Most of us want to lose belly fat and build sexy abs, but sadly, most people go about it the wrong way. By that I mean, most people crank out thousands of crunches, sit-ups and other ab exercises that do little to burn belly fat while placing increased stress on the lower back.
You can think of your abs as a beautiful window and the layer of fat covering your abs (and you have one) as a set of curtains. You can't see the window until you get rid of that curtain. The reason crunches can't do that for you is because they're simply too small a movement to burn many calories, and you need to burn calories to finally shed that belly fat.
[Read: How to Overcome a Workout Rut.]
If you're going to work your abs, you might as well work them in a way that will accomplish that for you, instead of doing one thing (like cardio) to burn calories and another (like crunches) to work your abs.
I want to share five truly effective moves that will both work your abs AND burn the fat that's hiding those abs. These exercise are so incredibly effective because they engage your entire core and use large movements, which burn far more calories than isolated moves can. The more muscles you engage, the more oxygen and calories you need to perform the exercise, and that's where the fat-burning begins.
Another thing that's great about these five abdominal exercises is that they don't put the stress on your lower back that crunches and sit-ups can. This is very important because every time you perform a sit-up, you put a great deal of stress on the vertebrae of your lower back, which is already pretty vulnerable to injury.
The following are five deceiving exercises that do work:
Clean and Press. For this exercise, I recommend dumbbells over a barbell, as it's easier to maintain safe form with the dumbbells. For the clean and press, place the dumbbells horizontally on either side of your feet. Squat, grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip and return to a standing position. As you do, lift the dumbbells to your chest.
Once standing, do an overhead press. Lower the dumbbells to your chest again, squat and return them to the floor. Taking a weight from the floor to an overhead position is one of the best full-body moves you can do.
Squat Press. This move is a variation or modification of the Clean and Press. In this move, begin from a standing position with the dumbbells at your shoulders. "Sit" into a squat, with your bum angled back and your weight shifting onto your heels, as though you were about to sit down. Keep your torso straight, and only squat far enough to get your thighs parallel to the floor.
Then push your weight into your feet to lift yourself back into a standing position while pressing the dumbbells over your head. Lower the dumbbells back to shoulder position, and repeat.
Burpees. Burpees have a much-deserved reputation for being brutal, but they're so popular because they get amazing results. Like most things that are hard, the end results make it all worthwhile.
To do the burpee, start from a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Drop to the floor, and perform a push-up. At the top of the push-up, jump forward to bring your knees to your chest, and continue the jump to bring you as high off the floor as possible and back to a standing position. These are real killers, but try to do as many as you can in two to three sets, lasting 30 seconds per set.
Front squats. Many people think of squats as a move for the quads, but do them properly, and you'll quickly learn that these squats engage your whole core. Start out in the normal squat position, but place the bar across the front of your shoulders rather than the back, using an underhand grip. This will allow you to keep your arms parallel to the floor as you perform the front squat.
Lower yourself into the squat and then push back up to a standing position. As you do, you'll really feel those core muscles working.
Mountain Climbers. You'll know you're doing this move properly if you absolutely hate it. It's a tough one, but that's why it works so well. It's one of the best moves there is to strengthen your entire core.
Start in the push-up position. Keeping your hips at the same height as your shoulders, shuffle your right knee in toward your chest, and then immediately switch it out for your left knee. Think of this move as trying to run in a horizontal position. You want to do these continuously, without rest, as many times as you can while still keeping your hips and shoulders at the same level.
Try to do each of these exercises in two to three sets of six to eight reps each, using a weight that's just heavy enough to be challenging. As you can see, you can perform this entire core workout in just a few minutes.
Unless, of course, you just want to do another thousand crunches with little to show for all your hard work.
Remember, you can only spot strengthen. You cannot spot reduce. If you want to lose belly fat then a full-body approach to your workouts along with a clean diet is the key to shedding fat for good.
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Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN is a registered holistic nutritionist, fitness expert and highly sought-after high-performance health coach. He's also a former professional soccer player and served as the head strength and conditioning and nutrition coach for men's soccer at the University of Toronto for seven seasons. For more than 13 years, he's empowered more than 86,000 people to greater health with his no-nonsense approach to health, fitness, and nutrition. He's made it his mission to empower at least 10 million people to greater health and fitness by 2018. Get Yuri's FREE "Y-Factor" at www.yurielkaim.com.