Heavyweight Handstand Pushups

Following a recent entry on handstand pushups (here), I’ve had a few questions come in about the possibility of larger athletes performing them. Within the original tutorial, I mentioned Paul Anderson performing the exercise, but it appears that many are not familiar with his name.

If you haven’t heard of Paul Anderson before, an abbreviated description would be strength legend. The video below captures some classic footage of him. Handstand pushups can be seen around the 1:40 mark.

Another strength legend known to perform the exercise was Doug Hepburn. Like Paul Anderson, he’s been mentioned on this blog before (see here).

Yet another heavyweight example comes from no other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. He too was a fan of the exercise.

In summary, don’t use size as an excuse to shy away from handstand pushups. Working with a larger body only makes the exercise more challenging. Typically, our goal is to work with challenging exercises so added size can be viewed as a plus.

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“Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” – Theodore N. Vail

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12 comments:

  1. Many of the old-time strength athletes were accomplished at handstand pressups, tiger bends, one-arm handstands, planches, walking on the hands, and other gymnastic movements. John Grimek was another well known bodybuilder/weightlifter who was very adept at handling his bodyweight in various movements including the handstand pressup/pushup exercise.

    To truly appreciate Paul Anderson’s accomplishments we must consider Anderson was squatting 1,200lbs at a time when the strongest men in the world were struggling with 700lbs. I read an article on Anderson which stated that his powerlifting and Olympic lifting records would be analogous at the time to Bob Beamon long jumping 35 feet or Sergio Bubka pole vaulting 25 feet. One of Anderson’s many noteworthy feats of strength included a side dumbbell press with 300lbs for 11 reps. Anderson is still the only human being to back lift over 6000lbs, one arm press over 300lbs, and neck lift over 800lbs. He also bench pressed 625lbs, lifted 485lbs in the clean and jerk, and deadlifted 825lbs. You have to understand that Anderson performed these lifts in the Sixties, and performed all of these lifts without the the use of lifting equipment.

  2. Not suprisingly both Hepburn and Anderson were primarily Olympic weightlifters, although both did some powerlifting. Former Olympic weightlifter & powerlifter Mark Henry could dunk a basketball despite his great bulk. Another super large athlete, 1970’s shot putter Brian Oldfield who had an extensive weightlifting regimen which I’m sure included plenty of Olympic lifting, had nearly world class speed in the 100 meter dash. Oldfield would often run against world class female sprinters in the 100 meter event and win despite weighing about 280lbs. Oldfield even competed well against former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Lynn Swann in the 100 meter dash in the 1970’s program “Superstars.” Oldfield also dunked but used a 16lb shot instead of a basketball to further illustrate the explosive power in his legs. To really see what fine athletes Olympic weightlifters are, and there unique training methods, check out this ten part video on Youtube: Polish Olympic Weightlifting Methods & Techniques. This video was made in the 1970’s and the athletes perform all sorts of gymnastics, running, leaping, and assorted exercises one wouldn’t associate with a weightlifter’s training program. Another exercise that is often mistakenly off-limits to “big men” is the pullup which is the pulling counterpart to the pushing handstand pushup. Perhaps the second greatest strength athlete of all-time behind Paul Anderson, Russian weightlifter and another 300-pounder Vasily Alexeev could perform numerous reps in the pullup exercise.

  3. Okay, feeling pretty pathetic by comparison right about now.
    Wow. Personally I like the old footage. It’s amazing and inspiring to see what guys could do without steroids, and too, the latest whey protein, creatine, etc supplements.

  4. Handstand pushups work so much of your upperbody they should be a prerequisite to lifting any wieght. I was in good shape when I discovered them but I could not even do one! I started with handstand holds against a wall. I would do 30 second holds and worked my way up to 2 minutes , even before I could do one hand stand pushup.

    They are a great exercise.

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