No matter how many crunches you perform, you won't be able to show off your ripped set of abs during bikini season until you bid farewell to the fat around your stomach. The amount of fat you must lose to reveal your six pack is subjective; if you have an extra pound of fat in the area, you won't have to work as hard as someone who carries 25 pounds of stomach fat. Even if you have plenty of fat to lose, adding ab exercises to your workout program is helpful.
Building Your Abs
Even if you carry a significant amount of fat over your stomach, nothing is stopping you from working on your abs. Any muscle growth you experience won't be visible until you burn off the fat, but having strong abs provides more than just visible benefits. Harvard Medical School notes that a strong core can improve the ease with which you perform common movements, aid your posture and reduce back pain. Common exercises that you can perform to build your abs include sit-ups, crunches and planks.
Losing Stomach Fat
It's a common fitness myth that ab exercises will help you burn the fat around your abs. Known as spot reduction, this theory is untrue -- exercise will help you burn fat, but the fat you lose will be throughout your body. Although ab exercises burn calories, they do so at a very low rate. A 125-pound person will burn just 135 calories in 30 minutes of general calisthenics. The same person can burn 300 calories during a 30-minute jump-rope session. Aerobic exercises, which burn calories quickly, are an ideal choice to help you lose stomach fat.
If your fitness goal includes losing stomach fat and building a strong set of abs, circuit training is an effective type of exercise to add to your workout regimen. This workout -- when you alternate between quick intervals of aerobic and strength-training exercises -- is easy to customize for a strong core. Include such aerobic exercises as running and riding a stationary bike to burn calories quickly and use body-weight exercises such as crunches to build your abs. Building your abs can also help you burn more calories at rest. You'll burn an additional 50 calories per day for every pound of muscle you build, according to WeightLossResources.co.uk.
Having a low body-fat level is important if you want to be able to see your abs. Muscle & Strength reports that for women, having a body-fat level of around 12 percent is often low enough to reveal your abdominal muscles. Measuring your body fat isn't a precise science, but you can do so by using a caliper designed for the purpose. Visiting a nutritionist, personal trainer or doctor can also help you determine your body-fat level.
- Harvard Medical School: The Real-World Benefits of Strengthening Your Core
- ExRx.net: Crunch
- ExRx.net: Front Plank
- American Council on Exercise: Q: Why is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth?
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- WeightLossResources.co.uk: How to Make Your Body Burn More Calories
- Bodybuilding.com: Fat-Loss Circuit Training
- Muscle & Strength: What Body Fat Level is Needed to See Your Abs?
- BuiltLean: 5 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.