Do Crunches Burn Belly Fat?

crunches belly fat

The crunch is maybe the most popular abdominal exercise that is included in almost all ab workout. Most people do it for burning belly fat. They do many crunches every day and waiting 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?

Crunches don’t burn belly fat! At least, not a much as we think.????

With crunches, we strengthen the abdominal muscles. The problem is that those muscles are under a layer of fat. So, even they are strong and maybe defined, nothing is seen. Thus, the key point is to burn that 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 instead.

Why don’t crunches burn fat?

How do you feel yourself when you do a cardiovascular exercise 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 meats are activated, 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 a bit and feel the pain in your stomach, but nothing more. Why? Because crunches engage only a few and quite little muscles of the abdominal wall. Hence, they don’t require much energy. That’s why crunches aren’t useful for burning fat.

muscles worked

Then why everybody recommends it?

There is a misconception called spot reduction. In a nutshell, it means that if we focus on one particular body part, we can burn the fat in that area. The idea is targeted fat loss.

But, the body doesn’t work like that. ????

Then, what are crunches good for?

The regular crunch is a strength training exercise. Hence, it increases the power and size of the ab 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 the lats. Strong core muscles effectivelíy coordinate the upper and lower body, avoid having back pain, leads 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.

What to do instead?

There are some better crunch variations.

The bicycle exercise. When you bend your knees and move your elbows towards the opposite side’s knee. The bicycle crunches engage all the core muscles on the front.

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 works the entire core.

Another much better technique is to use an exercise ball since it gives an unstable environment. 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 go 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.

Why 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 on the tummy area and around the hips (love handles). That is particularly true for men. Women tend to hold fat on their lower body as well. ????

The higher the body fat percentage, the more invisible the abs are. That’s logical.

Hence, the key is to reduce body fat to a level that makes 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.

Fat percentage chart | Credit:

As you see, with a few pound fat loss, the body’s shape and with that the abs change a lot.

Key 1. Proper nutrition

People are fat mainly because their calorie intake is much higher than it’s needed. We consume way too much processed food that is packed with unhealthy fats, carbs, and ingredients. The drinks we have also boosts the carb intake. Moreover, we don’t move enough sitting every day too much. ????

One simple meal at a fast-food restaurant covers almost all the calories that 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 there, but frankly, I’ve never followed any. I have just a few rules that I follow.

  1. Eat from healthy sources (no processed and junk food). 
  2. I only have whole foods such as whole grains for complex carbs.
  3. I drink only water or tea.
  4. Eat a lot of fruits, legumes, vegetables for vitamins, minerals, and soluble fiber.
  5. Eat 5 times a day with a small portion to keep my metabolism high.
  6. For a high protein diet, I consume lean meat—
  7. I also have fish and olive oil for healthy fats.

There is no how to lose belly fat miracle here. Consume healthy foods and control our food intake to get a calorie deficit.

Key 2. Workout plan to lose belly fat

To speed up burning body fat, we have mentioned before that aerobic exercise is required. 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. ????‍♀️

Have 2-3 cardio workouts per week and regularly increase the workout intensity you need to adapt to.

Another critical thing to do is to increase your muscle mass. Why? Because the more mass you have, the faster your metabolism is. The fibers require energy even if you don’t work out.

You can build muscle through weight training. But, if you can’t afford to lift weights at the gym, you can do bodyweight exercises. Have 2 strength training workouts per week, and target all your muscle groups among them your abdominal muscles.????

To sum up

Crunches aren’t suitable for burning belly fat. If you want to get a lean stomach, you should have healthy foods, do cardio, and strength training. So, you may need to change your lifestyle, but the hard work will pay itself.


James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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