Are handstand pushups dangerous?

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Dear reader,

I often talk training with one of my buddies – an avid, avid weightlifter – albeit NOT the style of weightlifting I’d recommend (if at all – I’d recommend bodyweight training to ALL regardless).

He loves the gym – – makes fairly regular and frequent visits to it, and loves training on the machines as well.

Loves using straps as well to help his grip – – which is a weak point (this despite my advice to him on many occasions to NOT use straps for the grip).

All good though. To each his own – I can but point ya in the right direction, my friend. The same direction old time strongmen went in – and the same direction in which elite athletes, swimmers, special forces around the world – and anyone whose REALLY fit (functionally fit and STRONG to boot) goes in.

And handstand pushups have always been a topic of debate for us.

He’s of the firm opinion that handstand pushups are an unnatural movement, and that “machines” are far better.

Now, being he’s my friend I didn’t do much other than give him a gentle “counter opinion”, but I shake my head internally every time I say that.

My buddy’s overweight – big time. Not only that, he’s got a grip that’s way, way out of proportion to the humungous arms he’s built in the gym – – with straps, mind you though so he can hoick and hoist max poundages.

He’s got lower back and knee problems. And of course, a LOAD of fat all over the back, and so forth … and so, is it any wonder that handstand pushups are currently an impossibility for him?

We tend to vilify that which we cannot do or are not willing to “be open enough to do” (despite there being NO concrete evidence in terms of said exercise being “harmful”).

Anyway, with all this in mind, let’s take a look at an email from Charles, a regular reader of this newsletter.

Is there any truth to what this guy is saying?  I just bought your boulders for shoulders book.  Now I’m a little nervous.

(Note – I included the Youtube link so you can click through yourself and view the “booby builder” in all his natural (not) glory, hehe).

My response beneath: –

Hi Charles

Dang, it’s been a BUSY day thus far. Just got the chance to sit down and view the video – – and – – long story SHORT – – there is ABSOLUTELY NO reason to be nervous in terms of “if you made the right choice or not”. You did!

First off, the guy claims he’s a natural bodybuilder – – but that doesn’t appear to be the case upon first glance. His muscles have that unnatural look to them and are certainly NOT the sort of muscles you develop from hard, functional REAL bodyweight training. Not to mention he’s got a bit of a case of the “Belly of Budda” growing, hehe.

Take a look at this picture right here on the Shoulders like Boulders page – – You’ll see Doug Hepburn somewhere down there – – old time and world famous Canadian strongman that was reputed to have done these all day long on the beach (while working as a lifeguard) as part of his regimen. Doesn’t seem like he suffered from any shoulder problems – – not to mention he’s got the “real strength” look that this guy does NOT.

Ditto for other old time strongmen. The handstand pushup has ALWAYS been a staple of old time strongman training – – and anyone who claims they are dangerous is either too overweight to do ‘em – – or too lazy to attempt ‘em  – – or (and this is the case with a lot of the “boobybuilders”) don’t have the ligament/joint strength to support the movement (make no mistake; it IS an advanced movement).

I have not heard of anyone with shoulder problems after doing handstand pushups the right way – – if anything, the exercise HELPS the shoulders. Sure, if you do’em in improper form then they can harm ya, but that’s the case with any exercise, doncha think, hehe. What DOES harm the shoulders – – and I’ve got PLENTY of people that have told me that (read the part about what a bodybuilder told me on the sales page here as well – – is the “almighty” (NOT) bench press.

Key thing to remember is that you need to work up to these. I’m not sure if you’ve already gotten fairly good at what is mentioned in the 0 Excuses Fitness System, but if not, that would be a good start to build your ligaments, tendons and MUSCLES up to the point where you can do these. A few of those exercises are mentioned in the “supplementary exercises” section of the book, but you’d be weel advised to start off with the 0 Excuses Fitness System already- – if you haven’t thus far, that is!

So – again, and long story short – – I wouldn’t pay much heed to what the dude is saying. Sounds to me like he’s trying to sell the gym to his viewers – – but I wouldn’t let it bother me to be honest.

Best, and I appreciate you being on my list – – as well as for being part of the “0 Excuses Fitness” crew!


P.S.  I’ll cover this in one of my future blog posts as well. Stay tuned – – I’ll also cover not ONE, but TWO additional tips in that email that I have NOT covered in prior posts.

Hmm. I think that about covers it, eh?

Oh wait – the two additional tips, huh?

Well, the first tip is this – when you do handstand pushups extend your arms ALL the way up! Do NOT stop short of full extension as most “schmexperts” advocate – – this, if anything is poor form and WILL end up a) impeding your progress in this great, great exercise and b) giving you shoulder problems down the road as you’re not strengthening the ligament fully.

Second, get comfortable with handstand HOLDS at first. I mention this in the book as well – but it’s important to mention here as well. In other words, don’t sprint before you can run – or even jog.

Third, pay attention to form (again), and the right way to breathe. You breathe IN going down and OUT going up – – much the same as I’ve mentioned repeatedly in the 0 Excuses Fitness System. It’s NOT the same as weightlifting, my friend – not even close.

Last, but not least, pay special attention to the “supplementary exercises” section in the manual as well. These can – and SHOULD – be practiced along with handstand pushups (or your workout in general) for max benefit.

Well, my friend, that’s it for now.

Whew! Just typing all that has pumped me up so much that I think I’ll go do some handstand pushups now. Join me if you can!


Rahul Mookerjee

P.S. – After you’re done watching the boobybuilder YouTube video, do NOT forget to read a REAL – and BLOW by BLOW – account of what a former bodybuilder gave me while I was out on a swim one fine morning. Two heart attacks, and more … NOT the kind of results I’d want, me thinks?? Here is where you can get the full scoop – –


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