There are many exercises you can do to lose weight both at home and the gym. What about sit-ups, are they good to lose weight and belly fat?
Sit-ups are a classic bodyweight exercise that mainly focuses your ab muscles. Since they do make you move more they technically help you lose weight.
You can do sit-ups to build abs but this exercise is not great for losing a lot of weight and/or belly fat. There are a lot of workouts that can help you more with this.
Do sit-ups help you lose belly fat?
The way you lose weight in a specific area, for example your belly, is not by doing a special workout.
You don’t really have a choice in what area you will lose fat first. Sit-ups will help you work your ab muscles. This can make you feel a sensation in your abdominal area that some people call a “burn”.
However, it’s not because the muscles of a specific area of your body are working that the energy to fuel them comes from that area.
If you already have a lot fat percentage sit-ups can make your abs stand out more which may give the impression that you lost belly fat.
Technically sit-ups do help you lose a little belly fat because this exercise does slightly increase the amount of calories you burn. The thing is that sit-ups are not a great calorie burning exercise compared to many other workouts.
The question then becomes how good or bad sit-ups are compared to other workouts.
Cardio versus HIIT versus Weight Lifting
All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting. In terms of what parts of your body they impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.
Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.
The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight is slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. One or the other can be better depending on the situation.
Sit-ups are mainly a muscle-building exercise focused on your ab muscles. You do get your heart beating to pump oxygen but it’s only a tiny amount compared to something like running.
Weight lifting helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor of how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen, you lose some weight and you start burning less calories with the same habits.
Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. A certain amount of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same amount of fat. This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the amount of calories you burn 24/7.
Sit-ups can help you build some extra ab muscles. The thing is that your ab muscles are not that big compared to a muscle group like your legs. That means you have to do a lot of sit-ups to get the same amount of muscle mass increase as something like squats.
Sit-ups are one of the worst exercises you can do if you want to lose a lot of weight.
Cardio and HIIT
Cardio and HIIT help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.
This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.
HIIT is basically cardio but faster. So depending on your tempo you are doing one or the other. The higher the intensity of the exercise you are doing, the more calories you burn.
HIIT can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stopped the exercise.
Do this for long term weight loss
So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.
For long term weight loss weight lifting can be a lot more time and effort efficient.
You can also do both. The extra muscle will help you get more out of your cardio workout.
Often people forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is. It is a lot easier to stick to a workout plan if you like the exercises you are doing.
Sit-ups are better than no exercise but if you want to lose weight and body fat it is recommended to find other exercises.
How many sit-ups do you have to do to lose weight?
You have to keep in mind that the amount of calories burned by exercising depends from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels,… influence it.
That being said, there are still approximations for how many calories you can burn doing sit-ups. You can also see the calories burned for different kinds of exercises to see how all the workouts compare.
The following numbers are an estimation for a 155-pound person doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1).
- Calisthenics (moderate): 167 calories
- Calisthenics (vigorous): 298 calories
- Water Aerobics: 149 calories
- Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
- Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
- Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
- Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
- Jumping rope: 372 calories
- Swimming (breaststroke): 372 calories
The thing with these numbers is also that the more intense and the longer you do your exercise, the more calories you will burn. These measurements are great to get an estimation but you can’t rely on them being the exact same for you.
You can check out the specific article on how many calories sit-ups burn for different time intervals, repetitions, and bodyweights.
Calisthenics is a different name for bodyweight exercises that have the goal of building muscle. Sit-ups don’t burn a lot of calories, even for a calisthenics exercise.
30 minutes of sit-ups will lean towards 167 calories burned. On top of that, you won’t build that much muscle mass. Sit-ups are not great for losing weight.
How long does it take to see results from sit-ups?
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from sit-ups will also depend on the amount of calories in your diet.
One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.
30 minutes of sit-ups a day could help you burn an extra 1670 calories in 10 days which is about 0.48 pounds of body fat. 30 days 5010 calories and so on…
Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.
Should you do sit-ups for weight loss?
If you want a time-efficient weight loss workout, sit-ups are not for you. They don’t burn a lot of calories and you can’t really “target” belly fat.
The only reasons to do sit-ups are to strengthen your ab muscles and make them stand out more. To build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 sit-ups depending on how advanced you are.
Keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.
Alternative exercise for weight loss
The right muscle building exercises are great for long-term weight loss. Here are some alternatives to sit-ups that will help you lose more weight:
- Shoulder presses
- Bench presses
Combining weight lifting 2-3 times a week with some cardio workouts in between will make for a great weight loss workout routine.