The pike push-up — a push-up performed in the pike position (hips flexed, back and legs straight) — is an easier alternative to handstand and half-handstand push-ups for training the shoulders using only your body weight. However, like handstand and half-handstand push ups, if done from the floor your range of motion is limited and you have to extend your neck towards the start point to avoid hitting your head on the floor, which may irritate some people’s necks.
A pair of sturdy push-up handles increases head clearance and range of motion, but normal push-up handles do not provide an optimal grip angle for pike push-ups, and are more prone to tipping or sliding when used for them because of the angle and narrow base. Ideally, handles for pike push-ups should be angled up about thirty degrees and have a longer base to prevent tipping.
This is a pretty simple project, requiring only two feet of one and one-quarter inch or larger schedule 40 PVC pipe, four T joints, and two ninety-degree elbow joints. This cost me less than fifteen dollars including tax at Home Depot. Optionally, you can add grip tape to increase friction and minimize the risk of slipping.
You’ll need a tape measure and sharpie to mark the cuts on the PVC and a pipe cutter or saw to make them. I recommend using a saw with a miter box to keep the cuts straight. If you don’t have a saw or pipe cutter and don’t want to buy one you should be able to find someone at your home improvement store to cut the handles for you.
Measure, mark, and cut two eight-inch and two four-inch sections of PVC.
Connect each of the eight-inch sections to each of the four-inch sections using the ninety degree elbow joint. Then connect each of the four T joints to the ends of the handles so they are perpendicular to the elbow joints.
Add grip tape if desired. I used two-inch 3M Safety-Walk Outdoor Tread. Place the handles on the floor and mark the bottom of the sides of the T joints for positional reference when applying the tape.
Before using the handles test whether they will slip on the surface you plan to use them on. Kneel down in front of them and place them just outside of shoulder-width, put your hands on them, and gradually put your weight on them, pushing perpendicular to the handles. If they slip, add grip tape, put them on a rubber mat, or both. If you don’t have grip tape or a rubber mat, you can place them against a wall, although the wall then reduces your range of motion. I’ve tested the pair pictured above on carpet, concrete, and rubber, with no slipping.
It is equally important that your feet not slip either, so make sure you wear something that grips the surface you’re on or put something on the surface that will improve your grip. This was one of the considerations for the placement of the heel raise step on the new UXS bodyweight multi-exercise stations, suggested to me by Ken Hutchins when discussing this exercise. The heel raise step functions as a brace for the feet when using the pike push-up handles.
Because of the angle of the grip these handles should not be used for regular push-ups. If you want to make yourself a pair of regular push up handles you can with the same materials here plus two more ninety-degree elbow joints. Instead of two four-inch segments measure, mark, and cut four two-inch segments to connect the elbow and T joints.
The photos below show the start and end point of a pike push-up using the handles described here. Unlike normal push-ups you are pushing your bodyweight back more than up. For a detailed explanation of how to perform pike push-ups see the Project Kratos: Bodyweight High Intensity Training Handbook.
Because of the large number of people who expressed an interest in bodyweight high intensity training and DIY equipment I plan to post more articles like this. If there is a particular piece of equipment you would like me to write about, post it in the comments below.