Pike Push-ups are the main overhead pressing exercise progression in bodyweight training. They can eventually be used to progress into handstand push-ups. For many who find dips to bother their shoulders or aggravate sternum pain, if you have adequate overhead Mobility, then pike push-ups are a great alternative to them as a pair with push-ups for your total pushing work in pure bodyweight training. They can also functionally take the place of a barbell overhead press in a normal mixed strength training program if you are aiming to develop your handstand push-ups.
If you have completed my introductory workout program for total beginners to fitness, the ‘Bodyweight Fitness Primer‘ routine, and graduted/moved on to my next program, the ‘Bodyweight Strength Foundation‘, this is one of the new movements you will be tackling!
From the perspective of getting the most out of this guide, it would be in your best interest (if possible) to film yourself from the side doing a few reps, and watch them back as you read this guide in order to get a frame of reference, and see which parts of the guide are most helpful for you. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a tripod to frame yourself up, you can just prop your phone against something and use the front facing camera to frame where you will be standing.)
Also the following summary of this exercise is described in about AS MUCH DETAIL AS POSSIBLE. If this is your first time learning about this exercise, this may feel like an overwhelming amount of information to you to begin with. Do not worry, this guide is so detailed simply because it is a reference guide, and not everything needs to be absorbed and perfectly replicated on your very first read through. You will most likely come back to read this guide many many times as you learn.
- Hands positioned approximately shoulder width apart with fingers spread and pointer fingers parallel to each other
- Elbows locked straight
- Shoulders shrugged up to the ears, pushing the ground away from you and opening the shoulder as much as possible
- Hips as high as possible and as close to over the hands as possible
- OPTIONAL: Legs straight (I find a slightly bent leg helps me keep my hips higher over my hands)
- Bring the head in front of the hands as you descend
- Radial movement of the upper arm around the elbow, which does not move much if at all
- Forearm stays vertical throughout the movement
- Hips move forward to stay over the hands
- Forearms Vertical
- Head well in front of hands
- Nose gently touching the ground
- Hips vertically over the hands
How to Scale Pike Push-ups to be Easier or Harder:
Easier: Pre Pike-Pushup
So the pre-pike pushup is a great way to acclimate yourself to the vertical pressing pattern; pushing up over your head rather than out in front evn though you are still pushing ‘into the ground’.
To perform it, get into a normal pushup position and take a 1-2 ‘ankle steps’ forward. This will lift your hips up a little bit. Then go down like you would in a push-up (going forward as you descend to keep a vertical forearm), then at the bottom, think about pushing your hands ‘up’ the floor like you’re trying to get your hands straight over the crown of your head. At the same time, your chest will drive back towards your feet so that your arms end up all the way overhead at the end of the movement.
To progress this, take more steps forward with your toes, progressively decreasing the distance between your hands and feet/making your hips higher until you are doing pike push-ups.
Pre Pike Push-up Level 1
Pre Pike Push-up Level 2
Pre Pike Push-up Level 3
Harder: Elevated Pike Pushup
Now this progression puts a little more weight on your hands/shoulders the higher your feet are elevated. Eventually you will be putting your feet up on a wall and will be essentially doing handstand push-ups.
Alternatively, for individuals that struggle with pike compression due to hamstring inflexibility, a very slight foot elevated can help to get the hips over the hands at the bottom without making it too much more difficult generally.
Head Between Hands
Why this happens:
Trying to go ‘down’ rather than sending the head in front of the hands
How to fix it:
Practice sending the head forward. The contact point of the nose and the two hands should make an equilateral triangle. Same distance between all points.
Out, Not Up
Why this happens:
Inadequate focus on pressing overhead, resulting in muscle memory taking over and turning into more of a push-up pattern than an overhead press.
Inadequate strength at the shoulder to keep pressing overhead, but you compensate to take the path of least resistance to achieve lockout by simply using the triceps to complete the lockout regardless of shoulder angle
How to fix it:
Improve overhead pressing strength with an easier progression, or by improving your shoulder strength in general.
Simply focus on pushing overhead, even if it’s hard and it would be easier to push out.
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