People with belly fat are at risk for serious health problems. It is a predictor for diseases such as certain cancers, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes. Why is extra weight around your middle such a problem? One reason comes from its location close to your organs and your portal vein.
The belly fat sends free fatty acids into this vein, where they eventually enter your bloodstream. So, people with higher belly fat have more elevated LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately, despite its detrimental effect on your health, belly fat can be one of the hardest types of fat to lose.
If you have tried to lose belly fat in the past, you probably already know that weight loss alone doesn’t completely get rid of it. On the other hand, doing hours of continuous targeted exercises—like crunches or situps —will also fail to burn fat across the abdomen completely.
Stomach fat —otherwise known as visceral fat—is stubborn. But it’s not impossible to lose. In this article, we will cover how to lose belly fat. The key is to combine the most effective ways of exercising with proper nutrition.
Below we’ll share 18 of the best exercises to lose belly fat. We’ll start with the most effective ones. Each of these exercises is useful individually, but what helps lose belly fat quickly is to combine several of them. We’ll also share some additional advice that will get you looking great in no time!
1. Cardio Exercise
Biking, swimming, running, or rowing machine—pick your favorite way to get your body moving and your heart pumping! Cardio exercises are considered uber effective in losing weight, boosting your calorie burn, and promoting fat loss around the belly. Make sure you aim for at least 45 minutes of movement per session. The reason? For the first 20 minutes, your body relies on glycogen for fuel. The energy reserve needed past that time comes from fat stores.
Because visceral fat is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat, it is your body’s go-to for energy. To burn it, make sure you keep your major muscle groups involved and keep up the sweat! If cardio isn’t part of your lifestyle now, help us help YOU by choosing something FUN—you’re more likely to stick with it if it’s something you look forward to doing!
Weight-bearing exercise, like running, is great when you want to lose fats in the belly — and beyond!
Running torches tons of calories improves bone health, reduces your risk for diabetes, and can lower cholesterol levels. Over time, walking, jogging, and running aid in weight loss while adding tone to your entire body, including your abdominal muscles, legs, and arms.
You can accomplish a lot in just 30-45 minutes a day! Challenge yourself to go at a good pace (maybe even tossing around a medicine ball as you walk.) Aim to increase your heart rate. On a rainy day, you can certainly hit the treadmill to get similar benefits.
3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT stands for “High-Intensity Interval Training.” And research published in the Journal of Obesity says it’s the most effective form of exercise when it comes to dropping belly fat! (1)
HIIT has one goal: to help us move our bodies with maximum effort for short bursts. The secret is alternating with another exercise that’s not quite as intense in between. Known for its fat-blasting magic, HIIT is the best way to boost cardio exercises into the fat-burning territory. It’s no surprise many fitness experts refer to HIIT as the best belly fat and fat loss training program.
Not sure where to start? Try going for a walk at a slow pace, and every five minutes run as fast as you can for 1 minute, getting your heart rate pumping. Repeat the intervals several times.
4. Jumping Jacks
You may be surprised to learn that one of the most classic exercise moves does wonders for stomach fat. This age-old move is an excellent conditioning move that also works to reduce fat.
Set a goal to perform 20 jumping jacks at least three times per week. Keep the intensity up, and pretty soon, you’ll see toned muscles—and a slimmer waistline.
5. Strength Train
Lifting weights are an excellent way to retain bone health, sculpt muscles, and raise your resting metabolic rate. It’s also useful in reducing your body fat, especially around your belly.
Gym classes tend to offer a wide variety of strength training classes, or you can search online if you prefer your living room and dumbbells or a medicine ball to the gym.
Aim to include at least 10-15 reps targeting the major muscle groups of the arms, legs, core, and back, twice weekly.
The burpee is a great belly fat exercise. It’s a full-body movement that’ll increase your blood flow, get your heart pumping, and tone your body.
Burpees are an explosive workout with a combination of movements that takes you from the push-up position to a high jump. They are fast-tempo and gets you into the fat-burning zone fast while hitting thighs, abs, and arms.
One study shows ten fast-tempo burpees are equivalent to a 30-second sprint in boosting metabolism (1). If you are short on time, go for burpees to get in shape.
How to do the burpees:
Start in the standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Move to the push-up position by placing your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart and extend your legs backward.
Correct your posture and do a push-up. Quickly return to the standing position then jump up towards the ceiling in a single motion. Complete 10 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
7. Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is a wildly popular calorie-torching exercise for both men and women. To propel and control the momentum of the ‘bell’ and its gravity, the body uses all your core muscles for stability and support. What’s more, it’s an excellent workout for your arms, glutes, hips, hamstrings, and even your lats.
It’s a full-body exercise with tremendous toning benefits. It destroys not only the dangerous fat layer of visceral fat but also your overall excess body fat.
How to do the kettlebell swings:
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell in front of you with both hands at arm’s length. Keeping a slight bend in your knees, hinge at the hip and shift your body weight into heels. Brace your ab muscles and contract the glutes.
In one motion, push your hips forwards and swing your kettlebell upward to the chest height. Let the bell swing back between your legs and repeat.
8. Mountain Climbers
If you love burpees but want something that’s more tummy focused to melt off your belly fat, there is the Mountain Climber.
Mountain Climbers are a fast-paced, dynamic plank that gets your heart pumping and intensely engages your abdominal muscles. Thankfully, this also translates to belly fat burning and helps you transform your tummy from flab to flat.
It’s a move where you hold your upper body still while you move your legs rigorously in the climbing motion. It works your abs, core, glutes, hamstrings, and the hips.
How to do the mountain climbers:
Start in the high-plank position with your hands directly under the shoulders. Form a straight line from head to toe while bracing your core and squeezing your glutes. Drive your left knee into your chest as fast as you can, then return. Switch sides and continue to complete your set.
9. Overhead Medicine Ball Slams
Overhead Medicine Ball Slams are an excellent strength workout that primarily engages your core and abdomen. But the toning effects go beyond your waistline; Ball Slams work your triceps, shoulders, glutes, quads, and calves, plus all muscles in your back.
This move also requires speed and power, a perfect blend that maximizes your fat loss and calorie burning. To lose belly fat, you ultimately need to incorporate cardio, strength, speed, and power. Overhead slams hit all of these elements to help you shed your stomach fat and tone up your waistline.
How to do the medicine ball slams:
Grab a heavy medicine ball with both hands. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring the ball overhead and maintain your body’s stability by engaging your abdominals and core.
Keeping your arms extended, slam the medicine ball down toward the floor with full force. As you slam, keep your knees slightly bent to aid the motion. Carefully get into the squat position to pick up the heavy ball and bring it back up to your chest level to repeat. Each slam is one rep.
10. Russian Twist
There are countless ab exercises. From reverse crunches to situps, there are many that target your abdomen and yield results. But when you want to tackle the hard-to-reach lower belly pouch as well as your love handles, there is no abs workout like Russian Twists.
Russian Twists are effective because you will be in a boat pose during the twisting movements, which heightens the activation of your ab muscles and maximizes your fat burning. To this, you’d add twists that’ll hit your obliques, also known as love handles. In a single ab workout, you hit all areas where stubborn fat tends to accumulate.
How to do the Russian twists:
Sit on a yoga mat with your knees bent. Slowly lean back your upper body until your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the mat. Keep your back flat and abs engaged. Keeping your arms extended, bring your hands together in front of you.
Start to twist to one side, slowly using your abdominal muscles. Return to the starting position and rotate to the other side. Continue alternating to complete ten reps per side.
11. Leg Lifts
Loose, limber and warmed up from your walk and/or run? Great–now’s the best time to get in some leg lifts!
How to do the leg lifts:
Begin on your back with arms straight by your side, palms of your hands facing down, and just slightly positioned under your hips.
Keeping both legs straight, exhale as you tighten your core and lift both legs together. Aim for 10-12 reps.
12. Standing Belly Core Press
This move requires the use of a cable or resistance band with handles, which you may find useful for other exercises too.
How to Do The Belly Core Press
Find a spot to anchor the band midway, like on a door jam, or wound around a stationary object. Holding firm to the handles, walk a distance away so that there’s tension on the band.
Keeping feet at a shoulder-width distance and hands parallel to the chest, push the handles away from your chest until arms straighten.
With arms extended, hold for 2 seconds and then release. Work up to 10 reps.
13. Bicycle Crunches
Next up on your quest of how to lose fat in belly — the Bicycle Abdominal Exercise. This type of crunch employs a cardio workout kick, which is an added benefit to those interested in overall weight loss.
How to do the crunch bicycle exercise:
Start in the same position as you would use for an abdominal crunch, with hands clasped lightly behind your neck/head.
Using alternate knees and elbows, bring in first one knee to the opposing elbow while twisting your torso and exhaling. (For example, twist to touch your left elbow to your right knee.)
Aim to perform ten reps per side with a total of 20 reps altogether. If you’re doing it right–you’ll feel your heart rate rise!
14. Plank Exercise
Another oldie-but-goodie for those who want to lose weight through building strength, the Plank is a deceptively simple, yet a difficult move to master for extended periods.
How to plank:
Begin on your hands and knees, with your elbows aligned under your shoulders.
Keeping arms in place, move your feet back one at a time, as if to perform a push-up. Your goal is to make a parallel line from your body to the floor. Aim to hold this static position for 1 minute.
Once you’ve mastered the first 60 seconds, challenge yourself to maintain the plank position for 2-5 minutes total.
Not only does the Plank work your abdominals and back, static strength positions such as this work every muscle group in the body!
Situps are almost as synonymous with the six-pack abs trainer. Though situps alone won’t build you chiseled abs or lose belly fat, they do far more than just targeting the abs. They engage the abdomen, core, chest, and hips. Plus, they reach an area most exercises won’t: your lower abs.
Add this to your workout to fight off tummy fat and take advantage of its multi-muscle training. To increase the difficulty, hold a medicine ball to your chest during the situp. (If you have back pain, avoid situps.)
How to perform the situps:
Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and keep your hands behind your ears. Draw in your belly button and lift your upper body till your elbows touch your knees.
Return to the start with control and repeat.
16. Reverse Crunch
The reverse crunch targets the lower abs, lower back, hips, and obliques. This fat-burning exercise will work not only your abs but also your whole core, including your hips and glutes.
Before you finish your first set, you’ll be feeling the burn in your midsection and the back of your legs!
How to do the reverse crunches:
Lie flat on your back on the floor with your legs arms extended fully. Slowly bring up and bend both knees. Keep your palms facing down next to your body on the floor for support.
Tighten your abs to lift your hips off the floor as you crunch your knees inward toward your chest.
Pause 1-2 seconds then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times and complete 2-3 sets.
When you think of exercises that’ll help you eliminate fat around your belly, I bet you don’t think of squats. As surprising as it may be, squats are a great compound muscle move that’ll engage your full-body, including the core. It allows you to hit multiple large muscles all at once, which makes your workout more effective.
How to do the squats:
Stand facing forward with your chest up and position your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your waist or extend them straight out in front of you for balance.
Stick your butt out and slowly begin to bend at your knees and hips. Be sure to keep your spine neutral and don’t round your back. Once you squat down as low as you can, push through your heels to return to the start. Repeat to complete your set.
Coming to the mat to practice yoga may not burn as much fat or burn as many calories as cardio or HIIT, but that’s not to say it has no fat loss benefits. Yoga is a physical activity that can elevate your fitness, lead to a higher metabolism, and even build lean muscle mass. Poses like mountain pose, plank pose, and cobra pose demand engagement of your core and help tone your abdominals.
What’s more, yoga is an effective way to reduce stress and improve your quality of sleep at night time, which has positive effects on your belly fat.
That’s right. Losing stomach fat isn’t just about exercise. Other lifestyle changes can significantly affect how you reduce your body fat and eliminate your dangerous visceral fat.
Here some additional helpful tips on how to lose belly fat.
Simple math tells us that losing weight requires an outflow of energy that exceeds the influx of calories. Shaving just 500 calories a day will yield a loss of 1 pound of fat a week (3).
However, counting calories can feel restrictive, so try this trick instead—reduce your meal portion size by half!
Over time, you’ll see that choosing whole foods high in fiber and water content, like complex grains, will leave you feeling fuller, longer, thereby decreasing your urge to snack.
As it is with starting any new habit, going slow and steady will promote a far more permanent change than diving into something strenuous head-first.
If exercise is new to you, start walking! Even just 5 minutes per day is an excellent place to begin and simply adding a few minutes to your daily walk week-by-week. In no time, you’ll be getting the recommended 30-45 minutes per day!
Develop Lean Muscle Mass
The fact is, the more muscle you have on your body, the more fat you burn, even at rest. If strength training intimidates you, don’t feel bad—ask for help!
Personal trainers can familiarize you with unfamiliar gym equipment and teach you useful techniques, like how to use a medicine ball.
Once you get the hang of a few simple exercises, you’ll find that you’ll now have the confidence to do them anywhere.
Include Healthy Fat
To lose fat, you need to eat fat. Don’t make the common mistake that many dieters do and eliminate fat from your meals! (Remember—you’re making a permanent lifestyle change—diets are best left to those who don’t mind continual disappointment.)
Think of it this way—any fat removed from a product is likely replaced by sugar. Once in your body, sugar is stored as…you guessed it, FAT. And not just that, you’ll be on a vicious cycle of wanting more and more of the sugar your body will quickly learn to crave!
On the other hand, healthy fats do wonders for your heart, brain, and skin! They also leave you far more satisfied, so you consume fewer calories overall. Just be sure to go with whole-food sources like avocados, eggs, nuts, coconut and heart-healthy olive oil.
Eat Lean Protein
Anyone looking to build body muscles needs to eat protein. Period. Muscle is built and rebuilt by microscopic tears due to the exercises you perform. You need protein for the repair process.
A good goal for daily protein intake is about 70 grams, with 12 grams consumed directly before your workouts.
Another aspect that can make fat loss difficult is stress.
Even if you are following an exemplary diet and performing all your daily exercises, if you can’t find ways to let go of stress, your body will find ways not to let go of fat.
Leisure time with friends, journaling, reading, even walking the dog are all great stress-relievers. Perhaps the two best ways to release stress are found through yoga and meditation.
While they may not directly affect your belly fat loss, stress reducers can help you manage your hormones, reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin and the stress hormone cortisol.
Get Better Sleep
There’s no faster way to sabotage your best-laid lifestyle plans than “not feeling like it.” A lack of motivation and fatigue go hand in hand.
Snacking and reliance on mid-afternoon caffeine is not a quick fix for a tired body and mind. So make sleep a priority—at least 7 hours, 9 is better.
No one person’s decision-making has ever been improved by consuming excess alcohol. Whether that be deciding to skip a workout, indulge in overeating, or going to bed way too late, be sure and keep excessive alcohol consumption to a minimum.
Cook at Home
A great weight loss program includes plenty of fruit and veggies. Eating out equals a loss of control over what you eat, how it’s prepared, and the size of the portions. Junk food is bad for your health.
Dinner out once in a while is not a biggie, but why not challenge yourself to make your favorite meals at home?
Build an Active Lifestyle
- Get in cardio exercise at least 2x/week
- Do pop-up sessions of weight-lifting and targeted exercises to work on those core muscles
- Incorporate meditation, yoga, or stretches before bed and in the morning
- Boutcher, Stephen H. “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss.” Journal of Obesity, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991639/.
- “10 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000892.htm.