NINJA: Handstand Push Ups

Photo by: Funky64

If anybody tells you that you can’t teach an old ninja new tricks, don’t believe them.  This ninja recently learned a couple of ways to improve a long time favorite exercise: The Handstand Push-Up.

I have been doing handstand push-ups since high school.  I love them.  You can do them against any open wall.  You look cool doing them.  They shred your shoulders and back and they are a natural compliment to pull-ups.

Looking Down = Incorrect Head Position

Looking back = Correct Head Position

When Yavor stopped by and left a comment on the Weird and Wonderful Avocados post, I went to scope out his site: Relative Strength Advantage.  Turns out, Yavor is also an admirer of the handstand push-up.  His post Handstand Push-ups: How to Make Them Easier and Get Super Hero Shoulders in the Process is a must read for rookies and pros alike.

After reading Yavor’s post, I paid more attention to my head position. My instinct is to look at the floor.  I tend to want to see what I am about to face-plant into.  Following Yavor’s advice, I tried looking forward, at the far wall, instead of down at the floor.  Instant improvement.  The exercise was smoother through the full range of motion and with a properly aligned body I was definitely working more efficiently.

Handstand - Side Freeze

Handstand - Front Freeze

When Kristina Dobyns of Freestyle Fitness Addiction started following me on twitter, I had to check out her web site too.  It was like hitting the daily double, when I came across her freestyle fitness move of the week…handstands.  Kristina takes the difficulty level up a notch when she points out that by angling your feet in different ways, you place a huge demand on your core! I dare you to position your legs in different configurations! It’s hard! But good! And it looks badass.

Well, ninjas are badass, so I spent the weekend playing around with these.  Kristina calls them freezes and she is not joking when she says that freezes place a huge demand on your core.  It takes a lot to get to my abdominals.  Plenty of years with swimming, boxing, and now TKD and I have solid ab strength…but after experimenting with freezes, my abs were feeling it.

If ninja pull-ups and handstand push-ups have got you thinking more about training your shoulders and working your back, then you should definitely read Matt Perryman’s article Training the Back.  Another well thought out and well written article from Matt!

Meanwhile, how many of you that are dedicated to doing pull-ups or lat pull-downs are equally dedicated to handstands and handstand push-ups?  Let us know in the comments how you incorporate handstands and handstand push-ups into your training.

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

NINJA: Pull-ups

NINJA: How to Count Like a Ninja

NINJA: Squat Stretch

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13 responses to “NINJA: Handstand Push Ups

  1. Hey Adam! Thanks for the shout out. Maybe we should play a fun game. I will have to get all technologically handy and have someone use my iphone to shoot a vid (or one day buy a videocamera) and we can go back and forth. Er. IF YOU’RE READY!!! Too bad I’m like a headstand/handstand WIZARD!! Anyway…the game is called “the stacking game” that we bboys/bgirls do sometimes to get comfortable with freezes and transitioning from freeze to freeze. One person does one freeze (Person A). Person B then repeats freeze one, then adds on freeze #2. Person A (or C) then repeats freeze one, two, then adds on number 3. And so forth. When someone allows their foot to touch, or falls, or can’t perform it, etc, then they’re out of the game. The victor is the one who can stack the most freezes!!! It works your muscular endurance like a mofo! It used to be one of my favorite games…maybe we can reinstate it…if you want to test the master!!!!!!!!!! That’s pathetic of me, to try to challenge a non-bboy with this game, but hey I’m down if you’re down, maybe it’d be good for both of us ;P esp. considering how I need to build back my strength and stamina cuz I haven’t been dancing in forever…

  2. stoffainkorea

    Sounds like a great idea and a fun way to learn some more freezes…might as well learn from the master! Just remember, ninjas don’t play fair. To be continued…

  3. stoffainkorea

    More info from Kristina…and some amazing pics!

    BTW..nice freezes! One thing I find interesting is that handstands have different “protocols” depending on your sport, eg a headstand in yoga is prescribed differently than in gymnastics or differently in breaking. In breaking for example, the angle of your shoulder will be much different- you would be inverted. I am not describing it well. Peep these pics and check out the head and shoulders and hopefully you get what I am saying.
    1) http://www.hiphoper.com/03d/img_dt/20060731_dt_ext_46.jpg
    2) http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3131/2664633741_e429d37390.jpg?v=0
    3) http://www.nxtlevel.com/bboy1.jpg
    4) http://img.youtube.com/vi/3gK0p-w4D4k/0.jpg (low quality pic, but I am google searching and this perfectly demonstrates a great way to practice for the invert)
    5) http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3456/3927914387_9fa421f622.jpg
    6) http://www.bboy.org/gallery/data/500/medium/4533jakj_invert1.jpg
    7) http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3230/3028377724_76d5bdf809.jpg
    8) http://www.bboy.org/gallery/data/2/medium/MyHollow.jpg

  4. Adam, I hope my article was useful to you. Those freezes do look badass btw :)

    On a side note – do you live in Korea? I always wanted to spend some time in East Asia. Fantastic…

    Yavor

    • stoffainkorea

      I’m living in Seoul and it is fantastic. Lots going on here right now. Look for a second post this week, which will give a little bit more info about this experience.

      Yes and thank-you, your article was very helpful. I also liked the idea of using books to gradually increase range of motion. My range of motion is good, but definitely recommend this approach to those just starting out.

  5. Wow. I do not see those in my future.

    • stoffainkorea

      I thought we worked on handstand push-ups…no? Either way, if you follow the advice in Yavor’s article, you will be able to do them. I recommend working on kicking up to a handstand (against a wall) and holding it. Kicking up can be tricky at first and the only way to get good at it is practice. As you go up and definitely once you are up, tighten your abs and glutes, that will help stabilize you.

  6. Crazy cool. I don’t know if I’m up to them yet, but it’s fun to have a goal.

  7. Altering the leg position or bending sideways in a handstand is kinda like doing standing side bend stretches I guess.

  8. Handstand is one of the more intimidating poses, but once you do it, it feels awesome. I found Leeann Carey has a free yoga video with great pointers for Handstand. I thought your readers might want to check it out: http://planetyoga.com/yoga-blogs/index.php/free-yoga-video-adho-mukha-vrksasana-downward-facing-tree-pose-handstand/

    • Thanks for the link to the video. I like the way the instructor corrects the position of the pelvis. When learning handstands it definitely helps to have someone guide you into the correct body position, so you can feel the difference.

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