Can You Get Toned From Doing Push-Ups & Sit-Ups?

Push-ups and sit-ups are commonly paired in circuit workouts and body-weight routines when conventional equipment is not available. This makes them effective fitness options when you are on vacation or away on business. If getting toned is your goal, these two exercises can help.

Spot-Reduction Myth

People often use push-ups and sit-ups as a means to lose weight in the chest and stomach. This is the myth known as spot reduction, which is not possible, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Muscles Involved

During push-ups and sit-ups, you engage a variety of muscles that include the pectorals, deltoids, triceps and rectus abdominis. These are found in the chest, shoulders, arms and stomach. The toning effect from push-ups and sit-ups will be seen in these areas only. If you have fat covering these areas, you will be able to strengthen the muscles, but you will not be able to see them. Your best bet is to include cardiovascular exercise in your workout schedule to burn fat.


The basic push-up is performed from a face-down position on the floor with your hands about shoulder-width apart. By doing variations, you can shift the emphasis on your muscles and promote more muscle tone. Placing your feet on a bench and doing decline push-ups, for example, will place more emphasis on your upper chest. If you were to incline your entire body by placing your toes against a wall, you would shift the focus to your shoulders. These are called handstand push-ups. Sit-ups do not offer as many variations. You can do them on the floor, a decline bench or a stability ball, and you can place all the emphasis on your stomach. You do have the option of twisting at the top of the movement. This would engage the obliques, which are found on the sides of the stomach.

Proper Form

Push-ups and sit-ups need to be performed with proper form to reap the full toning benefits. To begin a push-up, position your body in a plank pose with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor and feet together behind you. Your body should be perfectly straight at this point with your arms fully extended. Keeping your abs engaged, lower yourself until your chest grazes the floor, then push back up in a steady motion. To perform sit-ups, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands on the sides of your head. Steadily raise your shoulders off the floor and move your torso forward toward your thighs. Squeeze your abs forcefully for a full second, slowly lower yourself back down and repeat. If your feet start coming off the floor, have a partner hold them down or hook them under a stable object.


With both push-ups and sit-ups, you can increase the resistance to make your workouts more challenging. Wear a weighted vest while doing push-ups and hold a weight in front of your chest during sit-ups. You can use a medicine ball, weight plate or dumbbells.

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