Bored with push-ups? Try the Pike Push-Up
The pike push-up looks like a cross between the downward-facing dog and the dolphin pose, and this exercise can build a lot of strength.
Use it as a springboard for more challenging exercises or as a target to improve your shoulder strength. The trick is to make sure you have the proper form to keep your shoulders healthy and avoid lying face down!
But why is it so great?
You’ll feel every single repetition in your upper body – but especially in your shoulders. And although the exercise resembles a traditional push-up, the inverted V shape emphasizes your shoulders rather than your chest. It strengthens your shoulders, first and foremost.
This prepares you for the handstand. The runner-up for “American Gladiator” says you should first perfect your regular, classic push-up. Then, once you have mastered it, “the pike push-up is a great transitional exercise for someone who wants to gain strength for a handstand” – or even a handstand push-up!
It recruits your core. As you shift your weight forward into the pike position, your core needs to be active, so you do not tip forward. This advanced push-up will help you “get better at adjusting to the overhead weight shift.”
How to do the perfect pike push-up
The pike push-up is not an exercise for beginners. Nor would she recommend it to anyone recovering from an elbow or shoulder injury. Pay special attention to your form and emphasize quality over quantity.
“I recommend 5-8 slow, controlled reps,” she says. “To do them slowly and in a controlled manner, you can count to four as you go down and count to four as you return to the starting position.
Just getting started? Add more reps and sets as you gain strength. She recommends 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps, no more than twice a week – and a 1-minute rest between reps for maximum strength gains.
Increase Your Strength: Pike Push-Up Progression
Here is how to do the perfect pike push-up, step by step!
- Start in the plank position, with your hands firmly on the floor, directly under your shoulders. Press your toes firmly to the floor as well.
- Keep your core tight and your back flat, and tighten your glutes and hamstrings. Your whole body should be neutral and in a straight line.
Raise your hips up and back until your body forms an inverted V shape.
- Keep your arms and legs as straight as possible.
- Bend your elbows and then lower your entire upper body toward the floor.
- Stay like this for a moment, and then slowly push yourself back up until your arms are straight and you are in the inverted V position. Be sure to maintain control throughout the movement.
- Pro Tips: How to improve your form and position
Not quite ready for a full pike pushup? That’s OK. Instead, break up the movement and work on the base.
Practice the plank to build strength and stability in your shoulders and core.
Perfect your push-up so your shoulders are strong and healthy enough to attempt the Pike version.
Work on related exercises like the Dolphin Pose for shoulder stability and Plank Pike-Ups on a stability ball for core and upper body strength.
Once you have mastered the pike push-up, you can start increasing the number of repetitions and sets.
You could also start working on a handstand – or those handstand push-ups. You could also move on to the moderately tricky movements in this set of 82 pushups you should know.
Or you could make your pike pushups even harder with one of these variations:
- Raise one leg at a time before bending your elbows.
- Elevate your feet by stepping onto a sturdy chair, bench, or box. Start slowly and stay low to the ground. As it gets easier, go higher, which will get you closer to handstand push-ups!
Remember that pike push-ups are a challenging exercise. Even reducing the challenge with the following ideas may prove too difficult if you do not already have the strength in your shoulders and core to maintain proper form for the movement. For this reason, you should practice and perfect more straightforward exercises like planks and regular push-ups first.
Pike Push Up Regression – Decrease the Difficulty Level
Starting on your knees instead of your toes, extend your arms and place your palms flat on the floor in front of you.
Bend your elbows as before and perform the movement as a forward bend (instead of a regular kneeling push-up) so that you lower the top of your head to the floor in front of your hands.
Like starting on your knees, instead of keeping your legs straight, bend your knees slightly to take the weight off your body and make the movement a little easier.
Widen the angle of the A-frame
This can help you keep your balance as you lower your head to the ground and return to the starting position.
Lifting your hands off the floor by using yoga blocks or another elevated surface, such as placing your hands in front of you on the sofa or a bench, reduces the intensity of the movement while still working for the same muscle groups.
Pike Push Up Progression – Increase the difficulty level
By performing the movement from a starting position with your heels raised and moving onto your toes while lowering your upper body to the floor instead of placing your feet flat on the floor, you increase the intensity of the bodyweight on your shoulders.
Elevate your feet
Just as starting with your heels raised increases the intensity, actually raising your feet off the ground increases the challenge even more. The added height makes the pike push-up more like a handstand push-up, as your shoulders have to apply more pressure from your body weight. You can use a bench or other elevated surface, but make sure it is stable and that your feet or the bench do not slip during the movement.
Raise one leg
Perform the same movement with one leg raised, alternating between legs between sets. Be especially careful not to lose your balance!
Repetitions and tempo
Of course, more repetitions are an added challenge, but you can also increase the intensity by performing the same number of repetitions at a slower pace. Remember that the form has to be perfect. So if you feel unsafe and feel like you might fall over, stop and do the exercise slower.
Strength of the shoulders
Your shoulders are the center of strength for the pike push-up movement, and the A-frame shape puts more emphasis on your shoulders than your chest (like a regular push-up). The power of your shoulders will help you with many everyday movements while reducing the risk of injury.
Improves muscular endurance of the upper body
Strength and endurance are essential for activities such as trimming tall hedges/trees lifting heavy objects overhead and will also help you in many sports such as tennis and badminton. Suppose you maintain proper form during this exercise. In that case, you will improve your strength and muscular endurance, allowing you to hold or shift weight overhead for more extended periods.
Springboard for more complicated bodyweight exercises
Once you have mastered the pike push-up, you have laid the groundwork for other impressive bodyweight exercises. The balance and upper body strength required are the springboards for a perfect handstand, while the vertical press movement is an exercise for an even more significant challenge – the handstand push-up!
Activates the center of the body
The strength of your core is crucial in this movement to prevent you from losing your balance and keep your spine straight. Engaging your body while shifting your weight over your head makes pike push-ups an excellent exercise for functional movements.
Muscles used during the Pike Push Up
The muscles in your upper body work hard to perform a pike push-up, including the anterior deltoids in your shoulders and the trapezius in your upper back. The pectoralis major in your chest is also challenged, as is your core, to maintain balance and stability. Of course, your triceps feel the burn, too, as they load your weight to keep you from falling face down and to propel the push-up.
Proper execution is essential to get the full benefits of a particular exercise and reduce the risk of injury. Since there are many critical elements to performing a good push-up of lifting, keep these common mistakes in mind.
- If you are not comfortable standing on your head, feel lightheaded, or have low blood pressure, you should not attempt the pike push-up.
- Do not let your elbows fold out, but keep them bent.
- Do not confuse pike push-ups with headstand push-ups. Keep your elbows above your wrists.
- Do not arch your back to engage more of your chest, but maintain the pike position by tensing your core and glutes. Perform the entire range of motion.
- Do not make it a horizontal exercise. Remember, it is a vertical exercise.
- Do not use your legs and hips when you push up, but push with your shoulders.