Cells use actomyosin contractility to move through three-dimensional (3D) extracellular matrices. Contractility affects the type of protrusions cells use to migrate in 3D, but the mechanisms are unclear. In this work, we found that contractility generated high-pressure lobopodial protrusions in human cells migrating in a 3D matrix. In these cells, the nucleus physically divided the cytoplasm into forward and rear compartments. Actomyosin contractility with the nucleoskeleton-intermediate filament linker protein nesprin-3 pulled the nucleus forward and pressurized the front of the cell. Reducing expression of nesprin-3 decreased and equalized the intracellular pressure. Thus, the nucleus can act as a piston that physically compartmentalizes the cytoplasm and increases the hydrostatic pressure between the nucleus and the leading edge of the cell to drive lamellipodia-independent 3D cell migration.