The handstand push-up (press-up) - also called the vertical push-up (press-up) or the inverted push-up (press-up) also called "commandos"- is a type of push-up exercise where the body is positioned in a handstand. For a true handstand, the exercise is performed free-standing, held in the air. To prepare the strength until one has built adequate balance, the feet are often placed against a wall, held by a partner, or secured in some other way from falling. Handstand pushups require significant strength, as well as balance and control if performed free-standing.
Handstand pushups increase the load on the triceps brachii muscles significantly over regular pushups, having the arms hold almost 100% of the body's weight rather than an average of 60 to 70% during normal pushups. Load is also shifted from the Pectoralis major muscle to the Anterior deltoids and Lateral deltoids due to the shoulders exerting in abduction while externally rotated, rather than transverse flexion. The upper fibres of the trapezius are also involved in elevating the shoulders.
In free-standing handstand pushups, the core muscles and hand muscles are both used to keep the body balanced, from falling over back, forward, or to either side, and to maintain posture. This makes it a much stronger exercise for the wrist flexors, core and legs compared to regular pushups.
Due to the difficulty of the exercise, it is common to begin training with simpler, related movements. Methods of preparing without equipment (bodyweight exercise) include holding a static handstand position, performing the movement with a reduced range of motion, or performing only the eccentric portion of the movement. Preparing with weight-lifting (overhead press) is also common for strengthening the muscles involved, for those who lack adequate balance or who cannot support their bodyweight on their hands. When one can press their bodyweight, they have developed sufficient strength to do a handstand push up and then need to learn how to balance and exert themselves while inverted.
Exercise 1 - The basic pushup The most basic exercise to start developing headstand push-up (as a true handstand push-up requires the head to go past the palms until the base of the neck is inline with the palms: this is a much harder feat of strength) strength hereafter referred to as hspu is the basic pushup. When doing the pushup care must be taken to ensure perfect form during each rep and full engagement of the scapulae at the top of the pushup. The focus is never on the number of reps but rather the quality of each rep. One quality rep will always be better than 5 poor reps.
Exercise 2 - The pike pushup After developing sufficient strength and conditioning in the upper body through the basic pushup the next variation would be the pike pushup. The pike pushup starts of in the plank pushup plank position and involves walking the feet to as close as humanly possible to the hands. The movement is initiated by leaning forwards and loading the deltoids and triceps. As with all pushup exercises care must be taken to tuck the elbows as if attempting to have them track along the torso during the movement. A good hand placement is shoulder width apart but as a start 1 or 2 inches wider than shoulder width will make the movement easier. After the lean, bend the arms and aim to make a triangle with three points being the head and your two palms. Bad practice involves lowering the head inline with the palms. This movement is harder than the pushup and you requires practice to get the body accustomed to it.
Exercise 3 - Elevated pike pushup This is a harder variation of the pike pushup and involves elevating the feet and following all the cues detailed for the pike pushup. A good guide with all pushups is to be able to do 5 sets of 10 reps before you start to think of moving on to the next progression
Exercise 4 - Debatable At this point it must be understood clearly that although one has gotten considerably stronger, the gap between elevated pike pushups and wall supported handstand pushup is immense and will take a great amount of time to bridge. Different people make use of different exercises at this point to try and bridge the gap and it is up to the athlete to see what exercise would be most beneficial for them. A few of these are a. Floating pike pushups b. Back facing the wall handstand pushups c. Weighted pike pushups
Points if Note 1. A solid handstand is a basic requirement 2. Negatives will help bridge the gap if carefully used 3. Consistency with one or two exercises (one hard and the other easy e.g. pike pushups followed by basic pushups) should be your goal as compared to trying out several different exercises all at the same time. Choose a staple, master it and move on after which it becomes the easy exercise. 4. Supplementary exercises can be anything that engages the upper body in a pushing manner e.g dips and military/dumbbell presses 5. Take care of your shoulders and elbows through proper joint preparation as this will increase your ability to train harder
The range of motion of a handstand pushup can be increased by placing the hands on objects elevated from the floor, such as boxes or chairs, parallettes, or for the greatest difficulty, gymnastic rings. This allows the head to be lowered below the level of the palms, greatly increasing the difficulty of the movement. Difficulty can also be increased by adding further resistance, either in the form of weights attached to the torso; such as a weighted vest, attached to the legs, or resistance bands.
Caution should be taken not to have one's body suspended in an upside-down position for very long periods of time, since the human body lacks a design for forcing back blood that's running to the head (something intended by force of gravity to take care of itself). While small bouts of hanging upside down have not proven to be dangerous, people with pre-existing conditions for example could make matters worse and potentially increase the risk of, among others, stroke and pulmonary oedema.
- "Living Well: Push-ups are simple, effective, economical way to build strength". seattlepi.com. 9 September 2007.
- "Is it harmful to be upside down?". news.bbc.co.uk. 24 September 2008.
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