Pike pushups are a popular pushup variation. With the right progressions, you can work up to your first repetition or make the exercise harder.
This variation is different from regular pushups in that you move your feet closer to your hands and raise your hips. By doing this, pike pushups focus a lot more on your shoulder muscles and a lot less on your chest muscles.
Pike pushups are typically harder than regular pushups since shoulder muscles are generally weaker than chest muscles. If you can’t do a pike pushup yet, you can start with easier progressions to build up your strength.
That being said, individuals who are more experienced with resistance training may need to make regular bodyweight pushups harder to keep seeing muscle growth and strength progress. For a situation like that, there are plenty of progressions too.
Important general guidelines
Before learning all the pike pushup progressions, it is important to keep a few important guidelines in mind. These are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to pike pushup technique and resistance training in general.
The main attention point for pike pushups specifically is keeping your upper arms at a relatively small angle compared to your upper body.
At the bottom of the pike pushup movement, your upper arms should almost be by your sides. You don’t want to flare your elbows outward too much.
There are also more general guidelines when it comes to resistance training.
You want to give your muscles at least a day of rest in between pike pushup progression sessions. This means you can train 3-4 times a week in total. Additionally, you want to rest around 2 minutes in between each set you do.
Lastly, make sure you give your body enough nutrients and sleep to repair and grow your muscles when working on these pike pushup progressions.
Working up to a regular pike pushup
Many people are not able to do a full regular pike pushup yet. For these individuals, the progressions below can help them achieve that goal.
1. Shoulder presses
Shoulder presses are an exercise where you stand up straight with some form of weight in your hands at about shoulder height. To do the actual exercise you slowly push this weight up while keeping your elbows close enough to the center.
This movement may ring a bell because it is very similar to pike pushups. The exceptions are that you are standing up straight, using extra weight, and pushing up at a slightly more vertical angle compared to your upper body in this pike pushup alternative.
That means shoulder presses also work similar muscles as pike pushups. By starting the exercise with an achievable weight and increasing this weight as you get stronger, you will likely be able to progress to a regular pike pushup soon.
As a general guideline, you want to use a weight where you can do more than 6 repetitions but fewer than 12 repetitions and do 3-6 sets with 2 minutes rest between each set.
When you can do full sets of 12 repetitions you can start using a heavier weight. At what point you can then move to pike pushups depends on your body weight.
You can even stick to shoulder presses after that and keep increasing the weights you use.
2. Incline pike pushups
Incline pike pushups are the same movement as the regular version but with your hands on a sturdy, elevated platform. By elevating your hands, less weight rests on your shoulders. This makes the pike pushups easier.
Within this exercise, there are multiple levels you can choose.
One training day looks like doing 3-6 sets of as many incline pike pushups as you can (with 2 minutes rest between each set) with a surface at hip height until you are able to do about 15 good repetitions in a row.
Next, you can transition to the same numbers but for incline pike pushups with an elevated surface at about knee height. Once you can do 15 good repetitions in a row of these you should be able to go to regular pike pushups.
3. Flatter pike pushups
Incline pike pushups are generally better to progress to the regular version but if you don’t have sturdy elevated surfaces available at the right height you can also do “flatter” pike pushups.
This basically means starting with your feet farther away from your hands and hips lower than a normal pike pushup. At the same time, you still make sure you go forward, not downward like in a regular pushup.
When it comes to repetitions and sets, you can work up to 3-6 sets of 12 repetitions at an angle that is achievable to you. Once you hit these numbers, you can move to a slightly steeper angle.
If you keep doing this you will be able to do a full pike pushup soon.
4. Regular pike pushups
If you do one of the three previous progressions, eat well, sleep well, and give your body enough rest, you should be able to reach a full pike pushup sooner or later.
As mentioned before, make sure you keep your elbows close enough to the middle to avoid any shoulder injuries.
Making pike pushups more challenging
Pike pushups can help you grow and strengthen your shoulder and tricep muscles a nice amount.
Even so, you will have to make the bodyweight version more challenging to keep seeing progress (if you are eating, resting, and sleeping well) at some point.
When this is the case, you can choose more challenging pike pushup progressions. Many of these are already achievable if you can do about 20-25 regular pike pushups in a row.
Which one of these is the best for you depends on your personal preferences, personal situation, training goals, equipment available, etc.
5. Weighted pike pushups
The main reason why regular pike pushups become too easy is that your muscles get strong enough for the weight (your bodyweight) they have to lift.
To make them even stronger you have to challenge your muscles more (again if you are eating, resting, sleeping well). One of the most straightforward ways to do this is by using some form of external weight.
When it comes to pike pushups, a quality weighted vest is basically your only good option.
Similar to shoulder presses, you can keep increasing the weight of the vest as you get stronger to keep seeing muscle growth and strength progress.
6. Feet elevated pike pushups
In regular pike pushups, a lot of your weight still rests on your shoulders. For beginners, this is great because this allows them to do a full repetition.
For more experienced individuals it would be nice if they could make it so more of their body weight rests on their arms. This is exactly what feet elevated pike pushups do.
As the name implies, these are simply pike pushups where you put your feet on a sturdy and stable elevated surface.
You can start with something relatively low to the ground. Once you can do about 3-6 sets of 15 good repetitions in a row, you can use a higher surface.
7. Feet elevated + hands elevated
Elevating your hands sounds like something that would undo your efforts of making the angle steeper by raising your feet. This is true if you would use a big elevated surface for your hands.
Instead, you want to use pushup equipment like pushup bars or parallettes. By putting your hand on one of these you can lower yourself more without hitting the ground.
This makes the exercise more challenging for your shoulder and tricep muscles.
8. Handstand pushups
Lastly, you can continue feet elevated pike pushups all the way up until all of your body weight rests on your arms. This is called a handstand pushup.
You don’t necessarily have to add the balance challenge of a regular handstand. It is also possible to do handstand pushups with your feet leaning against a wall. This can still put basically all of your weight on your arms.