "soft" I am during most drills. Just the awareness has been a great help. Thanks Carl!


wrote …

So I'm new to crossfit and gymnastics stuff and I can't get into the top part of the hollow body position without my back rounding and losing tightness... But I can do push ups with the vertical forearm and torso moving in unison just fine. Any advice???

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