Belly flab is public enemy number one for many women. It can be extremely difficult to shift and even the smallest bit can be hard to conceal. Too much fat in the midsection can also lead to health problems such as diabetes. The best exercises for burning belly fat aren't actually stomach-specific ones. Instead, you need a potent combo of high-intensity exercises that target your whole body.
The Spot Reduction Myth
It would make sense that to burn fat from a certain body part you need to train it more, but this isn't the case -- muscle and fat are two separate things. According to the American Council on Exercise, stomach exercises have no direct effect on belly fat. So you can crunch until you're blue in the face, but your belly will stay the same.
While weight training may appear to be far better suited to bulking up and getting stronger than losing fat, it can be a highly effective tool in your box of fat loss tricks. Weight training raises your metabolic rate, and building lean muscle mass increases your daily caloric burn, according to MayoClinic.com. The faster you burn calories, the quicker you'll lose fat and reveal your shredded stomach. When weight training, pick exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once, such as squats, lunges, rows, pullups and pushups. These work more muscle fibers, are far more demanding and have a higher calorie burn.
Cardio undoubtedly burns calories, but not all cardio exercises are created equal -- some types attack the flab better than others. Running, cycling, high-impact aerobics, rowing and the elliptical machine all burn more calories than lighter activities such as gentle jogging, walking or water aerobics. Additionally, high-intensity interval training, where you alternate short bursts of maximum intensity cardio with slightly longer periods of low-intensity work, has an even greater impact on fat loss than steady-state cardio, notes Rachel Cosgrove, trainer and owner of Results Fitness in California, in an interview with "Real Simple" magazine.
Ab Work and Considerations
Just because stomach exercises won't directly burn belly fat doesn't mean you shouldn't do them. A stronger core can help prevent lower back injuries and bigger ab muscles can make your midsection look more defined. You should stick to stabilization and rotation exercises though, as these train the true function of the stomach muscles, writes Cassandra Forsythe in "The New Rules of Lifting for Women." This means choosing planks, rollouts, cable twists and side bends over situps and crunches. Diet is the other major consideration -- without a balanced, calorie-controlled diet, that belly flab won't budge.
- ExRx: Fat Loss and Weight Training Myths
- ACE Fitness: Why Is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth
- Mayo Clinic: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- Harvard Health: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Fox News: Should You Try These Fitness Trends?
- "The New Rules of Lifting for Women": Cassandra Forsythe and Lou Schuler: December 2008
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.