You Can Do as Many Crunches as You Want — They Won't Get Rid of Your Belly Fat

As a trainer, sometimes I have to dish out some hard truths along with my intervals. My participants may not like hearing them, but let's be honest, they aren't coming to me to construct a fantasy fitness world to live in for all eternity. They want real results backed by real understanding of how the body works. With that in mind, here's the truth about crunching your way to a flatter stomach. Will spot reduction work if you really, truly believe in your heart that it will?

The short and definitive answer is no. If you change NOTHING else, you could do 100, 200, even 300 crunches a day and still have stubborn belly fat. Sure, the subcutaneous fat layer would be resting on rock-hard abdominals, but that's not what you'd see in your bikini selfies. There are many factors involved in decreasing overall body fat, including gender (women tend to hold weight more in their midsection and lower body), age, diet, and workout regimen.

If you are interested in a flatter stomach, the key is working the entire body to build more total lean muscle mass, thus increasing your fat-burning potential. Those changes only happen with full-body strength and cardio training. Isolation work will increase the muscle endurance in the targeted area, but you can't direct your body to burn fat in one area at a time. The good news for women is that when fat cell reduction begins, the breasts and belly are some of the first areas to diminish in size. Make sure you are doing a combination of weight work and efficient calorie torching cardio work like Tabata or other HIIT workouts.

Remember, too, that the abdominals aren't one note. Crunches are a time-honored exercise, but they won't engage the obliques and the extreme upper or lower abs or increase range of motion through twisting exercises like bicycles and Russian twists. Make sure your ab work has variety and is balanced with equal back strengthening so that you are building 360-degree core strength. Adding motion through plank jacks, mountain climbers, and other dynamic ab exercises will insert the cardio element you need to increase fat burning.

We can't end without the reminder of the old, albeit annoyingly true, adage that abs are made in the kitchen. Sabotaging your hard work by making poor choices in your nutrition will increase bloating, water retention, and stubborn weight retention. Decreasing processed food consumption will help, as will drinking enough water to help motivate your digestive system.

In order to create the ab-scape of your dreams, you need to take a multiprong approach. And one last tip, never assess yourself at the end of the day. Your evening meal, daytime bloating, and relaxed belly during your nighttime binge-TV session will be at their most noteworthy. Do the gut check (if you must) first thing in the morning before you eat or drink to get a more accurate picture of what you are working with. And be reasonable with your goals. Unless there's a swimwear contract you are chasing, ask whether that six pack is serving your health or your ego, and go forth accordingly.