Your abdominal muscles consist of a number of muscle groups in your mid-section, all of which work together to stabilize your trunk, back and hips. Belly fat has been linked to a number of chronic diseases and health problems. Weak abdominal muscles also contribute to low back pain. You don't need expensive gym equipment or other tools to lose belly fat. A home workout using only gravity, your own body weight and aerobic exercises can help you lose belly fat and build strength.
Spot Reduction Myth
Regardless of what you've seen on late-night infomercials, you cannot burn fat in just one area of your body. Spot reduction is simply not possible. To get rid of belly fat, or fat anywhere on your body, you must incorporate regular aerobic, or cardio, exercise -- such as walking, running, biking or swimming -- into your fitness routine. Strengthening the abs alone with exercises such as sit-ups, crunches and other ab exercises won't burn fat around your belly. You need to do aerobic exercises to burn fat and strength training exercises to firm and tone your muscles.
To really tackle excess belly fat, you need a regular cardio and strength training program. Cardio will burn a lot of calories to help you shed the extra layers of abdominal fat, while the strength exercises firm and tone the muscles underneath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults do fat-burning aerobic exercises for 30 minutes per day, five days each week. You can target your abdominal muscles while doing aerobic exercise by incorporating eight to 10 repetitions of strength exercises, such as standing knee crunches, lunge twists and burpees. The burpee strength exercise is essentially a combination of a bodyweight squat, plank and jump that not only helps to firm up your abs, but also engages the whole body. You can incorporate the ab strength exercises into your aerobic workout before, after or in the middle of your workout.
Strength-training exercises for your abs can help firm and tone your abdomen. The side plank is a bodyweight exercise that works your entire core -- especially your obliques -- by making it work harder to stabilize your body. Push-ups work all of your core muscles and strengthen your arms, chest and back. Crunches primarily targets the upper abs. Reverse crunches, on the other hand, will help you tone and strengthen the lower abs. Do ab strength-training exercises three days each week on non-consecutive days.
Belly Fat Dangers
Belly fat in both men and women increases your risk of developing a number of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.
For women, belly fat creates an additional risk, according to Georgia Regents Health System. "It also produces estrogen," GR Health asserts, "which increases breast cancer risk."
Everyone who has excess belly fat is at an increased risk of developing insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
- Shape Fit: Abs Exercise Guides: Photos and Instructions to Get Ripped Abs
- Georgia Regents Medical Center: The Dangers of Belly Fat: Q & A Session With Shilpa Brown, M.D.
- MayoClinic.com: Belly Fat in Men: Why Weight Loss Matters
- ExRx.net: Fat Loss and Weight Training Myths
- American Council on Exercise: Why Is the Concept of Sport Reduction Considered a Myth?
- Fitness: 9 Moves to Beat Belly Fat for Good
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Shape: Abs Workout: The Fastest Way to Lose Belly Fat