My wife could be a circus performer. Her trick: crunches. We
once had a contest to see who could do the most without stopping, and she was
still crunching away long after I’d moved on to Monday Night Football.
It was amazing to watch. And great fun. But here’s what it
wasn’t: an effective workout.
In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Strength &
Conditioning Research found that crunches,
situps, and other abs-only exercises don’t do much of anything to reduce belly
fat. It’d take 250,000 crunches to burn just one
pound of fat. If you did one per second, that would take you three days!
“Crunches and such are great to increase abdominal muscle,”
says study researcher John Smith, Ph.D., HFS, an assistant professor at Texas
A&M University–San Antonio, “but just performing these alone will not
increase caloric expenditure above that which is needed to facilitate sizeable
The runners among you might be thinking: I knew that! But you should also know that aerobic exercises
like running aren’t particularly great for weight loss either, which explains why you’re not
sporting six-pack abs yet. A study published in Obesity found that after a year of hourlong aerobic
sessions six days per week, people lost only 3.5 pounds. (As with the crunch
study, researchers asked participants to leave their diets unchanged.) That’s
basically one pound of weight loss for every 100 hours on the treadmill. Bank stocks
have a better return on investment.
So if you want a flat midsection, what should you do? First, watch your diet. Start by breaking the 20 Habits That Make You Fat. Next, combine strength training and cardio in your workout routine. That doesn't mean lifting one day, jogging the next. There are plenty of ways to combine strength and cardio into one workout, such as circuit training. In a recent study of obese adolescents, those who did 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training three times per
week for a year lost nearly four times more fat than those who did all cardio.
There’s another major benefit to the strength-cardio combo:
“Proper diet and cardio will make you
weigh less, but that weight loss isn’t fat alone—you’re losing muscle, too, and
not building anything to give your body athletic shape,” says Jeff Halevy, CEO of Halevy Fitness in New York. “But if
you’re after fat loss, aside from accelerating it, strength training will also
preserve muscle. This means when the fat is gone, you’ll have a lean, athletic
body to show for it.”
Strength training has a big effect on post-workout calorie
burn, which may help explain why it’s so essential to fat loss. A second study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that, after a strength-training session, your body burns 8 percent more calories than normal for the next 72 hours.
The bottom line: Ab exercises will make your abs look great—once
that layer of fat on top of them is gone. Burn it off with a cutting-edge workout like The Men’s Health Fat Loss Formula. It’s the last fat-melting workout you’ll ever need.
And remember: For instant tips and tricks to lose weight, build muscle, earn more money, get the girl, and generally live a healthier, happier life, join the half-million people who already follow Men's Health on Twitter!