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Pike Pushups: How To, Risks,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing pike pushups, what will the effects be?

A pike pushup is a form of pushup with your upper body pointing down at a steep angle instead of horizontal to the ground. This difference in angle changes a few things.

How to do a pike pushup

To do a pike pushup take the following steps:

  1. Sit on your hands and knees on the ground with your hands at about shoulder width.
  2. Move your hips in the air so that your body makes a triangle together with the ground. You likely have to lift up your heels in the air and lean on the front of your feet.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at your upper body from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
  4. Stretch your arms again until you are back in the pike position of step 2.

The position of your upper arms is especially important for avoiding any shoulder injuries.

If you have low parallette bars or something similar you can use these to increase your range of motion during pike pushups. That being said they are certainly not a must.

How to do a pike pushup

Pike pushup variations

The pike pushup done on a horizontal surface is the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few pike pushup variations that can make the exercise easier or harder.

Easier variations

Some people are not ready yet for pike pushups. This can be the case even if you can do regular pushups without a problem. For most people, pike pushups are harder because shoulder muscles can generally lift less weight than chest muscles.

To work up to a regular pike pushup beginners can consider two main pike pushup progressions. The first one is doing more incline pike pushups. This means with your hands on an elevated platform. Doing the exercise this way takes away resistance from your arms which makes the movement easier.

The second option is doing exercises for the muscles that are currently not strong enough for a pike pushup. For example, if your shoulder is currently not strong enough you can start with light shoulder presses. If your triceps are not strong enough you can start with a light tricep extension.

Even if you don’t have any fitness equipment like good resistance bands or dumbbells available you can use household objects like a heavy backpack or grocery bags until you are able to do a pike pushup.

Other areas that may need improvement to be able to do a pike pushup include flexibility, balance, chest, and core muscles.

Harder variations

If you are more experienced with resistance training, pike pushups may be too easy to build a lot of extra muscle mass fast. At this point, you need to turn to other shoulder or tricep exercises or make pike pushups harder to keep growing your muscles a lot.

Making pike pushups harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up muscle growth compared to doing the bodyweight variation over and over.

The first way to make pike pushups harder is by doing a decline pushup. This is where you put your feet on an elevated platform. By doing this a bigger part of your body weight rests on your arms. This makes the pike pushup harder.

Another way is to do weighted pushups, basically doing pike pushups with extra external resistance. The main equipment option for this is a weighted vest. Pike pushups also become slightly more challenging if you lift up one leg in the air.

Muscles worked with pike pushups

One of the main differences with regular pushups is that pike pushups focus on different muscles. Some of the primary muscles worked with pike pushups include:

  • Anterior (front part) deltoids
  • Triceps

Some of the secondary muscles worked with pike pushups include:

  • Lateral (middle part) deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Chest
  • Core
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Erector spinae

Although these other muscles play a role as well, pike pushups will mainly focus on your anterior deltoids and tricep muscles.

To build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 pike pushups depending on how advanced you are.

Benefits of pike pushups

There are two main categories of benefits of pike pushups. The first category is the benefits of pike pushups over regular pushups. Some of these include:

  1. More deltoid training: Whether this is an actual benefit for you depends on your personal situation and training goals.
  2. Slightly more time-efficient: Most people can do fewer pike pushups compared to regular ones. This time difference is tiny for one workout but adds up over time.
  3. More balance training: Balance is a helpful skill that can be trained. Pike pushups are harder when it comes to this compared to regular pushups.

While changing the angle of your upper body during pushups does influence a few important aspects, pike pushups are still pushups. This means they also offer many regular pushup benefits. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Pike pushups are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing pike pushups likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like pike pushups promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. No equipment or location required: Since pike pushups are a bodyweight exercise you don’t have to invest in equipment or be in a specific location.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like pike pushups can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. Slows down aging: Pike pushups won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.

While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than pike pushups, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

Like with any type of exercise there are risks when doing pike pushups.

The main thing to keep in mind when doing pike pushups is the position of your upper arms. If you flare them outward too much you increase the risk of shoulder injuries.

Similar to the regular version you want to keep your back in a straight line to avoid a suboptimal back position when doing pike pushups.

Next, you don’t want to fall face-first on the ground. If you are more of a resistance training beginner you may want to ask someone to stand by when first trying out pike pushups.

Lastly, if you are not comfortable standing with your head downward, you get dizzy easily, or you have low blood pressure, pike pushups may not be recommended. Standing with your head down for an extended period of time can be dangerous even if you are a healthy individual.

Pike pushups can be hard on body parts like your shoulders, back, elbows, and wrists even if you implement the right technique. If you are sensitive in these areas you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Pike pushup alternatives

While pike pushups can definitely be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training similar fitness components. Some of these pike pushup alternatives include:

  • Regular pushups
  • Shoulder exercises like shoulder press, front raise, lateral raise, etc.
  • Tricep exercises like tricep kickback, arm extension, skull crusher, etc.
  • Core exercises like planks, deadlifts, bent-over rows, etc.
  • Upper chest exercises like incline bench press, upward cable fly, decline pushups, etc.
  • Balance exercises like balance board exercises, standing on one leg, yoga, etc.
  • Flexibility exercises like stretching, yoga, pilates, etc.

Which one of these options is the best alternative depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc. A standing shoulder press with external weights will resemble pike pushups a lot.

Conclusion

Many people will benefit a lot from adding pike pushups with the right technique to their routine. Depending on your personal situation and training goals, regular pushups and other exercises may be a better choice.

One thing you need to remember is that doing pike pushups can be hard on body parts like your shoulders, back, elbows, and wrists even if you implement the right technique. If you are sensitive in these areas you may need to do other strengthening exercises first.

For people who are not comfortable standing with their head downward, people who get dizzy easily, or people who have low blood pressure, pike pushups may not be recommended. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing pike pushups is a workout you love, great. If not regular pushups, pushup alternatives, and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more pike pushups, make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.

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Matt Claes

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.

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