The crunch is maybe the most popular abdominal exercise included in almost all ab workouts. Most people do these exercises to burn belly fat. They do many crunches every day and wait for the miracle to come. But, after some months, they give the plan up as they hardly see any results. That stubborn belly fat is still there.
What’s the conclusion? Do crunches burn belly fat?
Crunches don’t burn belly fat! At least, not as much as we think.
Subcutaneous Fat vs Visceral Fat
Our subcutaneous fat is the fat stored just under the skin. It can be pinched with your fingers. Visceral fat is the fat that lies deeper within the abdominal walls, and it surrounds our organs. Visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat because it comes with an increased risk of certain health problems, including heart disease.
With crunches, we strengthen the abdominal muscles. The problem is that those muscles are under a layer of fat. So, nothing is seen even if those muscles are strong and defined. Thus, the key point is to burn that stomach fat.
There is no single exercise that burns belly fat alone. So, physical activity combined with a healthy diet can help. Engage in abdominal exercises like crunches and sit-ups to help make your stomach appear more toned and help with subcutaneous fat.
Aerobic exercise like brisk walking, running, and jogging a few times per week can help reduce visceral fat.
Now, you know the answer that crunches aren’t suitable abdominal exercises for burning stomach fat. Let’s get into the details and learn what you should do instead.
Why Don’t Crunches Burn Fat?
How do you feel when you do cardiovascular exercises like running, jumping jacks, or burpees intensively just for 10 minutes?
You huff and puff and sweat.
Because these are compound exercises that engage numerous muscles. The more activated muscles, the more energy and oxygen your body needs. That’s why they are so effective for burning calories. They engage the entire body.
Now, do you have the same feeling when you do crunches?
Well, you may breathe faster and feel the pain in your stomach, but nothing more. Why? Because crunches engage only a few abdominal wall muscles. They don’t require much energy. That’s why crunches aren’t useful for burning fat.
Then Why Does Everyone Recommend It?
There is a misconception called spot reduction. In a nutshell, if we focus on one particular body part, we can burn the fat in that area. The idea is to target fat loss.
But the body doesn’t work like that.
Then, What are Crunches Good For?
The regular crunch is a strength training exercise. It increases the power and size of the abdominal muscles. It mainly targets the rectus abdominis, which gives the six-pack look.
And that’s my problem with it. That is, it’s an isolation exercise that doesn’t work the entire core. The core includes many other areas such as the lower back, obliques, hip, glutes, and lats. Strong core muscles effectively coordinate the upper and lower body, avoid back pain, lead to better performance in any sports, and improve balance and posture.
If you do a regular crunch, it only targets the rectus abdominis, making it stronger and more prominent. If that’s your aim, do it. But, for a strong core, it’s not enough.
On the other hand, a reverse crunch is a core exercise that primarily targets your rectus abdominus – the abdominal muscles that make up a six-pack. A reverse crunch is a good core exercise for beginners and is easy enough to figure out. Since a reverse crunch is used more on the transverse muscles, the deepest muscle in the stomach, it can be an effective way to lose lower belly fat.
Reverse crunches can be done daily as long as you follow proper techniques.
What to Do Instead of Crunches to Burn Belly Fat?
There are some better crunch variations.
1. Bicycle exercise
When doing the bicycle exercise, bend your knees and move your elbows towards the opposite side’s knee. The bicycle crunches engage all the core muscles on the front.
2. Vertical leg crunch
The other alternative is the vertical leg crunch. Lift your legs until they are right-angled to the floor. Keep them straight. Pull your upper body towards your legs while you lift your hips and squeeze your glutes. Vertical leg crunch also work the entire core.
3. Use an exercise ball
Another good technique is to use an exercise ball. Since the exercise ball wants to roll away, the core activates to avoid it. Plus, the motion range is longer as if you were doing crunches on the floor since you can do an extended movement. Stability ball knee tucks are great examples.
Note: it’s not enough to do only one type of exercise for abs. Include 2-3 ab exercises in your workout routine to target your core from various angles.
Burpees are a core exercise that works out your chest, shoulders, lats, triceps, and quads. It involves plyometric movement that gets your heart pumping. To do burpees, start by standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Move your hips back as you lower yourself in a low squat toward the ground.
Place your hands outside your feet and allow your chest to touch the floor. Then push your hands against the floor to go into a plank position and jump up with your hands over your head.
5. Running on an incline
It is better to run on an incline rather than a flat surface to increase your total calorie burn during your cardio exercise workout. Start walking at an incline for about five to ten minutes. This should cause your heart rate to rise quickly, so keep up the pace.
Walking on an incline can strengthen your heart, lungs, and leg muscles. It also allows you to achieve the ability to burn your excess weight and body fat.
Why Do We Have Belly Fat? How To Lose It and Keep it Off?
The overall body fat is the problem. When we overeat, the body stores the extra calories for the future in the way of fat. And unfortunately, most of the cases are on the tummy area and around the hips (love handles). That is particularly true for men. Women tend to hold fat on their lower bodies as well.
The higher the body fat percentage, the more invisible the abs are. That’s logical.
The key is to reduce body fat to make the stomach muscles visible.
If you check out the picture below, you can see how the body shape changes depending on the body fat percentage for women and men.
Key 1. Proper nutrition
One main reason people are overweight is that their calorie intake is much higher than needed. We consume way too much processed food packed with unhealthy fats, carbs, and ingredients. The drinks we have also boost the carb intake. Moreover, we don’t move enough.
One simple meal at a fast-food restaurant covers almost all the calories the body requires for the day. All the other things we drink and eat during the day mean excess calories stored in the way of fat.
If you have a similar eating regime, you should get rid of it and turn to healthy eating to support your weight loss.
I know there are many diets out there, but frankly, I’ve never followed any. I have just a few rules that I follow for a healthy diet:
- Eat from healthy sources (no processed food or junk)
- I only have whole foods such as whole grains for complex carbs
- I drink only water or tea
- Eat a lot of fruits, legumes, vegetables for vitamins, minerals, and soluble fiber
- Eat 5 times a day with a small portion to keep my metabolism high
- For a high protein diet, I consume lean meat
- I also have fish and olive oil for healthy fats
No one method fits all when it comes to losing belly fat. Consume healthy foods and control your food intake to achieve a calorie deficit.
Key 2. Workout plan to lose belly fat
We have mentioned before that aerobic exercise is required to speed up burning body fat and achieve a flat stomach. There are so many fat-burning activities out there. Running, cycling, tennis, brisk walking, football, and any other cardio exercises are suitable for increasing your heart rate. I prefer high-intensity interval training (HIIT) because it’s fast and more versatile than other cardio.
Engage in two to three cardio workouts per week and regularly increase the workout intensity you need to adapt to.
Another critical thing to do is increase your muscle mass. Why? Because the more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism is. Muscle fibers require energy even if you don’t work out.
You can build muscle through weight training and physical activity. But, if you can’t afford to lift weights at the gym, you can do bodyweight exercises. Participate in two strength training workouts per week and target all your muscle groups, including your abdominal muscles.
Key 3. Stay hydrated
When you want a flat belly, make sure to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to flush out your system. Water also helps you feel full for longer and can help you avoid snacking and keep to your healthy diet plan.
Key 4. Fasting
One of the more popular intermittent fasting approaches when you want a flat stomach is the 24-hour fast two to four times per week or a 16:8 fast. You restrict your eating window to just eight hours each day when you fast. This allows you to achieve a calorie deficit without even having to think about it.
Key 5. Get plenty of sleep
Did you know that getting a full night’s sleep can actually help boost your body’s metabolism? When you don’t get enough sleep each night, you may have elevated cortisol levels that can cause your body to store more fat. So, to increase calorie burn, you want to keep your cortisol levels in check. You should strive to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to do this.
To Sum Up
Crunches aren’t suitable for burning abdominal fat. If you want to get a lean and flat stomach, you should follow a healthy diet and engage in cardio exercises and strength training. So, you may need to change your lifestyle, but the hard work will pay off in the end as you lose weight and gain muscle.