If you’re obese or have lots of weight to lose, stop doing sit-ups, and here’s WHY you need to avoid this useless exercise for fat loss.
No matter how many sit-ups an obese person (or someone with a lot of belly fat) does—be it 1,000 in a row every day, or 30 minutes straight every day—they will not lose weight or inches.
The misunderstanding is that a desperate obese man or woman is apt to think that repeatedly folding the very area of their body that’s the fattest will shrink it.
The logic is that if you repeatedly fold (which is the biggest movement you can do with your stomach), this will burn fat in this exact area.
Repeated folding of small, stabilizer muscles (the abdominal muscles) will not generate fat loss or loss of inches—no matter how many folds (sit-ups) you do.
Why should obese men and women stop doing sit-ups?
The ab muscles are very small. They are naturally weak. Their job is to stabilize your spinal column. They are not “lifting” muscles; they are stabilizing muscles.
The job of stabilizing does not require much energy (stored body fat). Let’s get intriguingly studious about this:
A cross-section of abdominal muscles reveals a horizontal pattern of fibers.
A cross-section of quadriceps and latissimus dorsus fibers (legs and back) shows a diagonal pattern.
This is very important! More muscle fibers, if patterned diagonally, fit into any given cross-sectional area. More muscle fibers = greater force production!
This means that abdominal muscles, with their horizontal pattern, are sissy muscles—they can’t produce force; all they can do is stabilize (the spine).
So what kind of muscle requires more fuel (body fat)? Horizontally patterned or DIAGONALLY?
For obese people to shrink their belly fat and lose overall weight, they must ditch the sit-ups (which work only the horizontal muscle fibers) and slay the exercises that work the biggest, diagonally patterned muscles: legs, glutes, middle and upper back, chest.
Sit-ups a Waste of Time for the Obese
Just because sit-ups are better than sitting still in a recliner doesn’t mean they will cause weight loss or shrink your belly. There is no way that any amount of sit-ups could shrink the belly below.
There’s a psychological aspect, too, for why obese people should avoid sit-ups:
They are mentally draining, because you just keep doing them over and over and over, counting well over a hundred at a time…yet a part of you deep down inside knows that this is fruitless.
But then there’s that perception, that illusion, that repeatedly folding your body in half or even one-quarter will get you the desired results.
Even if sit-ups are difficult (you struggle to just complete 10), this does not mean they will shrink your belly, let alone cause overall weight loss.
Replacement Exercises for Sit-Ups that Will Melt off Pounds in an Obese Person (images follow)
Walking weighted lunge
Seated chest press
Dumbbell chest press
Standing overhead press
Squat to overhead dumbbell press
But there’s more to this than the specific exercise. You must do it correctly to mobilize fat depos in your body.
I recommend a kettlebell heavy enough for 15-25 very difficult swings.
For the other exercises, the general rule is an eight to 12 repetition max: You can do eight but not more than 12.
If you can do 13, the resistance is not heavy enough. Sets should be grinding. If you can talk during a set, you’re nowhere near working heard enough.
If you’re a woman, do not fear developing a manly appearance from lifting heavy enough weight to fight for a rep range between eight and 12.
This protocol will slam your force production muscles, making them siphon your fat reserves for recovery and growth energy.
This is why buff women and men have such tight, svelte middles. They have muscle development…but just you try to find the fat in their belly.
Look around at your gym; do the people who spend a lot of time on the floor doing sit-ups have the body you want?
How about the physiques of the people lifting heavy weights? Sure, if you’re a man, maybe you don’t want to look like some of those muscle guys, but they didn’t get there overnight, either.
Look at the women who spend a lot of time with barbells and big dumbbells.
What kind of bodies do they have? Do they have fat bellies? Do they weigh 200 pounds? Do you EVER see them doing sit-ups?
Though sit-ups are used in tests for the military, this has absolutely nothing to do with their effectiveness at causing weight loss in obese people.
Trade the sit-ups for the diagonal-muscle-fiber exercises mentioned above for significant fat loss.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.