You need one in your car, just in case -- but there's no "just in case" requirement for that spare tire that surrounds your midsection. If you're hoping to work off that unsightly abdominal fat, you'll be doing yourself a favor in not only appearance, but also in preventing chronic diseases. The abdominal fat that's surrounding your organs, called visceral fat, puts you at greater risk of problems like heart disease and diabetes -- while the under-the-skin fat, including the spare tire, is just generally unsightly. By adopting a healthy routine, you should be able to cut down on both types of fat around your waist and hips.
Burn Off the Tire
Instead of focusing on an ab-strengthening routine, commit to calorie-burning workouts -- namely, cardiovascular exercises. To get the most benefit in the shortest amount of time, choose exercises that burn the highest number of calories. Among the big calorie burners: running or jogging, jumping rope, high-impact aerobics and rowing, all which will help a 155-pound person burn between 250 and 300 calories during a 30-minute session. If those exercises are not desirable, choose any other activity that gets your heart pumping -- try to keep up the pace for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
The spare tire at the sides of your abdomen mostly consists of subcutaneous or "below the skin" fat. According to the American Council on Exercise, you can blast away more subcutaneous fat by doing high-intensity interval training or HIIT. Try it once or twice a week, on days when you don't have time for a longer workout. You can perform HIIT with nearly any type of cardio. Warm up by walking or jogging for about five minutes, and then speed up your pace -- running, swimming, cycling or jumping rope at about 90 percent of your maximum speed for 30 seconds to one minute. Then slow down to about 50 percent of max for another 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat each interval a total of six to eight times, and then cool down.
Add Some Muscle
A balanced exercise routine shouldn't overlook strength training. Weight training burns calories and helps you get stronger and more toned muscles. And since it takes more energy to maintain a pound of muscle than it does to maintain a pound of fat, you'll burn more calories by replacing muscle with fat. Start out with a simple routine, using weight machines at your gym to do exercises that work all the major muscle groups: back, legs, arms and chest. You can also do a simple routine at home using a set of dumbbells. Try bench presses, overhead presses, biceps curls and triceps curls. For your legs, hold the dumbbells and do squats, lunges and step-ups.
The Big Belly Blasters
Part of your strength-training routine can also include a few abdominal exercises aimed at the obliques at the sides as well as the rectus abdominis or "six-pack" at the center of the torso. Among the most beneficial exercises for the obliques is the "captain's chair," the bicycle crunch and the reverse crunch, according to the American Council on Exercise. For the rectus abdominis, the bicycle crunch and captain's chair are also key, according to ACE, as well as crunches on an exercise ball. Try doing three abdominal exercises two or three days a week, on the same day as your other strength-training exercises, or when you're sitting in front of the TV. Limit yourself to one or two sets -- the idea here is to strengthen the muscles, but not to bulk them up too much, or you'll end up with an even thicker midsection.
- Harvard Medical School: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- ExRx.net: Fat Loss & Weight Training Myths
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned In 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- A Workout Routine: Does Building Muscle Burn Fat, Burn Calories & Increase Metabolism?
- American Council on Exercise: American Council on Exercise (ACE)-sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises