By Paul Stribling, Body Camp Coach
In my years as a Personal Trainer this is one of the questions I have been asked the most. My answer will initially disappoint, however fear not, by the end of this article you will have a good understanding of what you need to do to tackle that stubborn layer and reveal those ‘washboard abs’ (if you so wish).
So, let’s get the disappointment out of the way early on. There is no single exercise that will allow you to specifically target and reduce abdominal fat. So what’s the answer? Firstly we are all unique, what works for one may not work for another and this is why a consultation with a Fitness Professional is so important. Here you will be asked a range of questions regarding your exercise, lifestyle, eating habits, work and stress levels and more. This will allow me to get a better understanding of you and your requirements and therefore design a tailored plan that will work for you.
Let me introduce you to Matthew, a 35 year old desk worker with moderate training experience (of his chest and biceps). He has a body fat percentage of 20% and his long term goal is to have visible abdominals (approx.12% bf). His stress levels (cortisol, which can play havoc on belly fat) are low to moderate and his body type is between endomorph and mesomorph. What would I prescribe? 1000 sit-ups per day? No. Instead a balanced programme of resistance and cardiovascular training, in tandem with a healthy and nutritious diet.
Let’s touch on the exercise first.
I would have Matthew training 3 times per week. Let’s say Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This will allow for recovery in between sessions and the weekend off. Sessions will be moderate to high intensity full body workouts, utilising multi-joint movements with an underlying focus on posture and core. Chest exercises will be to a minimum while we create a better balance between front and back. In between each group of resistance exercises I will include moderate to high intensity interval training, for example 5 x 30 second sprints on the treadmill with 30 seconds rest.
Now for Matthew’s nutritional requirements. Foods will include lean cuts of protein, slow-release carbohydrates, healthy fats and green and leafy vegetables. What food he eats and when will also be important to ensure he can perform well in the gym and recover sufficiently after. This, alongside the exercise programme, will lead to a healthy fat loss (as opposed to muscle or water).
Every 4 weeks I will change the exercise programme and monitor his food, tweaking where necessary. Within 12-16 weeks Matthew will have reached his goal of 12%. A happy client who will have created healthy habits that will stay with him for a lifetime.
To conclude, there is no single exercise that will reduce abdominal fat. The key is, committing to a carefully devised programme of compound resistance movements, moderate to high intensity cardio and a healthy and nutritious diet.
Enjoy the journey.
Strength Coach, The Body Camp