Retooling Jason Khalipa's Handstand Push-Up

By Carl Paoli with Jason Khalipa

In Coaching, Gymnastics/Tumbling, Videos

January 28, 2011

Video Article

“Why do you think everyone was sucking so bad at those handstand push-ups on the rings (at the 2010 CrossFit Games)?” asks coach Carl Paoli, a trainer at San Francisco CrossFit and owner of Naka Athletics. As you might guess, he has some ideas about how to improve your handstand push-up.

Join Paoli as he puts Jason Khalipa through handstand push-up training.

Paoli critiques Khalipa’s freestanding handstand push-up and offers suggestions for improvement. Paoli first tackles Khalipa’s position on the floor.

“You’ve got to make a bigger base,” he says. Paoli sets Khalipa in a tripod position with his head driving forward of his hands to touch the ground. To finish the movement, the head drives back up through the arms, just as it does in a shoulder press or push press.

Paoli uses a hollow-body position to stabilize the back and maintain balance. A handstand push-up facing the wall helps develop this stability and positioning.

“Chest against the wall and then go head forward, head up,” Paoli says as he demonstrates a wall-facing handstand push-up. “Now I don’t allow my body to break at all. Boom—that’s the position.”

7min 21sec

Additional reading: The Freestanding Handstand Push-Up by Roger Harrell, published June 1, 2006.

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40 Comments on “Retooling Jason Khalipa's Handstand Push-Up ”


wrote …

Great video, i plan on working on this ASAP! Makes a lot of sense.


wrote …

That was sweet. Time for some debate about movement standards for hand stand push-ups. Some folks out there apparently don't think the heel-to-wall position is "useless." Way to tell it like you see it, Carl. And nice cartwheel, Jason.


wrote …

Seriously Carl is the man!!! He coaches with such ease and understanding.
He needs to be on the HQ Staff.


wrote …

Great video! Carl you are the man, definitely trying to retool my own handstand push-ups in the gym tomorrow morning!


wrote …

That was awesome...

love what he said about the arm acting like the hip in the squat. Initiate with shoulder first to load the system from the inside out.

Cheers Carl!!


wrote …

Carl is sick. All his movements look effortless. We need more Carl Paoli Videos. Great stuff


wrote …

agree with everyone above, more videos from carl. Great stuff. Will start working this movement tomorrow. I love the push-up/squat analogy too and the funny thing is that a lot of people (crossfitters included) skip right over the push up and the quality of the exercise suffers!


wrote …

I could watch Carl and K. Starr teach all day!


wrote …

This is what I love about Crossfit, always looking for the best way to accomplish the movement, accepting listening and testing new ideas. Next opportunity I get I am going to try my HSPU that way.


wrote …

Totally makes sense. Just keep in mind that when we first learn to squat correctly (for me at least) it was uncomfortable and seemed less efficient or less of a strong position then what I was used to. But afterwards we all know the mechanical advantage of proper squatting.

I tried this a while back after seeing Carl in another vid but didn't stick with it because it seemed harder then the heels to wall version. You changed my mind bro. Thanks Carl!


Dustin Kreidler wrote …

Between Carl's effortless mastery and seeing Jason struggle and improve nearly instantly with Carl's coaching, this was an awesome combo of informative and inspiring! Like everyone else, I can't wait to try to put this into practice. Nice work, all!


wrote …

Very cool video. I've been practicing the toe-to-wall handstand from time-to-time after watching him work with Bozman. Due to my weak shoulder press, it's a challenge just to maintain an arm extended position let alone trying to get a push-up. I still have to do them bridged. Once my press gets stronger and I start getting more vertical, I think it will get easier.

This is analogous to when Dick Fosbury developed the 'Fosbury Flop' how long were people doing the straddle style high jump? When he came out with this method and showed that your could clear more height eventually everyone started doing it.

If someone had started doing toes-to-wall handstand push-ups at a sectional or higher level games and was cranking them out at a rate of say 1.5 to every 1, how long do you think the standard heel-to-wall method would have stuck around?

All it takes is one to shake things up. Just like Crossfit was a paradigm shift in the exercise community, this is a paradigm shift within Crossfit.


wrote …

Very cool. I actually think Kstar did a video on this some time back. I'm changing my HSPU right aways. I'll be interested to see how many people at the games this year have adopted this, especially with the cool cartwheel into it.

And ya, I totally noticed that last year how on the ring HSPU everyone was breaking really badly. I don't recall a single athlete being able to maintain position. Doing HSPU's this way will make doing them on the rings so much easier.

Thanks a lot, looking forward to more from you Carl!


wrote …

I followed Carl's HSPU progression from his last set of Journal videos and went from horrible to un-scaled, belly against the wall, in two or three months. Having my back to the wall never worked, and now I have a better understanding why.


wrote …


It's not a paradigm shift. You were just unaware of the fault, and more importantly, the solutions. Many coaches dislike the way HSPU are done. In fact, some prefer to call them headstand pushups unless you're hands are elevated (so the head drops below the level of the hands).

Using a partner is more effective than facing the wall because they can let go entirely at times (to develop a freestanding one) but it requires a partner to be not working out. You can keep hollow form with your heels against the wall, it's just easier to flip up without thinking about it.


wrote …

The video's with Carl Paoli are great!


wrote …

Carl is a freakin' ninja


wrote …

A good training vid. I dig the queues. Time to put this into action. I also agree, Carl is a Ninja!


wrote …

Agreed that was an awesome video.

If anyone remembers Camille Leblanc-Bazinet's HSPUs in the Tahoe throwdown she is basicly doing the new improved Hand Stand Paoli Pushup with her heels against the wall.

I remember watching that and thinking it was weird how far her head went in towards the wall and how far her hands were away from the wall but now I know why!

Thanks for the great info!


wrote …

I could move to San Francisco (from Sweden) just to join the SFCF Box!


wrote …

Very cool, but I just tried it and I'm not better that way than the old way frankly. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong but despite all the "load from the core extremities" the total of the shoulder and the elbow are still tough. More work for me to do.


wrote …

Excellent video.

Could you please elaborate on head/neck position? I always thought that midline stabilization (and/or hollow) called for head looking at the wall, as opposed to head looking at the floor or at your hands? Do you look with your eyes, but maintain neutral head?

Thank you for the video.


wrote …

That makes way too much sense. I know I am not the strongest man in the gym, but this always killed me. But simply apply the mechnics we teach for a press to the HSPU..



wrote …

Conrad, in a handstand, we want an open shoulder (as much as is physically possible) with the eyes looking towards the wrists but not breaking the natural alignment of the spine. If you stick your head out, you have broken alignment. Besides, you really want to know you're going if you're holding a HS on Parallel Bars or Still Rings (not so much the case on High Bar since there are no holds on HB).

When people do back to the wall Headstand pushups, they typically arch their backs which also recruits more of their pecs which makes it easier. Doing the hollow HeSPU is more taxing since it's more just shoulders, lats, and triceps.

Arching the chest is also common in a skill called an Inverted Cross which is a handstand on rings with the arms in cross position. Many gymnasts will slightly arch to recruit some of the chest which makes it a bit easier.

Playing with it some time ago, I think I was able to do twice or thrice as many HeSPU with the back to wall compared to the hollow HeSPU. I think I was able to do 2 HeSPU with my back to the wall while keeping the back hollow compared to doing it stomach to wall.


wrote …

Seems like changing the angle is just recruiting the chest more in the same way you can lean back on an overhead press. I don't doubt that it could be easier since you're recruiting the larger chest muscles but it seems it changes the essence of the movement a bit.


wrote …

The deeper the understanding of a topic, the greater ease with which it can be taught.....and Carl taught with such ease it was truly amazing. His analogies of hip to shoulder, knee to elbow, combined with his cues allowed me to understand the movement and its importance as a training tool for so many other movements. Thanks so much for the video guys. Really appreciate it.


Phillip Sarris wrote …

Good stuff, that's the only way I can get into a handstand by walking up the wall. I would rather do my push ups that way!


Ben O'Grady wrote …

Wow, great vids and really interesting shift for HSPU's. I'm going to try this immediately at my gym.


wrote …

Very cool, but I just tried it and I'm not better that way than the old way frankly. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong but despite all the "load from the core extremities" the total of the shoulder and the elbow are still tough. More work for me to do.


wrote …

Wow, great educational video! One of the best explained gymnastics vids I've seen on here, yet. Can't wait to implement this in our box. Can we get more of Carl Paoli?!?!?


Evan Davidson wrote …

There is gold in this training method. I foresee great carry over into press-to-handstand strength (a move that I predict will be in a future CrossFit WOD, if not a future CrossFit Games), as well as many other moves (press, Ring HSPU, levers, to name a few).

That said, I suspect that the fastest Diane times are still going to be from over-arched, back-to-wall, wide hands, 6" ROM HSPUs. It's just so easy to shrug out the sets unbroken.

Don't get me wrong. I think hollow body, narrow hands, tripod based HSPUs are an essential movement in the arsenal - I just feel it's like having a front squat and a back squat in your movement repertory: but the WOD only specifies 'squat xyz lbs' and leaves it up to the individual to choose how.


wrote …

WOW - I bet this will change how HSPUs are typically done. Personally, I'm going to start facing away from the wall. I've been working on freestanding handstands, with the goal of eventually doing freestanding HSPUs, and facing the wall seems like a perfect training method. Good stuff!


wrote …

You can tell this guy hangs out with K-Star...Great stuff


wrote …

wow is the word i am a newbie to crossfit and this made me want to do hand stands keep finding new ways for me thanks


wrote …

Great video!


wrote …

Awesome stuff Carl, thank you.


wrote …

Wow...thanks so much for all the positive comments! Keeps me going


wrote …

My definition of Crossfit = Carl's crazy awesome videos with a little bit of constantly varied high intensity functional movements.

The boogeyman checks his closet for Carl Paoli!


wrote …

Awesome video! I really need work on my HSPU!

The only real reason I face away from the wall is in the most macho HSPU demo video that is how it demonstrated...

Again, Awesome!


wrote …

Will this form of HSPU be allowed in regionals?

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