Many people do ab exercises because they want to lose belly fat. However, the evidence suggests targeted ab exercises are not very effective.
Spot Reduction May Not Be Effective
The term “spot reduction” refers to the misconception that you can lose fat in one spot by exercising that part of your body. It’s true that spot-training exercises will make you “feel the burn” while muscles grow and strengthen. However, studies show they won’t help you get rid of belly fat.
One study followed 24 people who did ab exercises 5 days a week for 6 weeks. This training alone did not reduce subcutaneous belly fat. Another study tested the effects of a 27-day sit-up program. It found that neither fat cell size nor subcutaneous belly fat thickness decreased.
This is not only true for the abdominal area. It applies to all areas of the body. For instance, one study asked participants to complete 12 weeks of resistance training, exercising only their non-dominant arm.
They measured subcutaneous fat before and after the program and found that participants lost fat throughout their bodies, not just in their trained arms.
Several other studies have shown similar results. Some studies seem to contradict the above results. One study tested whether spot reduction decreased subcutaneous arm fat. It found that exercise in a specific area of the arm reduced the fat in that area.