Gymnastics Skills with Coach Rachel: Making your Kipping HSPU More Efficient

In this installment, Coach Rachel takes a further look at the kipping HSPU.  If you do not yet have a kipping handstand push up or missed our first entry, start here: Getting Your First Kipping Handstand Pushup.   If you have your kipping handstand push up and are looking to make it more efficient, read on!

Eliminating Transition Time

One trick that can make your handstand pushups more efficient is eliminating transition time coming off another movement and into the HSPU. This starts with having a proper kick up position that allows you to kick up on the first try and go right into your kipping HSPU.  We covered the basic elements of a strong kick up position in the last blog entry, but an element that sometimes gets missed is the distance of the athlete’s hands from the wall.  For efficient handstand pushups, most athletes will want to be 12 to 18 inches from the wall.  This is different from strict handstand pushups which allow you to start much closer.

Making Room to Move

The problem with being too close to the wall for kipping handstand pushups is that it does not allow you room to rotate your knees to your chest.  If you are too close to the wall, when you rotate at the hip and pull your knees down, which sends your rear toward the wall, you will just be pushed off the wall and have to start over.  Athletes who struggle with this part of the kipping handstand pushup are often setting up 5 ot 6 inches from the wall and kicking up with their rear and back on the wall.

To fix this error, athletes can practice kick ups repeatedly, working on consistent hand placement and finish in the kick up.  It can help to measure out to that 12-18 inch mark, try a few kick ups to find a comfortable place, and then mark the position with chalk.  Once you have your position marked, try working 3 sets of 10 kick ups.  You can incorporate this into your pre-class routine 3-4 days a week until your muscle memory kicks in and you are comfortable always kicking up in exactly the same position.

Head Position

Also, consider your head position.  Once you have figured out your consistent hand position, be sure that when you are at the bottom of the HSPU, you are still in a strong tripod position.  Your head will be closer to the wall than your hands.  Your head and hands should make a triangle, with your head as the point.  When you kip and press out, you will then shoot your head through your hands, away from the wall, finishing in a strong pressed out position.

Timing your Press

After you have a consistent handstand placement, kick up, and head position, you can work on another element that will help you to be more efficient–timing.  When kipping up, be sure to work on kipping first and pressing second.  This is similar to the push press.  In the push press, you dip and drive with your hips and then press out with your arms to finish the movement.  Similarly, from the bottom of the kipping HSPU, you will drive your legs up and pop the hips before pressing out with your arms.  If an athlete is struggling to lock out or has a very slow HSPU, often it is because they are pressing too early.  If you feel this might apply to you, try slow-motion videoing your kip and press or having a coach watch.  At real speed, it can sometimes be hard to see, but it is very important that the kip motion happen before the press.

Lowering in One Motion

Timing also matters on the way down to the bottom of the kipping handstand pushup.  Many athletes lose a lot of time in the kipping handstand pushup because they lower their head to the ground but keep their legs straight.  This means that they are adding an extra step to the movement.  Once their head is lowered, they have to bring their legs down and bring their knees to their chest.  An athlete can lose 10-15 seconds on each rep by keeping these two steps separate.  To increase your speed and efficiency, work on bringing your legs down and knees to chest at the same time you are lowering your head to the ground.  This can feel very awkward and out of control at first, so it is a great idea to practice it.  Add in 5 sets of 5 kipping pushups to your pre-class routine 2 to 3 days a week.  Focus on speed.

If you can combine a consistent hand position, kick up, and head position with the proper timing, you will see the efficiency of your Handstand pushups skyrocket.  It will take practice and probably either video or a coach’s eye to help you progress.  It can also help to watch someone do very efficient kipping pull-ups, so be sure to check out Coach Rachel’s latest video here.  See you in the gym!