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Muscle Groups for Handstand Pushups

author image Dan Harriman
Dan Harriman began writing professionally in 2009 and has a varied background in marketing, ranging from sports management to music promotion. Harriman holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with an emphasis on strategic communications from the University of Kansas and earned the International Advertising Association's diploma in marketing communications.
Muscle Groups for Handstand Pushups
A spotter assisting a woman into a handstand in a cross fit gym. Photo Credit undrey/iStock/Getty Images

The handstand pushup is an intense exercise that uses a number of muscle groups. You can incorporate handstand pushups into practically any upper body workout. This compound exercise is ideal if you don't have any equipment to work out on, as it relies on gravity and your own body weight for resistance. Ensure you are strong enough to attempt a handstand pushup and use a spotter for safety.


The primary muscle groups involved during a handstand pushup are the shoulders and triceps. Particular shoulder muscles that are involved are the deltoids, trapezius and rhomboids. Your forearm muscles and biceps are also engaged to a certain extent to help keep you balanced, and your core is called upon to stabilize your body. These secondary muscle groups are not receiving any significant strength training during a handstand pushup, but they are vital to properly executing the exercise.


The handstand pushup can be performed either facing the wall or with your back to the wall. Have a spotter help you get your feet elevated if you cannot do it yourself. Position your hands shoulder-width apart and keep your feet together and straight throughout the exercise. Your core, forearms and biceps are used continuously from the moment you take up your position against the wall. As you lower your body, bending at the elbows, the shoulders and triceps jump into action. Hold your position for one count when you reach the peak of the movement and contract the muscles as much as you can.

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Handstand pushups can be made part of any strength-training workout but are perhaps best for shoulder-specific routines. The handstand pushup has a large range-of-motion and its level of intensity can tax your energy level quickly. Because of this, do the exercise early in your workout when your shoulders and triceps have not yet fully been exhausted. Ensure your body is properly warmed up and stretched before performing stressful exercises, such as the handstand pushup. Doing otherwise could result in muscle strains or pulls.


The handstand pushup requires your legs to be elevated and causes blood to rush to your head. Speak to your doctor before performing handstand pushups if you have high blood pressure or become dizzy easily. You should also take caution if you are recovering from recent shoulder surgery or have shoulder muscle problems. If you have never done handstand pushups before, start slowly and aim to do only one set of one to four repetitions. Work out with a spotter for safety. He can hold your legs and lightly pull up on them to reduce the resistance if the exercise is too difficult for you at first.

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