Are Abdominal Exercises Effective If You Want To Lose Fat Around Your Stomach?
Ask someone who’s looking to lose weight to point to the area they most want to lose fat from, and they’ll generally point to their stomach or, more specifically, the fat hanging around their waistline.
It is for this reason that many people will focus heavily on doing abdominal exercises during their workouts. On paper that makes sense; exercise the area where you want to lose fat. But is this the correct thing to be doing?
Before I answer this question let me quickly explain the dangers of abdominal fat. Abdominal fat is the biggest indicator of health our of all of the fat spread around your body. High levels of body fat around your abdomen is an indicator of high levels of visceral fat. Visceral fat resides around our organs within our bodies. We need some visceral fat to provide a protective cushion-y layer however, too much of it can start to suffocate our organs by putting pressure on them.
High levels of body fat around your abdomen leaves you at a much higher risk of a whole host of diseases; from diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid issues, cardiovascular and respiratory issues, to name a few.
It’s important to remember we need body fat. Without it we wouldn’t be alive because body fat is our energy storage system that we can tap into when needed. It is also essential for hormone function, nutrient storage and warmth.
How we store body fat is vastly dependant on our genetics. Some retain fat easily, whilst some of us are naturally lean. Genetics is the biggest deciding factor outside of the over-consumption of calories.
Ok so lets actually answer the question!
We reduce body fat by eating fewer calories than we are burning, this is called a calorie deficit. We cannot ‘spot reduce’ body fat. By that I mean we cannot pick and chose what area of our bodies we want to lose fat from. Fat loss happens on a broad scale across the body when in a calorie deficit. Annoyingly, abdominal fat is the most stubborn to lose.
So doing abdominal exercises will NOT help you lose body fat from around your stomach. Think of it like trying to empty the corner of a swimming pool with a bucket, it seems impossible, but over time the water level of the swimming pool will reduce. Think of the water as the body fat in your body, over time it will be reduced when in a calorie deficit – as explained below.
What You Should Be Doing
Firstly, you have to be in a calorie deficit, as previously explained; consuming fewer calories than you are burning. In terms of exercise, you want to be making optimal use of your workouts by working big muscle groups. Why? Because the more muscle mass you work the more calories you burn. Although abdominal exercises should play a part in a well-structured weight based routine, they should not be the main focus when trying to lose body fat.
Big compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, leg press, rows and presses should make up the bulk of your workouts. This will optimise calorie burn during your session, aiding your calorie deficit. Also, allowing big muscle groups to grow increases your metabolism as the newly promoted muscle requires more calories to maintain itself.
You cannot ‘spot reduce’ fat from specific areas of the body by exercising them. Fat comes off the body collectively through a calorie deficit, achieved by eating under your maintenance calories and working the bigger muscle groups of your body.
Abdominal exercises are important for core strength but shouldn’t make up the bulk of your workout routine if you’re wanting to lose fat from around your abdomen.
So more squats, less sit-ups. And eat less by tracking what you’re eating through My Fitness Pal! If you want to remove doubt in what you’re doing, and optimise your exercise and nutrition by being given the correct structure, then visit the membership page of my website to become an online or gym floor client.
All the love,
Sam Jones Fitness