How many SQUATS does it take to make a 6-pack?
I'm forever asked how to lose belly fat - it kind of comes with the territory when you spend your days measuring and monitoring important metrics like people's fat mass and percentage, and particularly when discussing the amount of Visceral Fat some clients carry. The numbers we talk about in our consultations can be confronting and often stimulate a sense of urgency and questions on how to achieve fat loss around the mid-section / how to get that elusive 6-pack (that I think we all on some level would love to achieve).
So what's my answer when I'm asked how to target that stubborn belly fat? The answer is simple;
STOP DOING SIT-UPS!
It may seem counter-intuitive to avoid exercising the very area of your body that you're worried about, but let me explain why; Exercises that use your abdominal muscles (your 'abs'), are some of the least efficient movements in terms of per repetition energy expenditure - making even 1000 sit-ups / crunches / oblique crunches, etc, a silly choice when achieving your goal requires the consumption of stored energy (the fat that's covering your 'abs').
Let's get this straight - there are about 7.5 BILLION 6-packs on this planet. Every one of us has a Rectus Abdominis, a pair of External and Internal Obliques, a set of Serratus Anterior and Intercostals and a Transverse Abdominis - the problem is not the lack of muscles, nor believe it or not, that these muscles are small and need to be trained... the problem for BILLIONS of us (me included), is that our perfectly respectable 'abs' are covered in fat! YOU HAVE a 6-pack (or an 8 or 10 pack) - it's just obscured!
Now let's get something else straight - I named this post 'How many SQUATS does it take to make a 6-pack?'. Well here's my short answer - I have NO IDEA... I just wrote that to get you reading! Why don't I know? Because nobody knows. Trying to tell an individual how much energy they will use per-rep / set of reps of any exercise or activity is practically impossible, and NO - your watch or fitness band can't tell you either. There are just too many variables that effect an individual's use of energy when exercising, to generalise - even approximately! I'm aware how controversial it is to challenge your beloved and expensive wearable technology's statements, but follow me here... how could an item that doesn't know specifically how much muscle is moving the joints that produce a movement, nor the resistance applied to that movement by the vastly different combination of body and additional weight applied, lever lengths and angles, and other biomechanics and chemical differences from one individual to another (etc), possibly tell you how many calories you've just used by doing an activity for a period of time?
My slightly longer answer... and really the point I'm trying to make here, is this - (I have NO IDEA), but you'd CERTAINLY need to do SIGNIFICANTLY fewer squats, than sit-ups, to loose your belly fat... and by squats, I really mean any of the major compound movements. If you want to loose your belly fat, you should choose resistance based activities that move multiple joints at once, using the larger muscle groups and are hence understood to use a lot of energy per repetition. Base your workouts around variations of squats, lunges, dead-lifts, bench press, lat pull-downs, pull-ups, low and other rows, etc. Increasing the size of the muscles that you grow when performing these movements, also increases your Basal Metabolism (allowing for sustained maintenance of your newly uncovered 6-pack!)
Sit-ups and other isolation movements have their place and are arguably important for other reasons beyond the scope of this post, but they do NOT use much energy per rep (even per many, many reps) - so relatively, they won't help you access the stored energy plumping up your fat cells and occluding the view of your ALREADY beautiful 'abs'!
SPOT REDUCTION (targeting) fat loss to ANY 'problem' area is IMPOSSIBLE (currently, without surgery).
So, in conclusion, I'll repeat myself (I do that - just ask my wife)...
How many SQUATS does it take to SHOW your 6-pack? A LOT LESS the number of sit-ups you'd have to do!
Thanks for reading!
Go and GROW!