“She is chubby. Not fat like [name of fat girl], but fatter than [name of thin girl]”
My fiancé had just explained to me how he had described me to his previous roommate shortly after we started dating.
This was a reality check I could hardly avoid. Even though I was “average” for most of my life, I now had just crossed the line of being classified as “chubby”.
It was true though. In less than two years, as a graduate student at Stanford, I had gained 15 pounds. I actually had to buy new pairs of pants for work because, to my dismay, my old ones stopped fitting me. I couldn’t button them up, even when I was on the bed pushing my belly in and trying to get the zipper up!
This was not just my normal 1-2 pounds up or down. This was serious.
I wanted to get my flat abs back. I wanted to look at my pictures and remember how fun that moment was, not focus on how fat my belly looks like. I wanted to pull my (no longer fitting) skinny jeans out of the drawer, put them on, pair them with high heels and have a fun night out! And in all honesty, I wanted my fiancé to describe me as “hot”, not as “chubby”!
Most importantly, I wanted to avoid waking up in ten years, looking myself in the mirror, and realizing I was fat and sedentary. Or, worse having the doctor tell me I should do something about my weight. I envisioned myself evolving into a slim, vibrant grandma who actually knocks her grandkids down with her non-stop energy, not the other way around. I knew I had to change.
At the time, I was not 100% sure of what I needed to do to get my flat abs back. I was sure of one thing though:
To get a flat belly, I needed to avoid ab exercises!
I didn’t do crunches. I didn’t do sit-ups. I did actually get a flat belly without abs exercises at all!
Sounds counterintuitive? Maybe. Does it work? The picture on top says it all!
1. Ab exercises are “busy work”.
Most ab exercises make you feel like you have worked but give you little in return.
After completing 400 crunches you are meant to feel “proud” and tired from all this “work”. 400 sounds like a great number to brag about with your friends.
Unfortunately, crunches is one of the worst exercises ever for belly fat loss. Seriously, if you want to waste your time, then do crunches.
You see most abs exercises keep you busy with their countless repetitions, but are in fact very superficial. They don’t deeply work your abs, and they don’t help you with getting flat abs.
That’s not to say you should never do abs exercises. We’ll talk about this later. However, if you want to get the fastest results possible, then cross them off your list.
2. Ab exercises divert your attention from what actually matters.
Since ab exercises make you feel like you “have worked”, you’ll feel content and hardly look for what actually matters. While you are busy doing crunches, there are other things that you should be doing and are not thinking about.
No, I am not talking about cardio.
I am talking about nutrition and the exercises that will actually help you get that flat belly.
Nutrition is 80% of fat loss. If you want to keep eating what you are already eating, but lose weight, then you will have to exercise for HOURS and HOURS, and you may still get minimal results.
That’s because…nutrition is what matters the most.
When I decided I wanted to get a flat belly, I gradually switched from eating out 100% of the time, to eating home-cooked food. This transition was not easy, and it required me to get into cooking – which I hated.
But it paid off. By preparing my food at home I would eat less – no more huge portion sizes. I would also have control over the ingredients and eat healthier food than anything served at restaurants.
Already taking care of your nutrition? Awesome, now let’s go tackle the exercises that you should actually be doing to get that flat belly.
3. Ab exercises are “too specific” and hence, inefficient for belly fat loss.
Your abs, or else, your core participates in most movements. Lots of exercises target your abs, even though they
are not known as “ab exercises”.
Abs exercises in particular are inefficient because they only work your abs – you could use the same amount of time and work BOTH your abs AND other muscle groups!
If you ditched the abs and did more effective exercises instead, then you’d get…
a. More muscle = more calories burned when you are NOT exercising.
Stronger muscles require more energy. That’s why you will be burning more calories if you are strong than if you are weak. That’s why big muscular guys eat A LOT. It’s not because they will burn all those calories at the gym. It’s that they need all those calories to sustain their muscles.
b. An overall strong and tight body.
Instead of devoting all this time working for strong abs, by choosing less specific exercises that still target your abs, you now have beautiful legs, butt, arms, back…along with a beautiful flat belly.
The two most popular exercises that will give you a flat belly, but are not classified as “abs exercises” are:
Push-ups: Think about it. Push-ups are like the plank , one of the most famous abs exercises, but they include one extra movement: getting your body down to the floor and back up.
Pull-ins: Again this is very similar to the plank – just a lot more exhausting because of all this jumping!
Start from a plank and then jump…
Why push-ups and pull-ins work like wonders:
1. They both work multiple muscle groups in your body: arms, abs, chest, back, flutes.
2. They both contain a cardiovascular component: They will make you heart beat faster as you do them! And a faster beating heart…burns more calories…More calories burnt = increased fat loss.
So I should never do ab exercises?
It depends. If you are weak, a senior, or in rehabilitation mode, then abs exercises may be exactly what you need.
If you are an advanced exerciser and need to specifically strengthen your core, then you cannot get away without doing ab exercises! Hint: You won’t be doing classic crunches, you will be doing hardcore abs exercises like this one.
However, assuming that you are an average person who wants a flat belly, then doing ab exercises is mostly equal to killing time.
The best exercises in the whole world won’t help you unless you also do this: Develop consistency.
Doing 100 push-ups this week, but no push-ups next week won’t get you results. Exercising for two months straight and getting results, but then dropping it all for a couple of weeks and losing everything you worked for, is, obviously, not the way to go.
What will actually help you is doing 20 pushups this week, and 20 next week, and 20 the week after…Consistency is key and by far more important than quantity.
If you are the type of person who finds it hard to stick to an exercise routine longer than a few weeks or months, then:
- Find one spot during the day when you have 60 seconds or so to do two exercises. You can do both push-ups and pull-ins, or you can do something different. Just picture how stronger you’ll get when you develop a daily push-up habit. The fat that sticks out will start going away, while your body will be tighter and leaner. Is that spot after you wake up? Or, maybe after you come back home from work? Pick your spot and try sticking to this for a week. Then, repeat. Don’t worry about whether 60 seconds are enough right now – what matters most is that you build in consistency. You can always increase how much you exercise later.
- If developing a daily exercise habit sounds like a mystery to you, you should try Exercise Bliss, the 2-month video exercise program that helps you learn to exercise 5 days a week, consistently, and actually like what you do!
The more consistent you are, the better results you’ll get. What is more, you’ll get to keep your flat belly and never have to go back to having to buy a new, bigger, pair of pants, or go through the angst of having nothing to wear to your friend’s wedding because none of your dresses or suits fit you anymore…
P.S. Next class of Exercise Bliss starts on Monday, so make sure you sign up today to grab your spot.