Handstand Push-Up Lead-Up exrcise
The Floor Pike Push-Up is an essential lead-up exercise for learning the Handstand Push-Up!

The Floor Pike Push-Up is one of the first lead up exercises that is absolutely essential to master if you ever want to perform a free standing, flat back Handstand Push-Up.

Watching a video of a super clean, free-standing Handstand Push-Up is what closed the deal on my transition to bodyweight training years ago. I still remember my immediate reaction: I want to do that, I have to do that, I wonder how long it will take me to do that!

I’d been in the fitness industry for more than 10 years, doing a lot of strength training using more traditional external loads (aka weights), when I began looking into advanced calisthenics. I started seeing a whole new side to strength. These guys weren’t doing lunges; they were performing incredibly cool feats of strength, on the ground, on bars, and on rings. They were obviously strong, but weren’t using any toys or gadgets to develop their seemingly superhuman abilities. I wanted to learn more.

After trying my first Handstand Push-Up, I learned just how much strength and skill go into learning that complex move. Getting there requires starting at the beginning, and progressing through a long series of lead-up exercises that will help you condition, build strength, and master the skill.

In the video tutorial below I’ll take you through step-by-step instructions for performing the Pike Push-Up. This is a great place to start you on your road to learning the HSPU! (This is also one of the progressions featured in our full-length instructional video Hand Balancing for the Bodyweight Athlete, which you can buy here.)

Exercise as Practice

One of the first things I learned was that in bodyweight training, exercise is approached as a practice. And the practice part is exactly what feats like a Handstand Push-Up require. You can’t fake it with bad form. You can’t hide your imbalances. All of your weaknesses are exposed. You either can do it or you can’t. This is self-limiting exercise at its finest.

The Skills Formula

In our bodyweight workshops, I often define skill, when applied to bodyweight training, as a combination of:

  • Maximal Strength
  • Balance/Stability
  • Coordination

The Handstand Push-Up is a perfect example of these combined efforts.

Mike Fitch handstand tutorial
Mastering the Handstand Push-Up is worth the practice!

You must possess the maximal strength to perform the movement through its full range of motion, have the balance to maintain your center of gravity over your extremely decreased base of support (your hands), and the coordination of your motor control center for every micro adjustment that takes place as you lower towards and press yourself away from the ground.

Learning the Progressions

Sounds like a lot right? Well it is! That’s exactly why there aren’t any shortcuts. You have to OWN each stop along the road to what we consider “Pinnacle” bodyweight exercises (like the HSPU). It’s common to see someone who’s enthusiastic about learning a Pinnacle exercise make the mistake of trying to go directly to the final exercise itself, only to feel defeated when they can’t do it after a few weeks or even a few tries. In a culture of instant gratification, this can be pretty shocking to some.

But we don’t want to discourage anyone from even trying a bodyweight pinnacle exercise. It’s just important to put things in perspective. You are learning a new skill and that may take years. Once you’ve accepted the time commitment that you are facing, the most important part is understanding that each Pinnacle exercise has multiple regressed variations that you have to master in order to build a solid foundation for the more advanced version later on.

The Floor Pike Push-Up

The Floor Pike Push-Up is one of the lead up exercises that is an absolute must on your road to a HSPU.

There are two things that you must have in order to perform a Handstand Push-Up. The first is being able to perform a solid handstand, which we don’t go into detail in this article. (You can check out our Hand Balancing for the Bodyweight Athlete video learn how to do handstands.) The second part is developing strength in a vertical line of force, where the elbows are pulling in towards each other and away from the head. This is essential for maintaining your balance during the lowering or negative phase of the movement as well as the pushing or positive phase on the way back up.

We start and end the Pike Push-Up with the shoulders in a “closed gap position,” which is with the shoulers shrugging up to the ears. This strengthens the same lines used in the Handstand Push-Up.

Specificity in Training for the Handstand Push-Up

Training to develop strength in this exact elbow line uses the idea of specificity, which tells us that if you want to get better at something, you must do THAT thing. Even if you’re a very long way away from performing a free standing handstand push up, all of your lead up exercises should be specific to the goal movement. The Pike Push-Up is therefore great for this, because you’re training the same lines.


Check out the video below to see step-by-step instructions for practicing the Floor Pike Push-Up.

Keeping the elbows towards each other instead of flaring out to the sides can be a very humbling experience. Our bodies have a tendency to choose the path of least resistance, so if someone is strong in pressing patterns like chest press and military press where the elbows are driving out away from the midline, they may default to this elbow position when they’re attempting the Floor Pike Push-Up. Or they’ll maintain good elbow/shoulder alignment on the way down, but when they attempt to push out of the bottom position, the exercise suddenly becomes a standard push up.

When you begin to attempt the Floor Pike Push Up, I recommend videoing yourself so you can make sure the line of force is driving through your shoulders and not through the chest. Also, keeping an eye on your elbow line will be imperative for performing this exercise correctly.

Hand Balancing for the Bodyweight Athlete

More Handstands and Handstand Push-Up Training

Interested in learning more Hand Balancing and/or progressions toward the Handstand Push-Up? Check out our full-length instructional video Hand Balancing for the Bodyweight Athlete HERE!

Published by Mike Fitch

Mike is the founder of Global Bodyweight Training. He has more than 12 years as a fitness professional encompassing a wide range of disciplines which he draws upon to create the GBT system.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hi Mike and all at GBT,

    Hope all is well and that this note finds you in fine fettle. Felt compelled to drop you a note after purchasing the quite brilliant Animal Flows instruction. Sounds a little melodramatic however it has affected a paradigm shift in my training mentality having hit a number of seemingly insurmountable plateaus. Bored of conventional weight-training, bored bored bored. Plus my Wife and I are expecting our 2nd child so I’ve been searching for something that would fit seemlessly into the 3-6 month period post-birth where acute sleep deprivation combined with lack of convenient training windows creates almost zombi-fied adults. All I can say is Animal Flows has literally opened a multi-verse of possibilities!

    The instruction is incredible, Sifu Mike runs through everything with the delicacy and accuracy of a seismograph whether it’s positions, warms up, activations, switches or combos!

    So, thankyou Mike Fitch and thankyou GCT.

    Smash it

    Rob Mac

  2. Great article, thank you for providing me with this information.
    Pike push up is a really great exercise. I’ve started with them about year ago and my goal was to build a round shoulders. Pike push ups are great for building your shoulder strength and mass to another level, as well as helping you with your handstands.

  3. This is an AWESOME post! The pike push-up is brilliant! I’ve been working on my free standing push-up for about 4 months now and never thought of the pike push up! Thank you Mike!

    Have a great day!

    Jed Kobernusz

Leave a comment