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I appear skinny but anyone who's seen me without a shirt knows the truth!

My chest, arms, and legs all look healthy (as far as I'm concerned) but my stomach is this fatty mess.

It's not that I don't try. I run 8km every morning. I do burpees until I can burpee no more after each run. I love the simplicity of burpees. No doubt there are better workouts made up of several different isolating exercises, but burpees feel like they cover a lot and I tend not to get bored doing them and feel great afterwards.

I've been doing this for years, occasionally dropping one or the other or both for a short time, but always eating well. I walk a lot too. So the problem I believe is I have a weak core and none of these exercises are doing much to strengthen it?

Considering my current workout, what is the best and simplest exercise I should try to add in to start hardening up my core. I've incorporated standard situps/crunches in the past without much luck at all. I think it may be my sides (obliques?) that are in the worst shape.

I'd like to keep it simple and introduce only one, or maybe two, new exercises. At least to begin with.

Any advice on how to move forward would be much appreciated!

EDIT:

  • Gender: male
  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6'1" (185cm)
  • Weight: 165 lbs (75kg)
  • Waist/Hip ratio: 0.875 (35W/40H)
  • BMI: 22

I do not have calipers but one online calculator that compares waist/hip ratio to wrist/forearm ratio said 21.5% body fat. Another formula from Wikipedia that uses age, BMI and gender said 17.5%. I have a feeling it is probably over 20% though. The skin near my pecs I can barely pull away from the muscle. The fat on my stomach, and butt for that matter, I can grab and fill my hand :/

Caloric intake is around ~2000-2500 per day made up of vegetables, rice, beans, lentils, sometimes pasta, sometimes tofu, sometimes other things, toast, cereal. I am vegan and do not eat meat, eggs or dairy. I do drink soy milk. I do not drink soda or high-fructose corn syrups or refined sugars, etc. and generally pay attention to everything I eat. I think I balance carbs, protein and good fats pretty well. I drink a lot of water.

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Regarding the answers below, anyone who thinks burpees are not high intensity has never done a burpee. What does your diet look like? –  michael Nov 16 '11 at 15:51
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I think so much depend on the quantification of your condition. I have no idea how to interpret that your "stomach is a fatty mess." Providing your height and weight, your waist-to-hip ratio, and, best, a body fat percentage measurement (using calipers), would really give people an idea of what you're dealing with. It would also help to understand your caloric intake. If you can edit your post to provide that, people can help you better. –  Chelonian Nov 16 '11 at 17:40
    
"Hardening up my core" gives an unhealthy visual imo. The goal is to strengthen, not to harden muscles. In addition to your waist measurements and ratios, how long do you sit per day? –  BackInShapeBuddy Nov 16 '11 at 20:35
    
@BackInShapeBuddy I sit 8 hours a day but I get up and walk around every 1-2 hours tops. –  flabby Nov 16 '11 at 22:13
    
@Chelonian I added the extra information you asked for. –  flabby Nov 16 '11 at 22:52
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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Adopt a combination of HIIT and strength training. Don't run 8km every day, it's completely useless and simply wears out your body for no good reason. You need to get your testosterone up to build muscle and reduce fat. I don't know if you're male or female, but it doesn't matter. The only way to do that is with exercise of very high intensity. Avoid moderate or low intensity exercise.

By strength training I mean heavy weights and such. Burpees and situps will not do.

The reason you have too much fat is not because you're not doing enough: it's because what you're doing is completely wrong and not at all consistent with your goals.

By running long distances, you are conditioning your body for endurance, not strength. You're also conditioning your body to hold some fat reserves, since fat reserves are needed for long-distance running. If you want to be strong and skinny, you need to condition yourself to be a fighter, and fighters have no reason to run around for miles every day.

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I highly agree with the strength training responses. I'll also add here that strength training (squats, overhead press, pull ups, etc.) also works out your core a lot, since you need to engage your core to stabilize your body during many of the exercises.

You also mention that you run 8k every morning and do burpees afterward. I think you should read this post by Mark Sisson about why doing too much cardio could actually be bad for you.

One other extremely important thing is your diet. I know you mentioned that you eat well, but recently, I've discovered that the typical person's perception of "eating well" may not actually be as healthy as he or she thinks it is. In particular, you might be consuming too many carbs to fuel your cardio. See this thread for more detailed information about nutrition (I've posted a response there listing what I think is good "further reading" material).

EDIT: Just saw your update about your diet. I'm currently following a primal/paleo lifestyle where grains and lentils are not eaten because of their antinutrients and insulin-raising (respectively) effects on the body, which could be part of the answer to your question as well. However, since your vegan, I'm not really sure what other food choices there are.

My suggestion is: try the strength training first. If that doesn't solve your problem, you may want to think about changing your diet in some way.

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You are probably weak. Strength training is the solution.

The best option would be to learn to lift weights. Starting Strength, a 3-times-a-week barbell program, is a good option. StrongLifts 5x5 is also commonly recommended. (See this question.)

If you can't get access to a gym or barbell, you could look into bodyweight strength training instead. These two questions have some good resources on that front.

With More Information, You Get More Advice

Since you gave us your diet and dimension info, I now more firmly suggest strength training, and would add:

  • BMI is not a valid metric for individuals. Please don't misuse it, or allow others to misuse it, by applying it to people instead of populations.
  • Why do you want core exercises? I hope you have not fallen prey to the distressingly common virus called Believing in Spot Reduction! You can't get rid of belly fat with crunches or any other targeted exercise.
  • I am not convinced that you have a weak core, since you haven't stated any reasons for believing so. You might be weak generally, but as bodybuilders say, everywhere is a weak point if you don't lift.
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+1 for strength training and Starting Strength, especially if you haven't lifted weights before. It teaches you great barbell lifts and how to perform them correctly and safely. –  Curtis Nov 17 '11 at 2:55
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It's hard for me to believe after running daily and doing a bunch of burpees, that your core is actually weak. And at 6'1" and 165 lbs, you are also not at all overweight. My guess is that at best you need to stand up straight and all of your belly fat problems will be solved. At worst, you are expressing negative body image issues that don't reflect your real body.

I don't think veganism is the optimal diet for creating muscle definition, but it's just hard to imagine that's the issue from what you have posted.

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Interesting you say that I just need to stand up straight. My lower back and abs do feel like they should be stretched out more than they are. It feels very relieving when I extend my lower back, or stretch my obliques. When I fully extend like that my stomach looks how I want it to. I don't think my perception is distorted. I'm thinking I might add superman and/or bird dog and planks and side planks to my routine. And perhaps lay off the running a bit due to what M. Cypher said. Do you think this might help? –  flabby Nov 17 '11 at 3:07
    
@flabby Cyphers suggestions certainly won't hurt you. The point of my answer was that based on your description of yourself, I imagine you are a thin, fit, healthy guy who doesn't need to be worrying about the things he is worrying about. –  michael Nov 17 '11 at 3:20
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You are getting older and need to augment your muscle mass to compensate for a slowing metabolism and/or extra weight carried from your youth. The body will adapt too well to any routine, and you've already hit a plateau with your cardio burpee routine. Focus on building some lean mass, which means you need some strength training (lift weights).

Abdominal exercises are not going to yield results on their own -- best for highlighting definition once already lean. Cardio burns off extra weight better, but the body finds a balance, so convince it needs feed more muscle to support the extra work.

Once your body is convinced it needs to support the extra muscle mass, cardio will burn off your flab.

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