How to Do Pike on the Exercise Ball in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

Also Known As: Swiss ball pikes, ball pikes

Targets: Abdominals

Equipment Needed: Exercise ball

Level: Intermediate

Pike on the exercise ball is a Pilates mat exercise that is going to help you target your abs effectively. It requires shoulder stability, pelvic stability, and lots of abdominal control to create the pike position. Before you do pike on the exercise ball, you should be able to maintain a good plank position on the floor. While this is a fun exercise to play with, it does require strength and balance. You need to make sure you feel stable doing the plank before you move on to doing the pike on the exercise ball. This exercise can be part of your home Pilates practice or you can use it as part of a circuit routine.


This exercise isolates the abs and puts them to work without relying on the hip flexors and lower back muscles. The pike movement in this exercise requires shoulder stability, pelvic stability and hugging the midline, just as in the pike part of the Pilates push up. It strengthens the shoulders, chest, and arms, making it a functional total body exercise.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You will need an area where you can extend the full length of your body out from an exercise ball.

  1. Take a plank position on the ball. The ball is positioned under your thighs. Your legs are extended straight behind you. Your shoulders are rotated back and down, away from your ears. Take a moment to find a place of true stability. Just like in plank on the floor, your abs are lifted and your body is in a long line. You will need to engage your legs and butt, hugging them to your midline for stability.
  2. Walk yourself forward on your hands so that the ball is under your knees or the tops of your shins. You will need to play with this yourself to find the right distance to get to a pike. The further forward you go the higher your pike will be, but you will also be less stable so work up gradually.
  3. Inhale.
  4. Exhale and in one smooth, flowing motion, use your abdominal muscles to pull your hips up into a pike position (inverted V) where your hips are bent, legs straight, and arms extended to the floor. The ball will roll under your legs to be closer to your ankles. Keep your chest wide and your shoulders down so there is a lot of distance between shoulders and ears. Go slow and monitor your balance. Pressing your shins into the ball will help with stability.
  5. Inhale: Use abdominal control to return to the plank position.
  6. Repeat the pike three to six times.

Common Mistakes

To get the most out of this exercise, avoid these errors.

Too Far Forward

Do not go too far forward, you could tumble to the front. Hold on to your abs.

Exercise Ball Too Big

Make sure the ball is the right size for you. Do not use an oversize ball for this exercise as it will put you at an incorrect angle. If you are 5'4" or under, the ball should be 55 centimeters. If you are of average height, the ball should be 65 centimeters. If you are over 5'11" the ball should be 75 centimeters.

Sagging Lower Back

When returning to plank position, don't let your lower back collapse and hips to dip below a straight line with your shoulders as this can lead to strain. Keep your abs engaged.

Extending the Neck

Do not crane your neck or lift your chin to look around. Keep your neck and chin in line with your arms and back at all times.

Modifications and Variations

You can make this exercise more or less challenging according to your fitness level.

Need a Modification?

If you find you have difficulty doing the pike, first strengthen yourself by doing planks and the floor and then on the exercise ball. You will need to be stable in an exercise ball plank for 30 seconds before you are ready to try the exercise ball pike.

You can make this exercise easier by bending the knees.

If you start in plank position with the ball closer to your knees you will make the angle less and the exercise easier to perform.

Only raise your hips as far as you can while maintaining stability. Keep as much of your shins and foot on the ball as needed while you are developing strength.

Up for a Challenge?

Start in plank position with the ball closer to your ankle or top of the foot to add difficulty.

You can add a knee tuck between pikes for an additional challenge. After returning to plank position, draw your knees toward your chest and roll the ball toward your chest with the ball staying under your shins and ankles. Roll back out to the plank position and then do the pike.

Another combination to try is to add a pushup. After going from plank to pike position, slowly bend your elbows, lowering yourself toward the floor while still keeping the V position with your hips. Push back up to locked elbows and roll back to plank position.

You can make the ball even less stable by ensuring it is well-inflated so it is very firm.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this exercise if you have any injuries to your wrists, feet, or ankles. As it involves an inversion, you should avoid it if you have glaucoma or high blood pressure. If you feel any pain in your neck or back, ease yourself out of the position. Do not do this exercise until you have built core and arm strength and stability so you can do it without wobbling.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.