Marianne Kane from

It seems like each time I walk into the gym, I see people doing ab exercises.  Situps, crunches, hanging leg raises, etc.  Obviously, a good set of abdominal muscles is extremely important to our self-image since that’s what all of the fitness magazine models have.  We all seem to want to look like Marianne Kane or Greg Plitt, but how do we do that?  And why don’t our ten sets of crunches seem to be working?  It makes sense that if you want a more defined arm, you work out arms.  So, if you want a six pack, you should do a lot of ab exercises, right?

Well, the interesting thing is that working out abs directly without making the rest of the body a greater focus is counter-productive to actually getting abs.  The idea that working out a specific body part results in losing fat on that specific body part is physiologically impossible.  The body loses and gains fat as an entire body system.  Fat is simply energy storage, and your body has evenly distributed out its energy storage reserves.  You can do thousands of sit ups, but you won’t lose any more fat there than on your hips, thighs, and buttocks.

Greg Plitt

On the other hand, muscle building is localized.  So, if you only work out your arms, then only your arms will grow.  If you only work out your legs, then only your legs will grow.

Since fat stores are systemic (all-body) and muscle building is localized (body part specific), then the sets of crunches lead to almost no whole-body fat loss, but they also lead to muscle building of the abdominal muscles.  As a result, your mid-section will actually grow!  More muscle mass built under the same amount of fat mass will mean a greater waist circumference.

The solution comes in realizing the real problem.  The real problem is that you have too much fat mass all over your body, and since you have some of that whole-body fat mass on your abs, you can’t see your abdominal muscles.  The real solution is to work to lose as much whole-body fat as it takes to start seeing your abs.  Since adding a pound of muscle results in increasing your metabolism by 35 to 50 calories per day, you’re going to have to try to gain full-body muscle in order to get a fast metabolism.  Becoming strong leads to an increased metabolism, an increased metabolism leads to fat loss, and fat loss leads to that coveted six pack.

Focus on becoming strong, and the abs will come.