Monday, June 18, 2012

Building muscle vs burning fat

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask me what stomach exercises will trim their waists to make them look better. The answer? None. Yeah, sorry. I wish the answer were different.

Now, there is some truth to the idea that tighter firmer muscles across the stomach will pull the stomach in and make you look thinner. But, that’s not what most of us are dealing with. We each have stomach muscles with strength and tone to them. They are just being covered up with varying amounts of body fat.

This brings us to two basic truths about the body that everyone can understand but few actually do.

Muscle is built specifically while fat is stored generally.

Said more completely, muscles respond to specific demands put on them while fat is utilized generally as the body needs the energy that they store.

If you want one particular muscle group to get stronger, you can train those muscles specifically and they will respond to the challenge. Storage fat isn’t used specifically like that. It is stored, used, and redistributed throughout the body independently from where in the body it is used. So, doing crunches specifically builds stomach muscles but doesn't specifically trim fat from the stomach.

So, instead of asking how to trim stomach fat you should be asking how to trim fat generally throughout the body. The answer to that is a healthy diet, cardio vascular training (particularly interval work), and strength training throughout the body.

Just to bring this thing full circle, let’s think about what exercises would trim fat. The ones that work the best are the ones that build lots of strong muscle in the largest muscle groups. Imagine adding 10% more muscle to your large leg muscles. That’s a lot more new muscle than you could ever add to anything in your stomach area.

So, the best exercise to trim the stomach? Squats. It seems odd, I know, but there you have it.