The body is vertical in a handstand
The body is vertical in a handstand

The handstand push-up (press-up) - also called the vertical push-up (press-up) or the inverted push-up (press-up) also called "commandos"- is a type of push-up exercise where the body is positioned in a handstand. For a true handstand, the exercise is performed free-standing, held in the air. To prepare the strength until one has built adequate balance, the feet are often placed against a wall, held by a partner, or secured in some other way from falling. Handstand pushups require significant strength, as well as balance and control if performed free-standing.

Similar exercises

The movement can be considered a bodyweight exercise similar to the military press, while the regular push-up is similar to the bench press.


Handstand pushups increase the load on the triceps brachii muscles significantly over regular pushups, having the arms hold almost 100% of the body's weight rather than an average of 60 to 70% during normal pushups.[1] Load is also shifted from the Pectoralis major muscle to the Anterior deltoids and Lateral deltoids due to the shoulders exerting in abduction while externally rotated, rather than transverse flexion. The upper fibres of the trapezius are also involved in elevating the shoulders.

In free-standing handstand pushups, the core muscles and hand muscles are both used to keep the body balanced, from falling over back, forward, or to either side, and to maintain posture. This makes it a much stronger exercise for the wrist flexors, core and legs compared to regular pushups.


Standard push-ups require only a very basic level of fitness, while handstand push-ups are among the most challenging of bodyweight exercises
Standard push-ups require only a very basic level of fitness, while handstand push-ups are among the most challenging of bodyweight exercises

Due to the difficulty of the exercise, it is common to begin training with simpler, related movements. Methods of preparing without equipment (bodyweight exercise) include holding a static handstand position, performing the movement with a reduced range of motion, or performing only the eccentric portion of the movement. Preparing with weight-lifting (overhead press) is also common for strengthening the muscles involved, for those who lack adequate balance or who cannot support their bodyweight on their hands. When one can press their bodyweight, they have developed sufficient strength to do a handstand push up and then need to learn how to balance and exert themselves while inverted.


The range of motion of a handstand pushup can be increased by placing the hands on objects elevated from the floor, such as boxes or chairs, parallettes, or for the greatest difficulty, gymnastic rings. This allows the head to be lowered below the level of the palms, greatly increasing the difficulty of the movement. Difficulty can also be increased by adding further resistance, either in the form of weights attached to the torso; such as a weighted vest, attached to the legs, or resistance bands.


Caution should be taken not to have one's body suspended in an upside-down position for very long periods of time, since the human body lacks a design for forcing back blood that's running to the head (something intended by force of gravity to take care of itself). While small bouts of hanging upside down have not proven to be dangerous, people with pre-existing conditions for example could make matters worse and potentially increase the risk of, among others, stroke and pulmonary oedema.[2]


  1. ^ "Living Well: Push-ups are simple, effective, economical way to build strength". 9 September 2007.
  2. ^ "Is it harmful to be upside down?". 24 September 2008.