What Muscles Do Pike Pushups Work?

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Resistance training exercises like only focus on a few areas. Find out what muscles pike pushups work and whether this is enough for growth.

Pike pushups mainly work your front and side deltoids (main shoulder muscle), triceps (back upper arm), and upper trapezius (upper shoulder/neck) muscles.

If you can barely complete 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 (weighted) pike pushups, this exercise can be very effective for growing and strengthening these muscles.

Besides that, pike pushups also engage muscles like your middle/lower trapezius, other scapular muscles, (upper) chest muscles, abs, quadriceps, and hip flexors to some extent.

However, you should not expect too much of a workout in these areas.

I will also go over how you can influence the deltoid engagement in pike pushups, how they compare to regular pushups in muscles worked, whether decline pike pushups are any different, and more.

How to do a pike pushup

Primary muscles worked with pike pushups

Pike pushups are a compound shoulder exercise which means they work a variety of other muscles too. However, only a few of these will have to work really hard compared to their relative strengths.

More specifically, pike pushups mainly work your front and side deltoids, triceps, and upper trapezius.

Deltoids (shoulders)

Your deltoids are the main muscles around your shoulder. They have three muscle heads that each have to work hard in certain specific arm movements.

What deltoid muscle heads you mainly work depends on the upward movement of your arms.

In pike pushups, you typically keep your upper arms somewhat pointing forward. In turn, this exercise will mainly work the front deltoids but also the side deltoids a good amount.

Do pike pushups work your side delts?

So pike pushups do typically work your side delts to at least some extent. How much depends on the angles of your upper arms.

In theory, you could point your upper arms somewhat more outward toward a horizontal line with your shoulder to focus more on your side delts and slightly less on your front delts.

That being said, you definitely don’t want to overdo this since it puts your shoulders in a position that typically involves a higher injury risk.

To really work your side deltoids you preferably want to do pike pushup alternatives like lateral raises.


The triceps are the muscles along the back of your upper arms. These muscles are responsible for stretching your arms in pike pushups and other movements.

Your front and side deltoids generate a lot of the force to make this happen but pike pushups will also work your triceps to a nice extent.


The trapezius is a large muscle that runs along your upper back up to your neck.

Pike pushups mainly work the muscle fibers in the upper part of the trapezius.

These are responsible for raising (or lowering when you are upside down) your shoulders and making sure they don’t lower (raise when you are upside down) too much when doing pike pushups.

Secondary muscles worked with pike pushups

You also have to engage a variety of other muscles to keep your shoulder blades and the rest of your body in the right position.

Some of these secondary muscles pike pushups work include your middle/lower trapezius, other scapular muscles, (upper) chest muscles, abs, quadriceps, and hip flexors.

You should not expect too much, if any, muscle growth in these areas by doing pike pushups. However, you could potentially still get tiny endurance improvements in these muscles.

Do pike pushups work your upper chest?

When doing pike pushups with great technique, you keep your upper body more or less vertical. By doing this, you mainly work your deltoids and triceps.

As mentioned, your chest muscles, including the upper part), also have to work to some extent to keep your upper arms and shoulders at the right angles.

Additionally, if you would not keep your body completely vertical but tilt it sideways instead, pike pushups would also work your upper chest muscles a lot.

That being said, this is typically not the main goal of the exercise.

Do decline pike pushups work different muscles?

A typical way to make regular pike pushups harder is elevating your feet to do decline pike pushups. You may wonder if this works different muscles.

The answer depends on how tilted you keep your upper body in the two versions.

Many people will find it easier to keep their upper body vertical in decline pike pushups. In turn, this can work your front deltoids just a bit more and your upper chest muscles just a bit less.

That being said, with good technique, decline pike pushups will generally work the same muscles as the regular version which means front and side deltoids, triceps, and upper trapezius.

Muscles worked pike pushups vs pushups

As their names imply, pike pushups and pushups are somewhat similar movements but at different upper body angles. This leads to working slightly different muscles in slightly different ratios.

More specifically, regular pushups mainly focus on your chest, tricep, and front deltoid muscles.

On the other hand, pike pushups mainly work your front deltoids, side deltoids, and triceps.

Something else to note is that the range of motion of the front deltoids will be a lot bigger in pike pushups. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.

In simpler words, regular pushups will focus a lot more on your chest whereas the pike variation mainly focuses on your front deltoids.

Both exercises work your triceps a nice amount.

What variation is the better choice for you depends on details like your training goals.

Do pike pushups build muscle?

Pike pushups are a resistance training exercise which means they are mainly effective for building and strengthening muscles.

At the same time, you need to keep in mind that you still have to do resistance training exercises with the right resistance, repetition ranges, set ranges, and frequency to build muscle.

Similar to the regular version, you want to do around 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 pike pushups with a resistance where you are barely able to complete these ranges to build muscle.

That being said, most people will also be able to build muscle with higher-repetition sets (up to around 50 pike pushups and potentially more) (1).

As you get stronger over time, you likely have to make your pike pushup exercise routine harder to keep building a lot of muscle.

How to make pike pushups harder

As mentioned, you need to do pike pushups with enough resistance to see muscle growth and strength increases.

For many resistance training beginners and intermediates, bodyweight pike pushups will be challenging enough.

At the same time, more experienced lifters may need to make pike pushups harder.

The first way to do this is doing decline pike pushups where your feet are elevated. This makes it so more of your weight rests on your arms. In turn, your muscles have to work harder.

You can even consider doing these elevated pike pushups with your hands on parallettes which are two small elevated horizontal bars.

By doing this, your muscles can go through a larger range of motion which is typically harder (but more effective).

Lastly, you can also do pike pushups with weights. This is a bit more challenging to do than regular weighted pushups because your upper body is tilted.

However, you can still lift one leg up in the air and/or wear a weighted vest while doing the pike pushups.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.