I walk into the gym on a Friday afternoon excited to train my last two clients of the week. My client is just finishing his foam roller warm-up. He is surrounded by people doing every core exercise imaginable. I greet him with a smile and tell him what I have planned for the day’s session. He eats up every bit of information I throw at him and has been seeing great results. (He even bought minimalist shoes after I recommended them the first session.) We are doing a fat-loss workout using the largest muscle groups in the body: the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, chest and back. For the next hour, my client dominates his Deadlifts, Bench Press, Back Squats, Chin-up-grip Lat-pull-downs and assistance exercises. He is totally spent as we return to the core area for stretching. I notice something peculiar; many of the same people from our warm-up are still doing abdominal exercises on the mats. We proceed to do our cool-down and I give him a high five for having a great workout. We completed a great fat-burning workout, yes even abdominal fat, and yet we did not do any traditional “abdominal” or ”core” exercises. After he stretches I tell him to have a great weekend and confirm our next session time.
My next client comes in a few minutes late. She’s clearly stressed from a long week at work. I greet her with a smile and tell her it’s good to see her. She tells me that it’s been a very stressful week at home and at work. I make a make a mental note to lessen the weight a bit on our deadlifts later in the workout. We start with a walk on the treadmill to warm-up and my client proceeds to tell me, “I really want to focus on my stomach fat today. I don’t think we spend enough time on those muscles.” She looks over in the general direction of the core area where people are banging out set after set of every imaginable crunch and sit-up variation in the book (and a few that aren’t in the book) and says, “Let’s do more exercise like that.”
You can’t handle the truth
I smile reluctantly as I think about how we have had this conversation a few times before. I again reassure my client “the best way to get a flatter stomach and six-pack abs is not by doing more abdominal exercises. In fact, no amount of exercising a specific muscle will create a vacuum for the fat in the area surrounding it. It’s simply a myth.” She asks me if I am absolutely positive and tell her that I am. She shrugs her shoulders as if to say, “I’ll think about it,” and we proceed with our session.
My client is not alone in looking for a sure-fire method for burning belly fat. No matter how many times I say there is no exercise which specifically targets stomach fat, the question pops up repeatedly from clients, friends, and strangers who learn that I’m in the fitness world. I’m here to set the record straight once and for all. Below, I lay out four important factors involved in getting and staying lean.
Four Factors Involved With Getting and Staying Lean
- Nutrition- The first and most important component of having a lean, muscular physique is nutrition. It not only matters what you are putting in your body, but also how much. You can still gain weight while eating an all protein diet, going gluten-free or becoming a vegan. The key is to stick with the basics; your diet should be centered on lean meats, healthy fats, whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, keeping a log of everything you eat has been shown to increase weight loss (Hollis 2010). I like myfitnesspal.com as it is user friendly, has a great support community and is already pre-loaded with just about any food you’ll ever eat.
- Use ALL the muscles- Exercises that use multiple joints like the Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Pull-ups and Lunges are best for fat burning. These exercises use the largest muscle groups in the body and lead to the best possible results. Lifting weights that are challenging for you that use big muscles can keep the metabolism elevated for 2 to 4 days after a tough weight-lifting workout. I’m not suggesting you throw out core exercises; they are great for strengthening the muscles of your trunk. What I am saying is that if your primary fitness goal is fat loss, your time in the gym would be much better spent on the compound exercises like the Squat, Deadlift, and Pull-ups.
- Interval training- You don’t need endurance exercise to burn fat. Read the previous sentence again. Is your entire fitness world-view rocked? Many see endurance exercise as an irrefutable essential to fat loss, but for countless exercisers it is a source of frustration when they don’t see results. Interval training is not a necessity when it comes to being lean. However, interval training, when done appropriately and in moderation, helps fat loss. Try doing this workout once per week on a non-lifting day: 5 rounds of 1 minute of intense cardio followed by 2 minutes of rest or easy cardio. You can pick any cardiovascular exercise or machine you prefer.
JeansGenes- Plain and simple, some people hold less fat around the mid-section and will have an easier time revealing their abdominal muscles. You can’t change what yo’ mama gave ya’.
Exercisers who work out because they enjoy it adhere to their exercise routine more often than those that go to gym just to lose fat. The above factors are the four most important when attacking belly-fat. However, if you really hate lifting weights, find something you do enjoy. Personally, I love jacking iron. But, i’m strange. If you like to bike, do that. If you love to run, run till your heart’s content. Now, get off the interwebz and get after it!