Pike jumps don't just look hard, they are hard. After all, suspending your (folded-in-half!) body in the air isn't exactly a simple task. But with the right form tips and a good tutorial, you can perfect this move in no time.
- What is a pike jump exercise? It's a popular exercise in both cheerleading and gymnastics that involves jumping into the air and straightening your legs parallel to the ground, while folding your torso over your lower body.
- What muscles do pike jumps work? They primarily work your quads, hip flexors (the muscles running across the front of your pelvis), glutes and calves, according to Kristen Lettenberger, DPT, CSCS, a New York-based physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments.
- Who can do pike jumps? This is an advanced high-impact exercise that isn't safe for everyone. Anyone who has previous injuries (especially in their lower body) should talk with a physical therapist or doctor before testing this one out.
How to Do a Pike Jump With Perfect Form
- Stand with your legs hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
- Bend your knees and swing your arms behind you for momentum.
- All at once:
- Swing your arms in front of your body.
- Spring up into the air and kick your legs out in front of you until they are fully extended and straight in front of you, parallel to the ground.
- Hinge at your hips and fold your torso over your lower body.
- As you begin to fall toward the ground, raise your torso and extend your hips to move your legs back underneath you.
- Land lightly on the balls of your feet with a slight bend in your knees before you return to standing.
Watch the Full Pike Jump Tutorial
3 Pike Jump Benefits and Muscles Worked
1. More Muscle Power
Pikes aren't that different from other traditional exercises (like box jumps) you may do in a high-intensity interval workout. Jump-based exercises — also known as plyometric moves — build muscular power, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
By training your muscles to shorten and length quickly, plyometrics improve your overall coordination, agility and speed, according to the NASM. This translates to better sports performance.
2. Stronger Lower-Body Muscles
Lifting your entire body into the air requires a lot of strength from your quads, hip flexors, glutes and calves, Lord says. That's why practicing pike jump drills (like the ones below) is so important — you need ample strength in your lower body to nail the move.
As your strength increases with plenty of drill practice and lower-body strength training, the pike becomes easier to perform. Then, keeping good form, you can use pikes to increase your leg strength even more.
3. Increased Core Strength
Although it's not a traditional core exercise like planks or crunches, this jump demands a lot of core strength, according to Lord.
To, essentially, fold your body in half, you need to both brace your deep-lying core muscles (like the transverse abdominis) and crunch forward with the rectus abdominis six-pack muscle.
4 Tips for a Better Pike Jump
1. Point Your Toes
As soon as your feet leave the ground, point your toes, says Jim Lord, director of education and programs at USA Cheer.
When you jump with toes pointed, you automatically tighten muscles across your whole lower body. This makes it easier to extend your knees and hold your legs straight.
2. Keep Your Body Upright
The most common pike jump mistake Lord sees is leaning the torso too far — which puts you at risk for falling forward.
Check yourself: If your shoulders move forward before you've left the ground, you're probably leaning too far forward.
To fix this mistake when you jump, think about pushing your hips back as your arms swing forward. Keeping your hips back prevents your body from launching too far forward as you fold over your legs.
3. Warm Up
Jumping well requires first doing some good dynamic warm-up exercises, according to Winnie Yu, DPT, CSCS, a New York-based physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments. Unlike static stretches, dynamic warm-ups increase the blood flow throughout your body, waking up your muscles before training.
Focus on getting your legs, and especially hamstrings, prepped and pliable, Yu says. At the top of the pike, getting your knees fully extended demands a lot of hamstring flexibility. Try a few hamstring scoops before you start jumping.
Also consider adding a little cardio into your warm-up, ideally crossing it off your list immediately before your dynamic stretches. Several minutes of jogging or speed walking can also help boost blood flow and get your muscles warm.
4. Land Softly on Your Forefeet
A lot of people tend to land on their heels, which can throw off your balance and cause you to fall backward, Yu says.
Instead, you want to land on the balls of your feet. The best way to nail your landing is to practice the move at a lower intensity, she says. Jump up into the air several times without fully extending your legs, focusing on the landing portion.
One you've got it, try landing that way after a higher, fuller jump.
The 2 Best Exercises to Improve Your Pike Jump
Experienced athletes and newbies alike can benefit from pike jump drills, according to Lettenberger. These two exercises target build your core strength, agility and power to help you master the move.
You can do these on their own or include them as part of your cheerleading or gymnastics warm-up routine.
Move 1: Slider Plank Pike
- Come into a high-plank position with your hands in line with your shoulders, body in a straight line from head to hips to heels. Brace your core.
- Place a slider under each foot.
- Keeping your palms rooted, hike your hips up toward the ceiling.
- Imagine folding your body in half, allowing your toes to glide up towards your hands, keeping your legs straight.
- Continue this motion as far up as you can go with straight legs.
- Pause, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
Like this? Try the plank to pike jump. It's a progression that involves jumping your feet in toward your hands, rather than sliding them, with each rep.
Move 2: Tuck Jump
- Stand with your legs hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
- Swing your arms behind you and bend your knees slightly for momentum.
- Simultaneously swing your arms forward in line with your shoulders while jumping into the air.
- At the top of the jump, tuck your knees into your chest.
- Land softly with bent knees.