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Clapping Handstand Pushups

First off, I think it goes without saying that you’ll need to be very proficient in the freestanding handstand pushup. At least three or four in a row is probably a good minimum. If you are at this level, then this skill should come fairly easy.

I use myself as an example for this. I have never trained specifically for this skill, only for greater overhead pressing strength and proficient handstand balancing, yet I can still bang out a couple of these clapping handstand pushups most days of the week. They aren’t the prettiest things, but they’re solid and consistent.

Additional focused training on the skill would undoubtedly clean up technique and teach the muscles to fire off quicker and stronger in the handstand position, but I just want to emphasis that building general pressing strength in the freestanding position will help you more than anything.

Therefore, this tutorial will focus on technique of the skill and not progressive exercises for it.

Technique and Tips

Alright, so you’ve got the strength and feel ready to tackle this skill. There’s a couple things that’ll make the pushup easier.

First step is to get your hands shoulder-width or slightly closer. If you tend to have a wide hand placement in your handstand, this skill will become much harder. You don’t need to have your hands touching (a position which would probably inhibit an explosive press) but be aware of the distance between your hands if you are getting a good jump off the ground but having trouble clapping your hands.

Sticking your head out, facing your chest to the ground, and arching your legs over all help with the skill in my opinion. Not only will you be able to get a stronger push off by involving the chest more, but I just feel more comfortable with the simple fact that I’m looking straight at the ground and my hands the entire time!

Now when you bend your arms to prepare for the jump, it helps to think about some of the things you do when you perform a regular vertical jump. In a two-footed vertical jump, you would never squat all the way down and then expect to jump your highest. Same thing applies here, so you don’t want to bend your arms all the way. The photo above shows the maximum depth you’ll probably want to go before you extend your arms. Drop fast, but controlled into the bottom position.

Just like a regular vertical jump, you also don’t want to spend too much time in the bottom position of the jump. Doing so wastes the stored elastic energy of the muscles that will allow you to jump high enough to perform the skill.

So bend your arms, dip down, then extend your arms to explode upwards – all as fast as you can. If this confuses you, again think of how you jump with two feet and apply the same concepts to your arms. Your body should start to lift off the ground at the top of the jump. You probably won’t be jumping too high off the ground, but it’ll be enough to clap your hands.

Can you use your legs to help you get extra height? Sure you can. Pumping the legs at the correct time and direction can certainly add a bit more height. This is part of the technique I have not personally worked on though. Is it essential to do? No.

Hopefully at this point your weight is off the ground. Now all there is to do is to clap your hands together as fast as you possibly can. To say this happens quick is an understatement. If you perform regular clapping pushups you may get a significant amount of airtime with each pushup. Not the case with these. Perhaps in time we’ll be jumping onto foot high benches with just our hands, but now let’s be happy with getting high enough to move our hands.

When I’m clapping with this skill, I’m actually focused more on just putting my hands back down! Think about moving the hands in and out as quickly as possible and the clapping will take care of itself. Just make sure you get your hands flat on the ground each time. Make it your #1 priority or you are likely to dive straight into the ground.

When you do catch yourself, bend your arms slightly to absorb the impact. You’ll notice that my hands are also wider apart than when I started. As I said before, I’m focused on getting my hands down safely first, clapping second! The hands land wider because I am moving them outwards from the center (and back to support my bodyweight) very quickly.

From the Side

Viewing the skill from the side, the first thing you can notice is the arch of the handstand and the fact that my head is sticking out. This helps use the chest more in the pushup and get a higher jump.

Dip down.

Extend your arms as fast as you can.


…and catch.


Here’s a video of me performing the skill for a Men’s Health online contest. You can see it as the first skill of the first video. (I definitely wanted to perform it when fresh!)

This is definitely not the easiest skill to get, simply because of the high prerequisite level of shoulder strength and balance needed, but once you do have several consecutive handstand pushups under your belt, it’s a great skill to further challenge yourself!

Good luck with this skill and your training!

Aug 18, 2010 | Category: Presses & Pushups, Tutorial | Comments: 3


3 Responses to “Clapping Handstand Pushups”

  1. Mike

    Hey, I noticed that you say that this exercise requires a certain amount of shoulder strength. Well, I agree with you! What is frustrating is, as hard as I try I can hardly do handstands without the help of a wall for support. What exercises can I do to build shoulder strength?


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