Side fat always seems to overstay it’s welcome. Even dedicated fitness enthusiasts have a tricky time shedding those extra pounds around their sides! Oftentimes, ab exercises and routines fail to deliver the proper technique and pace instruction to help you eliminate this common problem area. Strategically designed to target this area and tone and tighten your sides, these 5 foolproof moves to get rid of side fat offer the expert guidance you need to wave buh-bye to those pesky love handles once and for all!
Your oblique muscles lay underneath that undesired layer of fat on your sides. In this routine, these 5 moves concentrate on your obliques, strengthening this muscle while burning fat. You might have tried targeting this area in the past, engaging in exercises like the standing side crunch or side v-ups. These movements certainly succeed in building muscle, but their slow-paced activity lacks cardio, and fails to give you that calorie burn you need to both tone and shed excess weight.
In order to burn through the fat and help accent your natural curves, the obliques are best developed by moves involving twisting or reaching across the body at a fast rate. Truth is, we can’t decide where our body burns fat, but by using isolated exercises, you help develop the area and build muscle that can help get you results. This routine offers you a fast paced, oblique-focused workout that we guarantee will build muscle and torch unwanted fat. And the best part? These moves call for zero equipment whatsoever, meaning you can perform this fabulous workout anytime, anywhere. Let’s get started!
5 Best Moves to Get Rid of Side Fat
What you need: yoga mat or soft surface and an interval timer (free interval apps are available on your phone)
What to do: Perform the workout designated for your fitness level below.
Beginner Workout: Perform each exercise for 30 seconds with a 10 second rest in between. Perform 3 sets, resting 30 seconds between each.
Intermediate Workout: Perform each exercise for 30 seconds with no rest in between. Perform 4 sets, resting 30 seconds between each.
Advanced Workout: Perform each exercise for 45 seconds with no rest in between. Perform 5 sets, resting 45 seconds between each.
Perform this workout three times a week to see the best results!
1. Alternating Toe Touch
2. Side Plank
3. Crossover Running Plank
5. Hip Dip Planks
Alternating Toe Touch
Crossover Running Plank
Hip Dip Planks
Exercise is never enough, especially when it comes to trying to get ride of side fat. Combine this workout with these flat belly tips and recipes:
- 7 Tiny Changes to Help You Get a Flat Belly
- Eat Your Way to Flatter Abs- 17 Flat Belly Foods
- 21-Day Flat Belly Meal Plan
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Clifford is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and a lover of all things health, fitness, personal development, and community. When he’s not cycling, hiking, or exploring new food recipes, he works to help others achieve personal growth.
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Spot fat reduction doesn’t work, but these exercises can help you tone your sides.
Increasing muscle definition in your sides will take more than some side crunches, but it’s doable.
Javier Sánchez Mingorance/EyeEm/Getty Images
“Love handles” is a common name that refers to the body fat that lies on top of the hips. Despite their simple nature — it’s just subcutaneous fat above the hips — love handles seem to have garnered a collective hatred. Many people dislike love handles and aim to get rid of them to increase muscle definition on their belly and sides.
People want them gone, whether their motivator is intrinsic or extrinsic. Most people approach this goal the wrong way, however, because they believe they can directly target the body fat on their sides. Weight loss unfortunately doesn’t work that way , but you can still lose love handles with these tips and exercises.
What love handles really are
Let’s start with a little bit of anatomy. What you call love handles is the body fat on top of your obliques, the core muscles that run from your ribs to your hips. Many people struggle to lose the body fat that lies atop their obliques and get frustrated when it bulges over their waistband.
The easiest solution is to go up a pants size, to be honest. But if you want to get rid of love handles for health reasons, such as reducing your risk of heart disease , or simply to feel more confident in your body, you definitely can — just not with side crunches, like many people believe.
Body fat that bulges over the waistband on pants is commonly called “love handles.”
Nicole Lienemann/EyeEm/Getty Images
As a reminder, spot reduction doesn’t work
Look, no matter how many side crunches you do , you won’t get rid of love handles without a consistent calorie deficit. Losing body fat is a numbers game — a simple game of calories in, calories out . Any health professional will argue that the source and quality of your calories does matter, but in the end, a calorie deficit is a calorie deficit. And a surplus is a surplus.
If you’re in a calorie surplus or even at maintenance, you won’t lose fat on your sides or anywhere else. A surplus will make you gain more over time, and maintenance calories will keep you exactly where you’re at.
To lose body fat, try sticking to a well-rounded workout plan that includes strength-training exercises as well as cardiovascular exercise . While strict diets aren’t necessary for weight loss, losing weight does require some level of attention to your eating pattern. Knowing roughly how many calories you eat and burn each day is essential to changing your body composition .
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Best exercises for the obliques
All of the above said, you can strengthen your obliques to create a more chiseled look. Core strengthening exercises lead to muscle growth in your midsection, and a calorie deficit will help you lose subcutaneous body fat (the fat beneath your skin), revealing the hard-earned muscles underneath.
You’ll notice many of these exercises are compound movements rather than core isolation exercises. This is because compound movements (exercises that engage more than one joint or muscle group) engage more muscle fibers and burn more calories than single-joint or isolation exercises.
If you thought regular planks were tough, wait until you try a side plank. This isometric core exercise challenges your entire midsection with a focus on your obliques. Your arms, shoulders and upper back also work to stabilize your body.
Try this: Do three sets of a 10-second side plank on each side. Each week, increase the time by five seconds until you can get to a minute on each side.
Deceptively simple, the farmer’s carry ignites a burn in your arms, back and core. It’s great practice for bringing all the groceries inside in one trip.
Try this: Use two kettlebells or dumbbells that are challenging, but not impossible, for you to hold for 30 seconds. Carry the weights for 30 seconds and then rest 30 seconds. Repeat two more times. For an extra oblique challenge, try a single-arm farmer’s carry and focus on keeping your torso aligned.
The dead hang activates your latissimus dorsi (“lats,” aka the muscles you use during pull-ups ), which is not an oblique muscle, but is a part of your core and affects the way your midsection looks and functions.
Try this: Hang from a bar for three sets of 10 seconds. Over time, work your way up to 30-second sets. To engage your abs more, tuck your knees up to your chest or as high as you can.
A classic core move , mountain climbers activate your obliques along with all of your other core muscles. The key is to perform your reps slowly, rather than in a high-intensity interval training fashion. Slow reps are more conducive to strength while fast reps are more conducive to cardio.
Try this: Perform three to five sets of 10 to 20 mountain climbers. Practice bringing your knee all the way to your elbow. Rest as needed in between sets.
Seated sit-ups with a press
Up for a serious core challenge? You need to add sit-ups with a press to your routine. Any type of sit-up engages the core, but loading one arm with weight and pressing it above your head during the sit-up presents a unique challenge. This movement forces your obliques to work extra hard at keeping your torso aligned, lest your lower back suffer.
Try this: Using a kettlebell or dumbbell that’s challenging but not too heavy, perform three sets of 10 reps, switching the weight to the other arm after five reps.
Single-arm overhead press
In the same fashion as the single-arm squats above, single-arm overhead presses force your obliques to activate more than usual due to the offset weight.
Try this: Do three sets of 10 reps, switching arms after five reps. Take care to choose a weight that’s challenging, but that you’re able to press up without arching your back.
More workout advice
- Do these workouts if you want to lose weight
- Which type of exercise burns the most calories?
- This is how many calories you should burn during your workouts
- The best butt and leg exercises, according to a fitness trainer
- How to create an exercise routine you’ll actually stick to
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
For some guys, there’s no greater goal than achieving an aesthetic ideal and building a body that wouldn’t be out of place on the pedestal of a Grecian statue (or at least on the cover of a cheap romance novel). There are plenty of challenges to accomplishing this goal, and love handles are one of the peskiest hurdles on the path to achieving that type of physique. The stubborn region of fat just above the belt can be obstinate, and it takes more than just a few crunches and leg lifts to get rid of it.
Love handles are composed of subcutaneous fat, which sits just beneath the skin. In one sense, that’s good news. That type of fat isn’t an immediate problem, outside of your cosmetic concerns and general health. You don’t have as much to be worried about subcutaneous fat as the insidious visceral fat in your belly, which can cause all kinds of health issues. But if you’re determined to lose those nagging love handles, you do have options.
There are a few shortcuts you can take to get rid of love handles, but they’re extreme, and not something that we’d generally recommend. Liposuction is one of these options. More recently, men have turned to non-invasive treatments, the most popular of which feature either freezing or heating the stubborn fatty areas off the body. These treatments are expensive and might be a bridge too far unless you’re really desperate.
Besides, by cutting corners, you’ll miss out on the fitness gains you’d make along the way using other methods, which will hopefully become a reason your training in and of itself. If getting rid of love handles without special treatments is your goal, you’ll have to work hard—but you’ll have to work smart, too.
One method that is not smart and won’t work is spot reduction. The theory is that if you focus all of your attention on one specific area in your training (for instance, doing hundreds of crunches for you midsection), you’ll be able to burn off the fat in just that area. But that’s not how your body works. What you can do is lose fat more generally, then build up muscle where you might not have had it before—but for that to work, you’ll have to do that smart, hard work.
Here’s a plan to ditch your stubborn love handles from former Men’s Health fitness advisor Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S.
Find the Right Intervals for Exercise
Studies have shown that interval-based exercise programs, most specifically high intensity interval training (HIIT), are more effective for burning off your love handles than steady state cardio. Instead of running for miles on end without any clear goal, fine tune your work and rest periods to strip away the fat.
So what type of interval program should you use? You can use a jump rope, or apply the principles to running or weight room work. Ballantyne recommends this setup to banish that pesky midsection fat:
After a thorough warmup, alternate between 20 seconds of hard exercise and 40 seconds recovery. Repeat that pattern 6 to 8 times. Afterwards, finish with 5 to 10 minutes of cooldown exercise.
If you have extra time, do 10 minutes of regular cardio pace.
Don’t Overload on Cardio
Even though Ballantyne recommended cardio for a cool down, he’s wary of its effectiveness when performed alone. Extended periods of steady state cardio, like jogging, won’t do much to cut down your spare tire. “It’s not going to work as well as interval training,” Ballantyne said.
This is related to another issue, according to Ballantyne: Many guys don’t have enough muscle in the first place. Losing love handles, like bodybuilding, is a game of illusion. Muscle on your chest and back can essentially “hide” excess fat in your love handle area.
“So most guys are “skinny-fat,” and then try to lose love handles with cardio only, and basically become even smaller versions of themselves—but still skinny-fat,” Ballantyne said. “It’s better to use intervals and weight training to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time—which IS possible—and change your body’s overall appearance.”
Rethink Your Core Training Routine
“Ab exercises like crunches are generally a waste of time,” Ballantyne said. The problem is, you’re only working the muscles around your lower spine with crunches and situps.
Instead, you should build up your core with moves that focus on spinal stability, like planks and hollow body holds. Check out this quick video about the way your core muscles function for an idea of what you should be aiming for:
Want a smarter core workout in general? Check out Epic Abs, the program from MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. that inspired this video.
Build Yourself Up While Slimming Down
While you’re cutting down your midsection, do yourself a solid and work on some other areas of your body that can take attention away from your ample hips. Build up your pecs, lats, deltoids, and traps to create the illusion of smaller love handles.
“Most guys don’t have enough muscle to focus on just losing weight,” Ballantyne said, “so every guy must build some muscle in these areas.”
How can you build the muscle and lose fat at the same time? You’re hoping to “culk,” so you should start by training hard, eating properly, and sticking to a consistent program.
Ballantyne also recommended a plan based around two to three total body workouts per week. Use five exercises per workout (one lower body, one upper push, one lower body single leg, one upper pulling, one total body ab exercise). Do that as a circuit three times through, with eight to 12 reps per exercise. Finish with interval training.
Get Out What You Put In
If you want advanced results, you have to do advanced things,” said Ballantyne. “Such as cutting all the processed carbohydrates from your diet. One cheat reward meal per week—that’s cheat MEAL, not cheat DAY.”
Replace breakfast cereals and grain carbs with fruits, vegetables, and nuts. “Losing your love handles isn’t going to happen if you insist on treating yourself to a Frappuccino, Pepsi, and a slice of pizza every day,” he said. “It means eating meals of lean protein, fiber-rich vegetables, and snacking on apples and nuts between meals.”
“It’s diet. It’s just too easy for most guys to cheat, Ballantyne said. “They have to realize that they have to have more discipline if they want results.”
Love handles refer to excess fat on the sides of the waist. This fat often hangs over the sides of pants and due to its appearance is also called a “spare tire” or “muffin top.” This area is a common concern for people who want to slim down.
What Is the Best Exercise to Get Rid of Love Handles?
Unfortunately, exercise alone will not get rid of love handles. Studies have shown that abdominal resistance training does not reduce belly fat or slim the waistline more than diet alone.
Diet plus exercise works best to reduce love handles. It is possible to tighten the core muscles in the lower abdomen, and when combined with diet, the mid-section can appear more toned.
To lose your love handles, you need to lose fat all over the body. The best exercise regimen for fat loss includes both aerobic and strength exercises (resistance training). High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE), is a type of cardiovascular exercise that alternates between short bouts of high-intensity and low-intensity exercise. HIIT usually alternates between slower to moderate-intensity and high-intensity movements. The Obesity Reviews Journal reviewed 13 different studies on overweight adults and found that HIIT reduced weight and waist circumference.
Specific exercises that can help tone and tighten the mid-section include:
- Abdominal scissors
- Lay on your back with hands at your sides or under your glutes for back support
- Extend legs straight, then cross the legs over each other, alternating the leg that crosses on top; or alternate legs going straight up and down
- Don’t let the legs drop to the floor
- Make sure your core is engaged and your lower back is pressed onto the floor
- Lay down on your belly and prop yourself forearms and toes, head facing the floor
- Engage the abdominal muscles and keep the body in a straight line
- Hold position for a few seconds and return to the floor
- Start in a plank position
- Bring the right knee up and across the body, past the stomach to the left elbow, keeping the back and arms straight and core engaged
- Return to a plank position and repeat on the other side
- Lie down on the right side and prop the body up using the right elbow and hand, with the left foot stacked on top of the right foot
- Raise your hips and buttocks towards the ceiling
- Hold position for a few seconds and return to the floor
- Repeat the on the other side
- Begin in a seated position with knees bent, feet hip-width apart
- Lean the upper body backwards to a 45-degree angle, keeping the back straight
- Engage the core and twist the upper body to the left and place hands on the floor, then twist to the right and place the hands on the floor
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and raise both arms above the head on the left-hand side
- Bring hands down toward the floor on the right-hand side of the body as you perform a squat while twisting the mid-section and hips
- Perform several times and repeat on the other side
What Diets Work to Get Rid of Love Handles?
Just as there is no specific exercise to get rid of love handles, there is no way to quickly reduce love handles with diet. Fad diets may help you drop pounds quickly and maybe even inches off your waistline, but most of that will likely be water weight and it will be temporary. Losing love handles comes down to old fashioned diet and exercise, which are key factors in determining how much fat is in our bodies.