Conditioning Abdominal Muscles

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Fig. 1 Fat and muscle are separate layers

This is advice most people know and few follow. Still, it's the simple truth. Doing muscular work requires energy; your body draws that energy from the food you eat and from your fat stores. If you decrease food intake and/ or increase energy output, you'll lose fat.

Spot Reducing

Many people mistakenly believe that they can burn fat from around their middle by doing ab exercises-sit-ups, side bends, etc. The fact is, spot reducing doesn't work. Doing exercises for any single muscle group doesn't burn enough calories to noticeably reduce fat. Furthermore, when fat does come off, it comes off from all over the body-not just from the area being worked.

To get rid of excess fat, regardless of where it is, you must do exercises involving as many major muscle groups as possible—exercises like running, swimming, cycling, aerobic dance, or jumping rope—and you must do them consistently over a period of time.

For more detailed weight loss recommendations, see Tom Venuto's Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle: A Scientific Weight Loss Guide


To condition abdominal muscle most effectively, it's necessary to do exercises that…

  • target the abs —involve movements directly caused by the abs, not simply movements in which the abs play a supporting role (many traditional "ab" exercises don't meet this criterion)

  • overload the abs —force them to do more work than they're accustomed to

  • work the abs from a variety of angles -to ensure maximum fiber involvement

The Good Word On Sit–Ups:
Don't Do Them!

At first thought, Straight–Legged Sit–Ups and Roman Chair Sit–Ups seem to satisfy the requirements above. Both movements center around

the midsection and both cause an abdominal ''burn.''

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Fig. 2 Roman Chair Sit–Ups

Actually, though, the abdominals have a much narrower range of motion than either of these types of sit–ups require. Two—thirds of the Straight–Legged Sit–Up is the work of muscles other than the abdominals. And although the abs play a stabilizing role during Roman Chair Sit–Ups, they are in no way responsible for the Roman Chain situp movement

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