Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

If your “all crunches, all the time” workout regimen isn’t melting away that spare tire, you aren’t alone. Though your abs may feel the burn, exercising specific muscle groups won’t necessarily trim down those hotspots. Here’s why: When we lose weight, fat is broken down and used as fuel. But, when the body’s hankerin’ for more fat-based fuel, it can be taken from anywhere on the body.

If aiming to build strength in the core, crunches could be a part of the solution, but varying core exercises is a better bet. Interval training may also help burn fat faster than a standard one-pace cardio workout, as could shorter high-intensity bouts of cardio. Eating lean proteins combined with a reasonable quantity of carbs (say goodbye to the bottomless pasta bowls) is also key to getting rid of fat around the midsection.

The Takeaway: No need to cut out crunches altogether— they could help build core strength— but they won’t get rid of belly fat any faster than strength training anywhere else on the body. Focus on healthy diet and maintaining an exercise plan for all-over fat loss.

Get Functional

Guest writer Mike Donavanik argues we should focus on functional strength at the gym. Put down the Ab Roller and Shake Weight!

Fun Fact:

Back injuries are especially common during winter, and are second only to the common cold in causes for missed work. Strengthening core muscles could help prevent the back pain, though.