You may have heard that it’s impossible to spot-reduce fat, and that includes in the belly area. What that means is that endless ab workouts won’t give you a flat, toned belly. So how much ab work should you do to lose belly fat? Answer: less than you probably thought.
If burning belly fat is the goal, “you should spend roughly 10 percent of your total workout time doing abdominal exercises,” Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist and fitness adviser for Bowflex, told POPSUGAR in a previous interview. We were intrigued — and shocked. Doing the math, that’s just five to six minutes of abs for an hour-long workout, or three to four minutes for a half-hour session.
The reasoning? Yes, doing ab workouts will strengthen your core, but if your ultimate goal is to burn belly fat, there are more efficient uses of your time, Tom told POPSUGAR. The more time you spend doing ab work, the less time you have for cardio and resistance training, which are your two cornerstones for fat-burning exercise: cardio torches major amounts of calories, and building muscle through strength training will boost your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories when you’re not working out. With that in mind, a weekly mix of resistance training and cardio sessions are your best bet to burn belly fat; here’s a belly-fat-burning workout plan with the perfect mix of both.
That’s not to say core exercises aren’t important. “Having a strong core is essential for injury prevention,” Tom said — both in workouts and in your daily life. That’s why trainers always encourage you to engage your core during workouts; it takes the strain off your back and helps you avoid getting hurt. And yes, once you start to see some fat loss around your middle, strengthening your core will help you see some abdominal definition. That will take some time, though, so it’s important to remember that a six-pack or a flat belly aren’t everything. “Just because you cannot see the muscles does not mean they are not balanced and strong,” Tom told POPSUGAR.
While you might have the green light to shorten your ab workouts, it’s crucial that you do make the most of that time. “It’s quality over quantity that matters,” Tom explained. “Doing 10 repetitions of an exercise slowly with proper form is exponentially more effective than 50 using momentum and poor technique.” In other words, paying attention to technique over sheer number of reps is what’ll save you the most time and get you the strongest core. Applying that logic to all your workouts (cardio and strength training included), as well as eating a healthy diet (try this two-week recipe plan), will help you see the best fat-burning results.