If there is one thing that springs to mind when people think of the commercialism of fitness, it is most likely to be an “ab machine”. Ab machines have plagued television shopping channels for years now. They are marketed to people who want to shift their stomach fat, tone their abdominal muscles and get a flat stomach. But do they really work? In short, no.
Ab machines alone will never make your stomach flat or show off a 6 pack. That is not to say that they are totally useless, it is just that the advertisements lead you to believe that by using an ab machine for 20 minutes a day you will look like the fitness models that are demonstrating them.
The truth is, to get a flat stomach you need to reduce total body fat with a diet and exercise plan. Just exercising the abs is never going to achieve that.
Why Do Ab Machines Fail?
The reason why ab machines fail to help you get a flat stomach is because they exploit the myth of “spot reduction”. Many people believe that to lose fat on one part of the body you just need to exercise that part. However, this is simply not true.
Our bodies accumulate fat (adipose tissue) when energy intake (calories consumed) exceeds energy expenditure (calories burnt with exercise plus metabolism). Where the fat is stored is determined by genetics. To lose fat, the process needs to be reversed, that is, you need to ensure that energy expenditure is more than energy intake. You can learn how to create an energy deficit here.
So with a well planned diet and fitness regime fat will start to be broken down and used for energy, with some excreted from the body. Once again, genetics will decide which fat reserves to use first.
The only way that anyone, or any product, can guarantee that you will get a flat stomach and a six pack, is to put you on a weight loss and fitness plan that will slowly but steadily strip away almost all of your body fat. Some people may get a flat stomach before losing all the fat from their back, thighs, hips, arms or chest, but for many people the stomach really is the last place to lose fat.
What Is The Best Way To Get A Flat Stomach?
Firstly, do not waste your money on an abdominal machines. There are so many exercises that you can do at home without a machine – see our article Stomach Exercises to Build a Solid 6 Pack for a guide on which exercises work best. Basically, crunches, sit ups and leg raises are the most obvious ones. Any exercise that targets the core muscles is going to help the abs. So no equipment is required.
You need to focus on improving your diet first, so that you reduce total calories to create an energy deficit (fewer calories consumed than burned each day). Then you need to ensure that your diet is well balanced and healthy – limit (or eradicate) all refined carbohydrates, processed foods and pure sugar. Eat instead raw, leafy and fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts and seeds, lean meats and dairy. Drink only water, green tea of black coffee.
What Type of Exercise Is Best To Flatten A Stomach?
Is there a best type of exercise to flatten* a stomach? Not really. So long as the exercise covers these factors:
- Exercise must be intense enough to leave you sweating well
- Exercise must be intense enough to get you out of breath
- Exercise should include sprint intervals to increase fat burning
- Exercise should include muscle building to increase metabolism
Often it is best to combine 2 or 3 activities to get the most from your exercise. For example, doing an aerobics class twice a week will cover the cardio aspects and then weight training will help build muscle. Or, martial arts with kickboxing focus in a couple of classes and grappling and wrestling in another.
The key is to work the entire body, not just one part. By working all of your muscles you naturally burn more energy in the process, both while exercising and then while recovering. Individual muscles “fail” while exercising, but even after your legs have “failed”, i.e. you can no longer jump or run, you can still use your arms and core to carry on work the rest of your body.
This is also why circuit training is a fantastic way to burn fat and get fit, as rather than working just one part of your body to exhausting (such as with running) you cycle through exercising which are ordered to allow one part of your body to rest while the other is working. So squats will follow push ups, which will then be followed by crunches, then skipping, then dips (for example).
Ab machines can help you to exercise your abs, but in all honesty, they are not really required. Some people do of course enjoy using ab machines. Some of the new models, such as the Ab Glider can make core exercises more interesting. However, that does not mean that they work any better. You only have to look at boxers or other professional athletes – they often have visible abdominals, but you can guarantee that none of them own an abs machine.
Stomach exercises are still an important part of a total fitness program. For best fat loss and fitness you should work on all areas and neglect nothing. The stomach is the core, and that means it is a vital part to keep strong and poweful.
*note, by flatten we really mean to burn off the fat on the stomach, more so than developing abdominal muscles.