I have little bit belly fat which I want to reduce. So I started ab exercises (like sit-ups and crunches) month ago. It's much more difficult to me to do these kind of exercises than other e.g. walking or sometime running.

Also, I do strength exercises so I don't follow any diet(I just avoid oily and junk food).

But yesterday I read that spot fat reduction is not possible.

So now I'm thinking there is no point to continue ab exercises as they are more harder for me than others. So my question is: what are the benefits of ab exercises?


4 Answers 4


Simply: No they're not

With ab exercises you train your muscles, the body takes it's energy from every source it got, no matter where it's needed. So you can't specifically burn fat at a particular bodypart.

But as you want to reduce your belly fat, why not also define some nice muscles beneath it...

It's absolutely true that you cannot burn fat at a particular body part - in other words, you can't target fat reduction or "spot reduce" fat on any part of your body. However, the idea that abs exercises do not burn fat is a popular misconception. It comes about from misunderstanding the principles behind fat burning and muscle building. When developing a nice set of six pack abs, there are two main parts: 1) fat burning in order to "uncover" the abdominal muscles; 2) muscle building in order to "build" the abdominal muscles and make them appear more "chiselled" and bumpy, which is really just making them slightly bigger and stronger. I emphasise slightly because if you have overdeveloped abs, then it will give you a somewhat bloated look (trust me, you don't want this - a lot of bodybuilders have it and it just looks exaggerated).

To answer your original question, ab exercises are not necessarily more useful for reducing belly fat than other exercises, but they are still VERY useful. To clarify what I mean by this, here are a couple of questions to think about:

  1. Do ab exercises use up energy and thus burn calories?
    • Yes - Of course they do; they put tension on the abdominal muscles
  2. Do ab exercises temporarily break down the abdominal muscles resulting in strengthening of those muscles in between training sessions?
    • Yes - Any exercise which isolates or targets a single muscle group is technically a strength building exercise
  3. Do both of the above "burn fat" so to speak?
    • Yes - burning calories creates a calorie deficit which, eventually, results in a fat loss (including around your stomach!); strengthening abdominal (or any other) muscles also burns additional calories at rest by increasing your metabolism.

So the benefits of ab exercises are:

  1. they strengthen you abdominal muscles, which will produce that chiseled look once you've stripped away all the remaining fat
  2. they DO assist in fat burning because, like strengthening ANY other muscle, strengthening your abs boosts your metabolic rate at rest

What does this mean for your training regime? It means that if you were to try and sculpt out your abs by doing ONLY abs exercises, then it would probably take you a lot longer, simply because you would not be taking advantage of all the other ways of burning fat such as interval training and steady state cardio. It also means, however, that if you're already doing regular cardio and you intend to continue doing it, then you can also increase your volume of abs exercises in addition to whatever other training your doing.

I have recently increased the volume or amount of abs exercises I'm doing because I already do a lot of cardio (such as walking) and strength training, so for me personally, there doesn't seem to be much room for increasing what I'm doing in other areas besides abs work. The other main alternative to getting past a fat burning plateau is to increase the weight you are lifting in your strength training exercises, since that will then stimulate your other muscle groups to grow more muscle which will consume more calories at rest. And a nice side effect of doing that, of course, is that you'll also become more ripped and developed in the rest of your body, not just your abs.

My only word of caution with doing abs exercises is to be careful about your form (or technique). There's plenty of videos on youtube which demonstrate correct form so as to avoid a back injury.

  • yes i will also try for that :) by the way, thanks for your answer Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 11:53
  • Actually, it has been proven that you loose a bit more fat in the zones you target. But the difference is so weak you will never see it. So to loose belly fat, it is still more efficient to do some heavy leg work.
    – xrorox
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 9:23
  • The "bloated look" you mention as over-developed abs is more commonly associated with steroid (ab)use. It's typically called "(ste)roid belly" and can be caused by using HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and expanded stomachs caused by the high food intake used to support steroid-based training. I can't say I've seen a natural bodybuilder with what you would describe as "over-developed" abdominals. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 13:17

I'm going to assume by "ab exercises" you mean things like crunches, sit ups, leglifts, etc. Things that isolate the abs.

Ab exercises do very little to help you burn fat, because they are essentially using 1 muscle group (abdominals).

Ab exercises, when done properly, can help strengthen your core, which provides benefits across the board. However, many people do crunches and situps with poor form, which can lead to back pain....

If you're looking to burn fat and get a 6 pack, you're going to need to change your diet. Based on what you stated in your question, I'm assuming your already very fit, and you just want to get rid of the last bit of fat on your belly?

The only way to get to a very low body fat percentage is with proper diet. Exercise can only take you so far. To get your 6 pack, it is easiest to follow a paleolithic diet, consisting of lean meats, nuts and beans, fruits, and vegetables. While avoiding dairy, processed sugars (such as candy) and grains. This diet, when followed properly, has been proven time and again to help reduce fat. Also, drink lots of water.

  • please if possible can you suggest me some useful links for the diet you mentioned, because when I searched on net, it's too much information but nothing absolute, also I got some contradictory information about diet Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 5:36
  • 5
    Paleolithic is another fad diet, designed to do one thing and that is sell books and material related to the diet. Eat a normal, healthy diet and control calories. If you need 2000 calories and eat 3000, no matter what type (paleo, whatever), you will end up gaining weight. Several studies/reviews have been done on the popular diets, and they have all shown it's calorie restriction that loses the weight, not just restricting a type of nutrient.
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 15:31
  • 2
    +1 @JohnP that said, studies show even though 'weight loss' is the same for high protein diets and low calorie diets (with identical calories), the body composition of the high protein dieters was more favourable. In other words they lost MORE fat and kept MORE muscle than the other control group. Thats why it is important to talk about body composition and not just weight loss which is ambiguous.
    – Mike S
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 1:08
  • 1
    @MikeS - Citation?
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 1:49
  • 2
    @JohnP - Here is one of many articles summarising these findings dailynews.mcmaster.ca/article/… and here is the journal article: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3159052.
    – Mike S
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 2:17

This goes for almost every place people gather fat. YOU CANNOT SPOT REDUCE. Almost no amount of crunches or "ab exercises" are going to make your abs look better if you don't have the fat loss to back it up. You WILL make your abs stronger, but if you don't shed the fat with a complete exercise and diet plan you will never see all of the hard work you are putting into your ab workouts.


For all practical purposes no.

However, I do remember reading a study a couple years back about about the fat cells in the vicinity of muscles that recieved a training stimulus being warmer than other fat cells, and that there was a correlation between temperature of fat cells and their eagerness to be used by the body as energy, although I don't remember where I read it off hand.

The abstract abstract of it basically boiled down to that an individual who was already very very lean, with a little bit of stubborn body fat in a particular bodypart could potentially benefit from throwing some additional volume at that bodypart, but for all intents and purposes the average person will see no spot reduction.

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