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We all want to be good. And we all want to go fast. And even if we’re not SUPER competitive, we all want to win. 

Happiness is a function of your expectations. 

In fitness-style fitness, I feel like the handstand pushup provides us with the most to learn from. 

Going all the way back to watching early fitness Games, the handstand pushup (or HSPU), has always been a hard movement to fairly judge. And that’s saying nothing about how hard they are to actually DO!

I’ve always kind of sucked at them. I’m over 6 feet tall and weigh more than 200lbs, and I’m not particularly strong for my size, so this is like a perfect storm for a movement that I’m NOT good at. 

I can think back to literally hundreds of workouts, where other than during this one movement, I’m moving GREAT. Then the HSPU pop up, and it’s a dead stop. Ugh.

In the beginning of my time as a competitive worker-outer, I would get super frustrated. I would blame my programming, or assume someone else was cheating, or blame it on a bad day.

Then eventually, I just accepted that I was going to stink at them, and hid from them in workouts. Scaled down significantly, or skipped that day at the gym, or maybe even invented a shoulder injury that was magically healed by the next day! (oops)

I can think back to my first RX competition. I had no business being in this. There was a workout with HEAVY squat clean and handstand pushups. I could barely squat below parallel as is, and we’ve already established how bad I am at HSPU.

As the rest of the competition floor finished the workout, and I was WELL behind everyone else, some jerk came over to me with all 16 of his abs, and cheered me on until time ran out. That jerk is now my friend (his name is Grant), and (abs aside) he gave me some really good tips that would’ve worked well had I not been panicking and falling on my face over and over again. 

I could’ve gotten super frustrated by that, but the reality is, that situation was the result of my training and the effort I put forth when I was working out back in my gym. 

One time, during the fitness Open, we had a workout in which the HSPU reps went up by 3 each round. I was working at it, I’d gotten a little bit better, but my legs kept falling off the wall as I would press up. I was counting them as reps, but some other jerk (this one is Abba, he’s cool) ran up to me screaming “NO REP!!!!” and my workout fell apart.

I could’ve gotten super frustrated by THAT one, but again: my performance was a result of my training. 

A few years later, we performed in ANOTHER competition that involved handstand pushups. Only this time, there was a change in the movement standard. We had a line on a wall, measured at a certain height, and our feet had to go above the fine each time for the rep to “count.” This was SIGNIFICANTLY harder than how we normally performed this movement. 

Three guesses on how that turned out for me. 

But the benefit was: I’d finally hit the magical point. I was able to look at this line on the wall, accept that what I was doing wasn’t cutting it, and figure out what I had to do with my body to be able to get my big stupid feet above the line each time. 

And for the entire next year, every time we had HSPU in a workout, I drew the stupid line, and mimicked the movement patterns that would get me above the line every single rep. 

And lots of times, I didn’t do well. It was VERY hard for me. And I would get frustrated, because it was really difficult. But I had a standard finally set. I had a goal to chase.

The next year rolled around, and like clockwork: there was a handstand pushup workout. The same standard applied, and everyone publicly cried about it again.

I had a secret weapon though: I’d been training TO THE STANDARD for almost an entire year at this point.

So I watched as heat after heat of athletes attempted the work out, and heat after heat of athletes left frustrated, blaming a line on the wall, or their judge, or gravity or some other external force for their poor performance. And then it was my turn.

And did I kill it? Nope.

But did I show MASSIVE improvement from the year before? Sure did. 

And the best part is, I’ve shown that same improvement every single year this has popped up again. Not because I’m particularly talented at it, or because I’m built for it, or anything else, but solely because I trained to a specific standard, and put forth my best effort. 

This has carried over to my training in other movements as well, like muscle ups or power cleans, but nothing has ever taught me more than the HSPU.

And like clockwork, every time I go to a fitness event that is judged by individuals to a standard, there’s one movement that becomes a discriminator for the competitions. The handstand pushup.

It separates those who train to a standard, from those who train to get a better score.

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