Do Sit-Ups Burn Belly Fat?

Sit-ups fall into the category of body weight exercises. These types of exercises are often referred to as calisthenics, and they make it possible for you to get a workout without the use of fitness gear. If you have excess fat on your stomach, sit-ups have a place in the game plan, but not how you might envision.

Woman doing sit-ups on grass (Image: AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images)

Spot Reducing

The rectus abdominis is the main muscle targeted with sit-ups. Although you can make this muscle stronger, you cannot burn belly fat by doing hundreds of reps a day. According to the American Council on Exercise, this is a flawed notion known as spot reduction.

Aerobic Exercise and Strength Training

Whenever you have an excess amount of fat in your stomach, you have to engage in aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise to reduce it. This causes you to burn calories and lose weight throughout your body as a whole. Any form of cardio that causes your heart rate to become elevated is effective. The most important thing is that you do it on a regular basis and enjoy it. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 60 to 90 minutes of cardio performed five days a week for weight loss. Although strength training burns calories slowly, it's important in weight-loss workouts because of its ability to boost your basal metabolic rate.

Purpose of Sit-ups

While it's cardio that will help melt away the pounds of fat in your abdomen, sit-ups will help improve your definition. When doing sit-ups, it is important to execute proper form. Begin by lying face up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. You can either place your hands on the sides of your head or cross your arms over your chest. Keeping your lower body still, lift your torso off the ground and move forward. Squeeze your abs forcefully and hold for a full second. Slowly lower yourself back down until your shoulders are right above the ground and repeat. For a variation, perform sit-ups on a stability ball. Being that you are off balance, you will engage more muscle fibers. Instead of trying to do a high number of sit-ups with sloppy form, aim for 15 to 20 with good form.

The Role of Diet

No amount of sit-ups or cardio is going to be effective at reducing your belly fat if you disregard your eating habits. To further produce weight loss, cut back by 500 calories a day. This will cause you to lose about 1 lb. a week. Steps to take to help you cut back on your diet include skipping dessert and avoiding alcohol, soda and foods that are high in saturated fats.

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