Question: I want to shed a few lbs. before summer and trim away the fat around my stomach. Is it safe to perform sit-ups and crunches every day in an effort to accomplish my goals?

Answer: Unfortunately, you're asking the wrong question. But the origin for the question is great! You could do a million sit-ups and still be left with accumulated fat around your abdominal area. There is no such thing as spot reduction (at least the research is incredibly sparse and questionable in this area); stated differently, you can't target a specific area, work it to death, and then expect to see that area's fat magically slip away.

What you should do instead: (1) eat better, and consume calories less excessively. Moderation is key. (Perhaps you're already doing this. I don't know.) (2) Incorporate weight training and conditioning into your routine. Many people think that steady state running -- or fill in your exercise of choice -- is the best way to accomplish "trimming". Is it a good means by which to do so? Yes. Is it the best? No. With only steady state exercise, you are apt to lose valuable muscle. Muscle is incredibly important for metabolism. You need it! And, muscle makes the body look more proportional and more fit. It is suggested by us, and a plethora of other personal trainers and researchers, that you add weights to your aerobic work.

My typical routine:
20-ish minutes of strength work. Depending on the day, week, and month, this could look like a number of things. This week, I am performing 5 sets x 5 reps of the "big lifts" -- the Deadlift, Bench Press, Squat, and Overhead Press.

20-30 minutes of conditioning work. The design targets muscles used in the above strength routine. However, with this portion of the work, the goal is to elevate the heart rate throughout the duration. If I were to have performed Deadlifts, above, a conditioning workout might look like this:
(5 Rounds)
15 Pull-ups
25 45# Plate Squat Presses
800-meter Run

This hits the posterior muscles of the body, which the Deadlift nailed, and it elevates the HR throughout. I am torching calories throughout the workout, and due to a cool little acronym called EPOC (Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), I am burning calories throughout the day as my body attempts to return itself to homeostasis, or baseline.

I realize I just gave you *a lot* of information, but just know this: lifting weights is your friend. Aerobic training is your friend. Combining weights and conditioning is your best friend!

So there your have it! Now, #dowork in the kitchen and in the weight room!

P.S. Can you do sit-ups every day? Surprisingly, you can do abs more regularly than most muscle groups! Would I do them every day? No. However, this area of the body has been shown to withstand multiple bouts of weekly work and it keeps on ticking! (If you have incredibly sore abs, I would stay away from direct work, though.)

Jason Harle