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Handstand Pushup Tips from Spealler

By Holley | In Gymnastics | on January 24, 2013

With handstand pushups being listed as a movement in the upcoming team competition, I went looking for tips on how to improve my form. I came across a crossfit.com video through James’ Work Hard, Work Harder page that I think has great tips for people attempting any form of a HSPU. The advice comes from CrossFit Games competitor Chris Spealler, who is one of the smaller competitors and is known for his efficiency in bodyweight movements. Matt Chan, another CrossFit competitor, helps him demonstrate the different types of HSPUs.

For those of you who don’t have handstand pushups yet who are working on negatives, the first part of the video is for you. Right away Spealler covers a topic that I rarely hear talked about when covering HSPU technique. He points out that as Matt Chan lowers to the bottom of the HSPU, his elbows point out away from the wall and his head comes down closer to the wall in more of a tripod position. Most people attempt them by bringing their head down right between their hands and pointing their elbows out to the side. Spealler compares this movement to a press, would you press the bar from your shoulders to overhead with your elbows pointing out to the side? No, your elbows stay in front of you. So next time you’re attempting a negative, focus on keeping your elbows forward and ending in a tripod position. Another important cue for those of you working on negatives is to keep the core tight, do not allow your back to hyperextend. This makes the HSPU far more efficient, protects your back and helps you stay against the wall.

For those of you who are finishing a strict or kipping HSPU, it is very important to keep your core tight so that you can stay against the wall. The rep is not complete if your feet come off the wall, so stay tight on the way up. Spealler did mention that a brief period of over-extension in your back does shorten the range of motion, so it’s not necessarily a bad idea to allow a little over-extension on your way up, just finish with a tight core. I find that’s how I do my HSPU and I really focus on tightening everything up right as I finish the movement. I do find it’s harder to finish the movement when I’m fatigued and I let my back over-extend, so it’s definitely not the best way to do a HSPU and as Spealler points out, is inefficient.

The video then moves on to kipping HSPU where the movement is very much the same, but your bring your knees down and use your violent hip opening to drive you upward. Spealler says that the more your bring your knees down, the more energy you’ll have moving up. He also suggests playing with how far your hands are away from the wall. When you kip it’s easy to fall away from the wall at the top, which is a no rep. So if you lean a little bit more, gravity will help pull you into the wall. It also helps to kip toward the wall, not just straight up.

Spealler ends with a discussion of ring HSPU which is a VERY advanced movement. Feel free to hear what he has to say, but I won’t go into detail in this post.

So next time you’re working on your HSPU negatives, strict HSPU or kipping HSPU, think back to these cues to make the most efficient movement possible for your body type. Like Alia says, “perfect practice makes perfect.”


WOD 01.24.2013

Skills day
-Mobility & Recovery Time: Shoulders & Hips
-Yoke Carry Work
-Rope Climb Skills
-Individual Skills Time

3 Comments to "Handstand Pushup Tips from Spealler"

  • James says:

    January 24, 2013 at 11:13 AM -

    Cool! I’m glad I posted something useful! Thanks Holly =)

  • Mike S. says:

    January 24, 2013 at 1:12 PM -

    Shoulder *and* hip mobility & recovery!?!? Where do I sign up? Oh yeah, using the link above.

  • Picking a HSPU Kip – by Coach Holley | Intrepid Athletics PDX says:

    December 5, 2014 at 9:06 PM -

    […] This post won’t cover the kipping HSPU progressions, you can learn about that in this post here. Annie Thorisdottir posted a video yesterday about the different variations of the kipping HSPU, […]

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