In October 2018, I started doing feet-elevated pike pushups to build the strength necessary for a proper handstand pushup against a wall which I wrote about in a previous blog post here. Did I reach my goal? Let’s delve in and find out, shall we? 😊
Recap: Goal was to achieve at least 9 reps of these feet-elevated pike pushups
Why 9? Well, the question was… since those pike pushups are around 75% intensity of full bodyweight, and the 1RM (1-rep-max) table says you need to be able to do 9 reps of something at 75% intensity to potentially exert 1-rep at 100% intensity, will I be able to do one clean, proper handstand pushup if I can do at least 9 of these pike pushups with perfect form? That was the test.
So I did pike pushups almost everyday for 6 weeks to get to those 9 reps.
Initially it was simply a matter of getting used to the exercise and it was great that I was doing it so often. It felt truly difficult pushing in that vertical direction and it was quite humbling overall as to how difficult the true HSPU must be. In just 6 weeks, I tripled the volume!
- October 22, 2018: 4, 3, 2, 1, 1 reps (11 reps in a session)
- December 7, 2018: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 reps (35 reps in a session)
So after I achieved that, the time came to test if I could do one HSPU. What were the results?
Not really a success, but not really a complete failure either considering this was only one training cycle in just 6 weeks.
I was able to do 1 rep with bad form. Then, a clean negative but couldn’t press out of it. And then a couple partials which felt really good.
Lucky for you, I took video of these candid attempts complete with laughter at my graceful fails:
So I couldn’t muster up a clean, proper HSPU yet from this single training phase, but I am very close. I feel stronger than ever and the negative felt super solid and I knew I could push back at any earlier point. It’s that final point where the nose boops the ground where it’s hardest. Note that, I’m also doing my darndest to make sure my forearms never move backwards. Also, if my hands were further away from the wall, it would’ve been much easier probably, but I’m doing it with my hands close to the wall because this mimics the true HSPU.
So what now? More Pike Pushups?
I spent a couple days to rest and research how to proceed:
- Do I do more reps of pike pushups with the feet at the same height?
- Nope, I’m way too bored of this exercise already.
- Do I do partial-ROM HSPU and increase reps/range?
- It sounds nice but a failed rep would mean my head hits a wooden yoga block.
- Do I raise the feet up higher to increase intensity and build the reps up?
- This was the winner!
New cycle: Pike Pushups with feet elevated even higher (and hands on blocks for more range)
This is my life now:
- OLD: Pike Pushup with feet elevated to knee height (18″/46cm) = 135lbs / 61kg (77% of 180lbs)
- NEW: Pike Pushup with feet elevated to hip height (30″/76cm) = 150lbs / 68kg (83% of 180lbs)
I thought 6% was not going to be a big difference, but the exercise felt significantly more difficult.
And now, with the blocks elevating my hands, I know that I’ll be stronger in a fuller range, more akin to an overhead press using weights or a handstand pushup using parallel bars. Also, a 13° gain in range is great! Strength is built in the range you train it in (+7°) so I know that one day I could just go into a tripod headstand and push myself up into handstand. (Oh boy that’s gonna be cool!)
Side Note: The decline blocks are one of my favorite tools. They help reduce all wrist pressure off any hand-balancing endeavors. (By the way, should I make and sell these decline blocks? If anyone would be interested, let me know. I might make a limited batch of them.)
So according to the 1RM calculator table, at 83% intensity, I might be able to perform at least one HSPU if I can do 7 of these pike pushups.
In conclusion, in 6 weeks, I tripled the amount of pike pushups I could do with the feet elevated at knee height. When I got to 9 reps, I tested to see if I was strong enough to do a single HSPU. I wasn’t, so I continued the pike pushups, but with the feet higher up, making it about 7% more intense. When I get to 7 reps of that, I will test to see if I can do one HSPU and then this experiment will be over. But the journey never ends and by that point I’ll have a goal of hitting at least 5 HSPU’s, which I will probably methodically document as well!
Hope that was helpful or inspirational in some way! In the meantime, I’m almost done with my Hip Flexibility Program, woohoo! It’s one of the most progressive, feel-good videos I’ve ever made that includes fantastic passive and active flexibility including functional flows that end up stretching nearly every muscle of your lower body all in a nice flow. (Yep I’m kind of proud of it!) Anyhoo… see you soon! (Update: Here’s the hip flexibility program, too!)