Everyone wants great looking abs, but developing the abs of your dreams takes more than just doing a few ab exercises. Abdominal exercises are very important for your body, but there is a lot of misleading information about their effects on body fat reduction. Workout videos and exercise equipment commercials suggest that performing specific ab exercises will make you look like the models promoting their products, but this is not the case.
What Abdominal Exercises Can do…
Abdominal exercises can tone, tighten, increase the size, and/or improve the function of your abs, but they do not necessarily give you the well-defined look you probably want. Exercising your abs has more to do with improving physical qualities (strength, endurance, etc.) and function (stabilization, spine protection, etc.), and has little to do with getting rid of the fat around your midsection.
Performing a lot of abdominal exercises can make your abs bigger, which may help them stand out more, but this only happens if you already have a low percentage of body fat. However, almost everyone has a significant amount of fat on top their abdominal muscles and until most of that fat is lost, you will not be able to see your abs beneath them, even if they are in incredible shape.
What Abdominal Exercises CAN’T DO!
Unfortunately, losing abdominal fat can be a real challenge. There is a common assumption that working your abs makes you lose the fat covering your abs, but this is just not true. You can change the size, shape, and ability of muscles using specific exercises, but you cannot make your body lose fat from specific areas.
Your body loses fat from wherever it wants, regardless of the muscles you work or the specific exercises you use. Regardless of what commercials want you to think, there are no magic exercises or machines that make you lose abdominal fat. Therefore, it is best to focus on improving overall fat loss and not worry so much about losing fat specifically from your midsection.
The Simple Truth is…
Like all fat loss, reducing body fat around your midsection is heavily influenced by nutrition and you need to burn more calories than you consume (without starving yourself) if you want to lose fat. The simple truth is if you have poor nutritional habits, no amount of exercise will give you great looking abs, so improving your nutrition is the place to start.
Exercise also plays an important role, but abdominal exercises are not the key to abdominal fat loss. Since the goal is to decrease your overall body fat enough to reveal your abs beneath the fat, your focus should be on performing exercises with a high metabolic cost. In other words, focus on exercises that are challenging and cause your body to burn a higher number of calories both during and after your workouts.
The Best Exercises For Fat Loss…
The best exercises for fat loss are ones that require the greatest amount of muscle, because more muscle used means more calories burned. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges are great, because they use the majority of your lower body muscles and focus on the largest muscle groups in the body. Some good upper body exercises are bench presses, push-ups, bent rows, and pull-ups.
One quality set of this type of exercise has a more significant impact on fat loss than multiple sets of typical abdominal exercises, such as crunches. Of course, performing a few sets of squats will not instantly make you lose fat, but over time, performing exercises that focus on your larger muscle groups will result in more significant calorie burning and fat loss.
However, I don’t want to give the impression that you should only exercise your large muscles because it is very important to have a complete training program that works your whole body. Focusing too much on any muscle group(s) causes imbalances between your muscles, which can lead to, pain, injury, or a number of other physical problems.
As far as your abs are concerned… there are very important uses for them…. it’s not just about having a six pack…
As far as your abs are concerned, they have many important uses, such as maintaining good posture, protecting your spine, stabilizing your body, and preventing back pain. They are also important for athletic performance as they transfer energy between upper and lower body muscles. For example, pitchers initially generate energy in their legs and transfer that energy to their throwing arm using their abdominal muscles.
Abdominal exercises are important for many things and they should definitely be included in your overall exercise routine, but do not expect them to target the fat in your midsection.
The Genetic Component…
Finally, there is also a genetic component to fat loss and many people lose fat from their arms and legs first and their midsection last. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to change your genetic effect on fat loss, so it’s best to not worry about where you are losing fat.
Instead, focus on the things you can control, such as your workouts and nutrition and know that fat loss from any area in your body is a positive step towards developing great looking abs. Even if you lose fat from you midsection last, after you lose enough fat from other areas, your body will start burning that stubborn abdominal fat.
By Ross Harrison
VFT Fitness Expert
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