When you are trying to achieve a slimmer waistline, there is nothing more frustrating than dealing with pesky side belly fat.
This fat can go by many names from muffin top to love handles.
Doing a million ab exercises like situps or a billion minutes of cardio won’t get rid of fat in your love handle area.
And you don’t need to go to the extreme and wear a corset, get liposuction, or coolsculpting.
But to actually make a significant difference, you do need to eat a balanced diet, add weight training to your workout routine and stick to a workout plan to get rid of the appearance of love handles.
While targeting a specific area or muscle group such as your abdominal muscles is useful in getting rid of that muffin top, a full-body exercise routine with core work is the best way to lower your overall body fat.
Let’s cover what love handles are, 14 exercises to target not just your core but your entire body, and 3 tips for success.
What Are Love Handles?
The term “love handles” is often used to describe the excess fat located on the sides of your abdomen. So how does it get there?
There are many ways you can get the bulge around the waist. From obesity, consuming excess calories, or even a lack of sleep.
Your hormones (like cortisol the stress hormone that increases your blood sugar levels), menopause, your metabolism, and genetics can also play a part.
There are 2 types of fat: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is found inside of your stomach cavity.
It’s the fat cells that surround your stomach and internal organs.
This type is typically associated with metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease.
Subcutaneous fat is the type of fat that spills over your waistband or what you feel when you pinch your tummy.
It’s the muffin part of “muffin top”.
Creating lean muscle will burn the subcutaneous fat in your lower belly.
14 Best Exercises and Workouts for Love Handles
Here are 14 of the top exercises that target your entire body with a focus on the abdominal area of your body.
The important thing to remember here is that you need to tailor the number of reps of each exercise to your personal level of fitness for the best results.
If you’re a beginner, start with a lower number of repetitions and sets. This is a great way to get comfortable with following exercises.
1. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings are a fun exercise that really lights up your entire body.
- Start with your feet hip-width distance apart. Keep a straight spine as you grip the kettlebell. Squeeze your shoulder blades and engage your core.
- Drive through your heels, extending through your hips as you swing the bell upward to chest height, arms extended. Squeeze your glutes.
- As the weight swings down, prepare for the next swing. Let the kettlebell swing between your legs. Repeat 3 sets of 10 each.
Burpees are a compound movement exercise and can be broken into 3 steps completed one after the other.
- Start standing at the top of your mat, feet shoulder-width distance apart. The first step is a squat.
- Lower down, bending at the knees. Place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders.
- The next step is to hop back, straightening your legs and landing in a pushup position.
- Do 1 pushup. Step 3 is to hop your feet back to the starting position. Push off through your legs and jump into the air, arms overhead.
- This is 1 repetition. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
3. High-Intensity interval training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval training or HIIT workouts are a combination of high-intensity bursts paired with a short recovery period.
They’re typically around 30 minutes in length and are a quick way to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
To begin, figure out the ratio that works best for you. For example, a 1:1 ratio means your work and recoveries are the same amounts of time, say 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. A 1:2 ratio is also popular for burning fat.
During your work interval, you will go as hard and as fast as you can while maintaining proper form for whichever exercise you choose.
Then rest for your determined time before starting to work again. Typically, these intervals last approximately 5 minutes.
4. Jump Rope
Jump roping is a deceptively simple activity that will set your entire body on fire. As a personal trainer, it’s my favorite way to get that heart rate up!
- Hold the rope handles in each hand at hip height. Rotate through your wrists to swing the rope around and jump.
- Apply HIIT and alternate jumping for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds. Continue for 5 minutes.
5. Dumbbell Squats to Press
Target your glutes, thighs, abdominals, arms, and shoulders (specifically your traps) in this full-body sculpting and fat burning exercise.
- Start with a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, feet shoulder-width distance apart.
- Squat until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Press through your feet as you stand, arms continuing up over your head.
- Your biceps should be by your ears. Lower the weights, returning to the starting position. Repeat 3 sets of 10 each.
6. Plank to Pushup
Plank to pushup is a great exercise that works both your abs and your upper body.
- Start in a forearm plank, hips down and core engaged. You want a straight line from the tip of your head to your heels.
- Keep your hips still as you push up with one arm, placing your hand where your elbow was on the mat. Repeat with your other hand, coming into the pushup position.
- Squeeze your glutes for stability as you reverse. Lower your first forearm back onto the mat, and then the other returning to your forearm plank.
- Alternate which arm kicks off the movement. Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width distance apart.
- Step forward with your right foot. With your hands on your sides, lower down until there is a 90-degree angle in both legs. Press through your legs, returning up. Step your right foot back to the starting position.
- Repeat on the left side by stepping the left leg forward first. Alternate 10 – 12 reps on each leg.
8. Side Plank with Arm Reach
Side planks work your side abs, known as your obliques and rectus abdominis.
- To start, lay on your right side with your forearm on the ground, elbow directly under your right shoulder.
- Spread your fingers of your right hand wide creating a stable base. Keep your knees bent and stacked.
- Squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips and pelvis. Your body should create a straight line from the tip of your head to your knees.
- Extend your left arm into the air, your left hand over your head, creating an arc without letting your hips dip. Squeeze your booty and pause. Return your body to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps on your right side. Switch to your left side. Complete the same number of reps and sets.
9. Mountain Climbers
- Start in a high plank position. Have your hands directly under your shoulders with straight arms. Your spine is in a straight line. Your weight will be distributed evenly through your palms and toes. Keep your core engaged.
- Bring your right knee to your right elbow. Option to set your right foot on the ground for a beat. Send your leg back and repeat on the other side, bringing your left knee to your left elbow. Keep your hips down as you alternate your legs.
- Start with sets of 10 to 12 for 3 rounds. As your fitness level increases, you can increase your speed and reps.
To really target your obliques, you can twist under bringing your right knee to your left arm and vice versa.
10. Bicycle Crunch
- Start on your back. Lift your feet, keeping your knees bent at 90-degree angles. Support your neck by interlacing your hands behind your head.
- Bring your right elbow to your left knee, twisting through the torso. Return to the starting position. Alternate, bringing your left elbow to your right knee. Don’t let your feet touch the floor. Complete for 15 to 20 reps.
11. Russian Twists
The Russian Twist is one of my favorite oblique exercises that also targets your abs and hip flexors.
- To do this twist, sit on your buttocks on an exercise mat. Bend at your knees and start to lean back until you feel your abdominals engage.
- Lift your feet off of the floor, an option to cross at the ankles. Brace your core and find your balance.
- Clasp your hands together at your chest. Twist your torso to the right, dropping your hands to the side. Return up and repeat on the left side. This is 1 rep. Repeat 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps.
To kick it up a notch, use a medicine ball or a hand weight. Start with the ball or weight in front of your chest. As you twist, bring the weight down on each side.
Another variation is the Mason Twist. The movement stays the same, however, you keep your legs straight.
12. Glute Bridges
Glute Bridges work your glutes and hamstrings and can be used as a warm-up for squats.
- To do a Glute Bridge, lay on your back on an exercise mat. Your feet are flat on the floor, hip-width distance apart.
- Engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips forming a straight line from knees to shoulders. Your shins will be parallel with the wall.
- Pause. Then lower back down to the mat. Repeat for 10 -12 reps.
There are several variations you can try!
You can add leg raises by marching your feet. Start by raising your right leg off the floor and bringing your knee towards your chest.
Then repeat with the opposite leg, and “march” in place without letting your hips dip down.
You can also place a weight like a dumbbell on your hips and hold it in place as you lift and lower through your bridge.
13. Bird Dog
Strengthen your core and test your stability in the Bird Dog exercise.
- Start in a tabletop position with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Engage your core as you lift your right arm and left at the same time. Reset into your tabletop and repeat on the other side by lifting your left arm and right leg.
- Practice testing your stability by lifting only an inch or two to start. As you become stronger, you can eventually lift each arm and leg parallel with the ground. Complete 3 sets of the 10 – 15 reps.
To take this exercise further, you can add a crunch by connecting your elbow and knee underneath you.
14. Wood Choppers
Last but certainly not least are your wood choppers.
You can use either a dumbbell or medicine ball. Start holding your weight in front of your chest.
As you squat, twist to the right, bringing the weight of your choice to the outside of your right hip.
On an exhale, untwist while lifting the weight with both hands over your left shoulder. This is one repetition. Complete 10 to 15 and then switch sides.
- Start by kneeling on the floor. Engage your core and keep your shoulders back. Hold a weighted medicine ball or a dumbbell in front of you.
- Then move the weight in a chopping motion by pulling it down and across the right side of your body while rotating your torso.
- Return to the starting position and chop in the opposite direction, across the left side.
Weight loss starts in the kitchen with a healthy diet. And we’re not talking about fad diets where you don’t eat carbs like white bread or only snack on broccoli.
A healthy diet consists of lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. They can be spread out throughout the day in small meals and snacks. Consume in moderation and avoid alcoholic beverages.
Logically, you’d think burning calories with a sweaty cardio session seems like enough. And while that is helpful, it’s so much more than that. You need to focus on strength training.
By building up the muscle underneath, these muscles will burn off the excess fat faster all over your body. Try resistance training!
One workout will not magically make you lose all of your belly fat. It takes consistency and endurance to get rid of that stubborn fat.
While you can’t target fat loss on specific body parts, you can target strengthening your ab muscles with love handle exercises.
Having a muffin top around your abdomen in the first place is not unfixable.
And know that you can slim your pooch without going to the extremes of liposuction or coolsculpting.
There are many reasons for having subcutaneous fat around your midsection such as obesity, hormones like cortisol, or insulin resistance.
The top workout to tackle abdominal fat is to resistance train, build muscle through a consistent ab workout by strengthening your core muscles and targeting your entire body.
For the best results, add any (or all!) of these 14 exercises to your workout today!