Ab Pulse Ups – How to Perform, Muscles Worked and Benefits

pulse ups

Looking to tone up your abs?

Then it’s time to talk about ab pulse ups…

Also commonly referred to as “heels to the heavens”, this exercise is beginner friendly, requires no equipment and little space. It can be used as part of circuit training, or a stand-alone exercise, and helps not only strengthen the abdominals, but it also help develop better all-round stability and balance.

Pulse ups also predominately target the lower abs, which makes it a great addition to any core workout (as lots of abdominal exercises often focus more on the upper abs).

In this handy guide, we outline how to do pulse ups, the muscles worked and the benefits it offers. We also provide tips of how to modify or vary the movement to make it more difficult.

How to do Pulse Ups

To do the pulse up exercise:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and put your hands on your side or under your tailbone.
  2. Now raise both legs up at the same time so that they are at a 90 degree angle.
  3. By tensing your abdominal muscles, lift your hips so your glutes become raised off the ground.
  4. Hold this position and then lower your hips back to the ground and repeat the movement.

Tip – Avoid any sort of rocking or swinging motion. The movement should be slow and controlled, with your core tensed. Your legs should also remain straight.

Muscles Worked

Pulse ups work the abdominal muscles, particularly the lower abdominals. Raising and lowering your hips in a controlled manner requires your core to be tensed at all times. This helps develop core strength and tone up you abdominal muscles.

The movement also engages your lower back, the muscle group opposite to your abdominals.

Having your legs raised at a 90 degree angle also requires good hip range of motion and hamstring flexibility. Doing the movement regularly helps to test and monitor this flexibility and provide early indications of whether you have tight hips or legs (which would benefit from being more supple).

Pulse Ups Benefits

Pulse ups help strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles. This creates a stronger core, which is vital for all-round fitness. It helps with stability and balance in both the upper and lower body. Strong abs helps to stabilize your body during any sort of functional or bodyweight movement.

The pulse up also predominately targets the lower abs, which brings with it aesthetic benefits of helping contribute to a flat and toned stomach. Many ab exercises tend to engage the upper abs more, so including exercises that target the lower abs is worthwhile to create a more complete ab routine.

Pulse Up Workout Ideas

Pulse ups are designed to be a very controlled movement, so trying to beat the clock, so to speak, isn’t necessarily the best way to approach the exercise. Instead, try and perform them slow and steady, ensuring your legs are stable at all times thanks to engaged and tensed abdominal muscles.

Following correct form will produce all the benefits, not the speed at which you do them.

We would recommend aiming for sets, such as 6-12 repetitions, repeated for 3-5 sets.

Adding pulse ups into an abs workout that includes exercises like bird dog, toe touch crunches and planks, would undoubtedly leaving you feel like you’ve really given your abdominals a good workout for the day.

Pulse Up Variations and Modifications

If you’re looking to progress your pulse ups, holding the position for longer at the top (which your hips raised off the ground), would instantly increase difficulty to the movement.

Similarly, lowering your hips in a slower movement, would also keep your abs engaged for longer, forcing them to work harder.

Adding ankle weights could also be a great way to increase difficulty. The extra weight around your ankle would make it harder for your body to keep your legs straight, which would require your core muscles to work harder to achieve this.


What muscles do pulse ups work?

Pulse ups primarily work the abdominal muscles.

How long should you hold pulse ups for?

Holding pulse ups for longer increases the difficulty. A regular pulse up may be held for around 1 second, but you can increase this as you wish to keep your core engaged for longer.


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