Doing Ab Workouts but Not Losing Belly Fat? A Trainer Explains Why — and How to Fix It

Weight Loss

Young people in United States using their free time to do some sports or physical activity.

If you’ve been doing ab workouts to no avail with the hopes of losing subcutaneous fat around your middle, you may want to think again. Often, people mistakenly believe that doing planks, crunches, and other ab exercises are what they need in order to flatten their stomachs, and the truth is: ab workouts don’t burn belly fat. Exercises like mountain climbers and leg lifts are great if you want to strengthen your core, but if your goal is to reduce the fat around your belly, lower your body fat percentage, and maybe even get a six-pack, ab workouts alone won’t cut it.

How to Lose Belly Fat

Instead of focusing on spot reduction, I think the best way to approach losing stomach fat, and fat in general, is by consistently training in the zone that allows you to burn the most fat. Bear with me. I know an answer like this can seem vague and frustrating, but the style of training that works for you to get rid of stomach fat may not work for someone else. You’ve probably heard that doing high-intensity workouts is the best way to burn fat. If you take anything away from this post, let it be that the best way to lose fat isn’t one size fits all.

I agree that high-intensity workouts like sprinting that use multiple muscle groups at once are great in general. But, in order to find out what workout is best for you and your goals, consider getting a specialized test like the FatMax Protocol test. This test measures fat oxidation at different exercise intensities — basically, the exercise intensity where your body optimally burns the most fat. From there, you can work with an exercise physiologist or a certified trainer to design a training program that is best for you.

Unfortunately, this test is more than likely not offered at your primary care physician’s office or at local gyms and fitness studios. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a wellness company that offers the FatMax test and other body composition assessments. You can also contact local hospitals to see if they offer these specialized assessments. The PhysioLab, at Mount Sinai in NYC, administers the test for $450. This price may vary depending on your location and who is administering the test. I haven’t had the opportunity to get this test done, but I definitely think it’s worth the investment to figure out the best workouts for fat loss, your body, and your goals.

Weightlifting Can Help You Lose Fat

If you’re unable to do the FatMax Protocol test because it’s not available in your area or feels too pricey, I recommend incorporating weightlifting into your workout routine. I think lifting weights is one of the best ways to decrease your body fat, while maintaining and building lean muscle. If you’re new to strength training, you can get started with this beginner’s program. If you’re more experienced with lifting weights, I suggest implementing more compound exercises — exercises that work larger muscles groups, and as a result, cause you to burn more calories and fat — into your routine. A few of my go-to compound exercises are: deadlifts, pull-ups, lunges, and renegade rows.

You’ll Want to Check Your Diet

Now that you have an idea on how you should be training, it’s time to discuss your nutrition. You don’t have to be extreme and do the low-carb high-fat keto diet, but I do recommend minimizing or even completely cutting out alcohol, sugars, and processed foods. Similar to there being no one perfect workout to lose fat, there’s not one perfect diet. It may take a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for you, and I highly recommend working with a registered dietitian to devise a nutritional program that makes sense for your lifestyle and goals.

Image Source: Getty / Drazen_

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