Defined abdominal muscles or “abs” have become a symbol of fitness and health.
For this reason, the internet is full of information about how you can achieve a six pack.
Many of these recommendations involve exercises and devices that target the ab muscles.
These methods supposedly stimulate your abs to burn belly fat.
However, they’re not as effective as some of us may think.
This article explains everything you need to know about ab exercises and belly fat.
What Are Abdominal Muscles (Abs)?
Abdominal muscles help stabilize your core.
They also assist your breathing, allow movement, protect your internal organs and are in charge of postural support and balance.
There are four main abdominal muscles:
- Rectus abdominis.
- Transverse abdominis.
- External oblique.
- Internal oblique.
The abdominal muscles look like this:
Image source: abmachinesguide.com.
It is important to maintain strength in all these muscles.
Bottom Line: Abdominal muscles allow movement and provide stability, support and balance. Strong abs can prevent back pain and other problems.
There Are Two Types of Abdominal Fat
However, not all abdominal fat is created equal. There are two types — subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.
This is the type of fat you can pinch. It’s located under the skin, between your skin and muscles.
This type of fat is located in the abdominal cavity around your internal organs.
Visceral fat is hormonally active. It releases compounds that influence several disease-related processes in the human body (11).
Bottom Line: There are two types of abdominal fat — subcutaneous and visceral. Visceral fat releases hormones that have been linked to disease.
Having Strong, Muscular Abs is Not Enough
Exercising your abdominal muscles will strengthen them.
However, twisting, crunching and side bending will not make your abdominal muscles visible if they are covered by a thick layer of fat.
When present in large amounts, subcutaneous (under the skin) fat will prevent you from seeing your abdominal muscles.
In order to have defined abs or a six pack, you need to get rid of subcutaneous fat from your abdominal area.
Bottom Line: Exercising your abs will help them become strong and muscular. However, you won’t be able to see them if they’re covered by subcutaneous fat.
Do Ab Exercises Burn Belly Fat?
Many people do ab exercises because they want to lose belly fat.
However, the evidence suggests targeted ab exercises are not very effective.
Spot Reduction May Not Be Effective
The term “spot reduction” refers to the misconception that you can lose fat in one spot by exercising that part of your body.
It’s true that spot-training exercises will make you “feel the burn” while muscles grow and strengthen. However, studies show they won’t help you get rid of belly fat.
One study followed 24 people who did ab exercises 5 days a week for 6 weeks. This training alone did not reduce subcutaneous belly fat (12).
Another study tested the effects of a 27-day sit-up program. It found that neither fat cell size nor subcutaneous belly fat thickness decreased (13).
This is not only true for the abdominal area. It applies to all areas of the body.
For instance, one study asked participants to complete 12 weeks of resistance training, exercising only their non-dominant arm.
They measured subcutaneous fat before and after the program and found that participants lost fat throughout their bodies, not just in their trained arms (14).
However, Some Studies Disagree
Some studies seem to contradict the above results.
One study tested whether spot reduction decreased subcutaneous arm fat. It found that exercise in a specific area of the arm reduced the fat in that area (19).
Another study examined whether the location of the subcutaneous fat mattered. It compared subcutaneous fat beside working muscles to fat next to resting muscles.
Interestingly, no matter how intense the exercise, blood flow and fat breakdown were higher in subcutaneous fat that was close to active muscles (20).
Nevertheless, the methods or measurement techniques used in these studies could be the reason for the conflicted results.
Bottom Line: The evidence is mixed, but many studies have shown that training one area of your body will not help you burn fat in that area. Studies also show that ab exercises alone have no effect on subcutaneous belly fat.
The Best Exercises For Fat Loss
One reason why targeted fat loss does not work is because muscle cells cannot use the fat contained in fat cells directly.
Fat mass needs to be broken down before it can enter the bloodstream. This fat can come from anywhere in the body, and not just from the body part being exercised.
Additionally, doing sit-ups and crunches isn’t particularly effective for burning calories.
What Exercises Should You Do?
Additionally, you need to exercise often if you want to achieve significant results (24).
For example, do moderate-intensity cardio for 30 minutes, five days a week, or high-intensity cardio for 20 minutes, three days a week (25).
The muscle changes that take place in response to exercise also promote fat loss. In other words, the more muscle mass you build, the more fat you will burn (22).
Combining Multiple Types of Exercise May Be Effective
HIIE is a type of interval training that combines short bouts of high-intensity exercise followed by slightly longer but less intense recovery periods (26).
Bottom Line: Aerobic training and HIIE burn calories and speed up your metabolism. Combining aerobic exercise and resistance training seems to be particularly effective.
Changing Your Diet Is Key to Losing Body Fat
You may have heard the saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.”
There is truth to this, as good nutrition is essential if you want to lose body fat.
Instead, focus on consuming higher amounts of protein. High-protein diets have been linked to greater feelings of fullness that may translate to lower calorie intake.
Increasing your fiber intake is another good strategy for weight loss. Vegetables high in soluble fiber have been shown to help with weight loss. They may increase feelings of fullness and decrease calorie intake over time (39, 40, 41).
When you consume whole foods, more fiber, more protein and control your portions, you are more likely to cut back on calories.
Achieving a long-term calorie deficit is crucial for losing weight and belly fat.
Bottom Line: Good nutrition is important for losing belly fat. Eat fewer processed foods, watch your portions and eat more protein and fiber.
How to Lose Belly Fat Effectively
Evidence shows that you can’t lose belly fat by exercising your abs alone.
For total-body fat loss, use a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training, such as lifting weights.
These methods will help you burn calories, speed up your metabolism and make you lose fat. This will ultimately cause belly fat loss and give you a flatter stomach.
Breakfast, blood sugar, & inflammation
Recent research has shown that Inflammation is responsible for 7 out of 10 Deaths in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be the same way for you.
In fact, in a fairly short amount of time, you could start to experience better sleep…less stomach issues…more energy and stamina…less muscle and joint pain…a drop in weight…lower stress levels…and much, much more!
Learn how to Prevent—Even Reverse—Most Major Diseases by “Turning Off” Inflammation!
Did you know that one of the best times to stretch is right before bed? However…
What stretches should you do? Here’s a 1-minute stretch routine you can do before bed...
Lisa, Yoga Coach
eatlocalgrown / wisemindhealthybody
...easy, 3-minute exercise that completely cured his horrendous snoring! We can both finally sleep!
Today is a good day. Tonight will be even better. Why?
Because you're about to learn easy throat exercises that cure (not just treated) your stubborn snoring – in 3 minutes – starting TONIGHT!
...even if straps, sprays and even torturing CPAP masks have failed you in the past.
Most people heal their snoring in just a few minutes per day using these powerful throat exercises. And they're so easy, you can do them, regardless of your age or physical shape.
Use them anytime, anywhere... even while stuck in traffic or watching TV.
Plus the results are permanent!
Did you know that your bodyfat can become "calorie-resistant"?
True. And it's completely unaffected by even the strictest diets... and most intense exercises.
However, there's good news- Calorie-resistant bodyfat can be now removed...
It's a little-known, calorie-burning hormone we all have... just waiting for the right spark to come alive. It's not thyroid, leptin, ghrelin, insulin, adiponectin, HGH or any other "fat loss" hormone you may know. Read more to find out precisely how to unleash its calorie-burning power:
To your health!
PS - Studies show that it can also reduce your risk of diabetes by 53.7%, a heart attack by 83.3% and stroke by 51.4%. Here's more of the scientific proof...
I bet you can’t guess which muscle in your body is the #1 muscle that eliminates joint and back pain, anxiety and looking fat. This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
If this “hidden” most powerful primal muscle is healthy, we are healthy.
d) Hip Flexors
Take the quiz above and see if you got the correct answer!
In April, 2009, researchers stunned the medical community when they reported chronic inflammation as the root cause of several major diseases.
See, every year 610,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease. Cancer claims another 584,000...stroke 130,000...Alzheimer's disease nearly 85,000 — and the list goes on.
Truth is, we now know... chronic inflammation is responsible for 7 out of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States! Hundreds of studies and scientific reviews prove it.
Fortunately, newer research shows you can prevent-even reverse-most major diseases by "turning off" inflammation. And in our new book, we show you how to do just that.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a debilitating condition-and you"re not sure what the culprit is-now's the time to find out...while you can still do something about it!
--> Grab your FREE copy of this groundbreaking soft cover book today (while supplies still last.)
Over the past year, my friend Dave over at PaleoHacks has been working on a super secret cookbook project with our good friend Peter Servold a Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef and owner of Pete's Paleo...
And today, this new incredible Paleo Cookbook is finally available to be shipped right to your door for FREE!
The cookbook is called Paleo Eats, and it's filled with over 80 chef created, insanely tasty Paleo recipes which means they are free from gluten, soy, dairy, and refined sugar.
Get your FREE copy of Paleo Eats Here. (Grab this today, because they only ordered a small batch of these cookbooks for this freebie promotion, and they will sell out FAST!)
Sponsored Health Resources
In the years that I've been working on this website project I've come across some amazing resources by some very special people. I'd like to share them with you here.
NOTE: I update these links often so please check back to see what's new!
1) Everyone knows green smoothies are healthy right? Have you heard of a “red” smoothie? If not, check out this story…
2) Forget what you've read about 10-day lemonade cleanses, 7-day detoxes with green juices and Gwyneth's gruel. All you need to do, and this is perfect for Saturday or or anytime really, is a simple 1-day cleanse.
3) This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
4) I thought it was virtually impossible for a website to be able to tell me anything even a little bit insightful after only submitting my name and date of birth... I was wrong!
5) Turmeric is amazing. The problem is - It's hard to absorb!
6) Wonder why your stomach still sticks out even though you're hammering the core exercises every day? It's a common myth that bulging belly is due to weak abdominal muscles.
7) Even if you're the most active of athletes, you may still suffer from tight hip flexors due to the amount of time you spend each day planted to a chair.
Enjoy! Let me know how these work out for you. And if you run across anything I've missed please let me know.