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Games09_TommyPostTripletHSPU.jpgIn this year's triplet event, the standards for the handstand pushups were more challenging than many competitors practiced. The grip was a fixed width parallette, and the head dropped below the height of the hands. Kipping was not allowed.

Jeff Tucker of GSX Athletics and CrossFit's gymnastics specialist talked about differences from typical gymnastics movements. "Normally in gymnastics, a measurement is from between the fingertip to the elbow. A little outside the width of the athletes chest... this (30 inch) stance on the parrallettes is gonna make it really hard, a lot of people are gonna have a hard time with this."

Was the grip too wide? "I think the proof will be in the pudding," said Jeff, "I don't want to be subjective." The event did claim its victims. Of the top 16 female athletes four women failed to complete a single HSPU to standard.

Tucker on HSPU video ... [wmv] [mov]

After the triplet, Tommy Hackenbruck spoke from an athletes view point. He regretted not holding more strict standards in his training. His performance wasn't what he thought it should be under the competition standards.

Tommy Post Couplet video ... [wmv] [mov]

27 comments on this entry.

1. ken c wrote...

November 12, 2009 6:58 AM

30" is fine for me but i'm 6'1" and have monkey arms. hand position on hand stand push ups should be determined by the width of your chest and shoulders. if you had to pick a standard width for the parallets at a competition i suppose 30" is fine for the men but way to wide for most women.

if i were programming hspu for a competition i would have the athlete put his hands up beside the shoulders as if about to do a press, measure the distance between his hands at the middle of the palms and then put two strips of tape on the ground that same distance apart. everytime he kicks into a handstand, the hands have to be on the tape.

as far as kipping, i have no idea why that would not be allowed. we kip pull ups and rings dips. the crossfit standards on these two gymnastics movements have to only to do with range of motion, not how you get through that range of motion. certainly training strict hspu makes you stronger but when the clock starts and you're trying to go as fast as you can, i think you should be able to use your whole body to get through a given range of motion as quickly and effeciently as possible.

gymnastics coaches and purists may not like the idea of kipping anything but this probably has more to do with a lifetime being in a sport judged on aesthetics. crossfit is judged on speed through a set range of motion. much like the snatch event at the games, there was no rule against pressing out at the top of the lift like there is in a pure oly lift competition. tony b. spent a lot of time arguing why that is in previous blogs. in short its because crossfit cares about power output. seems to me that crossfit is its own sport that borrows from other sports and adapts them to fit the demands of increasing work capacity. i think that's great. to not allow kipping hspu just seems arbitrary to me given all the justifications for kipping everything else.

2. Kat wrote...

November 12, 2009 8:20 AM

Ken C,
Look at the handstand pushup up in this way...
A press is a press. If you 'kip' the press you get a push press. If you 'kip' the push press you get a push jerk. We don't call all three a press. They are different moves and have different names to differenciate between them.

A handstand pushup is an inverted press. If you bend your legs, you change the movement. In my opinion this should be called something else... perhaps a handstand jerk?

If the workouts at games (or qualifiers) called for a strict press and some one did a push press the rep would be discounted. I think the same should go for handstand pushups. If the programmers for the games wanted a handstand jerk they would have programmed that.

Side note... I applaude Tucker for being so calm in his critic of the paralette width for the handstand pushups. We don't standardize the competitors grip width for their press, cleans, snatch, etc because it is very individual. Why was it done for handstand pushups? I'd like to hear what Burgener would say if the standard was that every competitor had to have a grip width of 30" for the heavy Grace from 2008.

3. Steve wrote...

November 12, 2009 8:43 AM


That's an interesting point about the HSPU being the equivalent of a press. However, when is the last time you remember a strict press being included in a timed WOD? Coach Glassman seems to almost exclusively program push presses or push jerks for metcon WODs, presumably because it allows for more power output. It would seem logical to me that the same rationale would also apply to HSPUs.

4. JB replied to comment from ken c...

November 12, 2009 9:53 AM


I agree that it's possible that kipping HSPU's may have made for SOME faster times and greater intensity in the triplet. However, I don't find it unreasonable to place different standards on different movements. You wouldn't accept Jerks if the Rx movement was Push Press, right?

Presses, cleans and snatches being Weightlifting movements, I see your point about Gymnastics being more kip friendly (since there is no external object). But, you wouldn't allow someone to do a Pushup by laying on the floor, pushing up their chest only, and then hoisting their hips at the end.

It could be called arbitrary, but so is the distance from home plate to the outfield wall in a baseball game. In some stadiums hitting it 330' is a long flyball out, in some stadiums 330' gets you a Homerun. As long as each team is playing by the same rules, you can't really fault it.

I think your idea for using tape on the ground is great though (some part of hand must be touching the tape). I hope sectional/regional planners soak that up and put it into play.

5. Kat wrote...

November 12, 2009 10:00 AM

I see your point Steve about presses in a metcon, however...

1) When was the last time we saw hammering a stake into the ground in a .com workout? We didn't, but it doesn't mean we can't put it into one. Same goes for the press/inverted press.

2) Are CrossFitters or CrossFit programming rational anyways? Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity... nothing about power output in there

6. Tucker wrote...

November 12, 2009 10:20 AM

Old arguments die hard, do they not, Ken?

I think in response to your words - is the point really what the goal of any movement in a workout is for? They allowed kipping but it was discounted in points - and the stronger athletes in that HSPU were seen in the movement itself - and were seen as strong or weak in that movement as it was performed. What is the goal, form and strength with time, or strictly get through the movements as quickly as possible and to hell with form and by form/strength a ROM without a kip? To me, if you went strict and no kip you were showing form and strength for time.

30 inches was wide - too wide for some and changed the movement in the inverted press for some, which in many ways was to mimic a strict press, was it not? So the width is a key factor in the outcome of that particular workout, especially for the women, maybe for some of the guys too. You and I have discussed this - and we both agree on where hands should be for inverted press ROMs.

It is just an opinion about the kip - but we overuse the kip in our community at times, and let go of training some form and ROM as a strength move. Lots of folks at our gymnastics cert might get a kip pull-up before a dead hang, but can they control the descent on a kipping pull-up? If not, then train the strict form first for strength before adding that kip to a range of motion.

I disagree with you on your analogy on aesthetics and how all gymnastic coaches and purists view the kip - as I am no purist here when such skills are applied to the CF WODs. (I just think the kip is a bad movement in some areas, not all.) For me, it is not about the aesthetics at all in regards to the excerpt on parallette width - we are not performing gymnastics here for judges on style or strength points. And might be, the word aesthetics does not apply here, or does it? Depends on the intent of the word - you're a lawyer, words mean many things do they not? But the questions I was asked that day were based on gymnastic comparisons for the movement demands - kind of simple, really.

7. Michael wrote...

November 12, 2009 10:49 AM

I know this is not regarding the post above, however, it relates to the games...2010 that is. They mentioned sectionals in a meeting past and i was wondering when they plan on divulging this great kept secret????!! There are plans that need to be made for events like this and 60 days notice would be nice. CFHQ...WHAT"S THE DEAL!!?

8. Will B. wrote...

November 12, 2009 11:09 AM

Great points all. Constantly varied means exactly that. And even though CrossFit is intended to widen the margins of your experience, I see that time and again folks in this community have allowed themselves to exist in a bubble.Those margins, still exist for many out there, they've just widened them. And constantly varied to me, means no boundaries whatsoever, save proper ROM and functionality.

The sentiment Ken C expresses, as well as statements made on a previous post regarding the possibility of swimming, are examples of how people are still allowing themselves to get stuck in a rut, and are not willing to get out of their comfort zone.

I'm with Kat on this one, just because we haven't seen strict presses in a WOD, doesnt mean they shouldnt be there. Rather, this should mean the exact opposite, we should do them more. I'm programming a chipper tomorrow with more strict motions in it like the press.

Great viewpoint Kat.
Tucker, genius as always.
Ken c, I always love reading your comments. Always very well informed, if not always agreeable.

9. ral wrote...

November 12, 2009 12:30 PM

Just to clear up one argument here, I have seen strict presses in a WOD for time.

Seven rounds for time of:
75 pound Shoulder Press, 21 reps
21 Back extensions

It's come up a couple times, but Oct. 12, 2008 is the one I found.

I do feel that a kip does not change a HSPU or a pull-up the way a leg drive changes press. The kipping just generates momentum, it doesn't directly apply force like a leg drive. I have no problem with requiring strict HSPU in the event. Do people look at the 3-5-7 pull-up workout (Death By Pull-ups I think it's called) and complain that it's unfair to require a strict pull-up in a WOD? I think strict pull-ups should show up more often in WODs, personally, just to focus more on strength occasionally.

I'm not sure I see the point of fixing the paralette width, however. It seems like that could even get dangerous on some short-armed lifters if it's too wide.

10. tucker wrote...

November 12, 2009 12:48 PM

I left off part of my post when pasted and thouht I would finish the opinion...

Ken - where you imply and state that CF is more concerned with power output - where in your quote you mention, " speed with a set range of motion" it cant be speed at all cost. Which is why we judge the motuion and movements - Right? Such as did they kip or not, did they have full hip extension or not, did they touch the body with the bar in a snatch, did they lock out a MU? I would never ask any one to judge an asthetic in a CF WOD... oh no they did not put there legs togther or point their toes - that is just down right funny... And for those who could throw a snatch with better form tended to get to the next movement faster from my vantage point VS. those who shortened the movement and had to press it up to finish the move... Arbitrary - not at all and no one said they could not kip, CFHQ planners set that standard (Dave Castro), so it is not Arbitrary - its a standard set.. But you are certainly entitled to your thoughts Sir.

What did happen is a standard was set and judged. The form and movements will affect the outcome of those participating whether good or bad form used, bastardized or pure movements will alter time, it will tap strength; and we can call them movements, forms, ROM's, or even asthetics, in some way each word applies I think. And by that I mean - if you have excellent form and ROM in a movement - you can see that asthetic might apply as the wow factor of how easy they made it look. Unless you use the word "asthetics" in the since of did they point their toes, put legs together, keep a hollow body, and that subjective crap was never part of the conversation.

See you soon Ken - now get back to lawyering...

Kat - good thoughts on all points, you never cease to amaze me with your views. Very good thoughts.

Will B - solid comments. And I find Ken aggreable, and passionate about CF! And he is a solid mentor, coach, and very all around good guy!

11. Chris wrote...

November 12, 2009 12:57 PM

The width of the HSPU would depend on the person. For alot of the women that is very wide, for some of the men that might be a bit narrow. As far as CF Games goes i think it is okay to say, here it is, now work with it. Sucks for shorter people but short people have their advantages in many other areas.

As far as the kip for a HSPU. I do believe that an athlete should develop every aspect of a HSPU. But to say that is not a HSPU because they bent their legs and then straightened them back out is a bit over the top. Huge difference between the Push press or push jerk than a kipping HSPU. The hip drive of pushing off a solid surface is nothing like kicking your legs into the air. Even in gymnastics if something was performed this way (bent knees, legs kicking), the skill would still count. They would just deduct points for form. So it does seem that we are getting into the issue of form when it comes to the kipping HSPU.

All that aside, they tell you to do strict HSPU' it!!

12. ral wrote...

November 12, 2009 2:37 PM

This might go totally against the grain of "unknown and unknowable," but I wouldn't mind seeing some minimum standards set across the board. What I mean by minimum standards is a list of skills that are essentially required to be in contention at the CrossFit Games. On the flip side, if you can meet all of the standards, that should be enough to at least guarantee you won't be DQ'd.

For instance, in this year's games, the following things were de facto minimum standards:

Run/walk 7.1 km (not sure what the max time was)
Deadlift at least 305 pounds (for men)
Run 170 m up a steep hill with a two 35-pound sandbags
Drive a stake into the ground
Do a strict HSPU on 30" paralettes
Swing a 72-pound Kettlebell overhead
15 muscle-ups

There were of course other things (like performing one GHD sit-up or snatching 75 pounds), but basically these were the basic things that tended to give people problems. If you couldn't do any one of those, you were eliminated. Obviously, the HSPU on 30" paralettes has come into question. Should that be a minimum requirement? Is it possible that someone might not be able to do that but could still be considered the world's fittest man/woman? Apparently HQ says no.

I know that it's all about the unknown, but lines have to be drawn somewhere. What if we require competitors to complete a marathon? Would that unfairly eliminate people who are otherwise extremely fit? How about a burpee-pull-up onto a 10' bar - yes, it is a challenging task, but many of the shorter competitors certainly could not acheive this. They shouldn't be eliminated. What if there is a 5000-pound DL for reps competition? Where is the line drawn?

It would be tough to establish standards for EVERYTHING, but it would be nice to see some baselines set. I think the fear for a lot of people about the swimming event is that it could unnecesarily thin the field. Should a general fitness competition require competitors to swim at least a mile? Half-mile? Quarter-mile? Again, it would be nice to know where the line is drawn for training purposes.

It seems to me it would be nice to see at least some basic guidelines. Just a thought.

13. ral wrote...

November 12, 2009 2:38 PM

*I meant 500-pound DL competition. 5,000-pounds is obviously absurd.

14. tucker replied to comment from Chris...

November 12, 2009 5:51 PM

Chris - agree with you on most points here. To be very clear in regards to the standard set by the games organizers... the strict movement gained you points and those who did so were rewarded for strict movement without momentum, as it was more difficult... So the point is made toward form issues for the inverted press - is it not?

But to standardize a width for all... That is pretty tough to do - but if they say do it, I suppose you have too. But we observed that width certainly playing a role.

As for training the HS, or HSPU, all aspects should be worked as you stated. We state this at certs as well and that key toward form and strength is very important.

15. ken c replied to comment from tucker...

November 12, 2009 7:49 PM

my point about gymnastics coaches and purists was a generalization and was specific only to kipping, not the width of the parallets. i agree with you that the width of the parallets was too wide for most people under 6 feet tall. this is why i offered up an alternative way to determine hand position that is unique to each athlete while still maintaining an acceptable range of motion standard. we have agreed on what that hand position should be and as i recall that is the same position as doing a barbell press.

none of my comments are meant to be a criticism of what the standards were at the games. you compete and you deal with what gets thrown at you. i'm totally cool with that. 08 it was chest to bar pull ups. in 09, if you made it to the sweet 16 you got a curve ball of strict parallet hspu. the whole point of this blog as i see it is to get some feedback to help determine standards in the future.

you say kipping was allowed but points were deducted (i think). i'm just going by the last sentence of the first paragraph above that says kipping was not allowed. when i say not allowing kipping a hspu is arbitrary, i don't mean as a games standard (all athletes had the same standard), i mean generally to crossfit. we kip pull ups, ring dips and muscle ups. hq posts videos teaching and advocating kipping all 3 of those movements in timed workouts as it relates to power outpout. i learned how to kip a hspu by watching a video of eva t doing nate (but that may have been before your time in crossfit).

kipping any of these gymnastics movements does not sacrifice or in any way limit range of motion. most all competition standards focus on range of motion. form on any movement (lifts included) is only as important as it allows me to move efficiently through that given range of motion standard. kipping a hspu doesn't change that i moved my head from the ground to my arms in a locked out position. no it is not all about speed at all costs. it is all about (or i think it should be) using my whole body to move as fast as i can through a given rom.

16. Chris wrote...

November 12, 2009 8:36 PM

On the idea of giving some input for future competitions, and HSPU standards in general. I think they should start concentrating on the finishing position of the HSPU. In a press, PP, or PJ, the standards are; arms locked out, showing some ear. The way a handstand and HSPU should be trained is with a open shoulder angle at the locked out position. This is a greater ROM which we are all about in CF. Push the head through the arms a bit and show a little ear. Just like all the other overhead positions and standards. If people want to compare this to an inverted press (getting away from gymnastics terminology). Then finish like one. A handstand and HSPU should strive more for a straight line from hands to shoulders to hips.

17. Will B. wrote...

November 12, 2009 9:08 PM

Tucker, I agree with you. Ken's comments I hold in high regard. I mistyped, and I meant to say "even if we don't always agree, like now."
Constructive criticism is paramount to a community such as ours that sets and maintains standards to this degree.

Y'all definitely give me a lot to think about, and make me a better athlete and coach.


18. tucker wrote...

November 13, 2009 6:07 AM

Ken - we agree more than we disagree here... but also we bring out points on how to train many movements toward time with such discussions. I dont always agree that you use your whole body as effectively as you claim with some of the kipping movements you mentioned above, just because we always try to use the whole body. And that is where I feel the debate can be studied.

The basic primise of a kip as you imply in your own words, is moving the whole body, but you speak to it for time. I think using the thought that we justify it because we have always done it that way our we do it in every workout is a weak agruement. But we fall back on the words power output as an explination of same... using the whole body. I have never said that a kip limits range of motion or sacrifices anything, if it is done properly. I think all athletes and cfers want to use the whole body - but they should want to do it it correctly in regards to the movements required for each WOD.

In this case - before we get off target further I was responding to your original comments. I wonder if you do JT strict in your training - and over time if a kip is allowed - do you not think you would perform it stronger? I think you would. At the games we tend to see better kipping movements when or if they appear - and I think that is because we have strong athletes. That said - the kip is obviously not always used - more so why you should not merely be hung up on it as a means to an end.

Chris - some interesting thoughts... But it is an inverted press. Most form issues with the HSPU come from how it is trained and obvious inverted body positions changing how we deal with this load. Opening the shoulder is always good for that movement - sometimes that is limited to shoulder girlde flexibility on how open we can make the shoulder so that might be a hard standard to maintain - meaning how too tight a shoulder might mean lack of ability to open it for some. The more simple approach of locked out arms and full rom would be easier for obvious reasons to judge. If we start looking at body full forms and vertical alignment - we are asking for more subjectivity judging and for CF that might be a very big issue. "A handstand and HSPU should strive more for a straight line from hands to shoulders to hips", I totally agree and if that is indeed the standard then it must be judged. I think you got to keep the standard simple and fair. But good points.

19. The Pie wrote...

November 13, 2009 8:51 AM

For me doing fixed width in any exercise doesn't make sense. I have seen quite a few CrossFit competitions that have fixed width the HSPU, mostly because they think people going to wide a grip shortens the range of motion. Offcourse that is true but if we fix the width on HSPU why don't we do it on any other exercise? You would never think about doing that for the pushups, dips, Pullup, Strict press, snatch etc.

I do however feel that a strict HSPU is absolutely fine and a completely different motion to a kipped HSPU. CrossFit has a ton of L-pullups in metcon WODs, so the strict HSPU definetely has a place.

20. Tony Budding wrote...

November 13, 2009 7:16 PM

Funny thing about this debate is that no one has gone to the data. The women who had good HSPU going in had no problem with the width or the depth (which no one has mentioned yet, and was a MAJOR difference between these HSPU and floor HSPU). Kristan Clever won the event with over 6 rounds (she did 28 HSPU) and she's 5'2". Charity Vale came in second also with over 6 rounds and 28 HSPU. She's also 5'2". Jolie, third, is 5'4".

You see, in actuality, the width was not a problem for these short women because they were good at HSPU. Whatever "facts" there may be about width, grip, and depth, the athletes who came in to the Games good at HSPU did well at these HSPU, and the athletes who were weak at HSPU coming in, did poorly.

As with all Games standards, the width of the grip, depth of the bottom and straight leg requirements are not meant to be THE RULES OF CROSSFIT. They were simply the standards established for that day of competition. In 08 we had chest to bar pullups. In 09, mid-neck to bar height. Neither is right except to the degree that you were competing or judging that day.

Next year we might allow kipping. We might require free-standing handstands. We might do handstand walking. We might use the same paralletes, but without the plates and your shoulders have to hit your hands at the bottom. My prediction: the standards won't have a great impact on the finishing order. The best are the best, and tend to win with any rules.

21. Jacob wrote...

November 13, 2009 7:40 PM

Do you all really think anyone cares?

22. Tiger replied to comment from tucker...

November 15, 2009 6:35 PM

So we call for complex judging for oly lifts but not gymnastics skills. I dont think it would be much harder to judge an ear showing on a press than an ear showing on a HSPU. I dont think flexibility should be an issue if they can throw a barbell in the right position. If it is supposed to be an inverted press and they can press the bar to a position where the ear shows then why not in an inverted press or HSPU?

On the other hand,
I am also glad to hear that those that trained HSPU were able to handle any kind of HSPU thrown at them! Wide, narrow, and strict, be good at it all!

23. Chris replied to comment from Tiger...

November 16, 2009 11:37 AM

A barbell is much easier to manipulate than the floor. I think Tucker is looking at if from a competition stand point. Keep standards simple and easy to judge just calls for less problems in holding standards for a movement. Many people with a lack of shoulder flexibility will look like they did not finish the HSPU...but if the standard is locked out arms. Much easier to judge. Especially for the lack of gymnastics knowledge through the CF community. Not all the judges have been through a gymnastics cert and know what the locked out position should look like.

24. Chris replied to comment from Tiger...

November 16, 2009 11:45 AM

Sorry if this posts twice.... A barbell is much easier to manipulate than the floor. I think tucker is looking at it for the competition stand point. Athletes with a lack of shoulder flexibility will look like they are not finishing the HSPU. Keeping standards simple and easy to judge is what you want in competition. Same standards for everyone...just lock out at the top. The open shoulder angle would be very difficult to judge. Especially for those judges that have not been through a gymnastics cert and don't know a lot about gymnastics in general. Arms locked out is easy to judge and easy to understand for the athlete when upside down.

25. tucker replied to comment from Jacob...

November 16, 2009 7:58 PM

Yes jacob - people do care... my friend.

Tony - agree with you here and what i take from those that finished well in that workout with fixed paralettes - is that they were damned strong!

Chris - your spot on!

26. TomW replied to comment from Tony Budding...

November 17, 2009 11:31 PM

+1 for handstand-walking. I was surprised the '09 Games didn't include that. Maybe throw in some back rolls to support in 2010, too :)

27. Jesse wrote...

November 19, 2009 12:28 AM

Good discussion here, just a couple points I would like to make. 1) The "arbitrary" nature of not allowing kips, 30" width, head below hands, etc... Really, every Crossfit workout could be considered arbitrary if that's the way you want to think about it. Every movement has some minimum standard for range of motion, weight, what ever. The point isn't that something should or should not be allowed, it's that Crossfit sets you a challenge and the person who's strongest, most fit, most generally prepared is able to rise to that challenge and beat it into submission! So the paralettes are 30" apart, so what? If you were in a life or death situation where you had to push yourself up from two hand holds that were 30" apart would you bitch about the width or would you suck it up and be glad you've prepared yourself for anything that can be thrown at you?
2) Regarding Ral's post on minimum standards. For the most part, Crossfit workouts are very hard but from what I've seen there is no single component that is so specialist dependent that it would unfairly favor a certain type of athlete. A 7K run is long but absolutely should be doable for a GF games level competitor where as a marathon would skew so heavily towards twigs that I can't see it being included and also there's the fact that if you had an event like that even the finishers would have trouble doing much else the rest of the day. On the other end of the spectrum, an event that heavily favored competitive power lifters, say 5 reps 600# back squat followed by a 3# burger being eaten for for time would also eliminate virtually everyone. When you go so far outside the norms you only have specialists and that's not what CF is about so I don't think you need to worry.

3) Finally, some wild stabs at what could possibly end up in the 10' games!
a) Slack lining: If you don't know what it is, look it up on line, it's a great test of balance and midline stabilization.
b) Swimming? Maybe, somebody check google earth and see if a big hole is getting dug at the ranch!
c) Timber sports: This year we had the sledge, will we be chopping through logs next year?
d) The C2 ski erg: Many people don't know this but nordic skiers have ridiculous lung capacity, many elite distance runners, pro bikers and other train nordic skiing because of how incredibly taxing it is. Combine this with C2's new machine and their relationship with Crossfit and I think it could be a good way to introduce the ski erg to CFers.
e) Time: Part of constantly varied is the element of time, everybody's used to doing WODs during the day, what if events were staged every two hours for 24 hours in a row? Doing Eva at 3am when you've been up since 5am could get pretty weird!

Ok, enough rambling, I think I'm getting too excited!