If you watched the recent Olympic Games from Greece you probably noticed the strong shoulder and arm development on the male gymnasts. This comes from many hours of practice with the execution of pressing into a handstand as the main catalyst for the majority of their complex moves.
Back in the 1950’s and early 1960’s the Handstand Press-Up was used by many bodybuilding and fitnesss enthusiasts to develop their shoulders into “Cannonball Delt” proportions.
Originally used by early gymnasts and hand balancers to get into a handstand, this movement was embraced by early bodybuilders who saw its muscle building potential.
For some reason (probably because it is difficult – no panty waists allowed!) this exercise lost popularity and is rarely seen today.
Let’s start a Handstand Press-Up revival! (No Girlie-Men need apply!) This exercise bombs the shoulders (deltoids), arms (tricep area), back, and a host of stabilizer muscles used for balancing under resistance. Also, you’ll increase your poundage in the military press as this exercise attacks the same muscles but from a different angle. As an extra added bonus there is no equipment needed except a wall and with a little extra practice you can learn to do a true handstand without the help of the wall.
To start, place your hands on the floor about shoulder width apart and approximately 12 to 18 inches from a wall. Experiment to find a handspacing and distance from the wall that is comfortable for you. Kick up into the handstand position with your feet resting against the wall. It helps to be barefoot or in socks. Next, keeping your head back, slowly and deliberately bend your arms and lower your body until your forehead is almost touching the floor. Now with your feet still against the wall press your body back up to where you started by straightening your arms. This is a difficult exercise, especially for women, and you may be lucky to do only one rep at first. If this is the case start off by doing “negatives” which in this case would mean to start from the arms straight position and very slowly lower your body to the low position resisting all the way. Repeat these “negatives” for several reps. Gradually with patience and practice, over time you will be able to push yourself back up to the top for several repetitions.
To make this exercise even harder you can place a thick book under each hand. This will force you to lower your body even further thus placing more stress on your arms (triceps) and shoulders (deltoids). However, this is a more advanced version that will take a bit of practice to work up to.
After you have acquired the control, balance, and strength necessary to do this exercise correctly you can gently push your feet away from the wall and try to maintain a true handstand position as long as you can. If your legs fall down to the floor, be persistent and kick them back so that your feet are touching the wall and once again gently push them away like before. Again, hold this unassisted handstand as long as you can. Like everything else in life, practice, practice, practice is the key to success!