I've recently started a pushup routine and I'm finding that my lower abs are very sore, much more so than my chest and arms.

How should I proceed? Should I add some excercises to strengthen my abs, such as sit-ups or leg lifts? Should I take a break from my schedule (3 days a week) to allow for my stomach muscles to heal? Or should I proceed as scheduled?

I'm about 40, I'm thin but out-of-shape.

  • 1
    If you could post a short video it would help diagnoses; it's possible your core is just radically deconditioned, but it still sounds a bit odd to me. Jun 5 '12 at 22:04
  • 1
    Funny. No I don't plan on posting a video of me doing pushups anywhere on the internet. I any case, after two weeks of pushups (3 times a week) the sore abs have disappeared. Jun 6 '12 at 1:18
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    Nice to see that you worked your way through your sore abs, it's most likely they were a weak spot. Good Job! Jul 9 '12 at 11:57
  • @EricWilson, sometimes just the act of taking the video for your personal review will help you spot something you aren't doing quite right. But, congratulations on pushing through the DOMS. Jul 9 '12 at 16:41

It sounds like you have Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS for short. This is perfectly normal if you are performing long sets of pushups with proper form. Proper form being that your torso is board straight from your head to your feet. DOMS is more prevalent when you drastically increase your efforts for any muscle group more than it is used to being stressed. In any given set, your abs are engaged the whole time to help remain that straight as a board form, while your arms and chest have small breaks as they are moving.

The good news is that as your body adapts to the new level of work (and rate of increase), the DOMS will go away. That said, some warning signs to watch out for are:

  • Sharp, or intense pain while exercising either in the body of a muscle or at a joint.
  • Dizziness, or near blackout feeling.

Sharp, intense pain is usually indicative of an injury. The most common form of injury on a program like this is tendinitis. Be sure to stretch and move your arms through their full range of motion when you are done.

Dizziness or that blackout feeling can be indicative of improper breathing or dehydration. If your plan is to do 100 pushups or more in one set, you will have to learn how to breath during the set. The program helps build up the reps you perform, so you will be able to figure that out. Dehydration will be the biggest risk--particularly if you train outdoors in extreme temperatures (either hot or cold). Be sure to drink plenty of water.

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    +1. Pause or not, 100 pushups will have you holding a plank position for quite a while. A benefit of this is that you don't need additional ab exercises to support pushups, because the core work is already built in.
    – J. Win.
    Jul 9 '12 at 20:12

I did the 100 pushups last summer and I had the same experience as you describe in your question. I continued with the plan and didn't add any extra exercises for the abs. After a few weeks, the soreness disappeared.


A strong core is necessary for performing a push up with good form. If your core muscles aren't strong enough and you're insisting on good form (in which case, good for you!) your muscles will naturally feel sore. If it's not excessive soreness, nothing to worry about, but in any case with muscle soreness it never hurts to take an extra rest day.


Push-ups shouldn't be engaging your abdominals enough to cause a lot of fatigue unless you are pausing for a particularly long time between repetitions, in which case you might be performing a plank unintentionally. I'd be more suspicious that your form is off. If possible, get a friend to watch your form after reviewing ideal form from models and have him/her call you on it if you start cheating your form.

In the unlikely event that your abdominals are truly just too weak to support you during a pushup/chest workout, you should probably just switch up one of your chest workouts with an abdominal workout. I'm a fan of the above-linked planks, medicine ball axe chops, and V-ups

  • I'm not experiencing fatigue in my abs, rather soreness afterwards. I'm curious what sort of errors of form could lead to excesses strain on the abs. May 6 '12 at 1:28
  • It's kinda hard to say without seeing your form, but again resting for too long in the up position mimics a plank pretty closely. Putting your rear up too far would also take some of the emphasis off your chest and a put a bit more strain on your stomach.
    – tmesser
    May 6 '12 at 14:10

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