By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer
In an attempt to shave off fat from the midsection, people usually do set after set of crunch-like motions, sometimes hundreds of reps over a 15-20 minute period. Then months and months pass and nothing happens.
Abdominal muscles serve primarily to stabilize and bend the spine. These naturally weak and small stabilizer muscles are not designed for force production, which is why they are easily injured when people improperly lift items.
Stabilizer muscles require minimal energy for work and thus burn minimal fat. The extra fat in the waistline is stored fuel. You must create a reason for this fuel to be converted to energy. You must do something that is so shocking to the body, that the body has no choice but to grab stored fuel and burn it up. The best way to do this is to work large muscle groups that are designed for force production … and do it intensely!
I am constantly amazed at the gimmicky devices geared at slimming down your waistline and getting you that chiseled, lean look in your midsection. To shear off body fat, you need not spend a great deal of time on small muscle groups. Instead, you must hammer at large muscle groups. When large muscle groups are forced to work intensely, they interpret this as some kind of siege. They then require much more energy than they normally use, to recuperate. The fat-burning recuperation after an intense workout can last three to 36 hours.
The more highly trained a person is, the longer the resting metabolic rate remains elevated. This means that for many hours following a grueling weight workout, the body is still shaken up and feasting off the fat reserves (in the midsection, as well as all over) for the healing of damaged muscle fibers and muscle cell membrane.
Simply put, anyone who struggles with belly fat, love handles, saddlebags and general all-over fatness should be hitting the legs, hard! Then, hit dumbbell rows. If you are used to rows with 20-pound dumbbells, replace them with 30 and then 40 pounds. You need to view that excess fat as untapped fuel and create a need for that fuel with multi-joint (compound) movements that make up most of the workout.
Some isolation exercises are okay for refinement as far as shaping and adding additional strength, such as bicep curls and triceps extensions, but most of the routine needs to be compound. Damaged muscle fibers will pull fuel for recovery from where it is stored, and this includes the midsection.
So, hit the weight room with a fierce determination. Work your largest muscle groups hard. Never compromise your form to achieve your goals. Also, realize that even if you are not isolating your abs you should be engaging them in a full range of motions. Do not focus on endless repetitions; instead, aim for high intensity packed within 8-20 reps.