One of the most common questions trainers get asked is “How do I lose belly fat” (usually while the person asking is grabbing a handful of it on their own midsection).
Unfortunately, there are no specific exercises that will get rid of belly fat, other than the “beer set-down”, and the “table push-away”. In other words, eating wrong will always cause the accumulation of fat. There is no exercise that will preferentially burn fat from one body part. It requires a combination of smart, intense exercise and good eating habits.
We’ve been told for a couple of decades now that spot reducing doesn’t work. But what does that really mean?
Try this: go fill up the gas tank of your car. Now find the best way to drive to burn the fuel from the front left-hand upper quadrant of the tank first.
Bodyfat has several uses, but first and foremost is energy storage. Your metabolic system doesn’t care that you want a lean, trim midsection. Your fat cells are your gas tank, and your genetics play a big part in whether your hips, belly, chest, or extremities store fat first, and which part will more easily have the fat utilized.
The best exercises to burn belly fat are the best exercises to burn any fat – and the best exercises to build strength, muscle mass, and overall health and functionality: Big, compound exercises like squats, pullups, presses, and deadlifts; Higher-intensity conditioning work like sled pushes and kettlebell swings; and longer periods of lower-intensity movement (you’re in Colorado – go for a hike)!
There is a caveat to specifically reducing abdominal fat: a high waist-to-hip ratio (the waist measurement divided by the measurement at the widest part of the hips) indicates insulin resistance – one of the markers of metabolic syndrome and an indicator of pre-diabetes.
A waist-to-hip ratio of greater than 0.8 for women or 1.0 for men is a bad sign, and probably means a trip to the doctor to get some blood work done. If they’re not too far gone, many people can correct their insulin resistance in a 1-2 punch of diet and exercise, by 1) getting rid of the garbage in their diet, particularly sugar, artificial sweeteners, and refined starches (sweetened drinks are some of the worst offenders), and 2) adding a little bit of muscle mass using the same compound exercises listed above.
There is still no magic bullet, and a million crunches won’t get rid of that muffin top. Put down the soda (regular OR diet) and pick up a barbell! The best way to get lean abs is to get a little bit leaner – and a little bit stronger – all over your body!