When you're working hard on getting shredded abs, what's your go-to exercise?
For a lot of people, it's the good old fashioned sit-up. But what if I told you that sit-ups alone won't banish the belly fat?
Here's the reason: spot training doesn't work.
Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time trying to reduce body fat in specific areas through targeted exercises knows all too well that spot training isn't effective. A study from the mid-1980s further confirmed this fact.
The study involved 13 men who completed 5,000 sit-ups in 27 days. Fat biopsies were taken not only from the stomach area but from the upper back and the buttocks of each participant.
The workout effectively burned belly fat, yes. But the same amount of fat lost from the stomach was also lost from the back and the buttocks. The lesson here is that our bodies burn fat from storehouses all over our bodies and not just in the one area you're focusing on training.
Many people have incorrect form
Sit-ups may look simple, but the truth is that a lot of people are doing them wrong. This not only leads to a less effective workout, but it leaves your body open to injury.
Some of the leading sit-up mistakes include:
Ab exercises alone don't torch fat
Incorrect form aside, the abdominals are a very small muscle group. Because they're so small, they don't need a lot of fuel to get to work and therefore don't shed a whole lot of calories.
If your goal is to score tight and toned abs, here's what you should be doing instead:
1. Incorporate resistance training into your regime
Both body weight training (like yoga) and lifting weights are a fantastic way to burn belly fat.
Think of each muscle as being a mini furnace. The more furnaces you have running at once (or the more muscles that are active), the more calories you'll burn during your workout and throughout the day.
2. Go for compound exercises that incorporate larger muscle groups
This means combining upper body and core exercises with lower body movements like squats, lunges and deadlifts. You want to challenge multiple muscle groups at the same time to not only get the most out of your workout but to supercharge your metabolism (compound workouts can increase your basal metabolic rate by as much as 15 per cent!).
3. Watch what you eat
There's a reason why the phrase "abs are made in the kitchen" exists: what you eat will make all the difference in the results you get.
What should you eat? This is a widely debated topic, but most experts agree that your diet should largely involve whole plant-based foods loaded with nutrients including protein, carbohydrates and fats. Reducing sugar and artificial ingredients will also go a long way in trimming up your tummy.
4. Control stress
When we are feeling a lot of stress, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. When this happens, the body feels threatened so it stores more fat than it typically would.
So how can you start to get your stress in check? This will vary from person to person. Here are a few quick tips:
5. Incorporate some cardio and better core exercises
Cardiovascular exercises are an effective way to burn calories. But did you know that some cardio exercises are more effective than others?
Contrary to what many believe, going on a long run isn't necessarily the most effective way to lose belly fat. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to go (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25281334). You'll burn more calories throughout the day (thanks to the "afterburn" effect), and it spares your muscle fibres, so you build more muscle rather than lose it.
As for core exercises, sit-ups are still a great exercise (when done correctly!). If you really want to trim up your midsection, however, try some different moves like planks (including side planks), chair holds, and knee tucks.