Do Pull Ups Work Abs?

do pull ups work abs

Pull ups are one of the best exercises for building the whole upper body, but especially the back and the shoulders.

They are one of the essential exercises used in the military, so why wouldn’t you include it in your workouts?

In addition to the back and shoulder muscles, pull-ups are great for a whole plethora of muscles throughout the whole body, including chest and arms. But do pull ups work abs?

That’s what we’ll answer in this article. The next time you’ll perform pull-ups, you’ll know for sure what muscles it works, and whether they work abs or not.

So without further ado, let’s get into it!

Do Pull Ups Work Abs?

does pull ups work abs

The answer to this question might be more complex than you might think. It massively depends on the way you perform the exercise and your experience level with it.

The general answer is that yes, pull ups do work abs and the core, but not all variations of pull-ups work the abs on the same level.

Straight pull-ups with tension all over the body will work the abs better than pull-ups legs crossed. That’s because we will engage the abs much better if we squeeze the muscles in our body when we perform pull-ups properly.

Your body should be a straight line when you do a pull-up, like a screw protruding through the wood.

Additionally, some variations of pull-ups will be much more effective than other variations for abs engagement.

In this way, knee raises will be much more effective for building abs than standard pull-ups, because when we lift the legs, we also engage our core.

Muscles-ups will also require a good level of ab strength and will actively engage the core as you perform them.

How To Do Pull Ups That Work Your Abs?

As we have already mentioned, not all variations of pull-ups will work abs on the same level.

If we perform pull-ups with our leg crossed, then you’re missing out on a lot of gains since you’re not activating your lower body at all.

The key to working abs with pull-ups is to find away to activate the abs and the lower body.

pull ups for abs

Here are some of the best pull-up variations that will activate abs better than others.

  • Regular Pull-Ups With Straight Legs

Keep your legs straight and tense as you perform the pull-up. This tension in your body will allow you to perform the pull-up much easier, as you’ll utilize most muscles in your body to help you on way up.

Additionally, this will allow you to focus the back muscles better, as well as work on your abs more by squeezing them when you go up.

This simple tweak can do a world of difference when you perform pull ups. Make sure you squeeze your abs when you pull yourself up to maximize the load on your abs.

Still, there are some better variations out there that will activate abs better.

  • Pull-Ups With Knee Raises and Leg Raises

This is possibly one of the best exercises to work your abs. Yes, we’ve said that it’s pull-ups with knee raises, but you can either do pull-ups afterward of work your abs only with this exercise.

The way you do it is that you perform a pull-up, come down until your arms are straight, and lift your knees to your chest. This is one rep.

Then again, do a regular pull-up, come down, lift your knees, and repeat. As you go up, keep your legs straight, you only lift your knees as your arms are completely straight.

It’s a challenging variation, but if can do it, you’ll see some amazing results for both your abs and upper body.

Alternatively, you can skip the pull-up and focus on knee raises, or leg raises. To do them, hang from the bar with your arms straight, engage your core, and lift your knees.

To make it more challenging, you can keep your legs straight as you lift them. You’ll still work on your arm muscles as you grip the bar.

Here’s a quick demonstration of leg raises

Quick tip: Don’t swing if you perform the pull-up after you raise your knees of legs. It’s crucial that you stick to this, and that you try to keep your muscles as tense as possible. If you rock back and forth too much, you might hurt your shoulders or arms in the process.

  • Muscles-Ups

Now, this variation is only for advanced gym-goers. Muscle-ups have a reputation for being a bit of a party trick, but in truth, they are very effective for engaging almost every single muscle in your body.

It’s also true that they can cause injuries, so be careful with this one.

Muscle-ups are a natural progression from pull-ups, and they work your abs even more effectively. If you want to come over the bar, you’ll have to use your abs to help you do it.

This movement works your back, shoulders, chest, lower back, arms, abs, and even legs to an extent.

Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups For Ab Gains?

Pull ups can be effective for engaging your core, but are chin-ups even than pull ups? Both are very good for the upper body, and the only difference is the way we grip the bar with each exercise.

Pull-ups have developed a reputation for being a movement that will focus on your back muscles more, while chin-ups are capable of building our arms, especially biceps.

One way that chin-ups have the advantage over pull-ups is that they make it easier for us to raise the knees when we perform the movement, making it easier for building abs.

If we raise our legs when we have our head over the bar, it makes chin-ups a more effective movement for our abs. The thing about them is that they might be slightly easier for beginners that want to work on their backs and abs at the same time.

Although we do lose a lot on the activation of the back muscles and shoulders. Chin-ups are easier to start for beginners, although you will want to turn to pull ups at some point as they are superior for your back.

If you can’t do pull-ups just yet, here’s a great video that will teach you how to do pull-ups from zero.


So, do pull ups work abs? Yes, they do. But only if we perform them correctly and preform certain variations of pull-ups.

If we keep our body straight or raise our legs when doing them, we’ll active the ab muscles much better. We’ll feel better gains that way.

Do Pull Ups Work Abs

Do Pull Ups Work Abs?

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