Are Push-Ups Good for Abs?

Push-up is definitely one of the best full-body exercises for building your upper strength. When done properly, it can develop your chest, shoulder, and core’s endurance perfectly. But are push-ups good for abs?

Push-ups are good for abdominal muscles because they keep your core engaged. Thus, keeping the back straight in standard push-ups helps an individual to tighten their core, strengthening and toning it over time. Some push-up variations target the abs more specifically. It can be done virtually anywhere, and its variability makes it one of the most versatile exercises.

Our question today, however, is if they also help you with your six-pack. Are the before-and-after montages in prison movies just another Tinseltown ruse?


are push-ups good for abs

Clap push-ups muscles worked | Credit:

Want to know if push-ups are the key to your banging beach body? Stick around as we discuss exactly why push-ups help tone your abs. We’ll also examine some of the best push-up variations for abs, as well as the number of reps you need to do to achieve that body Cristiano Ronaldo has.

How Do Standard Push-Ups Work Your Abs?

The standard push-up, also known as floor push-ups, is one of the mostly-recognized conditioning exercises for any individual. The idea that you can do them anytime and anywhere—no equipment required—makes it the most convenient exercise for anybody.

Floor push-ups are one of the exercise’s basics. In an article published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2011, you push 64% of your body’s weight when you’re doing standard push-ups as a result of the “ground reaction force.”

It has been proven that standard push-ups, when done in the correct form, force the whole core region to engage and form a basis for stability. The core region, of course, includes the abdominals. These muscles stay tight to help keep your back straight during movements.

For instance, the core is engaged in the same way as it would be during plank exercises. Over time, it will develop and become more toned and pronounced. What’s more, push-ups strengthen all major muscle groups, such as your arms, chest, hips, legs, and upper back.

elbow and hand position

Push-up Elbow Position

If you do push-ups without properly tightening your core, you’ll notice your hips being too high when you descend. Otherwise, you’ll feel too low when you come up.

Standard push-ups are important for building upper body strength. Doing them correctly can result in engaged and reinforced abdominal muscles. Your form is crucial as well in this type of activity.

Guidelines to Get into the Proper Push-Up Position

Normal push-up position involves holding a high plank position, hands flat on the ground, and elbows shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and your core engaged.

  1. Lay your chest and stomach flat on the floor with your legs extended fully.
  2. To go down, slowly bend your elbows outward at a 45-degree angle. Flaring your elbows out too widely can lead to wrist, elbow, or even shoulder injuries.
  3. Keep descending until your chest is almost touching the floor. If you’re keeping your core tight and your back straight, you should be parallel to the ground at this point.
  4. Exhale and pause for a second while in the plank position.
  5. Inhale and use all of your strength to push yourself back up (back still straight, the core still engaged).
  6. That’s one push-up.

It’s crucial to focus on quality over quantity, especially when you’re a beginner. As such, completing at least 2-3 sets of 10 properly will help you develop the right habits to avoid serious injuries or sub-standard results.

How Can You Make Push-Ups More Effective?

The major central part of the abdominals, which is the rectus abdominis, tenses up and supports your middle so you can keep a straight body. The transverse abdominals—responsible for forming the base of the obliques—helps maintain your side-to-side balance.

To get the most from your abs or any muscle, you should execute steadily paced and controlled movements. Don’t rush through any exercise, as you want the muscles to be fully engaged for as long as possible.

Besides, you’ll get the best results when you apply a full range of motion. In the case of push-ups, you should go all the way down and up, or whatever direction the push-up variation entails.

Have an experienced friend or personal trainer to help you with your form, tempo, and range of motion. Slacking in any one of those areas will only cost your results. You’ll end up with an exercise that doesn’t target your abs and muscles sufficiently.


The only surefire way to guarantee proper form during this exercise is to keep your core engaged. You should note this strategy, especially when you’re doing standard or knee-on-the-ground push-ups.

As good as the standard push-up is for the abdominal region, there is only so far you can go with it. In 2014, the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine carried out a study comparing muscle activation levels during push-ups with different suspension training systems (TRX suspension trainer, Jungle Gym XT, flying suspension trainer, and AirFit Trainer Pro). The researchers used standard floor push-ups as control.

The results? Standard push-ups are the best for activating the pectoral muscles and deltoids, but they aren’t as effective at engaging the abs as modified push-ups.

Make Push-Ups More Challenging

Once you get the grasp of a perfect standard push-up, you can add these modified variations to make your exercise more challenging and effective. In these activities, you might need additional actions or instruments.

Take note that these modified push-ups engage different levels of difficulties and benefits to your body. This is because the exercises target abs and different muscles in the upper body.

There are endless ways to modify your push-up routine. Yet, here are our top five picks to get push-ups more productive, especially for beginners.

1. Running Man Push-Ups

Running man push-ups is a good workout for squeezing your core slightly tighter than you would in a standard push-up.

  1. Start in a high plank position.
  2. While in the push-up position, perform a push-up.
  3. When you’re back in the starting position, bring your left hand and right foot towards each other to meet in the middle when they touch.
  4. That counts as one push-up.
  5. Do another push-up and do the same thing for your right hand and left foot.

Perform this move for about 2-3 sets of 10 running man push-ups. After some time, you’ll definitely feel your core getting stronger.


2. Mountain-Climber Push-Ups

This exercise is a great way to combine push-ups with an exercise that is a certified gut-buster. It keeps your blood pumping while doing the exercise—a great power cardio move.

Mountain-climbers push-ups mirror the motion climbers make when they climb peaks, but the difference is that you’re doing “climbs” on a flat surface. Aside from abs, it builds your core, back, arm, and leg strength.

  1. Start in a planking position, where your arms, shoulders, and legs are extended.
  2. Do one push-up.
  3. Once in a high plank position, place your right foot near your left hand. Back in the high plank position.
  4. Do the same with your left foot. Switch your legs in a one, smooth motion while keeping your hands and body in the same position.
  5. One push-up plus steps 2 and 3 completed counts as “one” push-up.

Repeat this 8-10 times for one set. All in all, try to do 3 sets of these, and you’ll be on your way to a glorious set of abs!

You might think that this exercise is less challenging. But mind you, it’s more difficult than they look, especially when you’re doing multiple sets.

Once you get the hand of mountain-climber push-ups, you’ll get to enjoy this activity even more.

3. Knee Tuck Push-Ups

Another fun but pretty demanding workout. In this exercise, you’ll need gliders (or smooth plates) to slide your knee towards your upper body.

  1. Perform one push-up as normal.
  2. Once in a high push-up position, slide both your feet towards your upper body at the same time. Essentially “tucking” your knees towards your torso.
  3. That’s one tuck push-up.

Once accustomed, try to do 2-3 sets of 10 regularly.

4. Stability Ball Push-Ups

Once you feel the above-mentioned push-ups relatively easy, then it’s time to add a degree of difficulty. Get push-ups more productive with the help of a stability ball. Move onto push-ups where your feet or hands are placed upon a balancing ball. The uneasy balance will automatically call upon more stabilizer muscles in your core, which works them out further.

Caution: it’s much safer for you to do this if your feet are on the ball rather than your hands.

It’s suggested to do 10-12 reps of 3 to 4 regularly.

5. Shoulder Taps Push-Ups

If the stabilizer ball push-ups get too easy as well, you can introduce shoulder taps.

  1. Perform one push-up as normal.
  2. Once in a high push-up position, tap one shoulder with the opposite hand. In other words, your left-hand taps your right shoulder, and your right hand taps your left shoulder.
  3. For every push-up made, you create two taps.

Complete 10 reps of 2 sets when completing the shoulder taps push-ups.

Regardless of the variation used, ensure that you meet the requirements of these modified push-ups, such as engaging the core.

Take note that doing push-ups regularly doesn’t mean you’ll get to tone your abs even more. It requires a good diet and a healthy lifestyle to achieve the body you’re aiming for. Besides, you need to add other cardio exercises aside from the mentioned activities.

Can You Get Six-Pack Abs with Push-Ups?

The answer is no. As such, there’s no specific workout that “gets” your six-pack abs.

The good news here is that everyone has abdominal muscles from birth. However, some people can’t see theirs because they are undertrained or hidden under a fat layer. There’s no easy way to unearth them, but there are several activities that can reduce fat layers and shape your abs.

Therefore, the correct question to ask is, “are push-ups all I need to get my abs visible?”

Factors in developing and toning the abdominal muscles vary. No single push-up will get you over the edge into having abs. Having a six, eight, or even ten-pack abs result from a largely disciplined diet and regimented lifestyle.

Nevertheless, you’ll need the fat-burning benefits of some good, consistent cardio. This is especially true for abs. You could do sit-ups and Russian twists for years and years, but without burning fat, your abs will remain hidden.

For abs to be visible on a man, he needs to have a body fat percentage of 14% and below. For ladies, that number is anywhere between 14% and 20%.

lower abs workout

Final Verdict

So are push-ups good for abs? Yes, as they’re great activities that keep your core engaged and your muscles activated. They also build your upper body’s strength and provide stability for your chest and shoulders.

However, doing this activity alone, without a proper diet, healthy lifestyle, and other workouts, isn’t enough to make your abs visible.

Also, keep in mind that changing the difficulty of push-ups can help challenge your muscles and provide other benefits to your body. The variety of push-ups keeps your abdominal muscles fit and healthy.


James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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