Doing handstand pushups can be beneficial but you may want other options. Discover exercise alternatives that offer similar advantages.
Handstand pushups mainly work muscles like your shoulders, triceps, core, and trapezius.
In turn, that means that handstand pushups can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits in a way that also trains your balance and coordination.
Whether you don’t enjoy handstand pushups, you want a simpler option, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these handstand pushup substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. (Weighted) pike pushups
Handstand pushups can be a great exercise but some people find them too hard, sometimes because they don’t have a good wall to do the exercise against. Pike pushups offer a similar movement at a less challenging level.
The following steps to do a pike pushup take:
- Sit on your hands and knees on the ground with your hands at about shoulder width.
- Move your hips in the air so that your body makes a triangle together with the ground. You likely have to lift up your heels in the air and lean on the front of your feet.
- Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at your upper body from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
- Stretch your arms again until you are back in the pike position of step 2.
There are a few ways to make pike pushups more challenging. The first one is raising your feet by putting them on an elevated surface like a chair or a stable plyo box.
If that is still not challenging enough, you can also do this handstand pushup alternative while wearing a weighted vest. This will make pike pushups harder and resemble handstand pushups even more.
Both exercises work similar muscles like your shoulders, triceps, and trapezius. One potential downside of pike pushups is that they are easier when it comes to balance and coordination.
2. Shoulder presses
The next handstand pushup alternative is one of the most popular compound exercises for growing shoulder muscles.
Take the following steps to do a shoulder press with dumbbells:
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at about shoulder height with your hand palms facing forward. Your elbows can point slightly more forward than just a horizontal line with your shoulders.
- Slowly move the dumbbells up until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the dumbbells back into starting position in a controlled motion.
Handstand pushups are often used to keep your workout body weight but free weights can offer similar training. Shoulder presses are basically the same motion as handstand pushups but upside down.
You can do this handstand pushup substitute with shoulder workout equipment like kettlebells, a cable machine, a barbell, a smith machine, resistance bands, etc. too.
On top of your shoulder, tricep, and trapezius muscles, shoulder presses also work your core and erector spinae muscles to keep your body straight.
The one thing that is missing is the challenging balance and coordination aspect.
3. Front raises
The previous exercises were compound similar to handstand pushups but some people want to focus more on specific parts of muscles.
Take the following steps to do a front raise with dumbbells:
- Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width, dumbbells in your hands, and your arms hanging down beside you.
- Slowly raise your hands forward and upward with slightly less than stretched arms until your arms are about horizontal.
- After a second or two, lower your hands back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Front raises are a shoulder isolation exercise that works the front part of your deltoids (the main shoulder muscle). Whether a targeted alternative like front raises is a good choice depends on your training goals.
You don’t get the same tricep, trapezius, middle deltoid, core, balance, and coordination workout as handstand pushups.
On the other hand, this does allow you to focus completely on training your front deltoids.
4. Seated overhead tricep extensions
For seated overhead tricep extensions you need something sturdy to sit on and some type of resistance. In the example below a dumbbell is used but other free weights, resistance bands, and a cable machine can work too.
Take the following steps to do a seated overhead tricep extension with a dumbbell:
- Sit upright on the sturdy object. Hold a dumbbell above your head with your hands at the highest of the two weights of the dumbbell. Keep your wrists straight throughout the exercise.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head by folding your arm at the elbow until your lower arms are at a horizontal line. Keep your upper arms pointing up and close to your body throughout the exercise.
- Raise the dumbbell again in a controlled motion into the starting position.
When first doing overhead tricep extensions you don’t want to be too optimistic about your capabilities due to the position of the weight. Start with a light weight and build up from there.
Seated overhead tricep extensions are another example of an isolation exercise. This time the movement focuses on your tricep muscles which also play a big role in handstand pushups.
You can also do this alternative while standing up but this makes it easier to use the rest of your body to move the resistance.
By sitting down you can really isolate your triceps which in turn can lead to more muscle growth and strength progress faster.
5. Lateral raises
For the next handstand pushup alternative, you need some type of one-handed resistance. Dumbbells, kettlebells, a cable machine, and even a heavy backpack are examples of suited objects.
Once you have one of these, take the following steps to do a lateral raise with dumbbells:
- Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, your body upright, and one dumbbell in each hand. Your hand palms should face your body. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Slowly raise the dumbbells out to the side until your hands are at shoulder height.
- Lower your hands back into starting position in a controlled motion.
Lateral raises are very similar to front raises but instead of raising your hands forward, you raise them sideways. This shifts the focus of the exercise towards the middle part of your deltoid muscles.
The narrow focus of this handstand pushup alternative can again be an advantage or disadvantage.
Handstand pushups focus a lot on the front part of the deltoids so lateral raises can help you balance things out.
6. Half-kneeling landmine presses
For this next exercise, you need a landmine setup. This is an attachment that secures a barbell at the ground level. The landmine setup opens the door to exercises like the half-kneeling landmine press.
You preferably also want a soft mat to put your knee on during the exercise. Take the following steps to do a half-kneeling landmine press:
- Set up the landmine with the desired number of plates. Sit on one knee in front of it, your other foot on the ground for stability, with your face toward the landmine.
- Grab the end of the barbell with one hand with a neutral grip which means your hand palms pointing to the center/upward. The upper arm of the hand with the barbell points slightly forward. The arm is about fully folded and the hand with the barbell is close to your shoulder.
- Slowly move the barbell up until your arm is slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the barbell back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Half-kneeling landmine presses are again more of a compound alternative to handstand pushups. The actual movement of your arms is almost the same except that you push just a little more forward.
This makes it so half-kneeling landmine presses focus slightly more on the front part of your deltoids but only a small amount more than handstand pushups.
Another difference is that half-kneeling landmine presses are typically less challenging for your core and erector spinae muscles.
7. Machine shoulder presses
The shoulder press machine is basically the popular shoulder press exercise in machine form.
Instead of using free weights and standing up, the resistance has a fixed motion and you are sitting down with your back against back support.
You can describe this machine exercise as a compound exercise but barely so. On top of removing your core muscles from the exercise, you don’t even need to use balancing muscles to make the resistance go straight up.
That means the shoulder press machine is again a handstand pushup alternative with a really narrow focus on your shoulder and tricep muscles.
Make sure you adjust the seat and handles to the right settings for you personally when using this machine. Your upper arms should be at about a 45-degree angle to your upper body in starting position.
If your shoulders hurt during the motion it may be a sign that the machine settings or your technique are suboptimal.