A slender midsection is at the top of most workout wish lists, especially with warmer weather ahead. In fact, it’s the most common fitness question I’m asked about. Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to get rid of stubborn belly fat — the midsection is one of the hardest areas of the body to trim down.
Genetics, age, hormones, and lifestyle habits all contribute to the size of your midsection. And contrary to popular belief, you can’t spot-train this area. That means no amount of sit ups or crunches will whittle your waistline, though it will help to strengthen these muscles and build endurance. The same concept applies to other popular trouble zones like bra bulge, inner thighs that rub, or flabby skin behind the arms.
A more effective approach: Engage in exercises that reduce your overall body fat percentage.
Go for a routine that balances high-intensity cardio and strength-training exercises that target the powerhouse, lower body muscles like the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Larger muscle groups burn more calories in a shorter time than upper body exercises alone. This plan, combined with a nutritious diet of lean meats, whole grains, and fiber is the best — and healthiest — way of revealing a more svelte physique.
Here’s an example of what a total-body HIIT workout looks like. For best results, repeat this entire circuit three times, three days a week, in addition to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (such as walking) each week. If possible, limit rest breaks between exercises to 60 seconds or less, and no more than two minutes between sets. You will need a set of free weights.
Grip a free weight in each hand and assume a plank position. Keep the wrists straight and strong as you distribute your body weight between the hands and balls of the feet.
The spine is straight, gaze is slightly forward, and abs are engaged. Pull the right arm up toward the ribs until the weight is right next to them and elbows are pointed to the sky. Squeeze the shoulder blade then release the weight back down. Now perform on the left side. Continue alternating for 10 to 12 repetitions. If easier, the same exercise can be done without weights or from the knees.
You can either keep the free weights in hand during this plank pose or push them to the side, whichever is more comfortable.
Briskly drive the knees up toward the chest one after another for 20 counts. Avoid letting the hips hike or sag during this time.
Stand with the feet wide and hands balled into fists in front of the chest.
Simultaneously punch the right fist out across the body as you pivot on the right ball of your foot. Return to center and punch the left fist across the body as you pivot on the left foot. Stay low as you continue this back-and-forth sequence for 30 repetitions (15 per side). If you’d like a further challenge, you can hold light free weights (somewhere between three and eight pounds).
Hold a single free weight overhead with a hand gripping each side of it. Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart.
Pull the right knee up and weighted arms down toward the knee until they almost meet. Squeeze the abs for two counts, then release the arms and legs. Think of this as a standing sit-up. Now practice by bringing the left leg up. Continue switching legs for 20 counts (10 per leg).
With your body weight on your right foot, bring your left leg diagonally behind you. Explosively push off your right foot, jumping to the left and landing on the ball of your left foot. Swing your arms for momentum and stay low as you alternate from side-to-side. Practice for 20 repetitions (10 per leg).