Crunch myth that sit-ups enlarge abdomen

Q and A

September 23, 2005|By Gailor Large | Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

I'd like to flatten my belly, but I was always told that doing sit-ups builds the stomach muscles, so that area stays kind of thick. I want mine to be perfectly flat (no flab, and no extra muscle). What's the best way to achieve this?

First, let's dispel this sit-up myth. Crunches will not bulk up your abdominal region. The opposite is true. Working your ab muscles will only firm up the area, making it appear trimmer.

Combine crunches with calorie-burning cardio (to work off the layer of fat over the muscles) and you've got the perfect one-two punch for washboard abs.

Merritt Athletic Clubs in Canton and Towson have classes called "Absolute Abs," and Ladies Total Fitness in Bel Air has a "Butts and Guts" class to target those problem areas. You can also call your neighborhood gym - many now offer classes that focus on the abs.

Are candies and gum designed especially for athletes worth the money? I've seen them at the checkout lines of sports shops lately. Do they really boost performance? Ten years ago who would have guessed athletes would be popping a handful of jelly beans to give them that extra edge? But with sporting goods stores stocked with food like Jelly Belly's Sports Beans, Quench Gum and Snickers Marathon Bars, exercise candy can officially be called a trend.

While these treats can have added benefits like electrolytes, vitamins, potassium or soy, they usually have a lot of added sugar, too.

Bottom line: simple carbs should not be fueling your workouts. It's always best to get your energy from natural foods. Save the candy for the movies.

To learn more, visit the Web site AmericaOnTheMove.org.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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