Pike Push-Up: Building Strength for the Handstand Push-Up

Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch

The Pike Push-Up is great practice for progressing to the full Handstand Push-Up

I have to say the Pike Push-Up is one of my favorite bodyweight training exercises! Not only is it great for building rock hard shoulders, but it’s going to be your “go to” exercise while working your way up to the Handstand Push-Up.

Make sure to check out the video tutorial below for step-by-step instructions for executing the perfect Pike Push-Up!:

The Vertical Pressing Pattern

In the GBT System, we have “essential movement patterns” that all of our workouts are based around. One of them is the Vertical Pressing Pattern. In the typical gym, a vertical press would be like a military press or variations of pushing some sort of resistance (barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell) over head. But since we choose to use our own bodyweight as resistance instead, we have to learn to get inverted and press our body up and away from the floor.

Progressing to the Handstand Push-Up

If you’re not ready yet to do a full Handstand Push-Up, then the Pike Push-Up is the perfect exercise to develop the necessary strength, endurance, and stability as you progress. If you have a lot of mass or are still working on loosing a few pounds, this is a great way to work the pattern while only taking a percentage of your BW. As you get stronger and/or lose weight, you can begin to elevate the feet (which is a progression we will focus on in a later video).

Flexibility

If you happen to practice Yoga and have decent flexibility in your extensor chain (especially spinal extensors, glutes, hamstrings and calves) then the starting position should be very easy for you since it resembles a Downward Dog. Go ahead and keep your heels on the ground if you can still keep the knees straight and hips high above the shoulders. It is also still acceptable to come up on the toes and balls of your feet. The body should resemble a Capital “A” from the side.

There are a few muscles that may keep your form from being perfect in the Pike Push-Up and may need some specific attention before starting this exercise:

Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch

If you have tight lats, try stretching before the Pike Push-Up

Lats:
For the upper body, it’s essential to keep the head between the arms which can be difficult if you have tight lats. If you aren’t able to keep the arms directly over head then the exercise turns into less of a vertical press and more into a push up with emphasis on the upper fibers of the chest. If this is the case, I recommend stretching the lats before getting into position. Another great tip is to start with a couple of static handstands against the wall. This serves as a “functional” stretch of the lats, and since it’s a load bearing movement, you’ll also be preparing the shoulder stabilizers for the work to come.

Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch

Keep your hips high and knees straight!

Back and Knees:
The lower erectors of the spine, the glutes and the hamstrings may also be limiting muscles so be sure to stretch them if you notice you are having a hard time keeping the back straight or the knees extended. Remember, the key is to keep the hips as high above the shoulders, with straight knees and a flat back. The Gastrocnemius is a calf muscle that crosses both the ankle and the knee so don’t forget to spend a little time stretching it as well if you’re having difficulty keeping the knees straight.

Add It to Your Routine

Now that you know the specifics on the Pike Push-Up, go ahead and add it into your workouts. Like I said before, I also recommend adding in some static handstands against the wall. Try holding them for 30 seconds and working your way up to two minutes. This will not only help your Pike Push-Up but will be very valuable for you as you progress towards the Handstand Push-Up. Now go have fun!



  • For another Vertical Pressing Pattern exercise that uses only bodyweight, check out my article/video here on the Horizontal Squat With Press. This is a real fun one!


About Mike Fitch

7 Responses to “Pike Push-Up: Building Strength for the Handstand Push-Up”

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  1. Brandon Cook says:

    Love the pike push-up! Since I jacked up my shoulder and my hamstring this year… I decided to start from ground zero and do all the fundamental stuff I skipped when first starting years ago. A lot of my training has become bodyweight and rings… so your GBT site is very informative & inspiring.

    One of my goals is definitely the handstand push-up. I started with headstand holds as suggested in Convict conditioning. My next step is to do handstand holds against a wall and do pike push-ups, so this was a great tutorial. Looking forward to this one! Happy holidays, Mike.

    • Mike Fitch says:

      Hey Brandon, glad you’ve been able to get some inspiration from the site. It’s a great idea to start back at the basics. You’ve got to build a solid foundation if you want to truly progress (and stay injury free). Good luck with the handstand push up and feel free to post your progress on the GBT facebook page!

  2. Jorma says:

    A great post and a great exercise. I look forward to further progressions.

    I particularly appreciate the pointers on form and on which muscles might need to be stretched to get into a proper pike; that was always my problem (my hams are short/tight from extended sitting at work).

    I would invite more posts on shoulders but also on traps and rhomboids (the latter two being too often neglected in my opinion).

    I noted the link to your horizontal squat with press. That’s a very interesting movement that I’ll have to try out. I have done a simplified version vertically just pushing down against the squat. It also works well for calf raises. I like the fact of added resistance plus the activation of the shoulders.

    Lastly, since I’m already writing, do you have any pointers for wrist strength? My weakest link… I’ve seen equipment but I know there are more functional ways to train than with gimmicky devices.

  3. steve says:

    Pikes are really working great, thinks for a great exercise.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Global Bodyweight Training system. I recommend taking on this one after you’ve mastered the Floor Pike Push-Up we cover in this post. You can also check out The Negative Wall-Supported Handstand Push-Up. (See the videos at bottom of [...]

  2. […] push-ups could be a category all of their own; they’re one of the best bodyweight exercises for the shoulders. Raise the butt into the air so the body forms a triangle with the ground. It looks a little like […]



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