Love handles refers to excess fat on the sides of the waist and is something which is a bane for those fond of low-waisted pants. Also known as muffin tops in colloquial parlance, this is fat which is extremely challenging to cut down on. Most people try to target this area with ab exercises like side crunches that target the muscles at the side of the torso, known as the obliques. To get rid of love handles, however, you need to do a variety of exercises besides diet and lifestyle changes.
Right Exercises for Love Handles
Table of Contents
#1 Lifting Weights
Engaging in different types of physical activities can really help in losing your love handles, but the inclusion of weight training is advantageous as well. Weight training, resistance training and strength training are the key terms used to refer to this form of exercise. While aerobic training burns additional calories during the workout, resistance training helps in building lean muscle and burning additional calories at rest. Combining aerobic exercise and resistance training is effective for burning belly fat. One research study of 97 overweight individuals found that combining resistance and aerobic exercises were most effective at lowering belly fat and body weight rather than aerobic exercise or even strength training. Resistance training provides a slight boost to the metabolic rate, burning more calories across the day.
#2 Try HIIT Workouts
High-intensity interval training remains one of the most effective ways to burn body fat. HIIT workouts include short bursts of intense exercise that is aerobic, followed by a recovery period. The workouts are also effective and quick. Numerous studies show that body fat can be lost. A meta-analysis of 18 studies found that among 800 individuals, HIIT was more effective in reducing body fat plus improving cardiopulmonary fitness as opposed to low intensity, constant exercise. HIIT or high-intensity interval training is a potent tool for combating belly fat. Another study that included 39 female participants found adding HIIT to the workout was more effective than traditional training at lowering body fat. Additionally, HIIT workouts burn a lot of calories in a shorter period of time, implying that one does not have to slave at the gym.
#3 Try Pilates
It is essential to find an effective workout that can be easily enjoyed. Pilates is an exercise that is beginner-friendly and beneficial for toning the abs. The practice improves flexibility, core strength, and posture. Adding the Pilates workout to the routine can help in shrinking the waistline and losing weight. A study of 30 obese and overweight women found 8 weeks of Pilates decreased fat and waist as well as hip circumference. Pilates can be modified based on fitness level and is suitable for different ages. Research on 50 elderly women aged 60 and above found 8 weeks of mat Pilates reduced body fat while increasing the leanness of body mass.
#4 Focus on Cardio
Get the cardio going. In fact, the Center for Disease Control recommends around 150 minutes of heart-pumping cardio per week. If one wants to maintain or lose weight, cardio needs to be in addition to toning exercises. Love handles sit off to the site, but training the complete core will yield the best results for a trim stomach. While the body loses fat through clean eating and cardio, areas of the skin extending outward from the hips can be dealt with. By combining with tight clothing, excess fat accumulation around the abs and the hips is further accentuated.
The underlying cause of love handles is the retention of fat. Fat cells accumulate when people take in excessive calories or as many calories are not burnt as consumed. Across time, these fat cells accumulate in certain areas such as the hips and waist. Fat aggregates anywhere in the body, but certain factors increase chances of fat in the lower back, ab, and hip area. Factors that yield handle formation range across hormones such as excessive cortisol. Belly fat accumulation is common as one becomes older. Undiagnosed medical conditions, or lack of sleep or poor diet can also lead to love handles.
Love handles are not dangerous, but they do trigger risk factors for chronic illnesses. These range across hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and breathing problems, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Cancer, liver disease and osteoarthritis can also result from love handles. Targeted exercises for specific body areas like love handles is also essential. Targeted exercises for specific areas of the body including love handles need to be considered. Fat reduction cannot be achieved through spot exercises alone. While strengthening and resistance activities can help with flexibility and muscle tone without shrinking fat cells.
Cardio exercises need to be combined with weight lifting and targeted movement for the best results. If one tries to lose body fat and overall weight, one needs to spend up to 5 hours of moderate intensity exercise per week. Maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding calories for weight maintenance and fat loss along with bike riding, swimming and walking offer awesome results.
If one cannot fit in a full-length workout each day, one reaps the benefits of being active even then by incorporating this exercise.
#5 Do Side Planks
There is numerous modification for side planks that make the move challenging. To perform the basic side plank, start by lying on the side. Prop yourself on one arm and the elbow should be in consonance with the shoulder. The forearm should be flattened against the ground, at the right angle to the body. Stacking the legs on top of each other, the body should form a single line from the head to the hip. With the knees in contact with the ground, raising the hips is important. Then squeeze the glutes or gluteus muscles and hold the position for 30 seconds to a single minute. While carrying out the move, your abs need to remain tight to support the body. Then turn the sides and repeat. For a challenging move, one can also try raising the knees off the ground so body parts such as the forearm and the foot touch the ground. One can also incorporate hip dips. To perform this, while in a side plank position, the hip needs to be lowered an inch or two and slowly lift back up. Repeating this for 30 seconds to one minute is important.
#6 Carry Out Bicycle Crunches
It is essential to rush through bicycle crunches, but key controlled movements offer extraordinary benefits. Lying on the back with hands behind the head with knees bent is important. Lifting the shoulders and head off the floor is essential as one engages the abs. Simultaneously, lifting the feet off the ground keeps knees bent, so shins remain parallel to the floor. Slowly twisting the body, the left elbow moves across to the right knee. As one twists the body, extending the left leg ahead of you is important. Twisting slowly in the other direction, the left leg needs to be placed back to the bent position with the left knee and the right elbow aligned together. As one twists the body, the right leg needs to be extended in front of one. Around fifteen to thirty repetitions need to be carried out.
#7 Perform Russian Twists
This is another seated exercise which adds value. It needs to be modified by adding weight. If one is new to the exercise, it is essential to try this out without the weight first. As one gets used to it, a hand weight like a filled bottle or soup cans can increase the resistance.
Starting out in the seated position, on the ground with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, the aim is to tighten the abs, lean the torso back at a 45-degree angle to the ground. If one is not using weight, hands should be clasped together. If one is using a weight, it needs to be held in the hands, just above the abs. With bent knees, lifting the feet off the floor involves balancing your body. For additional support, one needs to cross the ankle. Twisting the torso rightwards, bring down the weight or clasped hands to the right part of the body. Twisting to the left, touching the weight or hands to the left part of the body is important. This needs to be repeated for thirty seconds to one minute.
#8 Try the Mountain Climber
This move boosts the heart rate as one strengthens the muscles. Increasing speed as one gets stronger is important. Starting in a position of the plank, lying flat on the ground, face down. Placing the hands underneath the shoulders, the toes need to be pressed to the floor, pushing up. Arms need to be straight, but not in a locked position and the body should form a straight line from the toes to the head.
Lifting the right foot off the floor and pulling the right knee towards the left elbow, the abs need to be kept tight. Hold this briefly and returns the feet to the original position. Repeating on the other side, this move needs to be continued for 30 to 60 minutes. One can also increase the speed and extend the time as more strength develops.
#9 Perform the Bridge
This exercise targets the lower back and works well for glutes. Starting by lying on the back with bent knees, arms on the sides and palms flat against the floor, lift the body and lower back off the floor to form a straight line to the shoulder from the knees.
Squeezing glutes together and holding up for thirty seconds, or until one feels glutes and abs lose their firmness, whichever takes place. Slowly release the muscles and lower the body down on the ground. Slowly releasing the muscles, one needs to lower oneself back to the ground and repeat ten times.
To make the move more challenging, one needs to lift the foot off the floor as one lifts the hips. Switch which leg one lifts with each repetition.
#10 High to Low Chop
Stand with the feet apart by hip width holding the medicine ball in 2 hands over the right shoulder. Bend the knees and lower the body in a squat as the ball pulls down towards the left ankle. As one stands up, the ball needs to be reached back up over the right shoulder. This needs to be repeated for a desired number of repetitions and then switch sides. Performing 12 reps on every side, push your body back into shape.
#11 Swimming Exercise
Lie on the stomach. Extend your arms and legs. The abs need to be engaged, so the transverse abdominis contracts. Lifting the arms and legs off the floor, the nose should be kept in a hovering position above the mat. Fluttering the legs and arms, you need to move from shoulders and hips, not knees and elbows. It should be like one is swimming. Inhale for around four counts and exhale for another. This exercise needs to be performed for thirty seconds.
#12 Oblique Crunch and Long Legs
Lying on one side in a long line, the shoulder should be stacked over the elbow and on the forearm. The legs need to be swung forward and leaning back on flutes and lifting the leg off the mat, extend the long top arm on the diagonal.
Contracting the core as one reaches the toes up to the hand, lowering the legs and lifting the arm, you need to return to the start. Then, one needs to repeat this on the other side. Perform 12 reps on each side.
Standing with the feet shoulder length apart, bend the weights you are holding to the side and try to take the weight to the floor and come back up. If the hand is placed on one side, one does not have to take the weight on and the muscles can be easily engaged.
To perform this exercise, lie on the stomach with legs and hands extended. Then lift the upper and lower body so that the legs and upper torso come off the ground. This needs to be repeated until one feels the burn. Once the burn is felt, carry out 5 more reps.
#14 Oblique Press and Reach
Kneeling on the knee with the right foot extending, keep feet flat on the floor. Therefore, the leg forms a 90-degree angle. Keeping the ab muscles tight, keeping the tailbone in and the back straight, holding the weight in the right hand is essential. Arms need to be extended to the right and bent at a 90-degree angle with the fist in the air. Reaching up, extend the arm straight into the air while bending the body down to the left and touching the left fingertips on the floor. Using the oblique muscle pulls the torso back to starting posture. Three sets of 12 to 15 exercises on each side are important.
#15 Side Plank Crunch
Starting on the right elbow, the right foot needs to be placed in front of the left. Then, the core needs to be tightened throughout. Pulling the right knee towards the chest, the next step is to crunch the left elbow towards it. Bringing this back out to side plank posture is the next step. These 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions need to be done.
#16 Plank Up Downs
Getting into the plank position, with arms straightened directly beneath the shoulders, squeezing the glutes, pull your abs tight into the spine. Starting with one arm, lower down onto the forearm and follow up with the other arm. Then, moving back up, a single arm at a time, come to the fully extended plank. Don’t rock your hips and keep the core tight all the time.
This also works out the upper body as well. As the upper body moves and supports the entire plank position, your middle abs get the push they need to become toned. Carry out 8 exercises on each side or aim for at least 40 to 45 seconds.
#17 Around the World Obliques
With the legs wider than shoulder width apart, toes turned out just a bit, the tailbone should be tucked in. With a lightweight of about 5 pounds or even a pillow, extend arms above the head as far as possible. It should feel like a stretch. Bending from the hips, reach the body as far as possible to the right, shoulders and hips squared forward. Rotate towards the floor at the last second when you cannot hold this posture anymore. Twist the body back to face front, exhaling and pulling back up center wards. Your knees should remain soft instead of being locked. Carry out 8 to 10 slow and controlled repetitions, in both directions alternating between the sides.
#18 Pass the Ball
Bicycle crunches need to be turned up a notch. Lying flat on the ground, abs need to be pulled in tight to the spine and lie back on the floor flat. Picking the chest up, pull the right knee into the chest and hold the ball in the left hand. Passing the ball beneath the right knee onto the right hand, crunch up forming the figure 8. It’s like dribbles except the bouncing is not there. Also, make sure to rotate your legs after every pass and crunch up each time. Keep shoulder blades lifted off the ground throughout the time. This needs to be carried out for thirty to forty-five seconds.
#19 Knee Drop
Lying flat on the ground on your back, pull the abs in tight to the spine. Lifting the legs off the floor, get into the position where you lie supine on the table. Squeezing the ball between the legs, engage the inner thigh’s muscles and lower the abs for an extended time period. Dropping the knees to the right, slowly keep the lower back flat and the abs pulled in tight. You then need to pull to the center and exhale. Inhale as you drop down the other way. Keep your legs tucked in and knees aligned over the hip, stretching the lower back. Holding the ball higher will keep your legs in position across the movement. Perform 3 sets of eight to ten reps each.
#20 Push Ups With Crunch
Start in the position of a push-up and bend the knees off the floor. Then press the back into your hips so knees are directly beneath the ribs. Arms should be pressed straight through the shoulders so one feels it in the shoulders and the quads. Then lift the hips upwards in a downward dog posture. From this point, you need to round up your back and roll the spine forward in a wave starting with the lower spine and closing with the upper spine rolling the rest of the body flat till one is in the starting plank position.
Pressing back forces one to engage the lower abs, and active ab work is carried out through the rolling wave and the stretching of the back. Around 10 to 12 slow reps of 3 sets need to be carried out. Using this exercise, you can sculpt the oblique muscles for a defined midsection. This also helps to support the back and stabilize the core. External obliques help the trunk to rotate while keeping the internal obliques so that it helps with rotation at a deeper degree.
#21 Reach Through Side Planks
Lie down on the right side, placing the right hand firmly to the ground, and engaging the core, prop yourself to the side plank. Stack the left foot over the right, so the body remains in a straight line. Then extend the left arm at the ceiling and lowering the arm in front of you, bring it to the right hip. Place the left arm back above the head.
#22 Spiderman Crunch
This exercise involves stepping into the push-up posture with the hands and shoulders at a right angle. Lift the right foot just a couple of inches above the ground and bring the right knee towards the right elbow as you lower the body into a push-up position. The back should remain straight and not arch. Returning the right foot back to the starting posture, you need to push yourself back up and repeat this exercise on the left side.
#23 The Saw
Sit on the mat with legs in front ahead of you. Spread these far wide as a mat. Forming a T position with the arms to the side, twist towards the right side, stretching the left hand towards the right feet. Pulse around three times, untwist and return your body to the center. Repeat on the left side.
#24 Crab Reach
Sit with the knees bent and feet flattened onto the ground ahead of you, with the right hand firmly on the ground behind you. Keep the left arm bent to the side. Lift your behind off the ground while the left arm is extended behind you, and move towards the right side in what can be thought of like a reverse tabletop posture. Return to the starting point and repeat on the left side.
#25 Mountain Climbers Twist
Place a plyo box ahead of you. Then get into a high plank posture with both palms firmly on the top of the box. With engaged abs and a flat back, lift the right foot and bring the right knee to the left elbow. Then, get back to the starting position. Lifting the left feet, bring the left knee to the right elbow. Returning to the starting point, alternate the sides.
#26 Side Plank With Knee Drive
Lying on the right side, prop yourself on the right forearm. Stack the left foot over the right. Keep the left hand on the hop and engaging the core, drive the right knee up to the chest and repeat before alternating to the other side.
#27 Giant Clam
Placing the left forearm at the center of a medicine ball, raise your body with the left leg to the side in a side plank and the right leg bent at a 45-degree angle. Raise the right arm above and keep the hips lifted. Bringing the right hand and the left foot together, keep the leg straight.
#28 Sledgehammer Raise
This exercise should be done in 3 sets for 20 seconds. Grab a sledgehammer with the right hand and place the left hand near the hammer. Raising the hammer above the head and over the left shoulder, bring it down in a motion similar to the chopping of wood. Switch sides thereafter.
#29 Running Planks
This 30-minute exercise should be performed in 4 sets. Get into a plank on the mat with the feet together. Lift the hips off the ground and support the body weight with the forearms and maintain a neutral spine and tight core while balancing on your upper body.
#30 Deadlift with Barbell
Do this in 10 to 15 reps for 4 sets. Hold a barbell and stand at the stance slightly narrower than shoulder width. Grab the bar and bend your knees till the shin hits the bar which must remain towards the middle of the feet. Keeping the shoulder blades over the bar, pull while keeping the bar closer to the body, roll over the knees and thighs until the knees and hips are locked. Maintain and release this position.
#31 Battle Rope Waves
Each of the 30-second reps should be carried out in sets of 4 with 30-second rest. To do this exercise, stand with feet hip-width apart. Knees and hips need to be slightly bent while the core is locked in. Gripping the ends of a rope in both hands, let your arms remain straight down the center of the torso. Lower yourself in a half squat and move your body upward, extending the hips and the knees till the arm swings over the head. Return to the start thereafter and continue the movement.
#32 Box Jumps
Insets of 20 reps, with 4 sets, this exercise is guaranteed to lose the flab around your midsection. Stand in a straight way, with feet at shoulder width in a comfortable distance from the box. When ready to jump, drop into a quarter squat and extend the hips, swinging the arms and pushing the feet to propel the body onto the box.
#33 Kettlebell Swing
This again should be around 20 reps in 4 sets. Stand up in a straight position, with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handle of the kettlebell with both hands, palms facing downwards and arms in front of the body. Maintaining a slight bend in the knee, drive the hips back, but not too low. In a fluid motion, you then need to drive the hips forward while keeping the cores and glutes engaged and perform the kettlebell swing.
#34 Kneeling Vacuum
This needs to be carried out for only 1 set and a 60-second rep. Kneeling on the floor, sit with your bottoms on the heels. Place the hands on the side of the legs. Pulling the shoulders back, pull in your abs to touch the belly button to the spine. Hold the vacuum for at least 20 seconds and maintain contractions for 2 seconds alternating releases and contractions.
#35 Jumping Burpee
This needs to be carried out in 15 reps of 4 sets each. Start in a standing position with the feet together. Bend the knees and waist and place the palms of the hands on the ground. Then kick your feet backward in plank posture. Kicking your feet back in, stand up and jump once.
#36 Lunge with Side Twist
The lunge with a side twist is a wonderful core exercise to remove love handles. It builds balance and lower body strength. Here’s how you do this. Stand with feet apart and put your left food ahead in a lunge position. Then, clasp hands together ahead of the chest by bending the elbows at a right angle.Twist the upper body towards the left, moving the arms in line with the torso. Ensure that you don’t twist at the knee. Then, move back and move the body to the right side. This is one rep, and you can try 10 such reps in sets of three.
#37 Body Twists
Lying on the back with the legs straight, place the hands beneath the glutes, with the palms downward. Lift your head a couple of inches off the floor, pressing the lower back to the floor and keep the position until the entire set. Now, flex your feet towards the shin. Lift the right leg above the floor and raise the left leg as high as you possibly can. Hold for 3 counts and switch leg positions. Continue alternating and do about 6 reps per side and grabbing the knees, pull them towards the chest. Hold this position for a count of 5.
#38 Bear Crunch
Take the lower plank position with the weight on the forearms and the body straight from head to heels. This is the starting posture. Lifting the left leg, touch the left knee to the left elbow. Maintain this for 2 counts. Return to the starting position and repeat with the right leg, and alternate between the two for 6 reps per side. Then placing the knees on the ground, sit back towards the heels, extending the chest against the thighs and the arms forward. Hold for a count of 5 and then release.
#39 Draw Bridge
Lying on the back with legs straight, place the hand beneath the glutes, palms facing downward. Lift the head a couple of inches off the floor, pressing the lower back onto the floor and keeping this position for the entire set. Lifting both legs as high as possible, do not bend your knees. Hold this for 3 counts, and then lowering the legs until they are 6 inches from the ground, do not arch your back and hold this for a count of 3. Do 12 reps and 5 sets before crunching in and holding the pose for 5 seconds before releasing it.
#40 Banana Curve
Lie down on one side with legs straight and arms extended above the head. Lift feet, legs, and shoulder a couple of inches off the floor to form a curve. Hold this for 2 counts and then roll towards the other side for forming the banana curve in the other direction. Roll back and forth and do about 12 reps.
#41 Standing Oblique Crunch
Start by standing on the left leg with the right leg pointing to the side and the right arm reaching above the head. Crunch the right elbow to the right knee and return to the starting posture. Do 25 reps on either side.
#42 Long Arm Long Leg Reach
Standing on the left leg, with the knee slightly bent, the right leg needs to be pointed to the side. Put the left hand on the hip, with the right arm reaching above the head. Lower the right arm and raise the leg to meet at the height of the hip. Do 25 reps alternating between two sides.
#43 Side Bend
Standing with feet hip length apart, hold dumbbells in the left hand. Keeping the core tight, bend at the left hip while placing the left hand towards the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat with the right side. Do 15 to 25 repetitions on both sides.
#44 Side Lying Reach
Lie on the floor towards the right side with the right arm above the head, and raise the left leg about 1-2 feet. Raise the right leg to meet the left, lifting the shoulders off the ground and reaching the left arm towards the base. Return to the original position. Do at least 15 and a maximum of 25 repetitions on each side.
#45 Side Plank Hip Dip
Starting in the right forearm side, perform the plank with the left arm placed on the hip. Lowering the right hip to the ground, maintain the pose for one second and return to the starting point. Do at least 10 to 15 reps on each side, in total.
#46 Side Plank & Side Bend
Starting in the right side plank with the left foot ahead of the right, ensure the left arm reaches the sky. Reach the left arm above the head while raising the hips. Then, lower the hips and reach the left arm to the upward direction. Then, lift and square the hips to the floor, threading the right arm beneath the left to reach behind. Return to the starting position. Do 8 to 10 reps each side.
#47 Forearm Plank Hip Dip
Start with the forearm plank. Rotate the core to the lower left hip to tap the floor. Then, return to the forearm plank. Then, rotate the core to the lower right hip to tap the ground and return to the start. Do sixteen such reps.
#48 Knees to Elbow
Start with the full plank. Then, bring the right knee to the right elbow. Go back and then bring the left knee to the elbow on the left. Return to the start and do 16 reps each side, while alternating sides.
#49 Lateral Flexion
Start by lying on the floor in a crunched position with bent knees, right arm behind the head and left arm reaching the feet. Crunch on the left side by moving the left hand to the foot, Return to the start. Alternate to the right side. Do this for 25 reps.
There are dietary and lifestyle changes you can also take up to stave off love handles and ab fat. Here are the different ways to ensure you remain toned and fit:
#1 Cut Down on Sugar
Healthy eating is when fat loss takes place, so giving up on excess sugar is the best way to clean up the diet. Added sugar is found in different food products and beverages like candies, sodas, sports drinks, and cookies. This does not apply to natural fruit sugar. Sucrose or added sugar, on the other hand, can cause a lot of issues like heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc so that adding sugar leads to increased body fat in the stomach area. Sweeteners like agave nectar, honey, and high fructose contain fructose that has been found to increase belly fat. Many sugary drinks are also the direct cause of love handles.
#2 Eat Healthy Fats
Filling up on healthy fats like olive oil, seeds, nuts, avocados, and fatty fish also lead to a slimmer self. Healthy fats taste delicious and help in feeling full so that you end up having fewer calories in a day.
#3 Fill up on Fiber-Rich Foods
Adding foods that are high in soluble fiber to the everyday routine removes love handles. Soluble fiber is found in oats, veggies, beans, nuts, and fruits. It also helps in staying saturated for longer time periods by decreasing hunger and slowing down digestion. Prolonged feelings of satiety lower the number of calories and cause weight loss.
#4 Counter Stress
Being stressed out also negatively impacts physical and mental health and causes gains in belly fat. Stress triggers hormone cortisol which causes side effects like headaches, anxiety, digestive issues, and weight gain, especially around the midsection. So exercises like meditation and yoga reduce cortisol levels.
#5 Get Adequate Sleep
Much like stress, not getting adequate sleep causes cortisol levels in the body to elevate, leading to weight gain, as sleep deprived individuals weigh more and have higher body fat than those that get enough sleep of 6-8 hours daily.
#6 Remain Well Hydrated
Properly hydrating the body is a must for the best health. Water remains the best choice as opposed to tea, juice or sports drinks. Calories and sugar in sweetened beverages cause weight gain around the waistline.
#7 Eat Complex Carbs
Refined carbs like white rice, bread and pasta need to be swapped for nutrient-dense complex carbs like beans, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oats. Complex carbs give the feeling of satiation and are digested slowly due to high fiber content. This can trim down love handles. Choose fiber-rich complex carbs and your waistline will thank you for it.
#8 Avoid Alcohol
An effective way to cut down on calories and lose weight involves cutting back on alcoholic beverages. Drinking excessive alcohol is linked to increased body fat, especially around the middle. Alcohol also stimulates brain cells and so you end up consuming more calories. Additionally, alcohol is loaded with calorific value and additional sugar.
In severe cases, doctors may even operate to fend off obesity and a bulging midsection. But the ultimate step towards a trimmer, healthier you lies in your hands. So, get moving and use these exercises to get back into shape or remain trim, slim and svelte.