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Ab Exercises: Does it give you a thicker waist or does it give you a shapely slim waist ?

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Donnar's Two Cents:

Having clients request frequently that they want to do more ab workouts to flatten their tummy and to get a trimmer waist, I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that while we might want good abs, we don't want a thicker waist. There is plenty of health and fitness information floating around on the internet that can be confusing, and different things may work for different people, so how would we know if what we are doing is the right kind of exercises suited for us? Part of my responsibility as a trainer is to help you navigate all of these different pieces of information, and separate the facts from the myths as much as I can.

The abs and waist are a trouble spot for many people, and women in particular may feel pressure to maintain a trim waist. You may worry that exercising the abs -- particularly the obliques -- will make your waist bigger, and this can indeed happen, depending upon your overall fitness routine and physical condition when you begin working out. However, there are several things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your waist growing larger, and, with the right workout, you can end up watching the pounds melt off your waist.

Whittling your waist at each and every workout might seem to be a sensible way to get the narrow waist essential to an hourglass shape or a nice lean V-shaped frame. However, the abs are a muscle just like any other in the body, and when you work them incessantly — especially with added weight — you're likely to make them thicker and stronger. This contributes to blocking at your waist, not narrowing.

So, should you stop doing ab exercises if you want a smaller waist?

In short, no. A strong core is always important, because it is part of your body’s foundation. A lot of your strength comes from your core, so ab exercises should still be a part of your training plan.

The important thing to keep in mind is your personal fitness goals.

Are spot reduction exercises effective? The scientific consensus among fitness experts and researchers is that spot reduction is a myth... Studies have shown that it is not possible to reduce fat in one area by exercising that body part alone. Muscle growth in a region does not reduce fat in that region.

To get as small a waistline as possible, along with visible ab muscles with a lean look, you should incorporate a wide range of exercises that hit the entire abdominal area. Abdominal exercises such as crunches and planks burn a few calories, but their primary purpose is to build muscle. If you have a lot of fat on your waist when you begin working out, building up a layer of muscle underneath the fat can make your waist look larger. For this reason, it's important to work on both strength-building and calorie-burning.

The Best Abdominal and Waist Shrinking Exercises that Blast Off the MOST Fat:

  • Big compound and hybrid exercises such as deadlifts, squats, chin-ups, renegade row, dumbbell squat-to-overhead press, leg press, etc...

*Compound movements burns fat and builds muscle. These movements primarily develop strength and power, increase your lean muscle mass, which increases your ability to burn calories at rest over the course of the day. As these movements are difficult exercises, it consumes a great deal of effort, and burns calories in the process. This increase in caloric expenditure may lead to an increase in body fat loss.

  • High intensity interval training like sprints, hill dashes, burpees (my favorite), grasshoppers, etc...

*HIIT recruits fast twitch muscle fiber, thereby inciting substantial fat-burning over the entire body.

Some of my favorite exercises to tighten up your core up without bulking up your waist:

  • Lying leg raise

  • Decline sit-up with twist (unweighted)

  • Hanging leg raise

  • Windshield wipers

  • Push up planks

  • Decline Shoulder Taps

Muscular holds such as planks and anti-rotational movements are ideal because they allow us to build strength and endurance in these vital core muscles without the unwanted bulk. These exercises are ideal because they reflect our core muscles’ primary purpose, which is to resist movement.

Importance of Diet:

No matter how much exercising you do, you're unlikely to lose much weight if your diet is high in calories. In conjunction with a poor diet, ab exercises can make your waist look larger because you'll be building both muscle and fat. Muscle weighs more than fat, so you might also end up gaining weight.

Remember that our bodies are not identical! How your body responds to training won’t necessarily be the same as your friend’s. Our age and genetics can make a big difference in the appearance of our midsection, so don’t get caught up in comparisons.

Bottom line...

No matter how much muscle you build, you must remove the layer of fat covering those muscles in order to see results.

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