New Research Shows Abdominal Exercises Do Not Reduce Your Belly Fat
A new study investigated the effect of abdominal exercises on abdominal fat. Twenty-four healthy, sedentary participants were randomly assigned either to an abdominal exercise group or a control group.
The abdominal exercise group performed 7 abdominal exercises, for 2 sets of 10 repetitions, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Body composition, and abdominal muscular endurance were tested before and after training.
According to the study, as reported by Green Med Info:
“There was no significant effect of abdominal exercises on body weight, body fat percentage, android fat percentage, android fat, abdominal circumference, abdominal skinfold and suprailiac skinfold measurements … Six weeks of abdominal exercise training alone was not sufficient to reduce abdominal subcutaneous fat and other measures of body composition.”
If you think doing endless crunches is going to reward you with “six-pack” abs, think again. When 24 adults did seven abdominal exercises, five days a week for six weeks, they did not lose any belly fat, or fat anywhere on their bodies, for that matter.
This doesn’t mean you should ditch your abs workout, though! The participants did significantly improve their muscular endurance, and no doubt their muscles would have become more defined had they lost the layer of belly fat first … but they were missing a key component required to do that …
What do You Need to Know to Reduce Belly Fat?
Eighty percent of your ability to reduce excess body fat is determined by what you eat, with the other 20 percent related to exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits. So does this mean that it’s virtually impossible to get a flat, firm stomach if your diet is based on sugar, fructose and processed junk food — even if you work out religiously?
In most cases, yes!
You will not see defined abs unless you reduce your overall body fat, and a poor diet will act like a magnet to your excess fat, causing it to cling to you despite all your exercise efforts.
One of the most pernicious dietary influences on your weight loss goals is fructose, which hides in so many processed foods and beverages, it can be near impossible to avoid unless you alter your shopping and cooking habits. By avoiding processed foods in general, and focusing instead on whole, preferably locally grown organic foods, cooked at home, you can plow your way through one of the greatest dietary obstacles there is today.
The number one step of any weight loss and weight maintenance plan is to severely restrict or eliminate fructose from your diet; it is the first of my two primary dietary recommendations that directly conflict with most people’s dietary choices but could make a very big difference in your weight:
- Severely restricting carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, and grains) in your diet
- Increasing healthy fat consumption
For more details, if you are interested in reducing your body fat I suggest you review my nutrition plan, which is a comprehensive and step-by-step guide to help you make health-promoting food and lifestyle choices. This includes:
|Limit your fructose to less than 25 grams per day, and, ideally to less than 15 grams per day, as you’re likely consuming ‘hidden’ fructose if you eat even small amounts of fruit, processed foods or sweetened beverages||Limit or eliminate all processed foods||Eliminate all gluten, and highly allergenic foods from your diet|
|Increase the amount of fresh vegetables in your diet, and consider juicing||Eat at least one-third of your food uncooked (raw), or as much as you can manage||Avoid artificial sweeteners of all kinds|
What’s the Best Fat-Busting Exercise?
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that exercise is not important; this could not be further from the truth! To really maximize your weight loss efforts, combine your dietary changes with high-intensity interval exercises like Sprint 8.
This short intense training protocol improves muscle energy utilization and expenditure due to its positive effects on increasing muscle mass and improving muscle fiber quality. Muscle tissue burns three to five times more energy than fat tissues. This means that muscle gain increases your body’s metabolic rate and allows you to burn more calories, even when you’re sleeping.
Further, several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session. In fact, you can actually lose more weight by reducing the amount of time you spend on exercise, as with Sprint 8 exercises, you only need 20 minutes, two to three times a week.
Any more and you’ll overdo it!
You can get the details on how to perform Sprint 8 exercises in the video below.
Total Video Length: 0:25:34
Strength Training Also Helps You Burn Fat
Again, one of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is actually to gain more muscle! For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before.
Furthermore, your muscles also participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, protecting you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Virtually everyone, from kids to seniors, can benefit from strength training, unfortunately many still make the mistake of equating weight training with “bulking up.” Please understand that strength training is not just about “looking good.” It’s also an important part of maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening your bones, and improving posture, range of motion and functionality of your body.
Why Abdominal Exercises are Still Incredibly Important
Ab workouts specifically may not help you reduce body fat, but they will provide you with some phenomenal benefits. Your abdominals are part of your body’s 29 core muscles, which are located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.
When you build your ab muscles, it’s like developing an internal corset that holds your gut in. When you tighten your “inner weight belt,” you create more stabilization for your spine, vertebrae and discs, which in turn can significantly reduce back pain and make it easier for you to lift heavy items, twist and turn and perform the movements required for a full life.
Having a strong abdominal wall is very important for optimal body movement and gets increasingly more important with advancing age. Strong abs represent a strong center of gravity, which means you’ll be more stable and balanced, and less prone to falls. Not only that, but strengthening your abs will allow you to improve your posture by sitting straighter and standing taller.
One of the Best Ab Workouts You’d Probably Never Expect …
Healthy diet? Check.
Sprint 8? Check.
Strength training? Check!
Now you’re ready to start incorporating even more techniques into your fitness routine, including those exercises that will directly tone and target specific body areas like your abs. Now, crunches and sit-ups do have their place, but the world of abdominal fitness has come a long way since you were doing sit-up tests in gym class.
Core exercises, specifically abdominal exercises, must be done in a variety of ranges of motion, in different angles and positions, in order to engage all muscles. It is also important to understand that what works for one person or body type may not work for another. So the key is to find the variety that works for you, is challenging for you, and produces visible results.
This may include:
- Traditional exercises, such as a standard crunch with rotation or a standing rotation with a light hand weight.
- Functional exercises, including work on a stability ball.
- Stabilizing exercises, such as lying on the floor and pulling your belly back toward your spine and holding that position while breathing deeply
- Extension exercises, such as lying on your stomach with arms extended above your head. Then raising both arms and both legs, at the same time, off the floor. (Hold for a count of 5, or 5 breaths, and slowly return to the floor.)
Popular exercise programs that work your core muscles are widely available, and include virtually all the types of yoga and Pilates. Earlier this summer I have taken two Pilates lessons a week and have been impressed with the results so far.
Now, here is one you probably didn’t expect: push-ups! Push-ups don’t just give you a stronger upper body, they also train your abs — as long as you’re doing them correctly. I recommend watching Darin Steen’s demonstration of the proper form below, but I’ve also included a summary of key points to remember:
Total Video Length: 0:20:12
- Keep your body stiff and straight as a plank
- Elbows at a 45-degree angle from your sides
- Breathe in on the way down
- Lower your body all the way down, allowing your sternum to gently touch the floor
- Breathe out on the way up
If you’re looking to get rock-hard abs, remember that proper dietary choices is your first step, but from there a comprehensive fitness program and targeted ab exercises will help you achieve your goal.