Press Handstand Training

In Bodyweight Mastery by admin5 Comments

There is one move that has eluded me for a long time. But I am making progress towards it and that is what this article is all about. Here I’ll be giving you two exercises with variations for press handstand training.

When I refer to a press handstand I specifically mean a straight arm straddle press. That’s the first step in a variety of different press handstands you can do. This video shows a more difficult version where you start in a straddle sit position. I’m only working on going from the feet on the ground behind my hands as the first step and my goal.

It’s weird…for some people this move seems to come easily. My guess is that it has something to do with their build. Shorter torsos and arms seem to help make this move easier. Not making excuses for myself, just something I’ve noticed.

Done properly this move doesn’t require too much strength. It’s more about active flexibility and controlling your body in the position. And the strength it requires isn’t of the brute strength variety.

With my recent back injury my flexibility training got sidelined. In fact the hip and hamstring flexibility is the one thing that I really couldn’t do. As mentioned that is resolving but I’ve been brought back a couple steps from what I had.

Pancake Drill

I need more of this flexibility to do a press handstand.

Yet still I’m making what I see as progress towards this exercise. This move is tough in that it isn’t always easy to judge when and where you make your progress. It’s not something you can add and subtract weight, or just get more reps on. And sometimes the assistance drills may help with one aspect of the move but not others.

Here are two drills I’ve been doing recently that will help you in your press handstand training.

Straight Arm Press Negatives

Of course the easy way to start with this move is to kick up into a handstand (by the way, if you can’t balance in a freestand handstand yet, I would work on that first and recommend you check out this handstand program to get started). From here you lower done under as much control as you can. The problem in the beginning is that you won’t get far.

I’ve been working on several variations of this and for the first time the other day I was able to lower into a tuck planche with mostly straight arms. At a couple points my arms want to bend as my arms are strong. I can do several bent arm straddle presses but that’s not what I’m going for.

Of course a negative is still a ways off from doing the positive portion, but it’s a step in the right direction. The key thing I’m starting to feel right now is that I’m able to push the shoulders and scapula up as I start to lower rather than everything collapsing.

The straight arm strength you build in hand balancing and some other gymnastic training like levers is unlike anything else done with weights.

There are many other variations of the negatives, like the straddle press that I am also training, because I like to mix it up. It’s an essential piece.

Headstand Leg Raises

I’ve used other variations of this move previously but I stumbled across an unusual fact just recently. When you alter the balance of the headstand by bringing the arms into the yoga headstand variation from the normal hands flat on ground headstand position, the flexibility required to do this move dramatically increases. Check out this video for full details.

The headstand leg raise is commonly used as just an abdominal exercise but here it’s been re-purposed to help towards the function I’m going for. My guess is that if you find this move really easy to do, you probably already can do a press handstand, or wouldn’t struggle to master it as long as I have. If you do have problems there are four versions here ranked from easiest to hardest they are:

1. Straddle Normal Headstand Leg Raise
2. Pike Normal Headstand Leg Raise
3. Straddle Yoga Headstand Leg Raise
4. Pike Yoga Headstand Leg Raise

I got lots more press handstand training drills like these that I’ve been doing, but if you put these into your training you too can master this move.

By the way I’m going to be bringing these sort of progressions in bodyweight training and teaching them at the upcoming Super Human Training Workshop #3. We’ve got just two spots left at the introductory price. (And if you haven’t already be sure to check out the video on that page. It will pump you up!)


  1. Your lowering from the handstand into a bent arm tuck planche which will have no carry over into the straight arm press. You must keep the elbows locked and arms straight at all times. It might be worth going back to working a good form tuck planche (straight arms, shoulders engaged, not winging) on the floor/paralettes before trying to lower into it from a handstand
    For the straddle press from feet on the floor, its about leaning forward (the less flexible, the more you have to lean), keeping arms completely straight while pushing from the shoulders, and lean and push until you feel your feet leaving the floor, then think about getting your ass above your head.
    Once you have your first one, the second, third etc come very easily! Flexibility helps a lot, its what is holding me back from performing the straddle sit variation

    1. Author

      I agree with what you’re saying. Part of what is difficult for me is maintaining locked arms in the pressing movements. I can hold a tuck planche no problem. So in my opinion getting close to a straight arm, with a slight bend as I have here, is a step in the right direction and soon I’ll be able to do it with completely locked out arms.

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