Pike push-ups are an advanced push-up exercise that requires tremendous upper-body strength.
For pike push-ups, your body is in a triangle shape rather than a flat plank, which changes the muscles worked by pike push-ups vs regular push-ups to focus much more on the triceps and shoulders rather than the pecs.
But, you may want to know, how many pike push-ups should I do in my workouts?
In this pike push-ups workout guide, we will cover how to do pike push-ups, how to modify pike push-ups, and ultimately answer your question, how many pike push-ups should I do in my workouts based on my fitness level?
Let’s jump in!
What Is a Pike Push-Up?
If you are familiar with yoga, a pike push-up can be thought of as doing a push-up in the position of Downward Dog pose.
If you have never tried yoga or aren’t familiar with any of the yoga poses, you can envision this as forming your body into an inverted V shape.
This means that your hips and butt are straight up into the air and your upper body and lower body each extend outward and downward at roughly a 45° angle from there so that your body is “tented up.”
Pike push-ups should be avoided by anyone who has elbow or shoulder injuries or who suffers from wrist pain, as the body position for pike push-ups puts a tremendous amount of stress on these joints.
Additionally, if you have any contraindications to inversions (having your head below the level of your heart), such as low blood pressure, orthostatic hypotension, or migraines, you should not attempt pike push-ups without first consulting your doctor or a physical therapist.
How Do You Do Pike Push-Ups?
Here are the steps for how to perform pike push-ups:
- If you are familiar with yoga, get your body into the Downward Dog pose. If not, begin in a push-up position down on the floor with your hands stacked under your shoulders and your toes curled underneath your body on the floor with your whole body in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Keeping your core tight by thinking about sucking your belly button in towards your spine and squeezing your glutes as hard as possible, move into the pike push-up position by lifting your hips straight up into the air by hinging at your waist.
- Keep your back straight and your legs straight so that you form two sides of a triangle with your butt as the peak. Depending on your hamstring flexibility and your upper body strength, you might want to walk your hands toward your feet to make a more acute triangle. This will make pike push-ups more difficult for your triceps and shoulders.
- Bend your elbows, bringing your upper body towards the floor being mindful not to hit your head or crane your neck. You want to keep your back completely neutral so that your gaze is towards your toes or the wall behind you. Your legs should remain straight. Do not bend your knees.
- Move as slowly as possible as you lower your body to maximize the strengthening benefits of pike push-ups and to challenge your core stability.1Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No Time to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Sports Medicine, 51(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1
- Once your elbows are bent and you have lowered your upper body as much as possible, pause and hold the lowered position, flexing your triceps, deltoids, rhomboids, and traps. Make sure that you are also keeping your core muscles engaged.
- After 2 to 3 seconds, press powerfully through the heels of your hands to straighten your arms and return to the starting triangle position with your elbows fully extended.
Modifying Pike Push-Ups
As mentioned, pike push-ups are extremely challenging, even for advanced weight lifters who can normally do long sets of regular push-ups.For this reason, you should begin with just a couple of reps of pike push-ups, stopping if you cannot maintain the proper form or if you are unable to use the full range of motion to lower and lift your body.
If you are unable to do pike push-ups, there are some beginner pike push-up progressions that can help you work your way towards mastering pike push-ups.
Here are some tips for pike push-ups for beginners:
How To Perform Pike Push-Ups: Tips
- Begin by just holding a regular high plank position, which is the end position of a push-up with your arms fully extended and your hands stacked under your shoulders. Build up to 30 seconds.
- Practice the downward dog yoga position, which is the starting position for the pike push-up. Essentially, you can think of this as the equivalent of practicing a high plank for mastering regular push-ups: you are doing an isometric hold to build stability and endurance in the muscles worked by pike push-ups without yet requiring concentric and eccentric contractions with the pike push-up movements.
- Do pike push-ups with your legs supported. Try pike push-ups with your legs supported on a weight bench, couch, bed, etc. Allow your legs to lie flat on the bench with your upper body draping off. As you get stronger, you can walk your hands further away from the bench or support so that eventually just your toes are on the bench. This is actually a more advanced pike push-up progression than regular pike push-ups because you’ll have more of your body weight working against gravity, much like a decline push-up. However, starting with all of your lower body from your waist to your toes supported can help you build strength for pike push-ups.
As you get stronger, advanced athletes can progress pike push-ups as mentioned, putting the feet in an elevated position with just the toes off of a weight bench and then performing the pike push-up in that position. This requires you to work against more gravity.
Handstand push-ups are an even more advanced progression of the pike push-up and are performed in the handstand position.
You can work your way up to handstand push-ups by doing pike push-ups with your feet up against a wall and then gradually taking them away once you have built the core stability and shoulder strength and stability for full inverted push-ups.
How Many Pike Push-Ups Should I Do To See Results?
When deciding how many pike push-ups reps to do, of course, you need to consider your fitness level and how many pike push-ups you can do.
Because pike push-ups are so challenging, most people are limited in the number of reps of pike push-ups they can do without stopping.
Pike push-up reps can cause the triceps, deltoids, and potentially upper back muscles and upper portions of your pecs to give out from fatigue.
Given the technical nature of pike push-ups vs regular push-ups, perhaps even more so than most strength training exercises and standard push-ups, the priority should definitely be on the quality of each pike push-up rep rather than the quantity of pike push-ups reps you can do in a row or in a workout.
Do fewer reps of pike push-ups per set and focus on making each rep as perfect as you can.
In fact, one of the best ways to make pike push-ups more challenging is to slow down the exercise as much as possible because this will place the muscles worked by pike push-ups under tension for an extended period of time.
Try to count to 4 to 5 seconds on the lowering portion of the pike push-up exercise to really work your triceps and shoulders through the eccentric (lengthening) contraction.2Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983
There are no specific guidelines as to how many pike push-ups you should do. Again, the focus should be on quality, not quantity.
If and when you can easily do a bunch of pike push-ups without difficulty, you can do longer sets of pike push-ups or add in more difficult variations such as full inverted handstand push-ups.
A good starting place is aiming for 2 to 3 sets of 4 to 10 reps of pike push-ups. Advanced athletes can do three sets of 10 to 20 pike push-up reps.
As you get stronger and better at pike push-ups, you can first add more sets of pike push-ups per workout, and then increase the number of reps of pike push-ups per set, once you can do all of your sets with perfect form.
To learn more about how to strengthen your upper body for pike push-up workouts, check out our guide to the best upper body workouts here.
- 1Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No Time to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Sports Medicine, 51(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1
- 2Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983