Newsflash: Ab Workouts Won’t Give You a Flat Stomach.

Yesterday, I was hitting the gym and chatting it up with a new member. He was asking me about a few of the machines, including one that works the obliques (aka side abs). He was totally excited to try the machine out, and explained to me that he’s trying to get rid of his “love handles” and extra fat around his waist.

But alas, the belief that ab exercises will reduce love handles or create a flat stomach is one of the most pervasive exercise misconceptions out there.

Ab exercises build and strengthen abdominal muscles. They do not convert fat tissue into muscle. And they don’t shrink your midsection. In fact, it’s impossible to target parts of the body from which to lose weight.

If you have a belly, and embark on a comprehensive and ass-kicking ab workout, then you’ll likely develop much stronger and bigger ab muscles over time. But those ab muscles will still be hidden under a layer of fat – and even the smallest layer of fat will hide a six pack.

If you want a flat stomach, then you need to do three things:

  1. Cardiovascular exercise. Cardio burns calories during and after exercise. It will help reduce body fat.
  2. Comprehensive strength training. Muscle does wonders to boost the body’s metabolism, so put into practice a total body strength training program. Adding muscle will increase the number of calories your body burns each day.
  3. Proper nutrition. A clean, healthy diet will complement your exercise program and keep body fat to a minimum.

So, if you aspire to showcase a washboard stomach – or just flatten things out a bit – then know that you can crunch your way until kingdom come, and it won’t make a whole lot of difference. Instead, do cardio, strength training and eat right. Simple and easy? No. But it works.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. I think the real reason people think you need to do crunches is because they don’t realize that most of the other muscles on your body do get bigger as you strengthen them, but they usually don’t have a lot of fatty tissue over top. Crunches will strengthen your abdominal muscles, and it’s important because those core muscles will help you stay injury free. But, like you said, a layer of fat over them will make them disappear.

  2. I 100% agree, but when I do ab exercises, they feel tighter and make me feel better 🙂

  3. It’s funny when I tell people this and they don’t believe me. I’ll tell them “If anything, working on your abdominal muscles will make your midsection BIGGER, just like working out other muscles makes them bigger.” and they just look at me very puzzled.

  4. Question, so how does the body decide where to burn the fat from? I’m guessing it isn’t really localized as much as an over all burning of fat, is that correct? I also understand that fat tissue weighs less than muscle tissue, so watching your weight isn’t really a good way to determine your fitness, or reducing your waist line measurement. The information I’ve been exposed to indicates the percentage of fat in my body should be between 21.1% – 27%. This is for a person who is 62 years old. I’m getting closer to the 21.1% but not there yet. What do you know about body fat percentages for a healthy person?


  5. kennen blanning says:

    My sister just asked me about this same issue. Maybe she’ll believe you more than me.

  6. ive been on my highschool track team for 3 years, and i work just as hard, or harder than alot of the runners, exept in long distance, i workout 3 hours a day 6 days a week, and i havent been able to see any difference,…i need help!!

    • If your diet is too high in carbs, there is no amount of running you can do that will give you a six pack. Cut back on simple sugars (like soda!), grains, and starches and add protein. Also start counting calories consumed and expended calories from your workouts and maintain a caloric deficit until you get to a healthy body fat %.

      Also, genetics have a huge amount to do with physique, just like any other body part or trait. Your body may not look like somebody else because you don’t have the same genes they do. Just focus on maximizing what *you* have and be satisfied with an accomplishment that 99% of people never have.

  7. Gustavo Joris says:

    I would like to add that a good posture is essential for having a flat stomach as a poor one can loosen abdominal muscles up. Even if you work your abs out really hard, if you have a bad posture during the rest of your day, you won’t have as good results as you could.

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