If you prefer bodyweight training to weight lifting, the upside down shoulder press is the practice you want to build a broad upper body. It is an advanced compound exercise that develops not only delts and trapezius muscles but also your triceps, chest, core, and back that are responsible for the balance.
Obviously, it is not a beginner level workout since we have to push our entire bodyweight multiple times while focusing on the proper form. But, there are some activities that you can do to get ready for the bodyweight shoulder press. Also, there are variations for advanced level athletes.
How to do upside down shoulder press against the wall
- Get into full handstand by the wall. The more vertical your body is, the better. Keep your torso straight by tightening your core and back. (If you find it hard to keep your balance, you may get a bit away from the wall. This way, it is easier to control the motion, but there is more load on your front deltoid muscles and chest.)
- Slowly lower your body while looking upward until your chin touches the floor.
- Finally, press your self up to starting position.
If you are afraid of kicking yourself up into a handstand, you can walk up the wall instead.
Note: If your hands are closer to each other, your triceps and trapezius get more load. With a wider stance, you can target your deltoids better.
Progression press exercises
The handstand push up is a tough move that requires practice. But, it is worth the effort as it is an excellent upper body training for mass and strength.
What if you cannot perform it correctly yet or you want to do more?
Here are progression exercises to build strength and confidence.
1. Pike push ups
- The starting position is the downward dog known from yoga. Keep your legs and back straight. Your upper and lower body makes a right angle.
- Lower yourself until your forehead almost touches the ground. Pull your shoulders back and tighten your core so that your body is right angle during the entire motion.
- Then push yourself back to the starting position.
If you can do numerous clear pike push ups, let’s say 15 reps, you can switch to an advanced version. Put your feet on something, for example, on a chair or weight bench by keeping your body in a 90-degree angle. This way, there is more load on your shoulder muscles as if you were doing it on the floor.
Note: You can use a suspension trainer as well, which provides a more unstable environment. Hence, the muscles for balance are activated better.
2. Handstands against the wall
Another way to get ready for upside down shoulder press is simple handstands. A lot of people do not like being upside down, and it helps to get used to it. Also, this static exercise strengthens all the required muscles.
For example, in the beginning, I could hold myself only for about 40 sec. For the next few months, I increased the time by 2-3 seconds, and I did 5-6 reps. In the end, I could do it for over 2 minutes.
Advanced Handstand Push Up Variations
Of course, the main goal is to perform shoulder presses without the help of the wall. It requires a lot of practice and total body strength. But here a few tips for preparation.
- When you are against the wall, get off one of your feet from the wall so that it is more difficult to control the motion.
- Single arm handstands against the wall. Another useful workout to boost strength and build balance.
- Upside down kettlebell shoulder press. Alternatively, you can use the push-up bars or parallettes which provide a much more stable base. Because of the elevated position, you can go deeper, leading to a lengthier range of motion. That is very beneficial for strength development. If you use kettlebells, be very careful! If they slip out from your hands, you can get serious injuries. You’d better use bars instead.
A final tip that helped me the most: have a spotter! With the help of him, you can get into a such a state which is very close to a non-assisted full handstand push up. And, ask for more or less help.
Here is a good tutorial.
Even though I cannot do a single upside down shoulder press yet without the wall, these progression exercises have helped me a lot to develop my upper body. My main problem is that I’m afraid of falling, so I have to work on my balance and confidence. But, I’m sure I will overcome that barrier sooner or later. Once, I’m going to be the cool guy (father) at the calisthenics park. 🙂