- Many people covet a rippling six-pack, but it’s not necessarily a sign of health. We all have abs, and whether they’re visible or not essentially comes down to having a low enough body-fat percentage.
- You can’t spot-reduce fat, so endless crunches really aren’t an effective way to train. Instead, focus on creating a modest calorie deficit through diet and upping your daily activity.
- Formal workouts account for only about 5% of our energy expenditure, Graeme Tomlinson, a personal trainer and nutrition coach, says. Equally, do resistance workouts to ensure you lose fat, not muscle, which is completely doable with body weight alone, according to personal trainer Courtney Pruce.
- Read more Working it Out here.
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I really want to lose fat and particularly from my stomach, but I don’t have access to a gym or any fitness equipment. How should I be working out to lose fat from home? My goal is to get a six-pack, or at least some ab definition. What are the best exercises I should be doing?
Ah, abs. Such elusive little creatures, aren’t they?
In the eyes of many, a rippling six-pack is the epitome of fitness, but truly this isn’t the case. In fact, many people you may admire for their ab definition have had to go to extremely unhealthy lengths to get there.
That said, your desire to lose fat from your stomach is one shared by many.
In what may or may not be good news to you, however, endless crunches are unlikely to get you any closer to your goal.
Spot reduction doesn’t exist
It’s a common misconception that doing lots of core exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and planks will lead to abs, but that isn’t really the case.
Yes, the abs are a muscle that can be developed, like any other in the body, but you won’t be able to see them if they’re under a layer of fat.
You won’t lose more fat from your stomach by doing ab workouts, much like doing endless lunges won’t see you losing fat from your thighs in particular. You can’t target fat loss. Sorry.
Nutrition coach and personal trainer Graeme Tomlinson — aka the Fitness Chef — told Insider that spot-reducing fat from the stomach is “simply impossible.”
Sadly, it’s the area likely to be the last to lose fat.
“Your body tends to store more fat in the abdomen region,” Tomlinson said. “Therefore, whilst fat reduces from other areas of your body and the abdomen, it simply takes longer for it to reduce in the abdomen as more fat resides there.”
Instead of annihilating yourself with crunches every day, it’s better to focus on full-body movements like squats or push-ups, which require you to engage the core while working the whole body.
Exercise time accounts for very little of your daily energy expenditure
If you feel like you’re not able to get a good workout in without a gym or any fitness equipment, don’t stress. The reality is that formal exercise time actually accounts for very little of your overall calorie burn.
“Losing fat is the same equation during lockdown as it was before lockdown — you simply need a calorie deficit,” said Tomlinson.
Last night I posted about the validity of relaxing compositional focus during difficult times. But as much as one’s mental health may benefit from this relaxation, another’s may be nurtured by progression of their compositional goals. We are all different. Thus, I made this post tonight. Over the last few weeks, and for a significant number of weeks ahead, we exist in new conditions. Every part of our lives has changed. Conditions we are all trying to adapting to. Our health and fitness goals are subject to new conditions too. There is no access to gyms – a place where many manage their energy expenditure. There is no pre-lockdown dietary routine – where one manages their energy intake. Thus, we can be forgiven for succumbing to the notion that elimination of these environments automatically means the curtailment of our progress. But as my graphics show, this notion does not have to be the eventuality for those who want to progress. Because by adapting, we can still manage our compositional goals. Note that these numbers will be unique to you. In most cases, we still have conscious dietary choice. Unless instructed otherwise, we can still walk for an hour or so each day. We can still move around our houses. We can still plan exercise at home. And we can replicate our unplanned energy expenditure (NEAT) by being more active at new times of the day. These two parallel examples are not a tale of success or failure, instead they represent opportunities and temporary postponements. Either option is valid. We are in the midst of something truly significant. A unique time in our lives which affects every facet of it. But the beauty of these seemingly insignificant adaptations is their relationship to the simple science of energy balance. Contrary to industry attitudes, progress can still be made without gruelling home workouts where body parts unnecessarily suffer. The information is here. Do whatever you want with it. 🙏 - - #burncalories #calorieburn #workout #homeworkout #neat #diettips #nutritioncoach #burnfat #fatlosstips #fatlosscoach #homeexercises #burnfat #burningfat #caloriedeficit #mentalhealthmatters
“Whilst you perhaps previously associated burning fat with the gym or working out, the reality is that a workout accounts for approximately 5% of your total daily energy expenditure.
“We must remember that 70% of the calories we burn each day come at rest, 15% through unplanned exercise (known as NEAT), 10% from digesting food, and 5% from planned exercise.
“If you don’t have equipment and have to stay at home, controlling the calories you consume and increasing NEAT offers an easy way to burn more fat.”
NEAT stands for non-exercise energy thermogenesis. Examples include cleaning, walking up stairs, and gardening. I myself am partial to having a bit of a boogie while cooking and would thoroughly recommend it.
Focus on creating a gentle calorie deficit through diet and general lifestyle
As Tomlinson said, losing fat simply comes down to taking in less energy than you’re expending.
“To lose fat, we need to establish a negative energy balance — burning more calories than we consume — and whilst exercise is a great overall contributor to our daily calorie burn, it’s actually the nutrition and non-strenuous activities you should be focusing more on,” said Courtney Pruce, a personal trainer running Instagram live workouts every Monday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings.
“Start by creating a moderate calorie deficit through both daily activity and food intake, and see how your body responds,” she said.
After a few weeks, you can adjust if needs be. If you’re not seeing any progress, try adding five minutes to your daily walk or slightly dropping your calories.
It’s important to bear in mind that scale weight isn’t the best way to measure progress as the number will be affected by all sorts of factors like eating a large salty meal, doing an intense training session, when you last went to the bathroom, and where a woman is in her menstrual cycle.
Instead of living and dying by the scale, take measurements and photos to assess your progress.
“There is no great elixir exercise to shed belly fat. A calorie deficit is the only exercise required,” Tomlinson said. “Ensuring you enjoy what you eat, and can sustain the deficit and mode of energy expenditure, you have a greater chance of consistently losing fat over time.”
So that means don’t do anything drastic as you’ll never be able to sustain it.
Keep up resistance training to ensure you don’t lose muscle
People talk about “weight loss,” but what they really mean is “fat loss.”
Body recomposition is the aim, which means losing fat and holding on to (or even building) muscle, thus reducing your body-fat percentage.
As someone who has previously done this rather successfully — if I do say so myself — I know there are three main components in this.
First, ensuring your energy deficit is only small.
Second, keeping your protein intake high (which is also satiating, so it’s helpful in a calorie deficit). Ideally, you want to aim for between 0.8 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Third, you need to do resistance training.
You may be thinking it’s impossible without a gym or any fitness equipment, but that is not the case, as trainers Luke Worthington and Emily Ricketts previously explained to me.
“You don’t need access to a gym or any home kit to get a great workout in,” Pruce said. “There is plenty you can be doing with your bodyweight alone. Remember that any workout is better than no workout.”
“There is a big misconception surrounding training for fat loss that we need to be doing all cardio and crazy long HIIT sessions, but that’s not the case.
“When dieting, our body will naturally try to give up muscle mass before fat mass, so we have to ensure we are still regularly resistance training (body weight or with additional load) to ensure we promote fat loss over muscle loss.”
Good news for anyone forcing themselves to go on runs that they hate.
Genetics play a role
When it comes to abs, it’s important to remember that genetics play a role. Some people are naturally predisposed to have leaner limbs but more insulation around their middle, whereas others might carry more fat on their thighs and hips but be able to maintain defined abs with little effort.
You can’t change your genetic make-up, so instead of beating yourself up for not having a chiseled six-pack, try to learn to love your body as it is.
Over the past few years, I’ve embraced that I’m never going to have an hourglass figure and have gradually learned to love my broad shoulders and more athletic physique. It takes time, but you’ll be much happier if you stop wishing for someone else’s body.
Focus on all the wonderful things your body can do, and that should help you learn to love how it looks too.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose some fat if it would make you healthier and happier, provided the desire isn’t coming from a position of hate.
“You just have to be patient, stick to your calorie and activity targets and remain consistent,” Pruce said. Don’t rush the process and be kind to yourself.
Wishing you well,
As Insider’s senior lifestyle reporter and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is fully immersed in the wellness scene and is here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light versus heavy weights, or unsure whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.