What is the best abdominal exercise to give me a flat stomach?

Wendy Batts

Unfortunately there is no such thing as spot reduction. So you can do crunches till the cows come home but unless you are burning more calories that you eat, your stomach isn’t going to get any flatter! Losing fat in any area is a result of burning more calories than you consume. The best way to achieve this calorie scenario is to incorporate a sensible reduced calorie diet and increase physical activity. Keep this calorie deficit going and your body will eventually use the fat around your midsection and give you that flatter stomach.

However, there’s nothing wrong with incorporating abdominal exercises into your routine to be sure those muscles stay nice and strong!

If you have belly fat, there is no single abdominal exercise that will achieve what you want. If a specific exercise was best, that would imply the exercise is able to specifically target the burning of belly fat. The ability to spot reduce does not exist in the body. All people lose fat the same way: by eating fewer calories than they burn. As a person loses fat, their genetics will determine where the fat comes from and when. So you can reduce your calories, do hours of ab work, and end up losing weight from your chest, face, or arms. There is no way to reliably predict where and when your body will drop the fat. Generally speaking, fat comes off all over the body and will eventually be removed from the area you don’t like. However, there is no non-surgical way to speed up that process.

You may have seen infomercials claiming a certain piece of exercise equipment is the best solution for gaining a flat attractive midsection. However, there is no piece of equipment or one type of exercise that strictly targets belly fat. Abdominal exercises primarily strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and low back. However, they do not guarantee that fat reduction will occur strictly in the belly region. An individual can develop strong and fit abdominal muscles but may still have a layer of body fat covering them. The one proven method for losing fat is to burn more calories than consumed on a daily basis, known as a caloric deficit. To be in a caloric deficit you should partake in a comprehensive exercise program (cardio training, strength training, and stretching) and eat a healthy diet.

There are no BEST exercises for abdominals.  The problem lies with belly fat.  Honestly if you could strip the fat away you would see you have a nice six pack.  What you really need to focus on is decreasing your body fat so you can see those abominal muscles.  Basically it is you burning more calories than you take it.  Bottom line to lose 1 pound of fat you must burn 3500 calories or have at least a deficit of 500 calories per day. 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
This may seem strange to hear, but the best exercises for a flat stomach may not be abdominal exercises per se.  Studies show that working your upper body and lower body may be the quickest path to washboard abs.  Try this: Stand with your back to a wall, arms at your sides. Turn one palm against the wall and push it into the wall (keep your arm straight). Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat.  After that, you can do leg lifts.  And if you’re looking for more ab exercises to get your midsection into mint condition, try these exercises on a ball (Note: the ball part is important.  Doing these exercises on a ball gives better results than if you do them on the floor or on a mat): Ab curl: Sit on the exercise ball, feet flat on the floor, knees hip-width apart and bent at a 90-degree angle.  Place your hands behind your head, elbows pointed out, and slowly roll back until your mid to lower back rests on the ball. Pull your ribs toward your pelvis to raise your upper back 3 to 4 inches off the ball. Hold for a second and then return your shoulders to the ball. Repeat 10 times.  With your exercise ball you can also build back muscles with the supine bridge: Sit on the ball with your knees hip-width apart and bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor. Roll, so that your shoulder blades are resting on the ball and your torso is suspended above -- and parallel to -- the floor. Like a bridge.  Tilt your pelvis, so that your bottom dips toward.
Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT

Push backs from the dining table are the best exercises for “flattening” the stomach. In other words, you can’t spot reduce - no exercise can target losing fat from a particular area. You can only decrease your fat stores overall by eating fewer calories than you burn until the fat layer covering your stomach musculature finally meets with your approval. As you maintain a calorie deficit (eating less than you burn), body fat will leave from whatever area your body was genetically programmed to draw it from. As a rule of thumb, the last place on is the first place off. Therefore, you must stay in a calorie deficit and at some point the body fat will begin to leave the stomach area. Some people lose fat from their stomach area first and for others it may be later during the weight loss process before a significant amount of fat is removed from that area.

 All that said, exercising the abdominal muscles can add muscle so that when you lose the fat in this area your stomach area will have more pronounced lines or muscle definition. Larger muscles often help accentuate the body’s natural contours. In the case of the abdominals, it’s referred to as a six-pack.

And believe it or not everyone already has one – it’s just covered up on most.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.