20 Exercises to Help You Lose Belly Fat
There are few fitness accolades men seem to value above a washboard stomach, perhaps because it's living proof that you've put time in at the gym, watched your diet and have found time to dish out a one-two punch to belly fat.
Providing it's done safely and correctly, a toned stomach is an outward sign that you exercise regularly and eat healthily. That said, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to eradicating belly fat and, despite what questionable fitness advice you've heard, you can't target — or 'spot reduce' — areas of fat on your body. Much like emptying a swimming pool, you can't simply grab a bucket and drain one corner, you've got to empty the whole pool.
What's more, exercise alone isn't a suitable plan to rip up your midriff. To say goodbye to belly fat for good, you'll have to focus on losing fat across your entire body and the best way to achieve that? A tactical combination of a calorie controlled diet and clever strength training.
But that's not to say that your ultimate goal can't be to lose belly fat. That's as good a goal as any, and if that is your aim, science certainly has your back. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that your belly — your gut, your paunch or whatever you call it — may increase your risk of dying early. The 2.5 million-person study revealed that as waist size increases so does all causes of mortality. Jarringly, the study found that for every four inches (10cm) of added waist size, the chances of early mortality increase by 11%.
"Belly fat is the fat that is stored around the organs in the abdomen and its excess is linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Therefore, having more belly fat can increase the risk of dying from these diseases," said study author Tauseef Ahmad Khan, from the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.
"People should be more concerned about their waist rather than focusing only on weight or BMI. Waist is a better indicator of belly fat and while one cannot target where one loses fat from, losing weight through diet and exercise will also reduce waist and therefore belly fat."
Khan is exactly right, losing weight and dropping your body fat percentage is the only way to ultimately get rid of your belly. But if you want to know what belly-fat exercises to use to expedite your path to that end point, we can help you with that.
Types of Belly Fat and the Dangers
Before we get to the exercises, first of all it's important to say that not all belly fat is created equal. According to Harvard Health, there are two kinds of fat in your stomach:
The soft layer of chub that sits directly under the skin - the wobbly bits - and is generally harmless.
The stuff you can't see, which forms around your organs and has been proven to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The bad news is that belly fat is metabolically active, and excels at pumping out various inflammatory substances that interfere with hormones that control appetite, mood and brain function. It can also impact your cortisol level, potentially sending your stress levels through the roof.
The good news is that it's easy to get rid off, providing you know what you are doing. And a lot of it comes down to the type of exercises. However, they probably aren't the exercises you think. Let's start with the ones you shouldn't do, but everyone does (or has done).
Exercises That WON'T Burn Belly Fat
Abdominal exercises. Simply put, bashing out endless reps of sit-ups won't have any real impact on your belly fat, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning. Of course, these kind of exercises will help strengthen your abdominal muscles, even tone them, but they won't shift the layer of fat above them.
There is a belief, among some, that you are able to target a specific body part for weight loss, a process known as 'spot reduction'. Unfortunately, the majority of studies cast doubt of the validity of this process.
So let's make it clear: in order to reduce belly fat you'll have to reduce the body fat percentage of your whole body. Simply put, in order to coax your body into utilising its stored body fat as fuel, you must be burning more calories than you're consuming.
Unfortunately, and we're sorry to be the bearer of bad news, you have no real control over where you'll lose the fat first. But that's not to say that the exercises below – a combination of full-body movements that demand a bucket load of effort and promoting a huge calorie burn – won't almost immediately start to bring your body fat down and, in time, shave flab from around your stomach, revealing your muscle groups. What's more, when they do finally make an appearance, they'll look strong and chiselled.
Implement a selection of these twenty fat burning exercises to hammer the dozens of muscles between your shoulders and hips and get better metabolism at the same time.
The 20 Best Exercises For Burning Belly Fat
If you want to lose your gut, you need to work as many muscles as possible. The burpee does just that. The explosive exercise – which entails going from a push-up position to a jump and back to a push-up position – hits every muscle from head to toe.
In fact, a study from the American College of Sports Medicine found that 10 fast-paced reps are just as effective at revving your metabolism as a 30-second all-out sprint, so you can burn your belly fat faster than ever before.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Lower your body until your palms rest on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
Kick your legs backward into a pushup position, perform a pushup, and then quickly reverse the movement and perform a jump when you stand. That's 1 rep.
2. Mountain Climber
Think of the mountain climber as a moving plank. You perform a mini crunch when you explosively draw one knee into your chest.
What makes this move so difficult, however, is that your core has to work overtime to keep your body stable and straight every time you lift a foot off of the floor.
Assume a push-up position with your hands below your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. This is the starting position.
Lifting your right foot off of the floor, drive your right knee towards your chest. Tap the floor with your right foot and then return to the starting position. Alternate legs with each repetition.
3. Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing might be one of the best calorie-torching exercises of all time. In order to propel the heavy ball of iron, you need to engage big fat-burning muscle groups like your glutes, hips, and quads.
The explosive nature of this movement skyrockets your heart rate right away, but it also hammers your core.
Bend at your hips and hold a kettlebell with both hands at arms length down in front of you. Rock back slightly and “hike” the kettlebell between your legs.
Then squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward forcefully, and swing the weight to shoulder height. Reverse the move between your legs and repeat.
4. Medicine Ball Slam
If you haven’t used a medicine ball since school, you’re missing out. “Your core is your centre of power, so performing explosive movements like the med-ball slam requires all the muscles between your neck and your hips to work together,” says expert coach Sean De Wispelaere.
And if you pick up the pace and propel the ball with more power and velocity, you’ll elevate your heart rate and burn some serious belly flab, he says.
You don’t even need to increase the weight. A 3-kilo medicine ball will work just fine if you go hard and push yourself.
Hold the ball above your head with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Slam the ball on the floor as hard as you can. Catch the rebound and repeat.
5. Dumbell Overhead Lunge
Add a dumbbell overhead during a lunge, and you suddenly have a core chiseler.
“As the load shifts with every rep, all of the muscles in your torso need to work together to keep the weight directly above you,” says Tony Gentilcore, strength coach at Cressey Performance.
The move engages your back and butt, too, because hunched shoulders and weak glutes also contribute to a bulging belly.
Grab a pair of medium- to light-weight dumbbells. Press the dumbbells overhead so your palms face each other. Be careful not to scrunch your shoulders up by your ears.
Step forward into a lunge position, pause, and then bring your back leg forward to step your feet together. Alternate legs as you walk forward.
6. Treadmill Sprints
If you're looking to drop weight around your midriff — or anywhere else, for that matter — few exercises are better than short, sharp cardio bouts. Forget about daily 5ks and turn to HIIT instead. A study published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning Research found that participants burned up to 30% more calories doing a fast-paced HIIT workout over a longer, lower-intensity session for the same amount of time. To start, hit fifteen sets of 20 seconds sprinting with 40 seconds rest, and gradually increase your work:rest ratio.
Increase the incline on a treadmill and sprint at full speed for the designated time.
Hit this multi-joint movement made of a squat and a squat and a shoulder press will ignite your glutes, quads, abs, shoulders and arm, while taxing your cardiovascular fitness. It's the ultimate bang-for-your-buck exercise that hits almost every major muscle group.
Hold two kettlebells (or dumbbells) by their handles but so the weight is resting on the back of your shoulder.
Slightly bend your knees and squat down, keeping your legs in line with your shoulders.
Drive through your legs and straighten them, extending your arms as you do so to raise the kettlebells above your head. Squat down and repeat.
Spur fat loss, improve agility, build strength, boost power, and skyrocket your fitness: the benefits of skaters stretch way beyond simply burning belly fat, but they're excellent at that too.
Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. Jump to one side of your mat and bend one leg behind the supporting leg at a slight angle.
Come back to standing and leap to the other side of your mat.
Shift your weight and land with the opposite leg behind you. Repeat.
9. Tuck Jumps
This plyometric exercise absolutely torches calories, which makes it a perfect addition to any body-fat burning workout.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees and extend your arms out at shoulder height.
Using the power from your legs, bend deeper and jump straight up lifting your knees to touch hands extended.
Be sure to land softly and with your knees bent.
10. Squat Jumps
Another calorie-sizzling plyo movement, squat jumps are a building block for just about every explosive lower body movement imaginable.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge at the hips to push your butt back and lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Press your feet down to explode off the floor and jump as high as you can.
Allow your knees to bend 45 degrees when you land, and then immediately drop back down into a squat, and jump again.
Don't let this simplicity of this exercise fool you, it targets the entire body, working the arms, abs, glutes, legs and heart in one effective, and for our purposes calorie-crushing, move.
Squat down and place your hands on the floor between your feet.
Kick your legs back into a press-up position.
Reverse the movement back to the low-squat position. That’s one rep.
12. Broad Jump
The compound and explosive nature of jumping means that it requires a lot of energy, which is why broad jumps are such a great exercise for calorie burning.
With your feet shoulder-width apart, lower yourself into a squat position.
Swing your arms back and use them to propel yourself forward, then bring your legs forward for additional momentum.
Jump as far as you can and land in a low-squat position.
13. Jumping Jacks
No, jumping jacks aren't an exercise reserved for your half-arsed warm-up, they torch calories, are good for you heart and can be done absolutely anywhere.
Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides.
Simultaneously raise your arms above your head and jump up just enough to spread your feet out wide.
Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement and repeat.
14. Jumping Lunge
Thought the dumbbell overhead lunge was the only lunge you need in your life? Hold on a second, a simple jumping lunge is also an effective calorie killer and, like that other exercise, it'll work your core too.
Lunge forward until your rear knee is almost touching the ground.
Jump into the air, bringing your rear foot forward and the front foot back.
Land in a lunge and repeat.
15. High Knees
Haven't got access to a treadmill? No problem. Stand on the spot and blast out some high knees. Oh, and if you want to make these more difficult, try testing your coordination with alternating punches too.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Aim to lift up your right knee to your chest.
Lowing your right knee and lift your left knee to your chest.
Continue the movement, alternating legs and moving at a sprinting or running pace.
Jumping rope for an hour can burn between 800 and 1000 calories, and while we don't expect you to skip for that long, don't underestimate how much good a simple skipping rope can do.
Hold the rope in your hands with your arms by your sides.
Jump on each revolution.
Focus on keeping knees soft and core engaged.
17. Devil's Press
Fewer movements require quite as many muscles as this sinisterly named dumbbell delight, and more muscles means a bigger calorie burn.
Holding two dumbbells, drop down into a press-up position and lower your chest to the ground.
Press back up and quickly jump your legs back towards your chest landing with your dumbbells between your legs.
As you begin to stand back up, use the momentum to swing the weights between your legs, then explosively overhead.
Lower under control, back to the ground and repeat.
18. Barbell Clean and Push Press
Utilising nearly every muscle in your body and moving a barbell from ground to ceiling is a sure fire way to spike your metabolism.
Hinge down and grasp a barbell, hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Shins perpendicular to the ground. Tightly lock your arms and back
Explode up, extending your knees and hips and using the momentum to power the bar to your shoulders. Flip your wrists to land it above your chest with a slight bend in your knees before standing up straight.
Take a deep breath and brace your core. Dip at the knees and use your legs to help press your barbell overhead. Lower under control to your shoulders, then to the ground and repeat.
19. Alternating Dumbbell Snatch
Explosively tossing a dumbbell from the ground to overhead? Probably the most fun you can have with a dumbbell (and the most calories you can burn).
Hold one dumbbell on the ground between your legs, squatting and hinging down with a flat back.
Drive up through your hips and knees, generating momentum to pull the dumbbell up to chin height.
Quickly flip your wrist and press the dumbbell directly overhead in one movement. Lock your arm out overhead and stand tall.
Lower the dumbbell safely to the ground, switch arms and repeat.
20. Farmers Walk
Walking is uncontroversially a pleasant way to wile away the calories. Walking with a heavy set of weights in each hand may be far less pleasant, but its definitely more efficient for ramping up your metabolism.
Hinge down and deadlift a heavy pair of dumbbells or kettlebells to waist height.
Stand tall, pull your shoulders blades back, lock your ribcage down and brace your core.
Stride forward quickly, completing 10-20m lengths, or simply keep going until your grip gives out... then repeat.
15-Minute Cardio and Strength Challenge
Training like an athlete needn’t mean double sessions or weekends spent in the weights room. This fat-burning, stamina boosting rowing and strength workout will help you find out how big your tank really is, with a selection of kit that demands cardio fitness, functional strength and explosive power. Complete each circuit three times, resting for a minute between each round.
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