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Crunches won't get rid of belly fat but will strengthen abs

Sorry, but crunches alone will not reduce abdominal fat — not even if you do lots and lots of them. That is simply a diet myth that has been floating around for years. Spot reduction just doesn't cut it.

To attack body fat, you need to target many muscles working together, rather than targeting a specific muscle or muscle group as the typical crunch does. Aerobic exercise and strength training, in which you work the whole body, and changing your eating habits will indeed trim body fat but you cannot predict where fat loss will occur; genetics will do that for you.

And, even though you can forget those ab exercises to remove flab, the exercises are still very important to strengthen them. Try moving beyond crunches on the floor and do some standing ab exercises that offer more functional movement ... the way you move in reality.

Importance of strong abdominals

POSTURE: Along with other core muscles (backs, hips, chest), the abs act as stabilizers for the torso to maintain correct posture, reducing strain on the spine.

BALANCE: When your body is stabilized with strong abs, you reduce the risk of falling and are better able to stand in one place without losing your balance.

BACK PAIN: Strong abs develop stronger back muscles and together they help prevent chronic lower back pain.

FIX-IT JOBS: Lifting, bending, reaching and twisting become painful if ab muscles are not strong; every movement we make involves abs and backs.

SPORTS: Most athletic activities involve movement originating from the core. Well-conditioned abs help to increase endurance, which will improve performance.

Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual inquiries. She can be reached at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

Bicycle on Floor: All abdominal muscles are being targeted. Lying on a mat, contract abdominals, placing hands behind ears. Bringing knees into chest, lift shoulder blades off floor. Move legs as if riding a bicycle, rotating shoulders toward opposite knees; elbows should follow shoulders. Do not race through movement; go for a slow ride. Alternate sides while "pedaling," building to 30 to 60 seconds.

Standing Side Bend with Weights: Balance exercise, strengthening lower back and obliques (muscles along the sides of the abdomen that help you bend and rotate). Holding a weight and with abdominals contracted, stretch right arm upward by side of ear, palm facing inward. Keeping chest open, to prevent rounding forward, lift right knee up to the side, bringing elbow toward bent knee. To make this a cardio exercise, do not use weights but speed up movements; less emphasis on abs, more on heart rate. Repeat eight to 10 times on each side.

Warrior 3 to Stork: A yoga pose targeting balance, thighs, hips, back, buttocks and abs. Standing tall, begin with arms overhead, palms facing inward. Bend right knee slightly, extending left leg to the back, toes touching floor. Contracting abdominals, raise back leg about hip height while lowering torso and arms parallel to floor (warrior). Return arms overhead while bringing leg into a bent knee position in front of you, thigh parallel to floor (stork). Repeat eight to 10 times.

Crunches won't get rid of belly fat but will strengthen abs 10/14/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 10:21am]

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