Belly fat can be difficult to target, but with the right tools, you can get rid of excess fat and strengthen your core.
There are a few major causes of excess belly fat. Here are the top three reasons we tend to gain weight in the midsection:
You can do all of the ab exercises in the world, but if your diet consists of processed, high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, you’ll never be able to see the strong muscles hidden beneath a layer of fat.
Stress causes the activation of our fight-or-flight response and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is too high for too long, it can increase the amount of visceral fat you hold in your belly. (1)
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Leading a sedentary lifestyle directly contributes to the storage of visceral fat in the belly. (2)
The first step to getting rid of excess belly fat is to remove processed and unhealthy foods, reduce stress, and replace inactivity with exercise. Easier said than done, we know, but these are key steps.
Next, you’ll need to strengthen the muscles of your midsection to help tone your waist and burn more fat and calories while at rest. Your midsection is made up of more than just the well-known six-pack muscle (the rectus abdominis), and strengthening all of the muscles around your waistline is important for getting rid of excess belly fat.
Here are the core muscles you’ll want to focus on: (3)
- Internal and External Obliques
The main muscles for targeting love handles run down the sides of the abdomen. They are vital for movements like twisting.
- The Pelvic Floor
These deep muscles span the area underneath the pelvis, and can be engaged by practicing an exercise commonly known as “Kegels”.
- Transverse Abdominis
These are the deepest abdominal muscles, which are also known as the “corset” of the core.
Thin muscles that run up and down the length of the spine, just next to the midline, which help to stabilize the joints.
- Erector Spinae
These muscles run the length of the spine and are important for straightening and rotating the back.
A sheet of muscle that rests on the bottom of the thoracic cavity, right below the lungs.
While focusing on all of these muscles at once may seem a little bit overwhelming, don’t worry – these exercises target most of these muscles at the same time.
Use this workout up to 3-4x per week to strengthen your core and target stubborn belly fat.
The Squeeze-Into-Your-Jeans Workout
Forearm Plank Hip Dip | 30 sec
This exercise strengthens all of the muscles of the torso, targeting the obliques and slimming the sides of the waist.
- Lie down on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms. Tuck your toes under and engage your abs.
- Lift your hips so that they are in line with your shoulders. Keep your legs, glutes, and belly engaged.
- Take an inhale, then exhale to slowly tap your right hip down towards the right side of your mat.
- Inhale to lift your hips back up to center and then exhale to slowly tap your left hip down towards the left side of your mat.
- Continue going side to side for 30 seconds.
: If you begin to feel low back strain, lower down to your knees.
Side Forearm Plank with Reach Through | 10 reps per side
This exercise targets the obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae.
- Lie on your right side and prop yourself up onto your right forearm, so that it runs parallel to the top of your mat. Stack your legs and flex your feet.
- Inhale to lift your left hip up towards the sky. Reach your left arm up and squeeze your glutes and engage your abs.
- Take a deep inhale, then exhale to reach your left hand under your torso to come into a twist. Inhale to reach your hand back up towards the sky.
- Repeat for 10 reps, then switch sides.
Bicycles | 10 reps per side
This exercise strengthens the obliques and transverse abdominis.
- Lie on your back and place your hands behind your head.
- Pick your feet up off the mat and parallel your thighs to the mat. Engage your abs to press your lower back into the mat. Keep your elbows wide and lift your shoulders up off the ground to come into a crunch position.
- Take an inhale, then exhale to twist right. Hug your right knee in towards your chest as you straighten your left leg out and up. Tap your left elbow to your right thigh.
- Inhale to come back to center, then exhale to switch sides. Continue alternating for a total of 10 reps per side.
Oblique Crunches | 10 reps per side
This exercise targets the obliques to tone and strengthen.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.
- Straighten your left leg down the mat. Then cross your right knee over your left so that your hips are twisted but your back is still flat.
- Support your head with your hands and keep your elbows out wide.
- Take an inhale, then exhale to crunch up. You should feel your right side working. Inhale to lower your shoulders back down, then repeat for a total of 10 reps. Switch sides.
Mountain Climbers | 30 sec
This exercise not only sculpts the torso, but it also gets your heart rate up, burning calories and belly fat.
- Start in a pushup position, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists.
- Inhale, then exhale to bring your right knee in towards your chest. Squeeze your abs.
- Inhale to step the foot back in line with your left foot, then exhale to bring in your left knee.
- Continue alternating legs at a rapid pace for 30 seconds.
: If it feels too challenging or you feel your low back straining, modify by placing your hands on a chair or the wall.
Side Plank with Knee Drive | 8 reps per side
This exercise strengthens the obliques and also gets the heart rate up to burn fat.
- Begin in a pushup position with your abs engaged.
- Move your left hand to the center, then spin your heels down to the left as you lift your right arm towards the sky, coming into a side plank.
- Inhale, then exhale to pick up your left foot and bend the knee, driving it forward. Inhale to step the foot back.
- Repeat for a total of eight reps, then switch sides.
Russian Twists | 12 reps
This exercise strengthens nearly all the core muscles, from your obliques to your erector spinae.
- Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.
- Bring your palms to touch in front of your chest and point your elbows out to the sides. Lean your torso back a couple of inches and keep a long spine by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Engage your abs and pick your feet to bring your shins parallel to the ground.
- Take an inhale and then as you exhale, twist your torso to the right. Inhale to come back to center, then exhale to twist to the left.
- Continue twisting side to side for a total of 12 repetitions.
: If you feel your lower back hurting or if your shoulders begin to round forward, modify by keeping your heels on the ground.
(Your Next Workout: 7 Yoga Poses to Naturally Lower Cortisol and Lose Belly Fat, Too!)