Pike pushups are a great variation of the exercise with the same name but you may not like them. Discover some useful alternatives.
By changing the angle of a pushup you also influence what muscles pike pushups work the most.
More specifically, pike pushups will focus a lot more on your shoulders and less on your chest muscles. Besides these, pike pushups also work your triceps, core, and trapezius.
On top of helping you grow and strengthen the muscles mentioned, pike pushups can help you improve balance, improve coordination, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.
Whether you don’t enjoy doing pike pushups, you want something more challenging, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these pike pushup substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
Keep in mind that if regular pike pushups are currently too challenging for your muscles, you can also start with a variety of pike pushup progressions.
1. Shoulder presses
The first alternative is one of the most popular compound exercises for growing shoulder muscles and an exercise with a very similar motion as pike pushups.
Take the following steps to do a shoulder press with dumbbells:
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at about shoulder height with your hand palms facing forward. Your elbows can point slightly more forward than just a horizontal line with your shoulders.
- Slowly move the dumbbells up until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the dumbbells back into starting position in a controlled motion.
The push of shoulder presses is a bit more upward in relation to your body compared to pike pushups. This leads to slightly more focus on your shoulder muscles and slightly less focus on your chest muscles.
That being said, both exercises are great for working muscles like your shoulders and triceps, and to some extent core and trapezius muscles.
One potential downside of shoulder presses is that they require shoulder workout equipment like kettlebells, a cable machine, a barbell, a smith machine, resistance bands, etc.
A benefit of this is that you can create a lot more resistance than pike pushups. This can lead to more and faster muscle growth and strengthening.
2. Machine shoulder presses
The shoulder press machine is basically the previous pike pushup alternative in machine form.
Instead of using free weights and standing up, the resistance has a fixed motion and you are sitting down with your back against back support.
You can describe this machine exercise as a compound exercise but barely so. On top of removing your core muscles from the exercise, you don’t even need to use balancing muscles to make the resistance go straight up.
That means the shoulder press machine is again a pike pushup alternative with a more narrow focus on your shoulder and tricep muscles. You don’t engage your core, trapezius, and several balancing muscles.
This narrow focus can be a benefit or a disadvantage depending on your training goals.
Make sure you adjust the seat and handles to the right settings for you personally when using the shoulder press machine. Your upper arms should be at about a 45-degree angle to your upper body in starting position.
If your shoulders hurt during the motion it may be a sign that the machine settings or your technique are suboptimal.
3. Front raises
You can narrow your focus even more than the shoulder press machine with front raises. Take the following steps to do a front raise with dumbbells:
- Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width, dumbbells in your hands, and your arms hanging down beside you.
- Slowly raise your hands forward and upward with slightly less than stretched arms until your arms are about horizontal.
- After a second or two, lower your hands back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Front raises are a shoulder isolation exercise that works the front part of your deltoids (the main shoulder muscle). This part is also one of the main forces behind the pike pushup movement.
You don’t get the same tricep, trapezius, middle deltoid, core, balance, and coordination workout as pike pushups. On the other hand, this does allow you to focus completely on training your front deltoids.
4. Incline chest presses
Chest presses are one of the most popular weight lifting compound exercises for bigger chest, tricep, and shoulder muscles. Similar to pushups you can change the angle of the press to change what muscles you focus on.
By using an incline weight bench instead of a flat one you focus more on your upper chest and shoulder muscles. If you go really steep you could even get the exact angle of pike pushups.
Take the following steps to do an incline chest press with dumbbells:
- Lie down with your back on an incline weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keep your arms with the dumbbells slightly less than stretched and pointing up. Your hand palms should more or less face forward and your hands should be at about shoulder width.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides.
- Push the dumbbells back up again in a controlled motion.
As you can expect, because of the similar angle of the push in relation to your body, incline chest presses can focus on basically the same muscles.
One downside of this alternative is the strict equipment requirements. Not everyone has an adjustable weight bench and extra resistance available.
The benefit is that you can challenge your muscles a lot more. Especially if you are more experienced with resistance training this is likely needed for extra muscle growth and strength progress.
5. Handstand pushups
This last alternative takes the concept of pike pushups a few steps further. You can do handstand pushups against a wall or if you have the skill, stand-alone.
Take the following steps to do a handstand pushup against a wall:
- Stand in front of the sturdy wall you will use with your face towards it.
- Put your hands right in front of the wall and swing your feet to the wall so you stand on your hands with your body in more or less a straight line.
- Slowly lower your body by folding your arms until your head is right above the ground.
- Push yourself back up in a controlled motion into the position of step 2 by stretching your arms.
Handstand pushups put even more of your body weight on your arms. This makes it so this exercise offers more muscle growth and strength increases than pike pushups.
One downside of handstand pushups is that they are technically challenging. On the one hand, this can lead to more coordination and balance training.
On the other hand, this makes it harder to focus on your shoulder and tricep training.
In the unlikely case that you find handstand pushups too easy, you can wear a good weighted vest to make the exercise even more challenging.