I spend a good amount of time in the gym doing crunches and ab work. Are abdominal exercises the most effective way to lose my extra gut? It doesn't seem to be working -- Brian, 21, Austin, TX

The answer is no, that is not the best way to lose your “extra gut” as you put it. Do you really think a few crunches is all it takes to lose that gut? Come on, man, who you kidding?

First of all, there is no such thing as spot fat reduction. You must adjust your entire body fat composition at once in order to get leaner. You can’t pick and choose your spot of fat loss. You can’t just lose your gut. The most effective way to lose body fat is to first adjust your diet. Address your total caloric intake. Also address and regulate your carb, fat and protein intake. You should be reducing your carbs and fat and increase your proteins.

Core and ab work will strengthen and tighten your muscles but the only way to lose the extra fat is to do cardio and aerobic work. Exercise 4 days a week with 2 of those days dedicated to cardio. Running is a great way to burn calories if you are able to run. Start slow and run for time, not distance. It’s about how long you go, not how far.

In most instances, people gain the extra weight because they stop living an active, workout-based life. They get lazy and fat and instead of doing something, they do nothing and it gets worse. Then, all of a sudden they have a mid-life fat crisis and want to workout like gangbusters. Don’t let it get to that point. Do something now while you're young or it will be harder later.

If you smoke and drink and eat like a garbage disposal, then get used to being a slouch. Develop a healthy lifestyle that includes a decent diet and lots of movement based fun, hit the weights, get plenty of sleep and control the alcohol intake, and you will be fine.

Rick Scarpulla, the creator of The Ultimate Athlete Training Program, is a highly sought-after and renowned strength, speed and conditioning coach who works in developing top high school, college and professional athletes and programs throughout North America. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

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