Last updated on October 29th, 2022 at 10:32 am
They may be viewed as one of the best bodyweight exercises ever, but can push ups reduce belly fat?
We typically view the push up as an exercise that works the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
However, there is far more to this fantastic exercise than first meets the eye.
So, check out the following tips to see whether push ups really can have an impact on whittling down that waistline.
Can Push Ups Reduce Belly Fat?
Performing push ups will increase the number of calories you burn. Plus, depending on how you perform them, push ups can also raise your metabolic rate. These are two of the most important factors when it comes to reducing belly fat.
1. The Push Up and Belly Fat Conundrum
Let’s start off with a contradiction.
Firstly, it’s pretty much impossible to “spot-reduce” fat from a specific area of your body.
The best way to reduce body fat is through a combination of exercise and good nutrition.
However, your body will “decide” where it will reduce fat first.
With that being said, I am someone who has performed literally millions of push ups in my lifetime.
I typically perform push ups in sets throughout the day.
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And I will generally do 100-200 push ups on an “average” day, and sometimes many more.
I’m not quite sure when I started this habit, but let’s just say it’s been 20+ years now.
I’ll have the occasional day off from push ups, but then I’m straight back at it again.
However, I recall a time when I wanted to focus a little more on the bench press and overhead press in the gym.
So, I thought it would make sense to lay off the push ups for a few weeks.
Everything else in my daily routine, in terms of diet and exercise, stayed pretty much the same.
But, I started to notice after a few weeks that my abs weren’t as toned, and I definitely felt a little “looser” down there.
So, in my mind, push ups actually had a massive impact on how toned and flat my abs were.
How Could This Have Happened?
I think it’s important to reiterate that you can’t spot-reduce belly fat.
Plus, proper nutrition and full-body workouts are the way to go if you want to burn body fat.
However, from personal experience, I can say that performing push ups had an effect on my belly fat.
We tend to view push ups as an upper body exercise.
An exercise that mainly targets the pecs, deltoids, and triceps.
However, push ups definitely target a range of other muscles, including the core.
Most notably, the rectus abdominis, which is the group of muscles that run down the front of the body.
It is the rectus abdominis that is the muscles that we “see” and that form the coveted six-pack.
So, in effect, by not doing push ups I was doing far less “ab work” on a daily basis.
Furthermore, even though it may not be a huge amount, push ups still burn calories.
So, by decreasing my push up numbers to zero I was missing out on these factors.
2. Do Core-Related Push Ups
We now know that push ups target the core muscles.
However, you can actually increase the ab work involved by performing core-related push ups.
For me, this would typically involve some form of instability.
The easiest way to achieve this would be to have one hand on a raised platform.
Then again you could do a staggered push ups, where one your hands is further forward than the other.
You could kick it up a notch and remove one limb from the floor.
The easiest method is to have one foot on top of the other.
You could also simply have one foot in the air.
If you’re at that level of strength and fitness, there is of course always the one-arm push up.
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However, I have a personal favourite when it comes to core-related push ups:
The spiderman push up.
This incorporates removing a limb from the floor (your leg) with each rep, plus you’re activating the core to a much greater degree.
Remember that the push up is in effect a moving plank, but the spiderman push up simply takes to a different level.
Here’s Peter Le, a.k.a One-rep Man, to explain the spiderman push up in more detail.
3. Increase Your Push Up Reps
I’ve spoken of how push ups burn calories, and how this can help to burn body fat.
So, the most simple way to burn more body fat is by doing more push ups.
Okay, I’ve mentioned that push ups may not burn a huge amount of calories, but they still do burn them.
As an average you could say that doing one minute of push ups would burn approximately 7 calories.
However, this will vary depending on a number of factors, including your age, weight, metabolic rate, etc.
But, push ups burn calories nonetheless.
So, it makes sense that if you want to burn more calories (and body fat), you increase the number of push ups you’re doing on a daily basis.
You can use my method of performing push ups throughout the day.
But, for the greatest body fat burn, you’ll need to turn this into more of a fat-burning workout.
Push ups are considered more of an anaerobic exercise, or a strength exercise.
That being said, you can also turn push ups into an aerobic, or cardio, workout.
A couple of great ways to do this would be a ladder workout or with density training.
The numbers you perform will obviously depend on your current strength and fitness levels.
For a ladder workout, I would typically go from 20 reps down to one rep.
Basically, you start off at 20 reps and reduce by one rep every set.
By the end of the workout you will have performed 210 reps of push ups.
As I say, your starting point for a ladder workout will depend on your current level of ability.
For density training, this will simply involve setting a timer, and getting as many push ups in as possible.
You can just aim for as many reps per set as possible, or complete a certain number of reps with regular rest intervals.
However, this is a great way to get a lot of push ups done in a short space of time.
For more details on density training you can check out my Time-Volume Training Review.
4. Use a Variety Of Push Ups
I guess this ties in quite well with doing core-related push ups.
And as the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.”
However, the human body tends to adapt very quickly to physical activity, so it makes sense to change things up every once in a while.
Most of us typically perform the standard push up, but in reality there are literally hundreds of versions.
By mixing things up a little you can hit the muscles from different angles.
You can work different areas of the body.
You can even keep your body guessing as to what’s coming next.
All of these factors will have an effect on building strength and fat-burning.
Here’s Simeon Panda with 30 push up variations for you to try.
These range from beginner to advanced, and the variety will definitely help increase your body’s fat-burning capabilities.
5. Change Your Push Up Speed
Another way to change things up a bit is to alter the speed at which you perform your push ups.
Now your initial reaction may be to do push ups at lightning speed in order to increase the aerobic effects of your push up workout.
This can definitely work, although I am a stickler for good form.
So, as long as your form doesn’t suffer, then by all means try doing push ups faster.
With that being said, the opposite could also be true.
By slowing your push ups right down you’ll increase time-under-tension.
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More time-under-tension typically leads to more lean muscle.
More lean muscle means a higher metabolic rate.
And a higher metabolic rate means that you’re burning more calories and body fat, even while at rest.
So, try to perform push ups taking 5-10 seconds to complete each rep.
You definitely won’t be able to do as many reps as you usually would, but you’ll still be working the body hard nonetheless.
Here’s Austin Dunham in collaboration with Salama Mohamed discussing the best rep speed for push ups.
Personally, I don’t think there is a “best” rep speed, and as I’ve mentioned, variety is the name of the game.
So, in answer to the question, “Can Push Ups Reduce Belly Fat?”
Yes they can, but probably not in the way that you’re hoping.
I will still say that performing full-body workouts and having your nutrition on-point is the best way to achieve this.
Plus, be aware that you can’t actually spot-reduce your belly fat.
However, by reducing body fat through diet and exercise your belly will eventually reduce in size.
With that being said, I have noticed the difference in my abs when I stopped performing push ups for a time.
So, push ups definitely have an impact on your waistline.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.