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Do Push-Ups Burn Belly Fat? (Facts You Need to Know)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 18, 2022

Some of the fitness colleagues I have at the gym routinely include mega reps of different push-up variations in their clients’ regimens, and I must say some of those guys really have finely sculpted bodies with shredded abs.

I wondered if push-ups are what gave those guys abs and if it could be an effective approach to reducing belly fat since it's a compound strength exercise.

So I devoted one month to reading everything relevant I could find about push-ups and their relationship with weight loss, and I discussed those with some notable calisthenic athletes.

Here are my findings.

Quick Summary

  • Push-ups are counted as strength training exercises that don't significantly raise the heart rate and therefore, they might not be the best choice of exercise to lose fat.
  • To perform correctly, take a high plank position, hands shoulder-width, eyes downward, and contract your muscles in a straight line (abs, butt, and legs) before starting your motion.
  • The optimal number of push-ups is different for everyone, but the common opinion is to perform at least 30 push-ups daily to work toward some belly fat depletion.

Are Push-ups Good Exercises for Fat Loss?

Front view of a person doing push ups

Push-ups aren't good exercises for fat loss by themselves as they usually don't trigger the heart rate required for quick fat burn.

However, they can contribute to the overall caloric output as they engage multiple muscle groups.

Push-ups are calisthenic workouts that require zero equipment, so it's easy to perform anywhere as a part of a daily workout routine.

It's the exercise hitting the upper body's muscles (chest muscles, shoulder muscles, core muscles, and triceps).

Therefore, push-ups will help you develop muscle and overall body strength that might induce a higher resting metabolic rate.

The higher the resting metabolic rate, the body burns more calories during the rest phase [1].

Also, as they engage several muscle groups simultaneously, push-ups burn a decent number of calories, especially if performed in a high-intensity manner or as a part of circuit training, which gives them an aerobic tone and enhances fat mass recruitment.

If push-up is your cup of tea for burning belly fat, remember to include variations when your body becomes used to them. Variations like incline push-ups, clap, or diamond push-ups will increase the challenge and prompt muscles to burn more body fat.

How to Execute Correct Form?

A line of athletes doing push ups as training

Push-up is probably one of the most common gateways to strength and conditioning training.

It remains one of the basic exercises and movements in the fitness industry, and it remains one of the exercises many people do wrong.

To correctly perform a push-up, do next:

  1. Take a plank position with your hips, legs, and feet aligned in a straight line.
  2. Place your hands a bit wider than your shoulders, with your palms directly under your shoulders.
  3. With your eyes gazing downwards, contract your core muscles, leg muscles, and butt, and pull your shoulder blades down and back.
  4. Slowly go further towards the floor, bending your elbows and pushing your shoulders backward until your chest touches the ground.
  5. Stay downward for a few seconds, breathe out, then push your body to the starting position.

Performing this exercise correctly and in the right form will reap the most benefits, regardless of how many push-ups you can do.

What Number Per Day is Optimal?

A personal trainer teaching push ups

The ideal number of daily push-ups depends on your shape and abilities. For rookies, start with a smaller number and slowly increase with time to avoid injuries and soreness.

The situation is that most people overdo them while others don't do enough.

In my experience, a regular person should be able to do between 50 and 100 push-ups in a day.

However, if it's something extraordinary and new for you, do as many push-ups as you comfortably can, and don't obsess over numbers.

A study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that men who can do over 40 push-ups in a row are less likely to develop cardiovascular issues later in life than those who can do only ten or fewer [2].

"How many you can do at one time offers a real-time measurement of your strength and muscular endurance and is an easy tool to help you improve."

- Dr. Edward Phillips, Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School

Jeff Cavaliere (Athlean X head coach) recommends an approach where you can start doing the exercise with your knees on the floor until you reach 30 reps, and when you hit that checkpoint, you will probably be able to do ten regular ones.

FAQs

What are The Disadvantages of Push-ups?

The disadvantages of push-ups are potential injuries that may occur if you overdo this exercise and put too much stress on the joints and elbows included in performing this exercise.

Common issues include elbow injury, wrist pain, and lower back pain.

The incorrect form of push-ups can also cause more severe problems with the shoulders and elbows, which is typical for upper body exercises like pull-ups.

How Many Calories Do 20 Push-ups Burn?

How many calories 20 push-ups burn depends on factors like body weight, workout intensity, age, and sex.

In general, push-ups burn around seven calories per minute, so if you can do 20 push-ups in a minute, that's the number of calories burned [3].

Why Do Push-ups Never Get Easier?

Push-ups do get easier with time and practice. For them to become near-effortless, you must practice this movement regularly to overcome initial strength deficiencies, joint pain, and lack of training. When your body starts to get used to it, you'll be able to do many push-ups daily.

Are Push-Ups an Effective Way to Burn Fat?

Push-ups may be the most typical exercise for strength and overall fitness, but I don’t consider it to be among the best fat loss exercises out there.

For reducing belly fat and weight loss results you need to combine strength and cardio training with a healthy diet.

I usually advise my clients to support this trinity with a fat-burner that has thermogenic effects, which can deplete fat stores and help you lose weight significantly faster.

 


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14692598/
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2724778
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/pdf/PA_Intensity_table_2_1.pdf

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