I’m sure you’ve seen the gimmicky TV commercials: “The absolute best ab workout; guaranteed to give you a 6-pack in just 6 weeks!” Or so-called “experts” claiming to have the perfect abdominal solution – for just three easy payments of $29.95! These ridiculous ab gimmicks rarely work, but unfortunately plenty of women still buy into them.
Naturally we tend to have hang ups on one body part or another, and it’s no surprise that having a flat stomach is what many women long for the most. Here’s the thing… all of those countless hours spent on crunches and other abdominal exercises aren’t the only thing that you should be focusing on to flatten out that tummy. This may or may not be news to you, but ab exercises alone WILL NOT reduce belly fat. They will however, strengthen those muscles underneath that layer of fat and help to produce a strong core (which is certainly beneficial).
When it comes to fitness and nutrition, BALANCE is a word that I like to use often. So while you may not be able to crunch your way to a flat stomach… you CAN focus on fat loss by using diet and exercise to produce great results. Targeted fat loss IS NOT an option (lipo doesn’t count!), but on the bright side – overall fat reduction is.
Why Focusing on Ab Exercises Alone Will NOT Create a Six-Pack
Although ab exercises will indeed burn calories, they won’t burn much. An entire 15 minutes of moderate abdominal exercises will burn less than 100 calories, compared to 200+ produced by moderate cardiovascular activity. It isn’t the exercise itself that flattens your tummy, it’s the fat loss and calories burned that will ultimately shrink your waistline.
Cardio exercises, such as step machines, ellipticals and stationary bikes are a much more effective tool for flattening your stomach. Even a brisk 20 minute walk is more beneficial for burning fat and exposing those abdominal muscles. Yes… even you have a 6-pack! It’s just hiding underneath a layer of fat, which can only be removed through diet and exercises.
And don’t leave out weight training. Muscle burns more calories than fat! 10 pounds of muscle will burn 50 calories per day AT REST, while 10 pounds of fat will only burn 20. The more muscle you build, the more calories your body will naturally be able to burn on it’s own.
Cutting More Calories Through Diet
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat.” Unless you’re one of the few people with a crazy fast metabolism, no amount of exercise will help flatten your stomach if your diet consists of saturated fats, sugars, starches, etc. (AKA – junk!). These foods are not only high in calories, fat, and low quality carbohydrates, but they’re notorious for storing themselves on your favorite body part… your gut. Even worse, they put you at risk for some major health issues.
I’m not going to lecture you about healthy eating in this article, but I do want to stress its importance if you’re trying to shrink your stomach. Along with increased cardio activity, watching your diet is just as vital for reducing excess calories and exposing that hidden 6-pack.
Are Abdominal Exercises Worth My Time?
No exercise (done correctly) is ever a waste of time, something is always better than nothing. As I’ve already stated, ab exercises alone ARE NOT going to create a flat stomach. But they will certainly tighten those abdominal muscles and help to strengthen your core.
Each person is different, and their bodies will respond differently to different types of exercises. Whether or not ab exercises provide the results you’re looking for, they’re by no means a waste of time. Here are some benefits, besides a tight tummy and toned 6-pack:
- Help with back pain – Your abs play a major role in supporting your spine. Strengthening your abdominal muscles can help reduce existing lower-back pain and may also help to prevent back problems from happening in the first place.
- Improved posture – Healthy posture refers to your body being in proper alignment. If you suffer from weak abs, your body’s posture can suffer. Poor posture results in your body trying to compensate by putting more strain on bones, ligaments, muscles and tissues, which can result in a wide range of health problems.
- More core strength – Your abs provide stability and support for a wide variety of movements; both in the gym and throughout everyday life. When your abdominals are weak, other muscles must kick in to stabilize and compensate, which can cause injuries.
Tips For Creating a Tight Stomach
I’ve already discussed the importance of reducing calories and fat – the best way to flatten your stomach and expose those abdominals! This can be achieved through a combination of diet and exercise, but here are a few more tips to help trim that waistline.
- Incorporate cardio: Once again, cardio training will be much more effective at burning calories and exposing that six-pack than ab exercises. Try to incorporate cardio into your routine at least three times per week. The best part is, you can always change it up: running, walking, elliptical, bike, stair stepper, etc.
- High-rep ab training: If you’re going to do ab exercises, shoot for higher reps, rather the more weight. Higher reps (20-40) will increase your heart rate, and in turn burn more calories.
- Lift some weights: Don’t be scared to lift weights more often! Remember, muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, so your stomach will thank you as you get stronger.
- Eat healthy, and consistently: A low calorie, low fat diet can certainly do wonders for your mid-section. And believe it or not, eating more frequently will increase your metabolism and help to trim that waistline. Rather than eating just 2 to 3 large meals, shoot for smaller meals and snack (healthy!) regularly.
- Reduce sodium: Sodium causes your body to retain water, aka “bloat”, so try to limit it as much as possible. If you must, opt for sea salt. Or, try Mrs. Dash, which is sodium free.
Those love handles (AKA: the muffin top) only exist because of excess fat, not because a lack of muscle. I hate to break it to you, but there is no quick fix to getting rid of it. Hopefully you see why those catchy “6-pack ab” gimmicks rarely work, and that a little bit of balance goes a long way in producing results. When it comes to creating a flat stomach, don’t put all of your eggs into one basket. Spread them out… cardio, nutrition, weight training, and finally… a little bit of ab exercises.
What ab exercises should I do? Here are some of my favorites →