Getting rid of the love handles or muffin top is mostly about losing fat. This requires reduced calorie intake, usually by and making healthier choices about what you do eat. Exercise can help burn some of the excess calories that have piled up around your mid section. Building muscle mass through weight training will help your body burn more calories. Cardiovascular exercise (getting your heart rate elevated for 20-30 minutes) four or five times a week, will help make your body perform more efficiently and help you lose fat. Core work complemented by exercise and are the real solutions for getting rid of your love handles.
Part One of Two:
Doing Core Exercises
1Do . This is a great exercise that will work your entire core and back. Planks engage all your abdominal muscles and are especially good at targeting your obliques. Use the following instructions to make sure you are planking properly:
- Lay down flat on your stomach with your legs extended and your feet together. Lift your body into a push-up position while resting on your forearms and the tips of your toes.
- Keep your elbows aligned underneath your shoulders. Keep your back straight so that your body forms a straight line from your neck to your heels. Hold this position for as long as you can, then take a short rest before repeating. You should feel all your core muscles being engaged.
- Add a variation of this move by bringing one knee at a time toward your elbow while in the plank position. This variation helps to specifically target your obliques.
- Repeat four times, increasing the length of time you remain lifted as you grow stronger.
2Do Russian twists. This ab exercise is performed in a seated position and targets all your abdominal muscles — but only if you pull your stomach muscles inward. There are numerous variations you can perform to place more emphasis on certain muscle groups. The exercise is described below:
- Sit on the floor with knees bent at a 90 degree angle in front of you. Recline your back towards the floor behind you until you feel your abdominal muscles engage. You should be contracting your abs and pulling them inward the whole time in order to keep your back off the ground and to engage the transverse abdominals. Be vigilant about keeping the abs pulled in. If you catch your tummy bulging out, that is your rectus abdominus taking over the job. Re-position pulling the abdominal area inwards towards your spine.
- Clasp your hands together in front of your chest. While keeping your knees stable and pointed toward the ceiling, rotate your hands slowly from side to side. You want your hands to touch the floor beside you with each twist. Aim for right beside and slightly behind your hips. Twist the other direction and repeat until you can't hold the position any longer.
- To increase the intensity of this exercise, straighten your knees and lift your feet off the floor a few inches while you twist your torso. You can hold a small dumbbell or medicine ball in your hands for added difficulty.
- Remember to perform this exercise slowly and in a controlled manner. This is a fairly advanced exercise and will work your obliques as much as possible, but it is risky on the lumbar region of your back. If you are out of shape or have back issues, you may want to skip this one.
3Try twisting knee raises. This exercise works your legs and abdominal muscles simultaneously. The twisting motion of this exercise is especially good for targeting your obliques. Check out the instructions below for how to do these:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands behind your back — this is your starting position. Remain in a standing position and lift your left knee up toward your chest as high as you can, using only your abdominal muscles to hold this position.
- At the same time, twist your torso to bring your right shoulder across toward your knee. Clench your abs while twisting and keep them contracted while you hold the position for a few seconds.
- Lower your raised foot back to the floor and straighten your torso. Repeat the exercise on the other side and continue doing this for a total of 30 seconds or until you can no longer hold the flexed position.
- To increase intensity, you can focus on keeping your movements slow, smooth, and controlled. You can also try holding the flexed position for a bit longer.
4Do bicycle crunches. This abdominal exercise is great for all your abdominal muscles, but hits your obliques quite effectively. This exercise is especially convenient when you have no equipment available. Follow these instructions for correct execution of bicycle crunches:
- Lie down on your back on a mat or rug with your finger tips on the outside edge of your ears, or lightly touch the sides of your head with your hands.
- Lift your legs up in the air with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your shins should be parallel to the floor.
- In a slow and controlled motion, contract your abs to raise your head toward your knees (do a crunch). Do not pull on your head with your hands — eep your chin pointing up to the sky. As you do this, try to touch your right elbow to your left knee. You can bring your knee slightly across your body to meet your elbow.
- While doing this, extend your right leg straight outward without touching your foot to the floor.
- Slowly lower your shoulders back to the floor as you bring your legs back to their starting position. Repeat the exercise using the opposite limbs until you can no longer do it.
- For added intensity, perform this exercise very slowly and with tightly controlled movements. You can also increase the number of repetitions you do.
- Keep your head off the ground the whole time. Your abs should be engaged for the duration of this exercise.
5Include mountain climbers. This exercise, unlike most of these, combines cardio and strength training. As such, it is best performed at a fast pace in order to elevate your heart rate. Mountain climbers work all the muscles in your abdomen and also require no equipment. See these instructions for proper form:
- Start by getting into a plank or push-up position. Keep your back straight, toes on the floor, and arms extended with palms on the floor about shoulder width apart.
- Bring one knee up toward your chest as far up as you can and tap your foot on the ground underneath you before extending your leg back to its starting position.
- Immediately repeat this move with your other leg and keep going until you can't keep up your pace anymore. This exercise should be performed rapidly so that your abdominals are continuously contracted.
Part Two of Two:
Adding in Cardiovascular Exercise
1Aim for 2.5 hours per week. Although cardio doesn't specifically tone your abdominal muscles, it is a great way to burn calories and lose body fat. Your abs can be super toned but you can still have love handles if there is body fat around your hips, so cardio is essential for losing love handles. In order to get the most out of your cardio routine, keep up with it by splitting your 2.5 hours into sessions of about 30 minutes. By removing fat from your oblique/abdominal areas, you will reveal the muscles underneath.
- Aim for moderate intensity activities (or reduce your workout time for higher intensity). These kinds of activities keep your heart rate elevated for sustained periods of time. You should be somewhat out of breath, breaking a sweat, and only able to speak short sentences between breaths.
- Moderate intensity means your heart rate should hover around 60 to 70% of its maximum (which you can estimate by subtracting your age from 220).
- Traditional, moderate-intensity cardio workouts involve running/jogging, brisk walking, using an elliptical machine, swimming, spinning/cycling, rowing, etc. Choose whatever is most appealing or easiest for you and get moving!
- Be sure to drink plenty of water before and during your cardio workouts. Becoming dehydrated while doing cardio is both unpleasant and dangerous.
2Mix in HIIT. A specific type of cardio you should consider trying is called high intensity interval training, or "HIIT." Recent evidence suggests that this type of cardio is particularly effective at reducing body fat, especially when combined with strength training. While you don't have to exclusively do HIIT for your cardio workout, at least try working it into your cardio routine now and then.
- HIIT typically combines short sessions of very high intensity activity (where your heart rate reaches about 75 to 85% of its maximum) followed by bouts of more moderate-intensity activity.
- Since HIIT works your body harder than sustained, moderate cardio, you can spend less time on cardio when doing HIIT workout sessions.
- One of the main benefits of a HIIT workout is that it keeps your metabolism raised long after your workout has completed.
- A HIIT workout could include two minutes of sprinting or running up hill on a treadmill followed by five minutes of jogging on a flat surface, repeating several times until you've reached the 15–20 minute mark.
3Play your favorite sport. This can be a great way to burn calories, especially if you have a hard time motivating yourself to get to the gym and spend 30 minutes on a treadmill. If there is a sport you enjoy that gets you huffing and puffing, make a point to participate in it a few times a week to get in a solid cardio workout while having fun.
- Join an intramural team or school/work club for extra motivation to participate in your sport on a regular basis. If you don't know of any groups in your area you can join, start one!
- If yours is a solo sport (such as mountain biking), try to get some friends or colleagues to commit to doing it with you on occasion. This could be more fun and will help motivate you. Look for local meetup groups to make new friends who share your hobby.
4Try martial arts. Some forms of martial arts, such as kickboxing and krav maga, are high-intensity and incorporate cardio into their training routines. You can find martial arts studios with classes designed for all ages in just about any city of at least moderate size. If you don't have the luxury of taking a class, find tutorials and workouts online and do them at home on your own.
- Many of the moves required in martial arts routines require frequent engagement of the abdominal and oblique muscles, so these can be great ways to get rid of love handles.
- Martial arts classes offer a great all-in-one workout by combining high intensity cardio with abdominal strength training, so give this option extra consideration if you have a packed schedule and cannot devote time to both types of exercise.
5Stay moving between lifting sets. You can get in a cardio workout by doing jumping jacks or jogging or doing some other cardio exercise between sets while lifting weights (known as 'supersetting'). This will keep your heart rate elevated while lifting and can be a good way to combine strength and cardio training. If you already lift weights but hate cardio, this is one of the easiest ways to make yourself start getting that heart rate up.
- If your lifting routine typically involves long rests between sets, you will notice yourself becoming fatigued more quickly if you keep moving during these lifting breaks. Don't be discouraged if your number of reps or maximum weight drops while doing this.
- Because your cardio bouts will probably take less time than your idle rest periods, this is also a good way to speed up your workouts to save time.
- Always talk to your doctor prior to starting any new workout or exercise program to make sure it's safe for you.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and refrain from consuming excess sugar, fat, carbohydrates, and processed foods. You will never completely get rid of love handles without adopting a healthy diet.
- Whether doing cardio or strength training, remember to take deep, controlled breaths and focus on matching your breathing rhythm to the motions of your exercise.
- Some exercises like mountain climbers give double the bang for your buck because they work the abdominal muscles, while also getting your heart pounding. The heart is a big muscle which also needs exercise to reduce excess fat.
- The more muscles you work at the same time, the more calories you burn up.
- If you feel any pain, dizziness, discomfort, or excessive difficulty breathing while exercising, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
- Some people are genetically predisposed to storing body fat around their midsection; if this describes you, you might find that your love handles are difficult to get rid of, even with proper diet and exercise.