How to Develop Handstand Pushups from the Ground Up

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Weapons Development

By 2013 CrossFit® Games Athlete Emily Friedman

Handstand pushupsWhen I first began CrossFit® in September of 2012 I had never even heard of a handstand pushup. I was not a level 3 gymnast! In fact, I quit gymnastics at age 6 because I refused to wear a pink leotard. I had no gymnastics background and was learning all these new skills for the 1st time. Luckily, I had a great coach who knew me well as an athlete and who knew how to develop skills quickly and methodically. The 4 main methods for developing skills that I use are EMOMS (sets every minute on the minute), a Pavel series, 3-5 max sets with full recovery, and, “X” reps for time. (a certain number of reps for time that I try I to complete in a shorter and shorter period of time). In this blog I’m going to give you an inside look at how you can develop handstand pushups from the ground up using EMOMs.

First, let me preface this by saying that CrossFit is rooted in the idea that a general fitness program should be constantly varied in nature. Humans should not be specialists in any one thing, but be proficient in many modalities. The variation in our style of fitness is what allows us to be extremely well rounded athletes and it is important to maintain. However, it is also important not to confuse “constantly varied” with “random”, especially when developing skills. And, getting better at everything at once requires more time than getting better at 1 specific skill quickly. If you want to get good at a specific skill quickly it is beneficial to have a structured plan for that particular skill and be extremely consistent with it. In a sense, you are becoming a “specialist” in that skill for a short period of time. Some people call this “goat training”. I prefer the term “weapons development”.

When using this program, these EMOMs should be done with a rest day in between. For example, if you start day 1 on a Monday, day 2 should be on Wednesday, day 3 should be on Friday, Day 4 should be on Sunday, etc. Also, you should start on the day just proceeding your 5 rep max. So, if your 5 rep max is currently 5 handstand pushups to 1 abmat, then you should start on Day 6. If you are unable to complete a day, then repeat the day until you can complete the work before moving on. Lastly, this is a program to develop STRICT handstand pushups. If you can do them strict, your kipping HSPU will feel like easy! If you want to practice your kipping HSPU, do them after these sets or work them into your daily WOD’s. Goodluck!! 

PHASE 1: Building full range of motion strict handstand pushups

  • Day 1     Work on kicking up into static handstand hold
  • Day 3     EMOM (10 mins) static handstand holds 10 sec
  • Day 3     EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU to 2 abmats
  • Day 4     EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU to 2 abmats
  • Day 4     EMOM (10 mins) x 5 HSPU to 2 abmats
  • Day 5     EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU to 1 abmats
  • Day 6     EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU to 1 abmats
  • Day 7     EMOM (10 mins) x 5 HSPU to 1 abmats
  • Day 8     EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU to parallel
  • Day 9     EMOM (10 mins) x 2 HSPU to parallel
  • Day 10   EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU to parallel
  • Day 11   EMOM (10 mins) x 4 HSPU to parallel
  • Day 12   EMOM (10 mins) x 5 HSPU to parallel

PHASE 2: Deficits/Parallets (the same progression can be used for either)

  • Day 13    EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU to parallel + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 14    EMOM (10 mins) x 2 HSPU to parallel + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 15    EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU to parallel + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 16    EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU 2” deficit
  • Day 17    EMOM (10 mins) x 2 HSPU 2” deficit
  • Day 18    EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU 2” deficit
  • Day 19    EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU 2” deficit + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 20    EMOM (10 mins) x 2 HSPU 2” deficit + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 21    EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU 2” deficit + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 22    EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU 4” deficit
  • Day 23    EMOM (10 mins) x 2 HSPU 4” deficit
  • Day 24    EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU 4” deficit
  • Day 25    EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU 4” deficit + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 26    EMOM (10 mins) x 2 HSPU 4” deficit + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 27   EMOM (10 mins) x 3 HSPU 4” deficit + 10-15lb weighted vest
  • Day 28    EMOM (10 mins) x 1 HSPU 6” deficit
  • Day 29    EMOM (10 mins) x 2 HSPU 6” deficit

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