Here’s an email that I received this morning…
I had emailed you a while back about some lower ab workout suggestions, and I still seem to be struggling with my lower abs.¬† I know you said not to isolate your abs when doing workouts, but I feel like I should isolate my lower abs because the rest of my stomach is flat.¬† Do you have any suggestions on the kind of workouts i should do specifically for that area?¬† Thank you so much !
I get this question quite frequently so I figured I’d expand on my answer in a blog post.
Here is my reply along with some additional comments so you know exactly how to target lower abdominal fat. The “pooch belly” as its called is very common with women who use diet and cardio to lose the layer of fat over the upper abdominals, but then get stuck with the lower abs.
The most common approach is to search for exercises to target the lower abdominals but as you’ll learn, this is seldom the answer.
“Hi <name>, yes isolation on the abdominals is usually not recommended as it will result in the rectus abdominus (the six pack muscles) getting the majority of the contraction.
What happens is this leaves the other core muscles you’re trying to focus on left out.
Some of the best ab exercises for lower-abdominal strengthening and development would include‚Ä¶.
- Floor wipers
- Bicycle crunches
- Reverse sit-up’s (from angled ab board)
- Any plank variations
These exercises will work the transverse abdominus and deeper core muscles that work like a natural “girdle” to draw in your lower abdominals.
Having said that, if your core is strong and developed you’re more likely dealing with stored adipose (fat) around the lower abdominals (very common, especially with women).
This is a trouble spot due to the different fat cell receptors there compared to other areas of the body. Aka – “pooch belly.”
To be blunt and to the point, no amount of dieting, cardio, or excessive ab work will release the fat from this area. These cells can’t be reached in the same way as other fat cells.
You’ll need nor-adrenaline to light them up through the central nervous system (instead of adrenaline through the blood-stream). This is the normal way for fat cells to be accessed. Most fat cells can be reached via the bloodstream and burned for energy via the work of adrenaline and the enzyme lipase.
Other fat cells (like those typically found around the lower abdominals and hips) can’t be accessed via the capillaries (if they don’t get a lot of blood flow), so the nerve endings are the only way in.
Adrenaline’s sister “nor-adrenaline” works very similarly but it uses the central nervous system instead of the bloodstream.
This is where the burst training, interval training, or other high-intensity-short duration type workouts come in. You need to stimulate the central nervous system so your body releases nor-adrenaline‚Ä¶..along with growth hormone, IGF-1, testosterone and other powerful fat burning hormones.
Outside of stimulating the CNS (central nervous system) through herbal compounds or drugs (like ephedrine) there’s not much that will work other than the burst style workouts to create a hormonal surge.
It’s all hormonal with fat loss and the leaner you get, the more you must stimulate the CNS to remove stubborn body fat stores.
The last option (and my least favorite) is obviously spot reduction through a tuck or liposuction. While I’m generally not a fan (when using it for the quick fix approach) using these strategies for that last layer of loose skin or bodyfat is another story.
For individuals who are already at a lower body-fat percentage and have developed a strong core, spot reduction becomes a more viable option.
Just wanted to make sure I was straight up with you on all your options. If it’s just a matter of that last layer of fat or “pooch belly” look with your lower abdominals, it will be your diet combined with burst training style workouts that would give you your best shot.
No amount of isolated exercise will do much to spot reduce. It’s a fat cell receptor issue and not something you can target with ab exercises.”
I hope that helped to give you a better understanding of how to deal with stubborn lower belly fat.
Here’s a quick re-cap…
1. Stubborn lower belly fat (aka – “pooch belly”) can NOT be spot reduced through exercise.
2. Stubborn areas where you find it difficult to lose fat are frequently areas that have different fat cell receptors than other parts of the body…
You’ll need to access these fat stores via the central nervous system and nor-adrenaline. Calorie restriction and marathon cardio sessions won’t do the trick. You need something to shock your CNS and provide you with a surge in hormones and neurotransmitters.
3. You cannot diet or do excessive cardio to remove stubborn fat stores….
It’s working the wrong pathway. Excessive caloric restriction or cardiovascular exercise can actually make the problem WORSE! By getting catabolic this way you sacrifice lean muscle, decrease CNS output, down-regulate your metabolism and ultimately you’re likely to wind up with the “skinny-fat” look.
4. Workouts that stimulate the CNS, like burst training and interval training are the best way to burn stubborn body fat because they create the optimal hormonal response…
Enough said on that…I’ll keep preaching it until it sinks in. If you’re over the age of 30 this is the MOST effective way to workout period.
5. Other than high intensity-short duration “burst training” style workouts, only CNS stimulants (like ephedrine for example) would be effective at triggering lipolysis from the stubborn areas.
Tucks and liposuction would be the cosmetic approach of last resort if you’re not able to do the high intensity burst training workouts for whatever reason.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not a huge fan of liposuction but it all depends on the situation. The person who doesn’t exercise and gets liposuction done as a short-cut or quick-fix is only asking for trouble in my book. You start removing large areas of fat cells from the body and some weird things can happen.
If you haven’t made the necessary lifestyle changes, the weight you gain back after the procedure can be really scary. I’ve seen horrific examples of people storing large amounts of fat around their upper and mid back for example. Yeah, not a good look!
What a lot of people don’t understand is liposuction is removing the fat cells, it’s taking everything. If you haven’t already lost the majority of body-fat through diet and exercise (lifestyle changes), liposuction is a poor option that can come back to bite you.
It’s true there are no short-cuts or quick fixes when it comes to fat loss. Having said that, there are times when someone struggling with that last little bit of body fat could benefit from a cosmetic type procedure.
Before you jump to any conclusions on your own, I’ll always tell you to consult with a fitness professional who can give you an honest assessment of where you’re at.
Bottom line is you can stop starving yourself or trying to burn off enough calories on the treadmill or stairclimber to lose that last bit of body-fat. Not going to happen…
Spot reduction fails miserably with exercise. All the ab exercises in the world won’t do a thing to remove the layer of fat from your stomach. You do ab exercises to strengthen your core and draw your waistline in, period.
Doing burst training and following a clean diet of mostly Primal Blueprint or Paleo foods is your best bet to lose that last little bit of body fat, regardless of where it’s at.
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston fitness trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs.