Kipping Handstand Push-ups: The Key is Your Core

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The handstand push-up (HSPU) is a really fun skill to get down. Performing a metcon with HSPU however, can be downright frustrating at times. It’s just one of those movements that elicits a fatigue level from the movement specific muscles that can stop forward movement altogether. In other words, you hit a wall on HSPU and you can’t keep moving. You have to stop and basically stare at the wall for a while until your muscles recover enough to perform the next rep(s).

I’m here to give you a way to be able to perform both more HSPU in the short term and stave off that fatigue wall in the long-run. The key: the “core.” Most athletes that I coach simply do not bring their knees “down” enough while in the tripod position to engage their core or midline. This shortened position leads to a weak kip as well as a premature contact with the wall from the heels. What I mean here is your heels hit the wall before you have locked the HSPU out. Both are devastating forms of inefficiency in this exercise.

Photo 1

When an athlete brings their knees down as low as they can, they not only get a longer distance to produce force through that kick but they also engage their midline or core in the kipping process. Take a look at the midline of the athlete below and compare it to that of the athlete above.

Photo 2

At first glance, you only notice the difference in the legs of knee angle. But if you look closer you can see that the bottom athlete is in a hollow position at the midline in the bottom of the tripod/kipping process. As the athlete initiates their kick from this hollow position, they will be able to produce more power from this kick because they have engaged the midline or core in the kipping process.

Performing HSPU like the bottom picture will help you to be able to perform both more reps in less time as well as avoid the “fatigue wall” at least as much is humanly possible thus increase your work output in handstand exercises as well as overall.  

Handstand Push-up Warm Up Drill

Below is a simple warm up drill that we have incorporate at CrossFit Big Dane for some time now and it has helped our member immensely in developing this skill.

The concept is relatively basic and can be done in both a group setting as well as on your own. We use multiple abmats at first and then progress by taking 1 mat away each set to slowly build your confidence in the movement. Check it out!


Barrett Danz is the owner and founder of CrossFit Big Dane– located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. He brings experience as a strength and conditioning and power lifting coach prior to starting CrossFit. He has been an athlete and an avid fitness fanatic his whole life and he truly enjoys helping others find new confidence through fitness.

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