Basement Sessions – 5/7/18 – Handstand Push Up Training

As part of my overall training program, I have certain strength “skills” that I aim to train at least once per week. By focusing on these skills and “progressively overloading” the resistance/difficulty, I’m able to realize strength gains. AND, I’m able to do this without lifting weights. These skills are bodyweight skills, and I use the ability to manipulate my body in space to make the movement easier or harder. Bodyweight training is a great way to build functional fitness, and you can do it virtually anywhere without equipment.

Today is handstand push up day!

In the case of a handstand push up, the distance between your hands is a major way to alter the resistance of the exercise. If you consider shoulder width to be “home base” or a “neutral position” I can make the movement slightly easier by moving my hands outside of that range. Conversely, I can make the move much more difficult by moving my hands closer together.

That is why (as you’ll see below), I start with 16″ hand spacing as my first set. Then, to increase the resistance, I move my hands into 8″ for the next two sets. My progression plan is to build strength in each hand position and keep moving my hands closer together. Once I’m satisfied with my number of reps at the 8″ spacing, I’ll probably move my hands into 6″ or 4″ and start the process over again. My two-handed goal is to knock out 10-12 reps with my hands together. Then, eventually, I’ll start training one-armed handstand pushups. That is far off into the future.

My typical basement sessions follow a repeatable pattern:

  1. Warm up for 3-6 minutes by whatever mode tickles me that day
  2. Dead hang for 1 minute OR Handstand for 1 minute (more on that in future posts)
  3. Strength skill training
  4. Metabolic work for 3-10 minutes depending on time, energy, and chosen mode
  5. Cooldown for 2 minutes by whatever mode tickles me that day

Here is what today looked like:

5/7/18 – Handstand push up training

  • Warmup
    • 3 minute jump rope – various skills
    • 3 minute jumping jack circuit
      • Overhead jack
      • Seal jack
      • Vertical jack
      • Cross jack
      • Slap back jack
      • Safety jack
  • 1 minute dead hang from pull up bar (scapulas NOT retracted)
    • I try to hang and/or do static handstand multiple times per week. A future post will explain why and show the benefits. Since I was training shoulders today, I didn’t want to pre-fatigue the actual movement, so dead hang was the obvious choice. On a pull up day, I’ll do the handstand.
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • Work set 1 – Handstand push up – hands 16″ apart x 12 reps
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • Work set 2 – Handstand push up – hands 8″ apart x 7 reps
  • Rest 3 minutes
  • Work set 3 – Handstand push up – hands 8″ apart x 7 reps
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • Core work – knees to elbows hanging from pull up bar – 18 reps
    • I like to sprinkle in core work a couple of times per week. Knees to elbows is a good one as are straight leg raises.
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • Metabolic work – double battle rope slam (tabata style – 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off x 8 sets)
    • I like to count the reps so I can make sure my 8th set is as strong as my first. I never dropped below 40 reps in 20 seconds, so that was a good circuit!
  • Cooldown
    • Flappy arm swinging
    • Overhead stretch w/breathing
    • Side lunges (flow)
    • Beat your boots

The whole thing clocked in around 30 minutes. The heart rate chart isn’t anything like the charts from the exercise programs I review. But, elevated HR training wasn’t my goal. If you take a look below, you’ll see that the spikes are pretty predictable:

  • Spike 1 – doing jumping jack warm up (that is a good thing – I try to get my heart rate elevated during the warm up)
  • Spike 2 – metabolic circuit with battle ropes (that too is a good thing – I like to end strength sessions with metabolic work)

The rest of the session was relatively mellow which is a good thing. I’m not looking for huge heart rate spikes when I’m strength training. The rep counts are semi-low, and I program enough rest so I can recover before starting the next set. Otherwise, it’s counterproductive to the strength work.

handstand pushup hr chart


Calorie burn clocked in around 233 C which is surprising. My strength days are usually lower. Burning calories isn’t that big of a concern for me on strength skill days – these sessions aren’t meant for weight loss – these are meant to forge functional strength.

Do you have any favorite home workouts that you’ve put together? Do you also train the handstand push up? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please click “like” and share! 


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