A common misconception that pretty much everyone has fallen victim to at some point, is the notion of being able to spot reduce fat on specific parts of your body. Over time, you may have put on a couple of centimetres around the midsection that you want to get rid of. So you follow some “fitness” based social media pages to get some tips and tricks to help you get rid of your stomach bulge. You see a post which shows an exercise routine consisting of crunches,planks,leg raises,etc with a stunning picture of a fitness model showing off his/her abs and you naturally think these exercises are the way to achieve that physique. Let me educate you on why these posts are deceptive and what you should be doing instead.
First, let me preface this by saying that I used to believe in these posts too. Before I was educated as a personal trainer, I used to do situps everyday to try and get rid of the flab that spilled over the top of my pants. I tried planking, I tried leg raises, I tried russian twists, I tried like 10 different variations of crunches, and while they helped me to develop a strong midsection, they didn’t do much for my body composition. It wasn’t until I completed my personal training certification and did some more research into fat loss that I understood what it actually took to lose fat and get rid of the excess flab.
Fat accumulates in your body because the total energy you get from eating every day is more than the amount of energy that you actually use. While this is a simplistic statement because there can be other factors involved in weight management, as a general rule this is 95% true. As you feed the body excess energy, it converts this energy into a form that is stored for later use – adipose tissue, otherwise known as fat. The way to reduce your accumulated fat is to get enough protein, sleep and exercise while making sure to use more energy everyday than the energy you get from eating. This is known as a being in a caloric deficit. The body will then convert the stored adipose tissue into energy to make up the difference and your overall body fat percentage will decrease. The problem is, you don’t get to decide where the body pulls the fat from, your body chooses for you. Some people lose fat from their hips first, some people lose fat from their legs first, some people lose fat from their stomach first, it all depends on the individual. Your job is to keep losing fat wherever you lose it from, until your stomach fat reduces to a level that you’re happy with.
Which brings me to my point about ab exercises not being the best thing to do if you want a flat stomach. Ab exercises are great for strengthening your abdominal muscles, that’s a no brainer. However, in terms of energy expenditure, they aren’t all that great compared to compound exercises such as a squat or a deadlift. They also aren’t that great at building overall muscle which will help burn more energy during the day. Muscle cells are constantly being broken down and new ones created throughout the day which takes energy to do, so if fat loss is your goal, it’s in your best interests to perform exercises that will build overall muscle. Basically more muscle = more energy used.
So what should you do? Well if you’ve got a busy schedule with work, kids and other commitments that limit your time to train, ditch the ab exercises and focus on compound exercises. These exercises work multiple muscle groups and give you the best bang for your buck in terms of overall muscles worked and energy spent. Some examples of compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench press and pull-ups. Stick to a plan based around these exercises incorporating a progressive overload, make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet, make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night, make sure you’re eating whole foods as opposed to packaged foods and portion control your meals. If you’re doing it right and you are in a calorie deficit, over time your body fat percentage will decrease and your stomach will automatically get flatter. If you have more time to train, by all means you can also add in abdominal exercises into your routine but just bear in mind that these shouldn’t take the place of your compound movements.
If you want to find out how I can set you up with an exercise program and coach you with your fat loss goals, you can get in contact with me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Til next time,