Myth Buster Mondays! “I want to do sit-ups to get a flat stomach”

In this blog, Longevity Exercise Physiology DrummoyneEdgecliff, Marrickville, Bella Vista, Randwick, Pymble, Neutral Bay and Balmain discuss the myth that sit ups will give you a flat stomach.

One of the most common questions I get asked from clients is ‘What’s the best exercise to lose my stomach? Should I do lots of sit ups?’ Unfortunately I can’t blame them for thinking this. Our media today promote the quick fix remedies to lose your stomach, such as the ‘ab crunch pro machine – lose your stomach in 6 weeks!’ Or even more ridiculous, the vibration machines that ‘burn fat while you are seated!’ 

There is also the ‘gym junkies’ myth going around that you should ‘do tricep dips to lose your arm fat’ or ‘do 100 sit ups a day for a sick pack’. This style of thinking in our exercise world is referred to as ‘spot reduction training’ which as I will discuss, has been shown to be untrue.

The study I came across which best dispels this myth was published in 2013 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning (1). The study was quite simple, 11 subjects were trained for 12 weeks, just doing the leg press machine with their non dominant leg. Interestingly, although the subjects total body fat reduced, their trained leg did not show a significant reduction in body fat, compared to the non trained.

The point to stress though is you can’t out train a bad diet, no matter how much exercise you are doing.

  1. So is resistance exercise an effective way of exercising to reduce body fat?

The answer is initially no, but long term yes. The most effective way to burn body fat is – reduced calorie intake and daily aerobic exercise. The aerobic exercise doesn’t need to be high intensity either, but significant volume if low intensity (eg light walks) and lesser volume if moderate intensity (5x a week for 30mins). The point to stress though is you can’t out train a bad diet, no matter how much exercise you are doing.

2. Why is resistance training is effective long term?

The answer is that whole body resistance training will increase lean muscle mass, which can increase your metabolism. A challenging resistance exercise session increases your post exercise oxygen consumption, burning more energy known as EPOC. Doing resistance training ALONE however will not result in significant body fat reduction or weight loss, as studies have shown and I have seen personally in clients. 

3. Finally to sit ups – are they useful?

Yes if down correctly, but as a method to improve abdominal strength for posture, sports or an injury. Not effective alone for creating a flat stomach. 


(1) Ramírez-Campillo R, Andrade DC, Campos-Jara C, Henríquez-Olguín C, Alvarez-Lepín C, Izquierdo M. Regional fat changes induced by localized muscle endurance resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(8):2219-2224. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31827e8681

Written by Luke Dorizas

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