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Do Squats & Crunches Help You Lose Weight?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Do Squats & Crunches Help You Lose Weight?
Squats build quad strength, but don't burn significant calories. Photo Credit Jfanchin/iStock/Getty Images

A daily session of squatting and crunching may make you feel like your doing something about those extra pounds, but these moves alone won't help you lose weight. A complete weight-loss plan involves cardio, total-body strength training and a healthy eating plan. Don't ditch the squats and crunches -- but don't let them be your only tactic against the battle of the bulge.

Losing Weight

The process of weight loss is complex, but for simplicity sake -- reduce it down to the simple equation of calories in versus calories out. Consume less than you expend, and weight loss happens. To make this equation happen, you need to tweak your diet -- calories in -- and your expenditure -- exercise and daily physical activity. A 500-calorie-per-day deficit helps you lose a safe, reasonable pound per week. Even if you crunched and squatted for 30 minutes -- which is quite a long time to do these exercises -- you'd only burn off 112 calories if you weigh 155 pounds.


Cardiovascular exercise is a bigger calorie burner than squats and crunches. Jog on the treadmilll, take a brisk walk in the park or swim laps in the pool to burn between 167 and 335 calories per half hour. The American College of Sports Medicine advises at least 250 minutes of this type of activity per week to lose significant weight.

Strength Training

Strength training isn't a big calorie burner, but it helps you build lean muscle, which enhances your metabolism when working out and when at rest. It also makes you look tight and toned, rather than soft, as the pounds drop. A 2007 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" concluded that strength training is an effective way to prevent body-fat gain when included as part of a regular weekly workout routine. Squats and crunches are a good start when it comes to strength training, but they aren't enough. You need to work all of the major muscle groups -- not just the abs and legs. Continue with squats and abs, but also include moves such as pushups for the chest, presses for the shoulders, rows for the back, curls and kickbacks for the arms and lunges for the hips. Train with at least one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each move two times per week -- leaving 48 hours between sessions. When it's easy to do 12 repetitions, add or increase your weights.

Spot Training

If your weight is concentrated in your hips, legs and abs, squats and crunches seem the logical way to burn off the fat in this region. Unfortunately, you can't pick a place on your body to target for fat loss. You have to lose weight all over, and eventually your trouble zones will shrink. Expect it to take time, but if you are heading toward a healthier weight, you are doing your body a world of good.

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