As awesome as it would be to squat your way to a flat belly, this is impossible. Exercise works muscles, but it has no direct effect on fat. Working out can help slim your physique by accelerating calorie burn, which contributes to overall fat loss, but you still need to cut dietary calories to effectively lose weight. And although resistance exercises such as squats tone muscles for definition, squats mainly concentrate on the lower body and won't create six-pack abs.
Squats are fantastic for shaping your legs because they focus on thighs, buttocks and calves. Although you use stomach and other core muscles somewhat for stabilization, squats don't engage them enough to be considered an ab exercise. But don't dismiss squats quite yet. As compound, or multi-joint, exercises, squats are terrific for building strength.
For ab-building, you've got the right idea by looking into resistance training. You just need moves that target the stomach. At home, perform body-weight exercises such as crunches, situps, V-ups, supermans, bridges and planks. If you have an exercise ball, use it for crunches, rollouts and plank twists. If you go to the gym, try lying crunches, leg raise crunches and twists. Perform each exercise eight to 10 times. While one set is enough, three sets are ideal. Perform resistance training 3 days per week, and work your other major muscle groups, too.
Visceral Stomach Fat
A large stomach indicates excess visceral fat, which sits around the abdominal organs and may contribute to heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer. For women, a waist circumference of 35 inches or larger signifies dangerous visceral fat levels. If you're in the danger zone, diet and exercise will help, but there are also some less-expected steps you may take. Get a good night's rest -- sleeping fewer than five hours a night is linked to higher visceral fat levels. So is stress, which you can better control with calming yoga or meditation. And if you needed another reason to quit smoking, here it is. Cigarettes make you more likely to store fat in the gut rather than your lower body.
The only trick to fat loss is to eat fewer calories than you burn -- your diet matters more here than exercise. To drop a respectable pound per week, eat 500 fewer calories than you expend each day. A simple way to do this is to cut out sugary drinks, sweets and processed snacks such as potato chips. Snack on fresh fruits instead, and fill half of your plate with veggies at all meals. The other half should have whole grains such as brown rice or whole-wheat bread, as well as lean proteins such as salmon, tofu and low-fat cheese.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.