The Sit Up

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Almost exclusively, when overweight folks want to lose their belly fat, they will naively begin doing as many sit ups as they can every day until they fail to see any positive results. If you fit this description:


First and foremost, you cannot spot reduce body fat!

Next, a good looking mid section is created in the kitchen, and not in the gym!

Get your diet right, quit eating foods with added sugars along with processed foods if you want to create a sexy stomach for yourself. Sit ups will help, but they will not get you there alone!

Sorry, it’s not my best picture.

Am I saying not to do sit ups?

Actually, no I am not saying that, however, I wanted to very clearly make the point that you have to have your diet in order to create visible abdominal muscles. This is a truth for everyone who desires visible abs. You cannot lose body fat in specific areas of your body by training that body part more often. If someone ever tells you that you’ll lose your gut by performing abdominal exercises, politely explain to him or her that it’s impossible to control where body fat comes off your body.

The most common reason for not having visible abs is simply that your body fat is not low enough, simply there is fat between your skin and muscle which is blurring or obscuring the lines and definition of your six pack. If you want visible abs, the ability to create them comes mostly down to consistency with a healthy diet and being in a caloric deficit which unfortunately means its much more of a mental battle and takes weeks, months and even years depending on the persons starting point. Unfortunately, abdominal fat is usually the last bit to come off and the first to come back.

If I were to desire targeting my abs only, then crunches are what I will do. However, I never do just one type of exercise to affect my abs and core.  While crunches target your ab muscles specifically, the problem with sit ups is the involvement of your hip flexors once you begin having difficulty in performing them. As soon as your abs become fatigued, your hip flexors take over so as you can see, sit ups are not actually the best exercise for your abs. The hip flexors are a strong group of muscles, and they will take over. The result is you end up working your hip flexors more than your abdominal muscles. A perfect example is the kind of sit-up where you put your feet under something that holds them down and then do a bunch of sit-ups with an almost flat back. Those mostly work your hip flexors. People who do Pilates run the same risk with the many flexion (forward-bending) exercises they do.


Most people see abs as the little hard boxes in the middle of their torso, but the muscle system is actually far more complex which is another reason why endless sit ups are not enough. Your abdominal wall is built of the rectus abdominis (the six-pack), internal and external obliques that run along the sides of your rectus abdominis, and the transverse abdominis which lies beneath the internal oblique. I also like to include the serratus anterior because, if you can see the muscles on the top of your rib cage, you will look like a bodybuilder.

These muscles help the torso flex, extend, and rotate. Most importantly, the muscles also help the torso stay stable against flexion, extension, and rotation. If you only train them to flex by doing endless crunches, you won’t activate each of the muscles in ways in which they can grow. Like any other muscle in the body, the abdominals need to be trained from various angles and dimensions so they can really pop!

Tips to Create Visible Abs

  1. The single most important aspect when it comes to getting your abs to show is having a low body fat percentage. Every single one of us have abdominal muscles that can be made more visible with training.Ultimately, if you want to see your abs, then you need to be at 10% body fat or less if you are male and 18% or less for women.Create a healthy lifestyle and quit doing all those useless fad diets. Stop performing endless sit ups and crunches. If you’ve got too much body fat you’re not going to realize visible results.
  2. Performing lots of ab work seems great. However, performing endless amounts of body weight crunches and sit ups will not build up much in the way of ab muscle and certainly won’t help drastically reduce body fat. While bodyweight exercises will help boost your metabolism and burn calories, there are many more effective exercises you can do instead.
  3. Excluding fitness professionals whose bodies are used to their constant daily routine of abdominal training, the average gym goer should understand that rest is just as important as training. Like your arms or legs, your abs need time to recover and grow. You can read more about the importance of exercise, nutrition and rest in my detailed article Fitness Triad.
  4.  The importance of losing body fat has already been presented to you. In order to lose body fat, you will need to be eating in a caloric deficit. Fad diet tactics to rapidly reduce weight such as liquid diets might get you a visible set of abs for maybe a couple days at best, but then you’ll pile weight back on. Instead, your nutrition should be tailored around a reduction of calories while continuing to eat healthy food. Eat nothing but whole, healthy foods and quit eating processed foods and those with added sugar!
  5. Learn to reduce your levels of stress by “making your world small”. Take control of your life instead of letting your life control you. When stressed, your body releases excess cortisol which hinders fat loss. Cortisol is catabolic, which means it can break down tissue. If you’re trying to get abs, you’ll want to put your body in an anabolic state. Avoiding stress as much as possible is vital. Sleep puts cortisol levels at their lowest during your slow wave sleep stage. Prioritizing a good night’s rest will help put your body in the best state it can be to lose weight and build muscle.
  6. If you often head out with the intention of having a few beers on the weekend but often ending up with a full weekend of excess drinking, your body is going to rebel against you. Just stop it. Whether you’re downing beers or sticking to wine or mixed drinks, alcohol is still a catastrophic hindrance in getting your abs to show. The excess calories aside, alcohol messes up your sleep pattern, shuts down fat burning and strains the liver. If you want to look ‘cut’, you’ll need to cut out the alcohol.
  7. Achieving muscle definition is never a quick and easy process as you might think it to be, especially if you are significantly overweight. Losing body fat is a hard thing that requires time and dedication to your own betterment. Our bodies do not want to make quick changes.  and due to the low amount of body fat you need to have visible abs, you might feel like they’re never going to show and give up. You have to have faith and trust the process as we have laid out in our free to all, David’s Way Plan. As long as you eat at a caloric deficit, put healthy foods in your body and perform the right kinds of exercise, you’ll see results. Just don’t expect to see them instantly.
  8. With every single fitness goal – whether it’s to build lots of mass, gain strength, slim down, compete in an event, or getting your abs to show, dedication is the single most important thing. You need to give a routine time to work. Don’t just switch from one gimmick to the next and expect to see a six pack.

    Good nutrition, hard work, effort put together with a well-structured routine is how you will get your abs to show!

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