When it comes to shoulder training, nothing beats the handstand push-up for sheer shoulder-building power.
To do the handstand push-up, you need to kick up into a handstand (generally with your feet touching a wall), lower yourself down like a shoulder press, then push yourself back up. All of this performed upside down with your entire bodyweight for resistance.
However, as effective as it is, the handstand push-up is also one of the hardest and more dangerous exercises to perform! If you don't have the strength to perform it correctly, it'll drop you right on your head, which is rarely a good thing.
So how do we harness the shoulder-blasting power of the handstand push-up while not only keeping it safe but also adjusting the resistance so you can perform it (or variations of it) no matter what your strength level?
How to do the Pike Handstand Push-Up
This exercise is performed almost exactly like a regular handstand push-up with one major difference...instead of going up into a full handstand, you set your feet on a bench and bend your body in half at a right angle (pike position). In that position, you perform the push-up.
To get into position, all you need is a bench, a chair or some steps. Set your hands on the ground a little beyond shoulder width apart and about 2 feet in front of the bench. When your hands are planted, step back and up and set your toes on the bench. Bend only at your hips so your body forms an upside-down "L" shape.
When doing this exercise, your fingers should be spread wide for best stability. Look directly back and underneath the bench in order to keep your torso vertical. If you try and look forward, you'll change the focus of the exercise and possibly plant your nose into the floor.
Lower yourself down just like you were doing the negative of a shoulder press. Touch your head lightly to the ground then press yourself back up.
Because your lower body is supported on the bench, this reduces the resistance that your shoulders must work against, allowing you to reap the benefits of the handstand push-up movement without being forced to use your whole body as resistance.
As you get stronger with the movement, you can set your hands on two push-up handles or on the handles of two dumbbells (use hex dumbbells so that they don't roll out on you). This will give you a somewhat greater range of motion and further develop the shoulders.
Even though this exercise is an easier variation of the handstand push-up, you still need to be careful about balance and about being upside down while exerting yourself. Do only a few reps the first time you try it and stand yourself back up slowly.
This exercise can also be performed using push-up handles or by setting your hands on dumbbell handles.
This increases the range of motion, giving you a little extra workload on your shoulders.
If you have training bands, you can also loop a small band around your wrists and do a Hybrid Pike Handstand Push-Up.
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