I'd like to be able to do handstand presses but can't. I can't even lift my feet off the ground or even get that close.

What muscle groups do I need to develop in order to be able to do this move?

Maybe shoulders? Maybe abs (although I can already do L-sits pretty reliably)? Maybe lower back?

If there's a specific muscle group I should be targeting what would be good exercises for that muscle group given my goal?


5 Answers 5


Probably the easiest form of 'handstand press' is starting with your feet on the ground, legs wide, putting your hands between the legs, and lift from there. (This version is called 'straddle press'.) There are many tutorials on youtube, see eg. this.

To achieve this, you need: core strength, shoulder strength, hip and hamstring flexibility, wrist strength and flexibility.

You can work on these separately of course. On putting the movement together: for me the most helpful exercise was to get in the starting position, lift off the heels, actively press on the ground, lift between the shoulder blades, pulling the knees into the chest, and just stay there. Doing this right, eventually the legs will just want to lift off. You can do the same thing with the legs close to each other, then lift off one leg, then change etc.

It's all a bit tricky because sticking up your pelvis into the air won't help, actually you need to press down, and the floor will press you up.

  • Does it matter how far apart your hands are in front of your feet?
    – neubert
    Oct 25, 2013 at 16:09
  • Yes, it affects the difficulty, because you need to bring the pelvis directly above the hands before the lift. It takes some experimentation to find the best spot. Usually slightly forward of the legs, but that depends on flexiblity and the relative length of your limbs.
    – BKE
    Oct 25, 2013 at 16:50

I would say this is mostly CORE, shoulders, lower back intensive.

Exercises that would increase mobility and strength include:

Yoga - stretching flexibility core stabilization Core work - planks, weighted crunches, leg lifts, hanging leg raises Military presses lateral raises - work your delts and traps for stabilization to hold that position.

The movement.

Getting into position is probably the hardest part of this. You can start by standing a little less than a body length away from a wall. Get in the starting position with your head tilted down and your hands palm down on the floor. I believe you start sitting. Place your hands directly under you and practice holding yourself up, pushing up off the ground, hold and repeat.

Get a chair and place it behind you, or use the wall as mentioned previously. With your hands in the same position as the starting position, kick your legs up to the chair or a low point on top of the wall, hold, repeat. This should be like the half way point, maybe a little less than half way point.

I think your main goals for this is to get your core in shape. If those core exercises are too extreme, maybe you could try pelvic tilts, or other core activating exercises so you know what it really feels like. This is probably just a start. Good luck!


One minor thing to add to the existing answers, when doing a handstand press, particularly when doing so slowly, is that the shoulders will typically wind up in front of the hands so that your torso can create a counter-balance with your legs. A common rookie mistake is to have the shoulders stacked above the hands as they tend to be at the pinnacle of the handstand, or even behind them (if you're used to "kicking up" into the handstand, particularly from a standing or a lunged position, having your shoulders a bit behind your hands allows you to compensate for kicking too far).

One way to work past this is to put your hands and feet down and the gradually shift your weight forward, letting your shoulders move past your planted hands, and to feel the "weight" of your feet decrease as your center of balance shifts forward. As with learning the yoga crow position, be careful about doing this on hard surfaces, as you're likely to fall forward or have your arms buckle at first, sending you headfirst into the ground.


It is more of balance I'd say over anything otherwise. You have to take total control of your body, by stretching, meditating, practicing exercises involving balance, and etc. You might also need to build your entire upper body for the strength part. However, even after doing all these, some people may still find it challenging(too heavy, too old, etc.) and may not be able to do them. Handstand push ups could really screw you over if you can't do them right, or if you can't lift your weight, so I'd say don't do them unless you are positive you can lift your weight and lift it properly. Head injuries, neck injuries, and shoulder injuries could result otherwise.

  • 1
    You are answering for handstand pushups, which are not the same as handstand presses.
    – JohnP
    Sep 6, 2015 at 2:22

This is an extremely complicated move you got it mind and it depends how is your current physical fitness and strength level is. Handstand press needs so many factors such as great balance, the ability of standing body weight by different muscle group (proportional muscle strength) and a lot of skill factor.

For the first matter, balance, you need to start from practicing this move besides the wall.

As the ability of standing your body weight and lifting it up which comes to your actual question, shoulder and upper body strength matters a lot. You can work on them by adding chin-ups, shoulder presses, and push-ups to your workout.

Skill!! needs practice, practice, practice.

There are great resources online to give you the gist such as How to Work up to a Handstand Push Up which gives you the step by step idea and lots of Youtube videos such as video from KinoYoga Youtube channel.

  • 3
    This is tips for a handstand pushup, not a handstand press. Very different exercises.
    – user2861
    Oct 21, 2013 at 10:16
  • When we say very different, do we want to just say something or everybody is struggling to see the finishing position is just the same? I doubt anybody answering this question is capable of doing handstand presses and hasn't practiced the first steps by using the wall. hand stand push up won't necessarily need the balance factor since it's mainly done besides the wall and to strengthen the press movement.
    – Mehrad
    Oct 21, 2013 at 22:43
  • Although I am happy to take down the answer if it's that noneducational and tricky to figure out.
    – Mehrad
    Oct 21, 2013 at 22:46

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