In our recent article, The Handstand Push-Up, we discussed how to build strength for a strict handstand push-up (HSPU). We are now going to discuss the kipping handstand push-up. The kipping handstand push-up is a dynamic movement that requires the hips to explode up while you push into your handstand. This is a fast, dynamic movement that requires coordination and proper timing. When done correctly, kipping handstand push-ups will allow you to get in way more volume than the strict version does. We recommend getting at least 2-3 strict handstand push-ups before you attempt the kipping handstand push-up, just to ensure that your shoulders are strong enough to manage the volume and dynamic power that kipping will give you. Many of you will find that your handstand push-up numbers will greatly increase once the mechanics of the kipping handstand push-up have been mastered.
The Tripod Position
Lets go over the first component to the kipping handstand push-up – the set up. Place your hands flat on the ground, making the base of a triangle. Your head makes the top of the triangle. Don’t worry too much about how wide your hands are as long as you can see your hands while in the tripod position. Keep your forearms vertical, stacked on top of your wrists.
The Position for the Kip
Get into your tripod position. Raise your knees off the floor and bring them to your elbows. Stay tight through your torso so you don’t collapse. Get comfortable in this position, keeping the midline engaged (think hollow body position) and back stable. It is important to be able to maintain as flat of a back as possible while in this position because this will transfer over to your kip.
An athlete needs to recreate the momentum needed for the kip in your handstand push-up without having you transition upside down. Start in the tripod position with your knees on your elbows. Establish the flat back and tight midline. From here, kick your feet as far back as you can, maintaining your tight/hollow body position, and pushing through your shoulders. Your feet should hit the ground at the same time your arms lock out. Try driving your head through to ensure a full lock out position, tucking your chin to your chest. This position mimics the speed, explosiveness and, eventually, end position of the wall handstand push-up.
Kipping Handstand Push-Ups
Transfer these skills over to the wall. Set up about a foot away from the wall in your tripod position. Bring your knees to your elbows and establish a flat back. Keep your head neutral and look up towards the ceiling (keep your gaze here as you complete your HSPU). Explosively drive your hips up as you simultaneously push into a handstand. While exploding your hips up, drive your head thru to ensure a full lockout. Keep your belly and butt tight from start to finish.
Cycling Handstand Push-Ups
This is where skill level, strength and experience come into play. As you feel more and more comfortable with your handstand push-up, then you can begin to shorten the length of your kip. Make sure that as you lower yourself, you are hitting that same tripod position. Instead of bringing your knees all the way to your elbows, just bring them ¾ of the way down. Once that feels solid, shorten the kip even more until you have a short, quick kip. You can even pre load your hips by bending the knees as you lower yourself down so that you can explode up the second your head touches the ground. This short kip is very fast but requires substantial shoulder strength. This is an advanced version of the kipping handstand push-up.
You will see athletes use different kips in their workouts depending on the load and rep scheme. If the volume is high, then they may go to a larger kip. This will take longer than a short kip but will save the shoulders. Experiment with what feels good and test out different kips in your workouts.
If you want to continue working on your gymnastics skills, check out our Invictus Gymnastics program, which is a monthly accessory program focused on improving your gymnastics for CrossFit, no matter what level you are currently at. You can also re-watch Travis’s tips on kipping Handstand Push-Ups from our Facebook Live video recently filmed.