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Maximum Potential Calisthenics

Pike Push-ups

What is a Pike Push-up?

A pike push-up involves lowering your head from a downward dog position until it touches the ground, then pressing back up to the start position.

It is a great exercise to put more emphasis on the shoulders and start building the strength required for a handstand push-up.

Pike Push-ups Muscles Worked


  • Deltoid anterior (front)
  • Triceps brachii
Pike Push-ups Primary Muscles Used - Front

Secondary (Synergists)

  • Pectoralis major clavicular (upper)
  • Deltoid lateral (middle)
  • Trapezius, middle and lower
  • Serratus anterior, inferior (lower)
Pike Push-ups Secondary Muscles Used
Pike Push-ups Secondary Muscles Used - Back

How to Perform a Pike Push-up

Start Position

Pike Push-up Start
  • Place your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart, with your bum in the air and feet on the ground, practitioners of Yoga may recognise this as the downward-facing dog position.
  • Your arms should be overhead, slightly in front of your face.
  • If flexibility is a problem, feel free to bend your knees or place your feet on an elevated object.


Pike Push-up Execution
  • Lower yourself under control, until the top of your head touches the ground.
  • Hold for a second, then return to the start position.

Pike Push-up Form

Elbow Position

Pike push-up don't flare elbows

Elbows should stay in line with your hands throughout the movement, don’t flare them out.

The forearm should remain vertical throughout; this gives better carryover to handstand push-ups.

This will focus on your triceps, as well as keep your shoulder joint stable.

Full Range of Motion

The full range of motion is all the way down until your head touches the floor and all the back way up.

Keep Your Upper Body Straight

You should be able to draw a straight line between your hip, shoulder and ear throughout the movement.


Inhale during the eccentric phase (lowering yourself), and exhale during the concentric phase (pushing yourself back up).

Try to breathe through your stomach rather than your chest to get more strength from your abdominal muscles.

Pike Push-up Progression / Regression

Incline / Decline

Incline Pike Push-up

The higher your hips are, the more weight will go through your shoulders.

If you lack flexibility, then simply put your feet on an elevated object.

Conversely, the lower your hips are, the less weight will go through your shoulders.

Hand Position

Moving your hands closer together will increase the difficulty a lot by emphasising the triceps.

Make sure you’re comfortable with close-hand decline push-ups before attempting this one.

Range of Motion

Performing this exercise with your hands on two elevated objects, with a place for your head to pass through will make the exercise considerably more difficult.

This puts a lot more pressure on the shoulders, so is only advised for advanced athletes with strong stabilisation muscles.

Decreasing the range of motion will make it easier, don’t move onto handstand push-ups until you can get your head to the floor and back.

2 Responses

    1. Hi Haden, the rear delts are the antagonist muscle in this exercise; meaning that they are lengthening and should be relaxing during the Pike Push-up.

      To target the rear delts, you’re better to do inverted rows or straight bridges.

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