So You Want to Trim Your Stomach Fat
For the majority of people, the stomach or midsection seems to be a top trouble spot when it comes to excessive weight. Not only is fat around the belly unhealthy and linked to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes, it is also unattractive and embarrassing.
People often make a conscious effort to cover their stomachs with loose fit clothing or avoid places such as the pool or beach to avoid the uneasiness of having belly fat. With all the negatives surrounding belly fat, it is no wonder why there are numerous ab diets and exercise programs. Unfortunately, most of these programs leave their participants unsatisfied.
The reality is most people who want to have a trim midsection, six pack abs, or just a flat stomach are going about it the wrong way. If you want a trim midsection, you will need to understand body composition, body fat distribution, and how spot reducing with abdominal exercises is just a flat out waste of time.
Body composition is used to describe the percentage of fat tissue vs lean tissue in the body. Obviously the more lean tissue and the less fat tissue an individual has, the higher the chances of them having a trim midsection.
However, the ratio of lean tissue vs fat tissue in the body needed to have the appearance of six pack abs or a flat belly depends on the individual because of body fat distribution.
Body Fat Distribution
Body fat distribution in a nut shell is basically where your body likes to store its fat. This is dependent among factors such as genetics, gender, and age and plays a pivotal role in the appearance of your midsection. For example, an individual with a pear shaped body, meaning they store the majority of their fat on their thighs and hips, will generally have the appearance of trim midsection at a higher body fat percentage than an individual who is apple shaped and tends to store fat around the midsection. When it comes to body fat distribution, genetics tend to naturally determine where you store fat, women tend to be more pear shaped while men tend to be more apple shaped, and as we age we tend to store more fat around our midsection.
Body fat distribution in conjunction with body composition ultimately determines what an individual’s midsection looks like relative to their body fat percentage. Since we now know that body composition and body fat distribution are key players in the appearance of one’s midsection we know that certain individuals will have leaner midsections at higher body fat percentages than their peers based upon different factors such as age, genetics, and gender. We can also see why spot reduction with abdominal exercises make a minimal difference.
Abdominal Exercises Alone Will Not Slim the Waist
It is an often occurrence at the gym to see loads of people going from ab machine to ab machine in order to slim their midsections. What these people fail to realize though is that you cannot spot reduce your body fat. This means you cannot exercise a specific body area and lose fat specifically in that area. If it was only that easy, we would all have six pack abs and flat stomachs by now. Although performing ab exercises is strengthening and firming the midsection, you will need to lose fat to see the fruits of your labor. With the exception of the calories you are burning during your ab workout, you are essentially doing nothing to trim your midsection because performing ab exercises does nothing to change your body fat distribution and does very little to improve your body composition.
Seeing as we can do very little if anything to change our body fat distribution, the main focus to achieving a trim midsection should be focused on improving body composition until your individual ratio of lean mass to fat mass gives you the appearance of a trim midsection.
How to Improve Your Midsection
Achieving six pack abs or a flat lean midsection all comes down to the amount of body fat you are holding relative to your body fat distribution.
Since we cannot specifically lose weight in the midsection via ab exercises we need to lose total body fat and improve your body composition through proper exercise and nutrition until we have the desired midsection leanness.
When it comes to improving body composition, there are several effective ways that when combined together will produce the best results.
The first is having a proper strength training program. A proper weight training program for a slim midsection should include all body parts not just the abdominal muscles.
By weight training you are adding lean muscle to your physique and thus improving your lean tissue to fat tissue ratio. In addition, muscle mass is metabolically active so the more muscle you have the more calories you are burning at rest or during your daily activities; thus increasing your energy expenditure.
Weight training is essentially killing two birds with one stone as it allows you to build lean mass and burn fat mass at the same time. Although a sound weight training program alone will produce positive effects, combining it with a cardio program is a must if you are looking to maximize energy expenditure and reduce fat mass.
Performing intense cardio is another way to improve body composition and burn fat. I am not talking about your general mill walk on the treadmill at a leisurely pace type cardio. If you truly want to burn enough calories to make a difference during your cardio session, you will need to do some work while you are doing it. Calories are a unit of energy and the harder you work the more energy you expend. Therefore if you want to maximize your energy expenditure or the amount of calories you burn, you will want to perform cardiovascular exercise at a challenging intensity. Remember, the harder you work the step climber, treadmill, elliptical, or whatever your favorite mode of cardio the more calories you will burn and the closer you will be to a slimmer midsection.
On top of having the proper weight training and cardio protocols in place, one needs to implement the right nutrition tactics. Unfortunately, it is far too easy in our society to consume way more energy or calories than we need thus sabotaging all our hard efforts in the gym.
Finally, complimenting these two strategies with a nutrition plan focused on weight loss will help you improve your body composition and get that lean midsection you desire. If you consume too many calories, then the time you spend in the gym will all be in vain. Your eating habits need to match your goals so your caloric intake needs to be in check. Just like your body fat distribution is influenced by factors such as age, gender, and genetics your body’s energy requirements are based off those factors as well as lean tissue mass. Therefore, the amount of energy or calories one needs to lose fat varies from person to person. If you need help finding your individual energy requirements, I suggest purchasing my lean physique guide here, hiring a nutritional coach, or checking out an online nutritional calculator. Just remember that to achieve a slim midsection you need to be consuming the appropriate amount of calories.
An Effective Ab Workout to Help You Get Rid of Stomach Fat
Although attempting to lose belly fat strictly through ab exercises is a frugal approach, abdominal training should still be a part of a sound total body workout program.
Because the muscles that make up the core of the midsection tend to recover fast, this ab routine can be performed several times a week. I am also a firm believer that the muscles of the core should be at 100 percent when performing big exercises such as squats, deadlifts, rows, etc. Therefore, this ab workout should be done on its own or end of a workout.
Seeing as the abdominals are involved in spinal flexion as well as spinal stabilization, this ab routine will focus on improving both of those movements through upper and lower abdominal work, and core stabilization work. The goal of the spinal flexion work is to improve strength as well as endurance which is why the rep ranges will be in the 15-20 range while the goal of core stabilization is stabilization which is why those exercises will be performed in a isometric fashion for time.
Upper Ab Exercises
- Toe Touches 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
- Stability Ball Crunches 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Lower Ab Exercises
- Leg Lifts 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
- Hip Lifts 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Core Stabilization Exercises
- Planks 3 sets of 30 seconds (beginner), 60 seconds (intermediate), or 90 seconds (advanced) intervals
- Side Planks 3 sets of 30 seconds (beginner), 60 seconds (intermediate), or 90 seconds (advanced) intervals
The Skinny on Stomach Fat
Implementing these strategies properly will no doubt help you achieve a leaner and trimmer midsection. The key is making sure that your weight training along with your cardio training and your nutrition support your goals.
Keep in mind that the appearance of your midsection is dependent among your body composition relative to your body fat distribution. Seeing as we only have direct control over one of those factors the focus for getting a trim midsection should be centered on improving body composition through weight training, cardio, and nutrition.
If you need help designing a weight training routine, cardio routine, or a nutrition plan, I suggest hiring an experienced fitness professional with a proven track record.