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I'm looking to become fit in my upper body without having to go to the gyms. Right now I'm working on my pushups. I can do 30 normal pushups in one go, if pumping as fast as I can. I'm 6ft and 160lbs. I've switched to wide pushups and now do a combo of wide+feet elevated pushup. I can maybe get 15 in one go with this setup.

I try to work on my pushups 3 times a week, each time I do 5 sets each in the teens range. My goal is to get my strength trained enough so that I can do one hand pushups, which I can't seem to do yet. I hope that by adding additional difficulty to my current pushups I can develop the strength to do one hand pushups.

After I become strong enough at one hand pushups I plan to start training with those instead since I essentially double the load on my arm and chest used. Eventually, after getting good at one hand pushups, I can hopefully handle working with handstand pushups. I know that core strength is required as well, but I can start off handstanding next to a wall, so my core wouldn't be overwhelmed.

Does all this sound like a good plan for reaching handstand level strength?

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Handstand work

I don't see a particular reason to wait before starting handstand work. Get upside down now, and work on your handstand progression in parallel with your one-arm pushup goal.

My handstand work involves handstand holds, "running" (alternating hands), and handstand pushups as deep as I can go (which is not far). I do barbell overhead presses for raw pressing strength across the full range of motion. At the moment all my handstand work is using a wall, but getting good at freestanding work is another progression to think about.

I bet that doing handstand holds and short-range-of-motion handstand pushups will help you work up to a full handstand pushup better than regular pushups.

Gymless workouts in general

I recommend searching around for bodyweight-only strength programs to inform your training choices. I hear good things about Convict Conditioning as well as Ross Enamait's work.

  • I haven't tried doing a handstand pushup because I didn't think i was strong enough. I'm also not quite sure what muscles the handstand works, so even if I'm good at pushups I might not have all the right muscles for handstands. I'll take a look at those workout systems you recommended,thanks! – mugetsu Dec 5 '11 at 22:41
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    I'll reword my answer to be more clear: even if you can't do a handstand pushup now, you're probably capable of doing a handstand hold, and I bet doing that is better than doing pushups. – Dave Liepmann Dec 5 '11 at 22:44
  • A handstand pushup is a different muscle pattern than regular pushups anyway - there's only so much carryover. As @DaveLiepmann suggests, start against the wall. If you can only do one, then fine, that's how you start. – G__ Dec 6 '11 at 0:02
  • @Greg But I would assume that the benefits of shoulder widening still applies for handstands? – mugetsu Dec 6 '11 at 0:29
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    Sure there's some overlap, but the body responds best to very specific stresses. The best way to get good at handstands is to do handstands. – G__ Dec 6 '11 at 1:03
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Negatives work; going from a handstand to the ground as slowly as possible, ideally on parallettes or two dumbbells or two dumbbells on two benches.

You may also find you can push from the ground with a kip (bending the legs then kicking them into extension to assist the push).

When trying to get back up try to avoid resting your head on the ground; it seems to be much harder to re-initiate the push if you have completely stopped pushing and are resting on your head. Push up just before you head touches the floor.

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If you want my opinion, which is based on my personal experience (almost 15 years).

And what you looking for is:

progression to reach the handstand push up

Then here it is:

First Handstand push-ups requires a minimal hand balancing ability. So before you start training handstand push-ups, you need to be able to do a hand-stand (not walking) for at least 10 seconds. If you cannot do it - I suggest to focus on that first. If you don't know how -> Here is my video tutorial for that: Handstand basic level

Second If you can do a hand-stand, but don't have enough strength to push your self up to hand stand. Then I suggest to start with Negative training which based on eccentric contraction. Which means that you start at handstand and slowly go down. At the beginning you can do it with a mattress (in case you fall). Practicing this gradually increasing reps quantity - will build you the needed strength to push up.

Third To be able of doing many push ups in a row, I suggest to train push ups in 4 sets of maximum reps each set. And since most people lose the balance at the highest point of the move (just after they got up). I suggest to start doing those sets next to a wall - so if you lose balance you just put one leg to the wall.

Notes: Don't focus on the time it takes you, instead of that just focus on your progression. Try to get every week at least one thing better than previous.

By the way: 2013 I took 3'rd place at international competition for Calisthenics in handstand push ups category. And 2013, 2014, 2015 (until now) I'm record holder of my country for this category.

And for a lit inspiration, here is my fun video I made for last new year: HandStand push ups

  • Since your answer on that question doesn't answer the question being asked, you should replace this answer with that one, not just link back to it. – JohnP Dec 18 '15 at 21:43
  • Original answer was about handstand push ups progression which I answered. And I didn't wanted to duplicate the answers, so I gave a link to it. Perhaps you @JohnP aren't interested at learning handstand push ups - but those who do -> might find it useful. – Nikita Kurtin Dec 18 '15 at 23:10
  • Actually, I am interested in new thoughts. However the other question isn't about progression but muscle activation, and your post there doesn't answer the question. This is a brag post linked to a separate (and informative) answer that really belongs with this question. – JohnP Dec 19 '15 at 16:59
  • But many of readers aren't necessary search exactly for the question as it's asked, but many times just general searches - and sometimes find needed info in different questions. Anyway I changed them both – Nikita Kurtin Dec 20 '15 at 14:48
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If I can give you my opinion based on 8 years of bodyweight training, DO NOT RUSH, take your time!

Focus on one thing at a time, you said you would like to be able to do one arm push up, focus on that first.

Both movements are different and use different muscle groups. Push ups use pectoralis muscles mainly and as a second muscle group, deltoids. Handstand focuses on deltoids first and upper chest second. Therefore, the transition from push-ups to handstand is not the best strategy.

You mentioned that you are doing 30 push ups with speed. You could use first a tempo, let's say for example 1:0:1 which is from top starting position 1 second down, 0 at the bottom and push yourself up with power for 1 second. Use that tempo for each push-up.

Then, to train on your one arm push up and get the feel, you can use a medecine ball or a bench. Let me explain.

While keeping one hand on the floor, your second hand will be on the medecine ball. Slowly, roll the ball forward while lowering yourself down. Do this for about 10 reps and switch arm.

Alternatively, you can use a bench. One hand is staying on the floor and the other one is used as a support on the bench. 10 reps each side.

BUT! Working on push ups only is definitely not the answer. You should train full body and focus on core. I wrote a full body foundation workout couple of weeks ago, have a look, you could try each moves and see how you feel.

All the best with your training and let us know if you need help. Cheers.

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