Movement standards in CrossFit are changing constantly. A skill or a weight that was once considered difficult a few years ago is now something that almost every average CrossFitter is expected to have the ability to do. Take handstand push-ups for example: this is an advanced gymnastics skill that has been a staple in the CrossFit Open the past few years. Up until this year, individuals who were completing the Open workouts were allowed to kip their handstand push-ups – essentially use their hips to help them press from the bottom position. However, in Open workout 19.3 of this year, members of the CrossFit community saw the introduction of strict handstand push-ups as a new Open movement. Athletes were no longer allowed to use the assistance of their hips to press themselves off the ground; instead, they had to rely solely on their upper body pushing power to get themselves off the ground.
In order to keep up with these ever-changing standards, we have to embrace the process of evolving as athletes – our mindset, our skill set, and our training methodology. In keeping with this theme, the following drills are an excellent way to build upper body strength capacity for strict handstand push-ups. The Open is just around the corner (coming October 2019!) and you want to be ready for it!
Top Half Strict Press
This movement starts when the barbell is overhead. Therefore, the first “rep” is essentially a push press to get the barbell in the overhead position. From there, you lower the barbell to about nose/forehead height (creating a tripod position with your head and elbows) and then strict press the barbell straight overhead. Ideally, you will be able to use more weight in this press than you would in the traditional strict press because your range of motion has been reduced. In the handstand push-up, the range of motion ends at the head, so this movement is mimicked by only bringing the barbell down to your forehead.
Handstand Push-Up Negatives
Kick up to the wall so that you are in a handstand hold position. You want to create a tripod shape with your head as the point and your hands as the two facing corners. Also, make sure that your core is tightly engaged with the rib cage pulled down so that your back is not in a hyperextended position. From here, slowly lower your body to the bottom of the handstand push-up position (almost like a tempo push-up; descending with a 3-second or 5-second count). Once you’ve reached the bottom position, don’t try to push back up; instead, come down off the wall. Perform 5 sets of 5 reps with a 60-90 second rest in between each set.
Seated Dumbbell Strict Press
Sit on the ground with your feet straight out in front of you and your dumbbells resting on your shoulders. Before you press the dumbbells overhead, you want to engage your core (in other words, clench your stomach like someone is about to punch you; you can also sit with your back against the wall to help you maintain a straight back). You are then going to press the dumbbells straight over your head and then actively pull them back down to your shoulders. You want to mimic the movement of a handstand push-up as you complete each rep. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps.