If your summer plans include slipping into a teeny bikini and hitting the beach, visiting the gym to tighten up your abdominal region is a must. But remember, it's a myth that performing umpteen situps and crunches will necessarily give you the six-pack look you desire. These exercises build your muscles, but don't help you burn calories to burn fat and create a flat stomach as quickly as aerobic exercises.
Situps vs. Crunches
Some people use the terms situps and crunches interchangeably, and while the two exercises share some similarities, they're not quite the same thing. Both exercises require you to lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, but in a crunch, you contract your abs just enough to raise your upper back off the ground. In a situp, you bring your torso all the way to your knees. You can perform many variations of each exercise, including with your feet elevated and while holding a weight for extra resistance.
Situps and crunches target your abdominal muscles, which run along the center of your lower torso, directly above and below your navel. Both exercises require the use of your obliques, which are another key core muscle. Obliques are located along the sides of your lower torso, adjacent to your abdominal muscles. Although performing situps and crunches on a regular basis will build your abs, you won't have a flat stomach until you burn the fat that lies over your abs.
Many people use aerobic exercise as a way to quickly burn calories to help them lose fat. You can't target a specific part of your body for fat burning, but a workout regimen that includes intense aerobic exercise can have you well on your way to a flat stomach. The general rule is that the harder and longer you exercise, the more calories you'll burn. Activities such as jogging, cycling, swimming, step aerobics, boxing, jumping rope and team sports such as soccer and basketball help you burn calories quickly.
Exercising and consuming a healthy diet are effective ways to flatten your stomach, but so is understanding the relationship between calories and fat. MayoClinic.com reports that to burn a pound of fat, you must burn 3,500 calories beyond what you consume. Women should consume about 1,940 calories per day, according to WeightLossResources.co.uk. A common weight-loss goal is to break up the 3,500 calories throughout the week and aim to burn 500 more calories than you consume each day.
- ExRx.net: Sit-Up
- ExRx.net: Crunch
- ExRx.net: Rectus Abdominis
- ExRx.net: Obliques
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Military.com: Achieve Washboard Abs
- WeightLossResources.co.uk: Daily Calorie Intake
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
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.