For building the shoulders, in my opinion, there is NO better exercise than the Handstand Push-Up…
For me, improving my strength in handstand push-ups had a far bigger effect on my shoulder strength and mass than ANY amount of free weight pressing that I ever did.
Now, what do you do if you’re not yet strong enough to do a full Handstand Push-Up, or you can get a few reps but not enough to really build muscle mass…or you want to use greater range of motion than the hands-on-floor HS Push-Up allows for.
For the first two issues, the best solution is the Pike Handstand Push-Up. It’s a great intermediate exercise for transitioning to the full version, while still getting most of the benefits of the full version.
For this one, you set your feet on a bench, hands on the floor, a couple of feet apart, body bent 90 degrees at the hips into a pike position
This exercise is essentially a handstand push-up, without as much bodyweight resistance and without the same balance demands.
The issue you run into is the same as with the full handstand version…range of motion. Obviously, you have to stop when your head hits the floor.
You can address this by using a pair of dumbbells, and setting your hands on the handles (ideally hex dumbbells that won’t roll…speaking from experience here)…or by using a pair of push-up handles or parallettes (which are used in gymnastics training…same idea as parallel bars only smaller).
All of these solutions will get your head off the ground so you get greater range of motion and more complete shoulder muscle and strength development.
The downside of dumbbell handles and push-up handles is that you’re really only adding a few inches to the range of motion…it’s still not as complete as it could be. You’ll still get results, absolutely, but it could be better.
The major downside to the parallettes is this…actually having some to use (they’re really not common in most gyms).
I’ve got ANOTHER solution for you here that I find works EXTREMELY well…using the safety rails of the Power Rack.
I find it works much better than dumbbell or push-ups handles due to the greater possible range of motion. A rack is also much more available than parallettes in most gym settings.
In addition, there’s a great “bracing” trick for increasing side delt involvement that I discovered that is simply NOT possible with any other piece of equipment…just the rack!
Set the safety rails in the rack to two different heights…one rail should be fairly low…I set mine to the lowest it could go and that was perfect (about a foot off the ground). The other rail should be about 2 feet or so off the ground. You can experiment with height to see what works best for you.
Set your hands hands on the low rail, out to the sides at a comfortable distance. I have mine basically as wide as I can set them in the rack.
One of the key things to be aware of here, is that you want to keep your forearms outside the frame of the rack, so they’re not bracing against the vertical posts. When you bend your arms, your elbows will need to go wider than the rack frame.
Set your feet up on the higher rail.
Then get into the Pike position. You’ll find with this one that you’re not 100% vertical because of the distance between the two rails, especially as you come down to the bottom.
This will actually involve the upper pecs to some degree in the movement as well. Because of the rail acting like a “bar”, the movement itself is fairly similar in pattern to a barbell press.
As you come down to the bottom, you have to move your head a bit forward of the rail, lower yourself until the rail touches your upper chest/clavicle. THIS is full range of motion.
Then push back up to the top position. Once your head clears the rail, move your head over top of the rail to involve the lateral and rear delts more effectively. The bottom portion is going to hit the anterior delts strongly, similar to a barbell press.
In order to get a more vertical torso position and pattern of movement, I like to move a bench into the rack (you can also set it outside the rack) and set my feet on that so they’re a bit closer.
Post time: Jan-17-2018