Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of exercising, especially for women, is when that stubborn belly fat seems to stick around even after you’ve made an effort to do sit-ups or crunches every day. But can you crunch your way to a flat stomach?
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The Sit-Up Myth
Sit-ups are a common physical activity that women and men perform to help strengthen abdominal muscles. In reality, classic sit-ups are proven to be ineffective at reducing belly fat and increasing core strength. Additionally, research shows crunches can even be bad for the spine.
While sit-ups might help increase strength in the abs, they don’t provide stability, which is more important. There are more effective ways to strengthen and stabilize your core.
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Benefits of Core Workouts
Planks, along with other ab workouts, such as bicycle crunches and mountain climbers, are better exercises to build your stomach muscles. They give you strength and stability in your core that will help you complete other exercises more easily.
Planks also provide that toned, defined look that you may have been pursuing with sit-ups or crunches. Unfortunately, ab workouts alone won’t give you a flat stomach. In fact, you can’t target where you want to burn fat. You have to work on burning fat overall.
To burn fat, you need to raise your heart rate and body temperature through medium- or high-intensity exercises, depending on your fitness level.
Core workouts don’t do that. They target one muscle group at a time, with a focus on muscle building. That doesn’t mean you should stop doing them, though. By increasing muscle mass, you’re raising your metabolism, which helps you burn more calories throughout the day.
Make the Best Plan for a Flat Stomach
If you want a flat stomach quickly, you’ll need to put your exercise plan as second on your list.
First, focus on your diet. Cut out foods that bloat and add fat, like those high in sugar, salt, or saturated fat. Drink plenty of water, and eat foods high in fiber like fruits and veggies.
Once you’ve got your diet lined up, you’re ready to put together an exercise plan. In general, try to work out at least three times a week for 30 minutes or more. Combine cardio exercises, such a running, walking, biking, or swimming, with strength training exercises, like lifting weights, or squats.
Remember that it’s best to have realistic goals and be patient about achieving them. How long it takes you to get a flat stomach will depend on how often you exercise and how well you follow a nutritious diet. If you’ve had multiple kids, you may have a layer of loose skin that remains over your belly, despite how much fat you’ve burned. That’s okay. Any reduction in belly fat benefits your heart and overall health.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.