Did that grab your attention? Good! The truth is… NO exercises reduce belly fat as such. No matter how many crunches or sit ups you perform, all you’re doing is building and strengthening your abdominal wall.
So what do we do? Well, there’s an old saying… “Abs are made in the kitchen.” I like to put a little twist on that and say “Abs APPEAR in the kitchen.” Thats right! You want abs? Get smart with your nutrition. At the end of the day, everyone has abs. So when people say “I want abs,” my reply is typically, “You’ve got em, we just need to bring them out.”
Thats where nutrition comes in. Eating as clean and fresh as possible for at least 90-95% of your weekly food consumed, will go a long way to revealing those washboard abs. That means choosing foods that are from the earth (think fruit, veg, lean meats etc) majority of the time, while limiting or eliminating packaged foods as much as possible. You’ll also need to ensure you’re in a calorie deficit. We can’t lose fat if we’re eating more calories than we are burning. So fill up on the veggies and lean meats while reducing your carbs slightly. And keep your good fats to a moderate level. Once you’ve got your choices organised, it’s time to pay attention to portion sizes. We can still gain fat by overeating the good stuff too. Thats where the previously mentioned calorie deficit comes in. Keep your portions to a suitable size.
Now, nutrition isn’t the only thing we need to focus on to get those sexy abs showing. Along with that, we need EXERCISE! Yes indeed! But what type? Well, a little of everything, however a strong emphasis should be placed on strength training. With gaining or building muscle, we technically become leaner, (provided body fat hasn’t gone up). Now the leaner we are, the more energy we will burn at rest, doing absolutely nothing. How good is that?! And when it comes to strength training, we need to focus on lifts that are demanding on the body. Example, the squat. Squatting burns more calories per rep than almost any other move. That, along with exercises like deadlifts, bench press , overhead presses and rows, should make up the core of your program.
Then there’s the incidental stuff or N.E.A.T (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). What does that mean? It’s the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. Now Im not suggesting you sit there and twiddle your thumbs for hours to tick off fidgeting, but I am suggesting we need more incidental exercise. For example, park in the far corner of the shopping centre car park and walk to the entrance, then use the stairs instead of the escalator. Or if you have a two storey house, use the bathroom upstairs every time. Or if you’re taking a phone call, if possible, get up and walk around. I guarantee most people will be able to increase their NEAT if they really focus on it and become more aware of what they can change to make it happen.
The last part relating to exercise is cardio. Now, when I first got involved in the fitness industry in 2003, I have seen a huge shift from focusing on cardio to lose fat, to focusing on weight training. It used to be, you wanna lose weight, go jogging. Or hit the stationary bike or cross trainer for 30 mins. And people did, religiously! And while those exercises will assist to burn calories, it is, in my opinion, very outdated. Having said that, I don’t suggest ditching them altogether. Keep cardio sessions to 1-2 per week, 3 at the absolute max depending on body type and goal, but ensure you are utilising High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T) This has been proven to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than long cardio sessions, when done correctly. Short, all out bursts with short to moderate recovery. Use wisely though. Too much can be quite taxing on the central nervous system and may affect recovery.
Lastly, all of the above is essentially useless without consistency. Yep, that means week in and week out you are completing what you need to complete to achieve your goal, in this case, washboard abs. It is not just a Spring/Summer thing. its a year round thing. Another fave saying of mine is “Summer bodies are made in Winter.” This is absolutely true! Think about Winter for a sec. Colder months may mean heavier than usual meals, (focus on nutrition). It may mean colder days/nights therefore less outdoor NEAT, (focus on your exercise). And colder times may increase the chance of missing sessions, (focus on your consistency). See the relationship? Another saying (yes I love em), “A poor program done consistently will always outdo an exceptional program done sparingly.” What a cracker! A truer word has never been said!
There it is folks! If your goal is to bring your abs out, get yourself dialled in on the points above and make it happen! As I mentioned earlier, we all have abs, it just requires some focus on key areas to let them shine through!