Welcome to part 2 about how to banish belly fat. If you have missed part 1 you can head back to this page.
Exercise: The other side of a mis-weighted coin
Now, because you’re both smart and curious (and good looking, and modest), you’re putting it all together: “Steve, if I can’t target belly fat, and food is 80-90% of the puzzle, what’s the other 10-20% of the equation?”
Weight loss pills and horse tranquilizers!
Let’s lay down some ground rules here:
RULE #1: Don’t do another crunch for the rest of eternity
The fat on your belly doesn’t give a flying f&*$ how many crunches you do.
Below are some amazing transformations we’ve shared in the past via Fit-Trainers:
I’m not sharing these stories with you to brag or sell you on a “workout scientists HATE!” or a supplement or ab machine. I’m going to “sell” you the truth, FO’ FREE!
The three of us above never did a single crunch or “ab workout.” Instead, we all got stronger and then focused 90% of our effort on the actual important part of the equation: our nutritional strategy. In other words, we ate in a way that decreased our body fat percentage.
Remember: no amount of exercise will give you a flat stomach! You have to eat in a way that allows your body to burn more calories on a daily basis than it consumes, and your body fat percentage will start to decrease.
Why you don’t need to do another crunch ever again: Are you sitting down right now? Do a crunch right there. With a crunch we’re training those muscles to be strong in that rounded back position – reinforcing the terrible slouching posture and problems we see from prolonged sitting. Don’t worry, we’ll give you some alternatives below.
Starting today, you are no longer allowed to touch a single ab machine at the gym.
Yes, I hear you when you say “I can feel the burn in my abs when I do ab routines! That means it’s working!” These routines might very well be making your abs stronger.
What I’m telling you is that because targeting your abs will not give you a flat stomach, any time spent in the gym on your abs is time NOT being spent focused on more efficient exercises that will actually you faster results.
Think of it like an “ab opportunity cost”: When you do an ab exercise, your body will burn some calories like any physical activity. However, if doing 15 minutes of crunches burns 100 calories, and doing 15 minutes of certain OTHER exercises burns 500 calories…you’d be a fool to do the crunches, right?
You’re a busy person (I know it, everybody is), and you only have so much time you can dedicate to fitness. Which means if you ONLY have 30 minutes to work out, you should be focusing those 30 minutes on BIG WIN exercises, not isolating your abs. It’s bad math.
Pick the highest leverage movement and get the hell outta there!
Rule 2: Do big, strong, compound movements
I’m proud of my physique, because I work hard to look like I do. However, my flat stomach isn’t because I focus on it for training. My training is focused on getting stronger, and the abs are a side effect.
When people ask me, “What are the best ab exercises?” my answer confuses them:
The compound movements I mention above recruit nearly every muscle in your body, including your abs/core. Because they recruit and require so many muscles, your body will burn a TON more calories and have to rebuild more muscle after you train than if you spent your time doing only ab exercises.
Sure, if you have unlimited time and you are desperate to do ab exercises, you can do those AFTER you do your strength training workout, AFTER you’ve got your nutritional strategy locked in. But only at the end. And I’ll share with you some good core-strengthening exercises in the next section.
However, I would keep my focus on big, compound movements – regardless of your age or sex – and do those first and foremost, and get really strong with them. Then, and only then, if I had extra time, I was a masochist, and I also had my nutritional strategy together, I would do ab focused exercises.
Here is a free workout strategy you can follow. A summary of what you expect:
Why is it so hard to get a fit body?
The Top Mistakes You MUST Avoid In Your Quest To Get Workout
How to improve your core strength
Top Ranking Ab Exercises
Effective Workout Program Elements
Your 4 Week Abdominal Training Protocol
Lifestyle Factors That Help Our Hinder Progress
Lean Ab Maintenance – How To Keep The Look
How to get the free workout plan?
1. sign up with your e-mail
2. check your inbox
3. confirm your e-mail
4. once confirmed you get the free workout plan!
Get Your Free Workout Guide⤵
“But Steve, I STILL want to do ab exercises!”
Damn, you really like ab exercises, eh? Alright, alright! If they make you feel like you’re doing something, you actually enjoy them, and you feel the burn, go for it!
AS LONG AS YOU START YOUR WORKOUTS WITH BIG COMPOUND MOVEMENTS, then you can ALSO do ab exercises at the end of your routine if you have time. Deal? Deal!
- For starters, STOP doing:
Any ab machine exercise at the gym – these are torture devices and a waste of time.
- Crunches and sit-ups – these are incomplete exercises that depending on your current health could be doing more harm than good.
You see, the abs and midsection are much better suited to transfer movement (swinging a bat), as opposed to creating movement (short range of motion in a crunch). So let’s first focus on exercises that create STABILITY and NON-MOVEMENT.
Instead, do one of the following exercises at the end of your routine. Go nuts, you crazy animal:
Ab wheel rollouts – tough, and often abandoned because they are so tough. When planks put you to sleep, step it up with these.
Pallof press – an anti-rotational movement that you can do with bands or cable machine, kneeling or standing. Be sure to work both sides!
Waiter’s Walks / Farmer’s Walks – You know that feeling when you’re carrying something heavy? Yeah, that’s the abs! Grab a single dumbbell and hold it overhead (Waiter’s Walk), or a grab one or two dumbbells by your side and take a walk (Farmer’s Walks).
Hollow body holds – this will help you prepare for things like handstands and improve core strength.
Cardio, cardio, and more cardio?
In the quest for a flat stomach, far too many people chain themselves to treadmills or ellipticals, going along for hours at the same slogging pace.
Does it do any good? A little! Is our time better spent doing something else? Absolutely.
First off, as it bears repeating, nutrition is going to be the biggest key to finding those abs. It’s all about getting the most bang for your buck:
- If you are spending an hour on the treadmill, but don’t spend any time on your nutrition, you won’t see any results.
- You are better off doing a half-hour on the treadmill and and then half an hour on improving your nutrition.
- Or, do 30 minutes preparing a healthy meal, knock out some push-ups and squats, and then go play video games.
Now, we’re not discounting aerobic exercises or simple walking. We love walking! It’s great! It’s movement! It may absolutely be the best thing for you when you are just starting out! But, if you have a choice in cardio, it’s best to prioritize and do interval work. For one, it tends to take less time than traditional aerobic exercise, improves your VO2 max (oxygen usage), and helps improve the body’s hormones to be more responsive to fat loss. Less time and better results? Sign me up! If you LOVE cardio, like biking or aerobics classes, do them. But only after you’ve fixed your nutrition!
Sleep and Stress: The Last Part
OK, OK, our math might be a little off. Nutrition has the lion’s share of importance in this journey at 80-90%, exercise was sitting at about 10-20%, but if we had to carve out a few percentage points for something else, it would be sleep and stress. Too little sleep and too much stress wreaks havoc on our body’s hormones and can make it that much more difficult to lose body fat – especially around the midsection. As you’re getting everything else dialed in, see what else you can do to help this area.
How to Know You’re Getting Closer
Depending on your goals – ranging from “I want to be less doughy” to “I want to be absolutely ripped” – your level of dedication, length of focus, training, nutrition, sleep schedule, and stress level will determine how quickly you can reach your goals or how militant you need to be.
To gauge your progress, make sure you are taking photos and measurements at least every month (or every other week). You might not see progress day-to-day, but comparing photos side-by-side after a few weeks can certainly help.
Hope and Action
I want to leave you with one final important thought:
You’re here because you want a flat stomach. That’s awesome! I know feeling more confident physically in your skin can lead to a dramatic improvement in your outward confidence and self-esteem too. I know my life improved as a result of taking care of myself physically, and that physical strength created an inner strength and confidence that carried over to the rest of my life.
A flat stomach isn’t a panacea for all of your troubles! Just like money can’t buy you happiness, or confidence, or abs, or a toned stomach. If you’re unhappy and self-loathing now, getting obsessive about a flat stomach won’t make you happy later.
Good luck in your quest for a flat stomach and strong body – just don’t lose yourself along the way. That’s what we’re here for at Fit Trainers: helping you reach your goals in a healthy and permanent way!
So remember, whether it’s nutrition or exercise:
- Know where you are starting: Take photos. Track your calories for a few days.
- Know what you are doing/looking to accomplish: What your goals are, and why you’re doing this!
- Know how you are going to track/measure progress: Decreasing calories, more veggies and protein, etc. Be SPECIFIC with your data to get closer to improvement.
- Start simple, and add complexity as you need/want.
If you are seeing progress: GREAT! Keep doing what you’re doing.
If you are NOT seeing progress after a few weeks: That means you need to tweak things – usually your nutritional strategy. Go back through this article line by line and make sure you are implementing your plan accurately. Ask yourself:
- Is your tracking accurate?
- Are you properly accounting for all the things we listed?
- Do you need to get a little more complex with your tracking?
- Can you recruit a coach or lean on this NF community for more help?
This has been a public service announcement from your favorite (I hope) truth-telling, fit nerd.
Now back to your regularly scheduled advertisements of “secret six-pack ab-blasting belly-fat targeting weird trick that scientists hate!”
Brave? Leave a comment below with all of the crazy ab products you’ve bought or hours spent doing ab workouts. It’s okay, you’re among friends. I used to do abs 6 days a week! Sigh.
Questions? ANYTHING you want to ask about belly fat, abs, routines – leave a comment and we’ll reply. Thanks for reading!
No more crunches!