In Coaching, Gymnastics/Tumbling, Videos

June 21, 2011

Video Article

Join CrossFit gymnastics coach Jeff Tucker as he takes elite athletes through handstand push-up progressions at the Again Faster Summit held at CrossFit New England.

Tucker distinguishes between two types of handstand push-ups depending upon the hand position. Tucker says that the movement using the hands out in front to create a tripod with the head is called a “headstand push-up.” When you keep the hands in line with the head, the movement is called a “handstand push-up.” While the tripod position develops stability and balance, novices rarely have the strength to press out of it into a handstand. For this reason, Tucker says he starts his athletes in a handstand and works the negative down into the tripod.

The emphasis on technique and developing strength will also serve as a buffer to form degradation during demanding workouts like Diane.

Tucker gets the athletes up against the wall to work on their handstand and headstand push-up technique. He drills them on forward-facing and wall-facing handstand push-ups, working toward a free-standing handstand push-up.

11min 36sec

Video by Again Faster.

Additional reading: Volume Training for “Goats” by Brian Wilson, published Feb. 14, 2011.

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9 Comments on “Handstand Push-Up Drills With Jeff Tucker”


wrote …

There is so much awesome in that room it should explode!!! Nice video!


wrote …

Good video, but CAUTION: bailout is very difficult for the athlete when they are facing the wall. A female client of ours recently dislocated her shoulder because she was unable to bailout while facing the wall. Once muscle failure occurs in the shoulders & triceps, its near impossible to exit the wall safely without tumbling. Athletes in the video had a hard time descending from the wall-facing position. A spotter is not helpful when the athlete collapses. It may be helpful to teach athletes how to tuck and roll away from the wall in case of failure.


At my box I teach people to face the wall for handstands and, eventually, handstand pushups.

I agree that teaching athletes how to forward roll out of the handstand is necessary, especially when attempting these skills in a WOD. I wouldn't have anyone practice chest-to-wall hspu until they're comfortable bailing out of the situation.


wrote …

I personally prefer kicking to the wall with back facing the wall for said reasons in your comments as it allows for simple exit when muscles become tired and it feels more natural to reverse lunge. Of course this video was about working some special skills with strong athletes. Many people can simply turn their hips and reverse lunge with this to come off the wall, or cartwheel out. I don't think the novice should be facing the wall in the beginning of strength development for such moves.

As for handstand forward rolls, this can be used, but it has issues as well. Some clients have very poor timing on this movement and top of head makes contact first when tired. It too is an intermediate skill and takes time to learn and should be practiced with a spotter and proper cues. Timing and placement of the controlled fall to forward roll is a skill indeed that should be learnt and takes time like all gymnastic movements.

Both of you certainly make my point, that strength for such movements and body control are key.


wrote …


You made the comment that the elbows ought not to come out too far sideways, but in the reps these athletes did afterward, their elbow position was hard to discern, probably because the camera flattened the perspective.

What's the limit we should watch for in our own reps, or the maximum deviation from a straight ahead 'rack' position? 45 degrees?
(I'm sitting at my desk pressing imaginary weights in the air.)

Thanks, as always!


wrote …

When are we going to see the full progression from wall to rings? So far it's been in pieces. The instructional aspect is really good though. If I have to rely on a strict bodyweight shoulder press (with hollow body position) to get me where I need to be to do a wall facing headstand push-up, I have a ton of work to do. It's either get stronger, lose about 40 pounds or both. And at almost 50, I'm not sure my shoulders are ready for that.

I am curious though. With the exception of former gymnasts who practiced free headstand push-ups regularly, how long did it take the athletes to be able to pop off say about 5 reps?


wrote …

I have very long arms and have always struggled with overhead movements. What is the best way to develop them? My legs have gotten very strong over the past year, but my shoulder press has only went up about 10 pounds. Is there a routine I could do that would speed up the progress of overhead strength?


replied to comment from Jeff Tucker


Which moment do you see as a more difficult handstand push up, facing the wall or back towards the wall? I work in a combination of both and see facing the wall as the easier of the two. I've also been able to do one freestanding HSPU from Yoga pose, but I lose my balance when in the locked out position.

Now I'm working on my HSPU with my rings, I'm only up to a couple of reps but its a start.


wrote …

james - for me the question is what can you do well in this realm of CF and what is the goal for you.

for me it will be to get you facing the wall eventually, and this takes good body awareness, strength, and strategies getting into the movement facing the wall and exiting the wall. many like to simply kick toward the wall because it is easier to get inverted and exit out of the wall. many make a debate to not go back to the wall because injury could occur when or if they tire - my answer to that is you should have the basic strength no matter which way you face - and good idea of when and how to get out of any movement you step up to perform.

in regards to gaming it - different tools for different reasons. if you face the wall you can train good form and use the wall as a solid anchor point when going from a to b (up and down) - you can also keep a good hollow. you need to have solid basics of form and strength for this - especially if you decide to increase range of motion or load placed on the primary mover (the shoulder) and the same can be said if your back to the wall...

work both, but keep the forms of the HS as you balance or as you add ranges of motion.


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