If you think doing hundreds of elbow-to-knee crunches or bicycle crunches is going to help you lose belly fat, it's time for a reality check. This exercise targets your abdominals but doesn't begin to touch the fat that's covering your stomach muscles. This doesn't mean there's no room in your workout for elbow-to-knee crunches -- they can still help tighten and tone your midsection. To see the results of your hard work, reduce belly fat by making cardio, strength training and a healthy diet part of your lifestyle. With consistency and determination, you'll have a toned, flat tummy in no time.
Belly Fat Dangers
Understand that your decision to lose belly fat won't just make you look better, it's essential to your well-being. Although it might be the visible, subcutaneous fat that bothers you, it's the invisible, visceral fat around your organs that's dangerous. According to Harvard Medical School, it increases your risk for health conditions such as breast cancer, heart disease, dementia and type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise can reduce visceral fat and keep it from returning.
You can do elbow-to-knee crunches until your back hurts, but your belly fat will remain, because reducing fat in just one part of your body isn't possible. To get rid of that layer of fat around your middle, take on a full-body approach. Stop focusing solely on your belly, and start focusing on reducing fat from your entire body. As your body fat reduces, eventually that layer of fat around your middle will also budge.
Cardio and Strength Training
To burn calories and lose weight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends doing 300 minutes of moderate cardio per week, and including strength training on two days. Make it fun -- bring a friend along and go jogging swimming or ride a bike. Raise your heart rate, but make sure you can still talk while exercising. For strength training to be effective, use enough weight so the last repetition of each set is difficult to complete. Target all major muscle groups, and use exercise bands, free weights, weightlifting machines or even your body weight for resistance.
Elbow-to-knee crunches can be part of your strength-training routine. According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, the bicycle maneuver is one of the most effective when it comes to targeting your rectus abdominis at the front of your waistline and your obliques at the sides of your waistline. For optimal results, correct form is essential. While lying face up on the floor with your fingertips on the sides of your head and your legs raised about 45 degrees, crunch and twist bringing one elbow and the opposite knee toward each other. Your abdominals should be engaged the entire time and your back should be pressed into the floor. Switch sides and complete three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
If your diet consists of unhealthy, fatty, sugary foods, don't expect your belly fat to disappear. You must create a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat in a week. Reducing your portion sizes and replacing high-calorie foods with low-calorie foods can help you achieve this. Get in the habit of reading food labels to determine nutritional contents. Also, avoid trans fats and foods and beverages sweetened with fructose, because these are linked to belly fat. Always put your safety first, and before starting a new diet or exercise regimen, consult a doctor, especially if you have injuries of health concerns.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.