For many people, getting rid of their love handles, or belly fat, is the hardest weight loss to achieve. And there's a good reason for that.
"Love handles are simply excess abdominal fat that have been given a nickname, and it can be quite challenging to get rid of for some," says Larissa Wilson, a personal trainer in Saskatoon. "Deposits of fat in the body are usually determined by body type and genetics, and unfortunately one cannot spot-reduce body fat in the body."
So despite your best efforts, it's impossible to go to the gym and work directly on getting the flab that's hanging around your tummy and above your butt — but doesn't mean you should give up entirely.
Wilson, who is also a certified exercise physiologist, reiterates the importance of reducing the amount of calories you eat to the amount of calories you burn when trying to lose weight.
"Targeting abdominal muscles with exercises will not specifically reduce body fat; that is the control of calorie deficits in the body where fat is metabolized as energy."
To that end, she recommends a combination of diet, rest, reduced stress levels, exercise, and varying the intensity of exercise you do as ways to help stave off fat deposits in the body.
The exercises below are meant to spot train the muscles surrounding the area of the body that has fat deposits — around the lower mid-section and lower back, which yes, are known as love handles. These exercises should be performed three to four days a week, with at least one day rest in between.
See the exercises in the slideshow below:
1. Russian Twist
Routine: The Russian Twist targets the obliques, transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, and multifidus. This exercise can be done with or without weight, depending on the difficulty level you are trying to achieve. Sit on glutes with feet raised up, then twist side to side with or without a weight (like a medicine ball).
Doing 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions will get a good burn in the muscles and a great workout. Use weight to increase difficulty.
2. Standing Oblique Crunch
Routine: The Standing Oblique Crunch targets the obliques, transverse abdominus, multifidus, and rectus abdominus. Being that this is a standing exercise, it makes your muscles activate to stabilize the body when balancing on one foot to lift the leg to crunch.
Depending on the difficulty level you wish to achieve, lift one leg and keep it lifted throughout 10-20 repetitions, then switch sides. If you wish the difficulty level to be lower, tap the lifting foot down between repetitions. Do 3 sets on each side.
Routine: Burpees are a combination cardio/strengthening exercise. This exercise targets the triceps, shoulders, upper back, abdominals and legs. Therefore, this is considered a full-body exercise and can be very beneficial to tone up all over. The more you focus on proper form and technique, the more your muscles will benefit from this exercise.
Do 10-20 repetitions and 3 sets. Increase difficulty by doing more repetitions with less rest in between sets.
4. Scissors Abdominal Exercise
Routine: The Scissor Exercise targets all the stabilizing muscles of the trunk and activates the leg muscles to produce movement to challenge the core. In the video, the legs cross over each other (make sure to alternate legs that cross on top), and a second option for the exercise is legs alternating going straight up and down.
Both exercises can challenge the body and try doing 10-20 repetitions and 3 sets.
5. Plank and Side Plank
Routine: The Plank is a good stand-by to challenge the body's stability centres. Just initiating contraction of the muscles of the core can cause the body to get muscle benefits, and to challenge the body, even more movement can be added such as arm, leg, and/or hip movement to challenge the core. The basic plank requires a stable position to be maintained of the body, the hips low and in line with the shoulders, and the subject to breathe while holding the contraction. The side plank requires balancing on one forearm and shoulder and the feet to be stacked to keep the body in line.
Both exercises can be held 15-30 seconds and repeated 3 time to achieve a benefit for the muscles.
6. Plank Stability on Exercise Ball
Routine: Now a variation of the Plank is on the stability ball. The stability ball is a wonderful tool to activate the core stability muscles and can add an extra challenge and difficulty to an already difficult exercise. To challenge the body even more, a leg or arm can be raised up to cause the body to have to stabilize even more. Remember to work out at your level as to not cause injury. Use the ball as a tool to achieve a greater challenge when you are ready.
Perform 10-20 repetitions and 3 sets.
Routine: The Bridge is a fantastic exercise to strengthen the lower back muscles, glutes, and core muscles. Squeezing and contracting these muscles when raising the hips off the floor can help increase metabolism and give the muscles a good burn so that those muscles targeted can become more toned.
Perform 10-20 repetitions of this exercise and 3 sets. To increase difficulty, raise on leg and perform all sets on one side and then switch sides.
8. 4-Point Balance Exercise
Routine: The 4-Point Balance Exercise targets all the muscles of the core plus the glutes, legs, and arms. When the muscles of the core are contracted and help in a position it help with toning and stabilizing. It's important to add stability exercises to workouts because struggling to stabilize activates more muscle groups and therefore burns more calories. Make sure to alternate opposite arm and opposite leg throughout the workout.
Perform 10-20 repetitions and 3 sets.