Do Sit-Ups Burn Belly Fat? 4 Facts You Really Need to Know

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: November 25, 2023
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Although I think I'm at my peak fitness performance, my fitness journey hasn't always been smooth, and my results were laughable when I started.

My primary motivation was losing belly fat, and I spent weeks browsing through research papers and talking to my dietician to see if sit-ups can aid in burning belly fat.

I have composed this piece to share the knowledge I obtained and my experience with sit-ups and belly fats.

Keep on reading to see if sit-ups are an ideal workout to attain this goal.

Quick Summary

  • Sit-ups primarily strengthen core muscles but do not directly burn belly fat.
  • The effectiveness of sit-ups in burning calories and reducing belly fat is limited, as they don't target fat loss in specific areas.
  • A moderate intensity 10-minute sit-up session can burn up to 60 calories, as noted by fitness coach Steven Langdon.
  • In my professional opinion, while sit-ups are beneficial for core strengthening, they should be part of a broader fitness and diet plan for effective fat loss.

Which Muscles Do Sit-Ups Work On?

Group of women performing sit ups

I've found that sit-ups work the hip flexors, rectus abdominis (six-pack abs), obliques (side abs), transverse abdominis (deep core), and lower back.

Different ab curl variations can also target your chest and neck, engaging these areas as you lift your torso. Ab curls, compared to crunches or static exercises, engage more muscles thanks to their broader range of motion.

In my experience, sit-ups are excellent for building a stronger core and enhancing athletic performance. However, they're not as effective for significant calorie burning or substantial reduction in body fat or weight.

Will Sit-Ups Help Reduce Belly Fat?

As a fitness trainer, I can tell you that ab curls won't reduce belly fat. They're great for strengthening your core, though.

Let's bust a myth: targeted fat loss in specific areas isn't possible. Our bodies just don't work that way. You can't choose where to lose fat. To slim down or get a flatter belly, you need to reduce fat overall.

This involves a combination of a consistent workout routine, the intensity of your exercises, a balanced diet, and cutting down on calories.

While ab curls and similar exercises tone your abs, they don't directly burn the fat in that area. They do improve the appearance of your belly, but they don't specifically target the fat there.

If you enjoy sit-ups, definitely include them in your fitness regimen, but remember, they're not the primary tool for fat burning.

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4 Benefits of Sit-ups and Core Workouts

Man doing sit ups close up image

Sit-ups are simple and efficient core exercises that are usually applied in workout regimens. The benefits of sit-ups and other core workouts are:

1. Core Strength

Core strength is among the most potent motivators for performing sit-ups. According to Mayo Clinic, you may reduce the likelihood of back injury and pain by strengthening, toning, and tightening your core [1].

2. Improves Body Flexibility And Control

Sit-ups induce motion in the backbone, which softens the spinal column and hips and makes them flexible.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it enhances blood flow, raises energy levels, and improves muscular mobility by alleviating stress, tension, and stiffness [2].

3. Athletic Performance

A man in a starting position for running

Athletes with strong core muscle tissue have increased physical endurance and power.

A strong core enables you to maintain proper posture, balance, and form while participating in any exercise or sport. You'll also be less prone to being fatigued.

4. Burns Calories

I've observed that sit-ups, due to their impact on various body areas, burn calories quicker than many other equipment-free workouts for losing belly fat.

The calories you burn doing sit-ups depend on factors like age, gender, body weight, and how intensely you perform the activity. Plus, the more muscle you build, the more calories you'll burn.

"Doing sit-ups at a moderate intensity for 10 minutes without rest burns as much as 60 calories."

- Steven Langdon, fitness coach

Any training, however, is helpful to your physical body. And, as with any other workout, the sole reason you should do ab curls for weight loss is to burn calories and maybe build muscle, resulting in a greater total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

Comparison with Other Core Strengthening Exercises

While sit-ups are a popular core exercise, there are alternative exercises that offer more comprehensive benefits for overall core health.

  • Planks, for instance, engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting stability and strength across the abdomen, lower back, and shoulders. Unlike sit-ups, planks reduce the risk of lower back strain.
  • Incorporating exercises like bicycle crunches targets obliques and enhances rotational stability, crucial for functional movements.
  • Deadlifts and squats, though not solely core exercises, demand significant core engagement for stabilization, contributing to overall strength.
  • Russian twists effectively work the obliques, fostering a well-rounded core.
  • Pilates exercises, such as the pelvic tilt, emphasize controlled movements, enhancing core endurance and flexibility.

Unlike sit-ups, these alternatives minimize strain on the spine, reducing the risk of injury.

The Right Way To Lose Visceral Fat

A woman wrapping herself with measuring tape

High-intensity interval training and a balanced diet are the best strategies to reduce body fat and acquire a flat tummy.

Consider doing the following if you want to lose weight and burn more belly fats rapidly:

That’s why it’s best to pair your sit-up workout with the following recommended fat-burners:

FAQs

Will Sit-Ups Get Rid Of Belly Fat?

No, sit-ups will not get rid of belly fat. Instead, they tighten your core and work on your abdominal muscles.

What Abdominal Exercise Program Burns The Most Belly Fat?

The abdominal exercise that burns the most belly fat is crunches.

Will 20 Sit-Ups A Day Tone My Stomach?

No, 20 sit-ups a day won't tone your stomach but will increase your core strength.

Why Is Belly Fat The Last To Go?

Belly fat is the last to go because of its alpha receptors, which are stubborn to eliminate.

What Foods Cause The Most Stomach Fat?

The foods that cause the most stomach fat are sugary food and beverages.


References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19812508/
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