Doing sit-ups doesn't guarantee a flat belly: what sport can really do for your figure

In our mind there is what Freud called the "ideal of the self", a condition that the person must fulfill to be considered valuable, as explained by the psychologist and psychotherapist Rodrigo Córdoba Sanz in his blog. Getting it gives us security. And looking at the gym for answers, leaving your skin (and the extra pounds) between those four walls, seems like a good idea. But how much can we get from physical exercise


"If the ability to improve was infinite, we could all be champions of a hundred meters smooth." With this statement by Dr. Juan Ramón Heredia, director of the International Institute of Physical Exercise and Health Sciences (Iicefs), many will just see their Olympic dreams thwarted, but it is not about being defeatist or throwing in the towel. We do not all have the same wickers to achieve certain objectives, but the scope for development exists, conditioned, to a greater or lesser extent, by certain factors (but it exists). The key lies in setting realistic goals and betting on constancy,

That's the good news. Our body has the ability to change, although perhaps not at the level that promiseus us the motivational messages of "if you want, can" or "nothing is impossible", or the photos of sculptural beings that invade Instagram. When it comes to our physique and the effect that crushing in the gym can have on it, perhaps the most important battle is the one we have to fight against our expectations: "If you have a tendency to a very high fat composition you will not go to the other and become a very thin person," says Heredia . Now, from there to using our constitution, our genetics, as an excuse not to try, there is an abyss. "You can improve and move on another spectrum," completes his argument,

Genetics matters, but you don't have to pay much heed

With these statements on the table, to think that that little belly or those extra miles are determined by our DNA and are impossible to eliminate sounds like an excuse for sloths and conformists. Our genetic content is neither unalterable nor rigid. It has been shown that the mitochondria of our cells have a great ability to change thanks to a vertebrating variable of the equation: habits. Genes warn of a trend, but not an inevitable outcome. "There are people who have a lot of predisposition to develop obesity, but who do or will not depend more on environmental and lifestyle components than on that genetic component." Following this example, the director of the Iicefs emphasizes the increase in obesity levels in Spain over the past three decades: "How much does a gene change in 30 years? Nothing; blame this on genetics is absurd.


We leave from an inherited base that gives us a profile, a somatotype, which is the raw material with which we must work. Experts agree to distinguish three types of body. Endomorphs, pear-shaped or apple-shaped, with a thick waist, large-proportioned bone structure, and short arms and legs, tend to accumulate fat easily, concentrating mostly on the lower abdomen, hips and thighs. The ectomorphs are thin and have long limbs, are under-provided with fat and their muscles are less developed. The chest is flat and the shoulders small. Mesomorphs, finally, are athletic by nature; with a strong torso, wide shoulders, thin waist, they usually accumulate little fat and have ease to develop muscles. Most people move in intermediate ranges and in a mixture of various morphtypes, although the one that prevails in your case can give you some clues to what you can expect or get to get. "There are intermediate points where we can be healthy and satisfied with our image," heredia.

"Don't put limits on the logic, set easy goals to achieve and, when you've achieved it, look for others that motivate you," recommends Andrés Fernández, Director of Training of the Spanish Federation of Directed Activities and Fitness (FEDA). Training, feeding and constancy are the pillars it enacts to achieve results, Explain that a teenager who starts a scheduled gym routine can gain up to 9 kilos of muscle mass in a year. And he says it from his own experience: he went from being an overweight child at the age of 14 to proclaiming himself champion of Spain of fitness at 23. His schoolmates laughed at him because he was fat and, as he tried to run and suffocated, he stopped eating. An eating disorder took him to the other end. He weighed 53 kilos. So his life took a turn. "I heard the music of a gym in a alley, pointed and my body changed radically. I started taking care of what I ate and I got out of that well. I went from being able to surround my humerus with my other hand to having a 37-centimeter bicep


The origin of the muscle and the importance of eating pasta


the belly in abs. Most people start exercising with a crystal line goal: to lose fat. It's the big challenge that both men and women face. The most problematic location varies in terms of sex for hormonal reasons. In the case of women, this annoying companion is located in the waist and legs (although with menopause also increases in the abdomen), cellulite being a widespread female concern. In them, in the abdominal area. With that in mind, we set out to do sit-ups. However, that fat is not possible to lose it in a localized way. According to Heredia, of the Iicefs, "if I work an area I will cause changes in its muscle structure, but there will not be a process of oxidation of that fat exclusively in that area. If so, chewing gum would miss jowl, but the body doesn't work that way." In other words, marking Cristiano Ronaldo's chocolate tablet involves more than doing 2,000 repetitions a day by crushing that muscle group. That can strengthen and harden, but it won't be visible if there's a layer of fat,

In this sense, the idea that michelines can be transformed by magic into muscle is widespread, confusing two processes that can interconnect or be parallel, but respond to different principles. The explanation is simple: two different types of cells, adipocytes, adipose tissue, and myocytes, are involved in muscle tissue. In short, it is to mix the bacon with the speed. "It's like pretending to have one heart cell transform into another of the skin, or a hair on a fingernail," heredia irons. Or as innocent as using the typical reducing sash or wrapping yourself in plastic as a sausage to get rid of that nasty float that's attached to your abdomen or waist. As FedA's Fernandez explains, "Fat is not butter, it does not melt; what these practices cause is that you sweat and lose fluid and salts"; a body thermoregulation process to which adipose tissue loss is not associated. This means that you don't burn fat faster by sweating more; However, excessive perspiration, when the basic electrolytes are excreted for the correct muscle contraction, causes the performance to decline and, therefore, the quality of the exercise.

Losing fat and getting the desired weight begins – and ends – by putting yourself in an energy deficit, that is, by ingesting fewer calories than we spend. To do this, Vicky Pons, head of the Department of Physiology and Nutrition at the High Performance Center (CAR) of Sant Cugat, recommends a diet low in sugars and with a fat amount of less than 30%.

Food is therefore essential, especially taking into account macronutrients. Glycogen is the gasoline of the muscle, from the glucose that the body obtains through carbohydrates, such as pasta, grits, cereals... Its accumulation, together with the water reserve, increases the muscle volume, so when defining it is important not to forget its impact on the process. During the exercise it produces the destruction of muscle fibers and the bricks that prop up the structure and even strengthen it are proteins, so its intake for hypertrophy is paramount. "Hydrates are the fuel and proteins that are responsible for the repair. That, well ordered and in progression, leads to increased strength performance and allows to achieve a higher volume muscle tissue".

The importance of trusting a personal trainer

The combination of food and training is the only effective formula to achieve modification of our body, but it is not an exact science and a detailed study of each individual is needed. Internet tables and decalogues are indicative, but will not fit specific needs . "Is it possible to get results without anyone to guide you? Yes, of course, you can roll the dice and you touch it, but if when we have a legal problem we turn to a lawyer, why in these cases we opt for a mobile app?", muses Fernández. The reality is that filling the petate and jumping into an adventure gym is a beginner's mistake, counseling is paramount to save effort striving and being precise.

The figure of the personal trainer is key, it provides a narrow degree of supervision and control through principles. "When you exercise you create a stimulus that generates a reaction and the muscle adapts. A coach can't know exactly the potential of the client, but the stimulus that needs to be activated for that process to be logical. Smashing a person is easy, but training them and having benefits is not," according to the director of EDF Training. For this there is a previous work with a battery of tests that yield information about how we move, acquired postures, physical condition, strength level, cardiovascular resistance and ranges of motion. From there the base is articulated with which to check the level of technique, the intensity that can withstand, etc. "It marks a minimal stimulus to progress, and with that I have enough data to know how the body is going to behave in the face of those workouts."

Not to no availe, for Vicky Pons there is an inescapable step: "You have to learn a good technique that protects the spine and shoulders, work in a disciplined way holding the joints, and for this is important the guideline of a professional". The exercise leads to muscle fatigue, necessary for results to be obtained, but it must be a "friend" fatigue, that is, if after the recovery period there is pain, there is something we are not doing well. "It is normal to have needles, but such discomforts have to disappear after days; when chronically established is that the fiscal year is not well planned," warns

In the gym, virtue is in the messura

In general, to modify the body composition must improve the strength, which will grant greater functionality to have less difficulty when executing any movement. Squats, dead weight, press, backgrounds and dominated are, for Andrés Fernández, a solid foundation on which to cement changes in our body. It is the axis on which any training must pivot, even though inertia is to opt for cardiovascular exercises, also practical and necessary. The latter are especially useful for improving muscle vascularity, getting the blood and providing oxygen to work well. "Without cardio I don't promote this development of capillaries," warns Pons.

It is therefore a question of finding the combination that works best for the needs and characteristics of each person. "What will tilt the ratio towards the purpose of reducing more fat is the impact you give it at the muscle level, and the one that the cardio entails is very smooth and maintained over time. Weights, however, facilitate anabolic pathways associated with maintaining and increasing muscle mass, and that will cause less weight to be lost but fat, so it is more favorable for changing body composition," he says Sergio Espinar. This sports dietitian-nutritionist advises performing weight exercises first and then aerobic activity, because otherwise it can cause "an interference phenomenon that negatively affects accommodations". Consider cardio a suitable supplement for those who wear a sedentary pace of life.

"In the middle is virtue," which the classics would say, seems to become the main maxim here. Not for nothing, the relationship between the dose of activity and the response that is achieved, that is, what we get with exercise, is summed up with the analogy of an inverted "u": with little quantity we are located at one of the lower ends and no changes will be perceived; but, in excess, the results will not be optimal either because it can cause joint damage, injuries of different caliber and affect even the immune system. "To think that the more, the better, is a mistake, it is not the most positive. Ideally, exercise two or three times a week with 48 or 72 hour separations," recalls Heredia.

and the secret of celebrities and those who manage to show off a ten body in just a few weeks? "I don't know miracles, just work, effort and Photoshop," he adds. The director of the Iicefs has been in touch with some of the protagonists of those campaigns and says that are unable to maintain the levels reached and resist the popular rebound effect, "The body faces these kinds of programs, which are not healthy, such as aggression and reacts in the opposite way, it generates a response to survive." Absolute dedication incompatible with a working day, restrictive and aggressive diets... Spin goes further and considers that behind "there are anabolics".

So can we get better? Yes, and much: effort and constancy are two demanding catalysts for that success. Is it the infinite margin? At all, and the relationship with exercise atrophies when a stereotype becomes longing. You will never have someone else's body, but it can be outperformed and reach its optimal version,