In Mistake #1 – I discussed how doing only cardio and no weight training is not an effective strategy to see results no matter your goals. Resistance training is a must. Yet, some think just doing abdominal and stomach exercises are all the resistance training they need to do. The thought process is “I want to lose my stomach so that’s all I need to work.”
It’s impossible to go to a busy gym and not see someone doing stomach exercises. When I used to work at the big box gym I was amazed by how many people I would see just doing ab exercises and cardio and then come to me because they were not seeing results. I still to this day see people using all the different ab machines and doing hundreds of crunches forward and to the side, and back and forth, twisting, and crunching. In their mind they are targeting areas and crunching that fat away.
The spot reduction method has been around for decades and will probably never die. It seems everyone wants to reduce their waistline and marketers know this is by giving us fat wraps, fat burning creams, ab belts, and hundreds of ab devices you can buy off TV. People will always ask me one burning question about all these products do they work? Do they burn fat off your stomach? “NO!” There is not a cream, ab device. or wrap that will burn fat off your stomach. So is doing hundreds of crunches a waste of time? No, because you can definitely strengthen your stomach muscles especially if you are doing the right exercises but these exercises will not burn fat. Even though we are told and people still believe I am here to tell you cannot pick the one spot you want to burn fat and do one exercise to target that area and lose fat in the area alone. Fat is burned by your muscles proportionally throughout your body. How do you lose fat off your stomach then? You can lose fat by following a structured full body (not just stomach) resistance training, moderate aerobic exercise, and solid nutrition.
So if you want to abdominal/stomach exercises to strengthen your stomach and core and not necessarily burn fat what are the best and the worst?
Let’s start with the worst. If you want to strengthen your stomach and core (your lower back, oblique’s, abs, and pelvis muscles) then get off the ab/crunch machines.
The crunch machines you see at commercial gyms are probably the most over used and most ineffective machines for strengthening your core and seeing results at your waistline. Not mention most of the time when I see people using this machine they’re using lots of weight and their momentum to propel themselves forward rather than using muscular control. Secondly, the abs hardly even contract during this exercise, and when they do it is a very brief period. The sad thing is many trainers or gym employees at the gym actually give this machine to their clients or members as an effective way to strengthen their core and burn fat off their stomach. Also, if this employee was educated they would know these machines target only the anterior (front) muscles of the abdominal wall and will do little for their client. I see a lot of people who use this machine religiously everyday and they are actually creating an imbalance because they are strengthening the front muscles and not the stabilizers, back and sides. This will create an imbalance because a crunch machine is a stable hunk of metal and it will only isolate the front muscles, the side, lower back and stomach stabilizers muscle will not be activated this will lead to a weak back and strong front.
The most effective and efficient way to work your stomach muscles and core is to do exercises that work all your stomach muscles in harmony. The best way to do this is to train your core and abs in an unstable environment by using a stability ball, bosu ball and using body weight on the floor or ab board. Doing exercises like squats, and dead lifts are great for your core as well as isolation stomach exercises like stability ball crunches, planks, and bosu ball jackknifes in an unstable environment with proper form will allow you to strengthen your entire core safely and effectively.
1) Ab exercises are not effective for burning fat off your stomach. Focusing on eating the right foods, do full body resistance training, and moderate aerobic exercise will be much more effective.
2) If you want to train your core effectively get off the machines and focus on doing full body exercises like squats, dead lifts, and isolation exercises like stability ball crunches and planks.
Look for Mistake #5 Coming soon!
Your Fitness and Nutrition Coach,