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January 13, 2022 8 min read

Pike push-ups can really be good additions to all of your other chest workouts. The pike push up can build major shoulder and chest strength. If you bring in a few variations, pike push ups can also even help you build bigger forearms. In this article, we’ll offer you some helpful tips for how to do pike push ups with the proper form and get the most benefits out of the exercise.

Maintain Proper Form

The key to this exercise is to make sure you maintain proper form to keep your shoulders safe and to avoid falling on your face. The pike push up is a powerful movement and a major shoulder strengthener. You should feel every single rep in your upper body, especially in your shoulders. This is because the inverted V shape of the pike pushup puts more emphasis on your shoulders than on your chest.

Start by assuming a classic push-up position and do enough of those that they become somewhat easy.

Then you can try to use the pike push up as a transition exercise into gaining enough shoulder strength to do a handstand, or eventually, even a handstand push up. The pike push up is a fairly advanced movement that helps you become more comfortable with your weight being shifted overhead.

How To Do A Pike Push Up (Form)

The pike push up is definitely not a move for beginners. You should also avoid bodyweight training like this if you are recovering from any type of elbow or shoulder injury, or if you suffer from dizziness or low blood pressure.

For this exercise, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your form and emphasize quality over quantity to improve your upper-body strength.

Work up to 8 slow, controlled reps as you get started. Do 2 or 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps about twice a week and rest for a minute between rounds for maximum strength gain. You can slowly start adding more reps and sets as you build strength.

Follow the step by step instructions below to get started:

  1. Start in a plank position on the floor, with your hands firmly on the floor, right under your shoulders. Press your toes firmly into the floor too. 
  2. Keep your core tight and your back flat and engage your core, your glutes, and your hamstrings. Your whole body should be neutral and in a straight line. 
  3. Lift your hips up and back until your body forms an inverted V shape. 
  4. Keep your arms and legs as straight as you possibly can. 
  5. Start to bend your elbows, and then lower your entire upper body toward the floor. 
  6. Stay there for a few seconds, then slowly push back up until your arms are straight and you are in the inverted V position. 
  7. Be sure to maintain a high level of control throughout the entire movement. 

If you are having trouble perfecting your form for this exercise, it can be helpful to break down the movement, regress, and work on the foundation. Practice doing plank exercises to build strength and stability in your core and your shoulders. First perfect your form for a regular push up, until your shoulders become strong and powerful enough to try the pike version. 

Once you are able to do the pike push up, you can start to build strength by increasing the  number of reps and sets to help you produce rapid muscle and strength gains.

You might also start to work on a handstand or even some handstand push ups where you are almost upside down. You could also move on to other intermediate-level movements.

You can make your pike push ups even harder with one of these variations:

  • Lift one of your legs at a time before you start to bend your elbows. 
  • Elevate your feet by stepping onto a sturdy box, chair, or bench. 
  • Start slow and stay as low to the floor as you can. As it gets easier, go higher.

Slow down all of your movements and really stay focused on your form. Never let your head touch the floor, but try to get as close to it as you can. If you struggle with this, keep working toward your goal by lowering a little bit further each time. But be very careful not to slip and fall on your face or injure your shoulders.

Pike Push-ups: Muscles Worked

Pike push ups offer a fundamental movement pattern that can help mobilize your thoracic spine and lessen any back pain you might have. However, keep in mind that it is extremely important to have enough general mobility before you attempt any kinds of new exercises like this one. You never want to start doing any exercises that are beyond the range of motion of the muscles you are trying to train.

You will soon find that the pike push up really works your core muscles and all of your abdominals. As you shift your weight forward into the pike position, your core has to be used to keep you from falling forward. This is why so many people feel an intense burn in their abs after a pike push up workout session.

Your core can almost act as the basis for all of the rest of your weightlifting strength. When you do core exercises, your whole body will get a lot stronger. Your abdominals and lower abs, along with your obliques and deep core muscles like the transverse abdominis, are very important ones when it comes to training your core.

Aside from the more obvious muscle groups such as the chest, shoulders (anterior deltoids), biceps, and triceps, pike push ups can also sometimes work your forearms as long as you use the right technique. They are able to work the muscles of the forearm by contracting isometrically to keep your body in the right place during the entire exercise. 

While pike push ups might not build much in terms of forearm size, they can build some impressive strength in and around your wrist area. This is one reason why pike push ups are popular in martial arts exercises. Many fighters have long believed that pike push ups can build more punching power by strengthening their wrists.

Performing Pike Push-ups on Your Knuckles 

For these, you just place your closed fists on the floor at shoulder-width or slightly wider, with your palms facing each other. Rise up onto your knuckles and toes so your torso and thighs form a straight line. Bend your elbows to lower your body to the floor, and then extend your arms again to return to the starting position and complete the repetition.

Your forearm muscles really work during knuckle push ups because your wrist flexors and wrist extensors are forced to isometrically contract while you complete your repetitions.

You need to already have enough forearm strength before you decide to try knuckle push ups. The exercise puts your wrists in a vulnerable position and if you don’t yet have the strength to control the movement well enough, you could injure your joints. Also, always do knuckle push ups on a soft surface to reduce the amount of force there is on your knuckles. 

Pushing down into the floor on your knuckles can cause pain, so start with fewer reps and build up your tolerance gradually. As you are beginning, you can try performing knuckle push ups from your knees to allow your arms to adapt to the additional stress, and then you can gradually work up to the pike position.

When doing this exercise, always keep your abdominals braced and your back as straight as you can. Letting your hips sag reduces the range of motion of the exercise because your pelvis touches the floor before your chest does. Remember that doing any type of push ups with an arched or rounded back may quickly lead to back pain, which is something to be avoided at all costs.

You also may want to change the position of your hands from time to time to maximize your gains.

A study published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that  chest muscle activity was greater when push ups were done with the hands placed halfway inward from their normal position.

As for actual muscle mass, you are not really going to get spectacular results from a push up because it is mostly a chest, tricep, and shoulder exercise. You will find that other exercises like dips can help you quickly strengthen your triceps and pecs together by using 100 percent of your body weight, which is  far more than what you would ever lift during a floor press session of pike push ups.

Even though they generally require you to lift more weight, many beginners find dips a little easier to do than even regular push ups.

How Often Should You Do Pike Push Ups? 

Beginners (with a year or less of training) should usually aim for up to 8 slow, controlled reps as a good starting point. A novice trainee (with two to four years of training) can do 2 or 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps about twice a week and rest for a minute between rounds for maximum strength gain, and veterans (four or more years of training) may be able to do 4 or 5 sets of up to 10 reps about twice a week.

Because these exercises work your chest, which is one of the larger muscles in the upper body, you can train it a little more often than some of your other muscle groups.

However, your chest training frequency also depends on your personal workout split. If you are a bodybuilder who only chest trains once a week with a bench press, then you might find the above suggestions a bit much for a single session. However, if you follow a full-body split, six sets of chest per session three times per week will allow you to do more sets in total.

Powerlifters who want to achieve maximum chest strength may even decide to do one low-rep, strength-focused session and then one higher rep,  hypertrophy-focused workout that often includes deadlifts or squats. For those athletes, their muscles will generally need a long time to recover properly. Recovery time is often at least 48 hours and up to 72 hours.

If you are mostly working out for general health and core strength, then start by doing a small set of pike push ups once or twice a week.

It is quite common to pair your chest with your triceps and the other muscles of your upper arms because those muscles all work together. You might also decide to train your entire upper body on one day (chest day) and then your lower body (leg day) on another day.

A lot of weightlifters vary in terms of the types of exercises they prefer to build their muscles. You will often find that some lifters who already have strong upper back strength prefer chest day, and some lifters who already have strong lower body strength prefer leg day. Finding a good balance between each of the days should be a worthy goal for a beginner.

Getting Some Real Results

Pike push ups are good ways to build a bigger chest, and they can also be used to build bigger shoulders, forearms, biceps, and triceps.

Bodyweight exercises like pike push ups can often lead to a high level of overall hypertrophy. But if you're looking to add muscle mass even quicker, the  Beach Bod Stack  can help.