People with excess belly fat are at risk for serious health problems.
It is a predictor for diseases such as certain cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 Diabetes.
Why is extra weight around your middle such a problem? One reason comes from its location.
When you store fat close to your organs and your portal vein, the extra fat sends free fatty acids into this vein, where they eventually enter your bloodstream.
So, people with a larger waist size have elevated levels of LDL cholesterol.
According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity also causes excess inflammation, sleep apnea, and colorectal cancer (1).
Unfortunately, despite its detrimental effect on your health, belly fat can be one of the most challenging types of fat to lose.
If you have tried to lose stubborn 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, and some of it is due to genetics. But it’s not impossible to lose.
In this article, we will cover how to reduce your waist size and overall body fat.
The best thing to do is to combine effective ways of exercising with a healthy diet.
Below we’ll share 18 of the best exercises to lose belly fat.
Each of these exercises is useful individually, but what helps lose belly fat quickly is to combine several of them.
The best news is, these tips will also help your whole body. You will increase core strength, build endurance, and look great!
18 Best Exercises to Lose Belly Fat
1. Cardio Exercise
Biking, swimming, running, or rowing machine—pick your favorite way to get your body moving and your heart pumping!
If you are a beginner, brisk walking is a great way to get started.
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 aerobic exercise isn’t part of your lifestyle now, choose something FUN—you’re more likely to stick with it if it’s a type of exercise you look forward to doing!
Running is an effective workout when you want to lose belly fat— and beyond!
Running is also a quick way to burn tons of calories.
This bodyweight exercise also improves bone health, reduces your risk for Type 2 diabetes, and can lower high cholesterol levels.
Walking, jogging, and running aid in weight loss while adding tone to your entire body, including your abdominal muscles, legs, and arms.
The good news is, running can also help you build endurance and get a good night’s sleep.
You can accomplish a lot in just 30-45 minutes a day!
Challenge yourself to go at a good pace.
Running can also be social. Grab a friend and see if you can out sprint each other, or take a long trail run together. On a rainy day, you can hit the treadmill to get similar benefits.
3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT stands for “High-Intensity Interval Training.” And a recent study published in the Journal of Obesity says it’s the most effective form of exercise when it comes to losing your belly! (2).
HIIT has one goal: for us to move our bodies with maximum effort for short bursts.
The secret is alternating with another exercise that’s not quite as intense in between.
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 one of the best exercises to increase fat loss.
First time with this type of training?
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 your entire body.
This age-old move is an excellent conditioning move that also works to burn extra pounds.
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
Resistance training is an excellent way to retain bone health, sculpt muscles, and raises 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.
A good workout with heavy weight like clean and jerks, deadlifts, or bench press will build muscle, and how much muscle you have will determine how much fat you can lose.
Aim to include at least 10-15 reps targeting the major muscle groups of the arms, legs, core, and lats, twice weekly.
The burpee is a great belly fat exercise. It” works every part of your body and will increase your blood flow, get your heart pumping, and tone your body. Burpees are an explosive exercise with a combination of movements that takes you from the pushup position to a high jump.
They are fast-tempo and get 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 (2).
If you are short on time, go for burpees to get in shape.
How to Do Burpees:
- Start in the standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Move to the pushup position by placing your hands on the floor hip-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 good exercise for both men and women. To propel and control the momentum of the ”bell” and its gravity, your 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
How to Do 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. Take a deep breath, brace your ab muscles, and contract your glutes.
- In one motion, push your hips forwards and swing your kettlebell upward to chest height. Let the kettlebell swing back between your legs and repeat.
8. Mountain Climbers
If you hate burpees but want something that’s more tummy focused on melting 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 and core muscles.
It burns body fat and helps you transform your tummy from flab to flat.
During this exercise, you hold your upper body still while you move your legs rigorously in the climbing motion.
It works your abs, core, glutes, hamstrings, and hips.
How to Do 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.
- Bring your left leg up and drive your left knee into your chest as fast as you can, then return.
- Switch sides and bring your right leg up, knee to chest to complete your set.
9. Overhead Medicine Ball Slams
Overhead Medicine Ball Slams are an excellent strength workout that primarily engages your abdomen and core muscles.
It’s one of the most effective exercises to lose belly fat.
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 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 aba 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 loss.
To this, you add twists that hit your obliques. In a single ab workout, you hit all areas where stubborn fat tends to accumulate.
To Do 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. Want to add some resistance training to your twists?
- Hold a dumbbell and tap the end lightly on the floor, first outside of your left leg, then in between your legs, then outside your right leg.
- Move slowly and under control. Twists are a great way to build muscle in your lower body.
11. Leg Lifts
Leg lifts involve lifting your legs from the ground which help you hit hard-to-reach body part like your lower belly fat.
While spot reduction isn’t a thing, adding moves that specifically target the area where you carry belly fat can help activate the muscles in the region and contribute to the reduction of body fat.
How to Do 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 exercise requires the use of a cable or resistance band with handles.
- Find a spot to anchor the band midway, like on a door jam, or wound around a stationary object. Holding the handles firmly, walk a distance away so that there’s tension on the band.
- Keep your feet at a shoulder-width distance and your hands parallel to your chest.
- Push the handles away from your chest until your 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 beer 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 a Bicycle Crunch:
- Start in the same position as you would use for an abdominal crunch, with hands behind your neck/head.
- Using alternate knees and elbows, bring in one knee to the opposite elbow while twisting your torso and exhaling. (For example, bend to touch your left elbow to your right knee.)
- Then switch and bring your back knee forward. 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 simple movement but challenging to master for extended periods.
How to Do Planks:
- Begin on your hands and knees, with your elbows aligned under your shoulders, legs extended back, feet hip-width apart.
- Your goal is to keep a straight line from your body to the floor, do not let your pelvis drop. 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 six-pack abs. Though sit-ups alone won’t build you chiseled abs or lose belly fat, they do far more than just targeting the abs.
They engage your core, chest, and hips. Plus, they reach an area most exercises won’t: your lower abs. Add situps to your workout to fight off belly fat and take advantage of its multi-muscle training.
How to Do Situps:
- Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and keep your hands behind your ears.
- Draw in your stomach and lift your torso till your elbows touch your knees. Return to the start and repeat.
Want to increase the difficulty levels of your situps?
Try doing them on an incline bench or hold a heavy weight against your collar bone throughout the movement.
16. Reverse Crunch
The reverse crunch targets your midsection, lower back, hips, and obliques. This fat-burning exercise works your abs and your core, including your hips and glutes.
How to Do 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 many people think of exercises that’ll help you eliminate belly fat, I bet they don’t think of squats.
As surprising as it may be, squats and lunges are an excellent compound muscle moves engage your core muscles. They allow you to hit multiple large muscles all at once, which makes your workout more effective.
How to Do 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 many calories as cardio or HIIT, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have fat loss benefits.
Poses like the mountain pose, boat 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, decrease cortisol, and improve your quality of sleep at night time, which also has positive effects on your belly fat.
Gentle or Yin Yoga is perfect for your rest day. That’s right.
How much belly fat you lose isn’t just about exercise. Other lifestyle changes can significantly affect how you eliminate your dangerous visceral fat.
Here are some additional helpful tips on how you can lose belly fat.
10 Additional Tips to Lose Belly Fat
Reduce the Number of Calories
A proper diet is a good place to start. Any nutritionist will tell you that your diet will determine how much weight you lose and the health of your whole body in the long run.
Simple math tells us that losing weight requires an outflow of energy that exceeds the amount of calories you are taking in.
Having a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day will yield a loss of 1 pound of fat a week (3)
However, when you start to lose weight, your leptin levels can decrease as well.
Leptin is your satiety hormone, and when it falls, your urge snack on the first thing you can grab will increase.
So, an easy way to decrease calories is to replace high-calorie foods with low calorie, nutritionally dense foods.
Replace white bread with a better carb, like oats. Have easy to eat snacks on hand, like cut up carrots and broccoli instead of trans fat-laden chips.
And as an additional benefit, eating high-quality foods will help improve digestion and make sure you get your vitamins and antioxidants.
When you are starting any new habit, going slow and steady promotes more permanent change than diving into something strenuous head-first.
If exercise is new to you, a great place to start is walking!
Even just 5 minutes per day is an excellent place to begin. Simply add a few minutes to your daily walk each week. In no time, you’ll be getting the recommended 30-45 minutes per day.
Another good reason to walk is that walking has health benefits for your overall health, including reducing your risk for heart disease and decreasing stress.
According to the University of Michigan, nature walks decrease feelings of depression and improved mental health (4).
Develop Lean Muscle Mass
The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn, even at rest. Resistance training is good for building muscle and reducing total body fat.
If strength training intimidates you, don’t feel bad—ask for help!
Personal trainers can familiarize you with how to use equipment like a barbell, medicine ball, or weight training machines.
They can also teach you technique which will help you reduce your risk of injury.
Include Healthy Fats
To lose fat, you need to eat fat. Don’t make the common mistake that many dieters do and eliminate fatty foods 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.
For example, replace processed salad dressing with vinegar and olive oil. Small but healthy eating habits like these can go a long way.
Eat Lean Protein
Anyone looking to create lean muscles needs to eat protein.
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 ab workouts.
The other advantage of protein is that it makes you feel full, longer. As you lose weight, the hunger hormone ghrelin will increase. So, lean protein will help you keep to your calorie goals.
Another aspect that can make losing excess fat difficult is stress. Even if you are following a good diet and performing all your 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 fat loss around your belly, stress reducers can help you manage your hormones, reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin and the stress hormone cortisol.
Your body needs rest, which is why it is essential to schedule a rest day each week.
Get Better Sleep
There’s no faster way to sabotage your best-laid lifestyle plans than “not feeling like it.” A lot of people find that 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 of sleep, nine is better.
No one’s decision-making has ever been improved by consuming excess alcohol.
Alcohol makes you crave salty carbs (no one ever gets drunk and binges on broccoli.) Bad choices like skipping a workout, indulging in overeating, or going to bed too late can throw off your whole week and lead to weight gain.
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’s prepared, and the size of the portions.
Junk food is bad for your health and will add pounds of fat to your waistline.
Dinner out once in a while is not a biggie, but why not challenge yourself to make your favorite meals at home?
One thing to keep in mind is that vigorous exercise can lead to an increase in appetite. You don’t want to undo all the work you’ve done for a flat stomach with fast food.
To stay at a healthy weight, you want a diet of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, like vegetables and whole grains.
An example of a good meal would be 4 ounces of lean meat, a pulse of lentils, and salad with vinegar and olive oil.
This will give you the protein, fats, and complex carbs you need, plus vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for long-term health.
Build a Healthy Lifestyle for Overall Wellness
- Get in cardiovascular exercise at least 2x/week
- Do pop-up sessions of weight-lifting and targeted belly fat exercises to work on those core muscles
- Incorporate meditation, yoga, or stretches before bed and in the morning
- “Belly Fat in Men: Why Weight Loss Matters.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 June 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/belly-fat/art-20045685.
- 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.
- “Walking off Depression and Beating Stress Outdoors? Nature Group Walks Linked to Improved Mental Health: Family Medicine: Michigan Medicine.” Family Medicine, 23 Oct. 2014, medicine.umich.edu/dept/family-medicine/news/archive/201410/walking-depression-beating-stress-outdoors-nature-group-walks-linked-improved-mental-health.