Why Abdominal Exercises Aren’t Effective for Reducing Belly Fat

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The reality? You’re putting too much emphasis on abdominal exercises. You might be shocked to hear this and wonder how that could possibly be. Ab exercises build strong abdominal muscles and definition, right? You may have also heard these exercises burn tummy fat.

Here’s the truth.

Abdominal exercises, like crunches, are not major fat burners because they don’t use up many calories.

Plus, workouts are merely one component of developing tight abdominal muscles. The more time and energy you dedicate to abdominal workouts, the less time and energy you have to devote to other forms of exercise that can help you trim belly fat.

Ab Crunches Strengthen the Ab Muscles but Don’t Burn Fat

The issue is that abdominal exercises, such as crunches, merely strengthen and increase the muscles beneath the fat. So, you may have abs lying behind the flab, but you can’t see them because the ab fat covers them. You may have abs beneath the fat, but they’re not visible. You have too much ab fat if you can pinch a layer of thick fat between your fingers.

What you need to do is lose most of your belly fat to reveal the abs that lie beneath.

The good news?

You can do this.

It’s not impossible if you follow science-based advice and use proven methods of working out, instead of relying solely on crunches. Surprisingly, abdominal exercises alone could make your tummy look bigger because you’re building the muscles underneath yet still have a layer of fat covering the muscles.

By now you’re wondering what the solution is. Your workout may need an overhaul, or at least a shift in the ratio of crunches and planks versus exercises that burn more calories and body fat. Let’s look at some of the types of exercises that will help you burn belly fat.

High-Intensity Interval Training

To lose belly fat, you must also engage in exercise that raises your heart rate. Moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking or jogging, is beneficial, but it’s less effective for fat-blasting than high-intensity interval training. Moderate-intensity workouts don’t boost the activity of hormones, like epinephrine, norepinephrine, testosterone, and growth hormone like vigorous exercise does. These hormones send your body into fat-burning mode, and the effects last for hours after your workout is over.

In fact, some research suggests that 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at melting belly fat than 45 minutes or an hour of moderate-intensity cardio such as walking. High-intensity exercise is the bomb for blasting belly fat!

How to get started? You can do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) using any equipment or no equipment. The key is to work out at a very high intensity for a short period, 10-20 seconds, and then recover for an equal or greater amount of time before repeating. Cycle back and forth until at least 10 minutes have elapsed. HIIT training doesn’t have to be prolonged to be effective, since it’s so intense. You can do this type of training by running, doing jumping jacks, cycling, using an elliptical machine, or any other form of exercise where you can increase the intensity until you’re breathing so hard it’s hard to talk.

The benefits of HIIT training are numerous. When you do HIIT, you burn more calories than other forms of exercise. Plus, it’s more effective at boosting your metabolism. HIIT is also an anaerobic exercise, meaning it’s an activity that raises your heart rate and continuously increases your oxygen consumption. As mentioned, this increases the production of fat-burning enzymes in your body and helps build muscle.

Focus More on Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are those that work more than one muscle group at the same time. Examples are squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges. These exercises are effective calorie burners because of the number of muscles you work simultaneously. These are the strength exercises most effective for reducing abdominal fat. Strength training itself is beneficial for slimming your tummy, but compound exercises are the cream of the crop when it comes to seeing your ab muscles show through.

Beyond Diet

There’s more to slimming your tummy than exercise. What happens in the kitchen matters too. As experts say, abs are made in the kitchen, and what you eat is about 80% of it. There are some great foods for building muscle mass, but also foods you should eat to reduce fat.

Here are some dietary tips for reducing belly fat:

  • Don’t drink sugary beverages like juice or soda.
  • Avoid processed food and refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice that are high in added sugars.
  • Eat more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat slowly and mindfully. It takes around 20 minutes for your appetite hormones to signal you’re full.
  • Skip the “dieting” approach. It’s not sustainable.

Stress hormones also make it harder to shed belly fat, especially cortisol. Make sure you have a strategy for managing stress. Some examples are nature walks, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, self-hypnosis, and leisure time activities you enjoy. How’s your sleep? You should be getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night to control cortisol.

The Bottom Line

There’s more to controlling belly fat than doing crunches. In fact, crunches aren’t even the best exercise since they burn so few calories. Put the above strategies to work for you and you should get better results.


“4 of the Best Types of Exercises for Burning Off Belly Fat.” webmd.com/fitness-exercise/top-exercises-belly-fat.

“Taking Aim at Belly Fat – Harvard Health Publishing ….” 14 Apr. 2021, health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/taking-aim-at-belly-fat.

“Belly fat in women: Taking — and keeping — it off – Mayo ….” 14 Jun. 2019, mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/belly-fat/art-20045809.

“Why Crunches Alone Won’t Burn Belly Fat | STACK.” 27 Mar. 2013, stack.com/a/crunches-burn-fat.


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