Love handles. Spare tires. Muffin tops. Cupcakes. People have all sorts of weird and, inadvertently or not, condescending names for body parts they’re less than pleased with. I could write an entire separate story on why we should ditch all those icky monikers, but the fact of the matter is that nicknamed or not, people want to change the way those parts look.
Love handles in particular seem to have garnered a collective hatred. 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, thethat 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, or simply to feel more confident in your body, you definitely can — just not with side crunches, like many people believe.
As a reminder, spot reduction doesn’t work
Look,, you won’t get rid of love handles without a consistent calorie deficit. Losing body fat is a numbers game — a simple game of . 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 includesexercises as well as . 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 .
Best exercises for the obliques
All of the above said, you can strengthen your obliques to create a more chiseled look.lead to in your midsection, and a calorie deficit will help you lose subcutaneous body fat (the fat beneath your skin), revealing the underneath.
You’ll notice many of these exercises arerather than core isolation exercises. This is because compound movements (exercises that engage more than one joint or muscle group) engage more muscle fibers and 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), 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, 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.
Single-arm front-rack squat
Up for a serious core challenge? You need to add single-arm front-rack squats to your routine. Any type of squat engages the core, but loading just one arm with weight 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 (you should be able to prop it up into the front-rack position without folding forward), perform three sets of 10 squats, 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.
This functional but advanced movement can lead to major strength gains in your core. Rotation is such a foundational movement pattern, the risk of injury is high due to weakened core muscles that aren’t used to rotating or supporting the spine during that movement pattern.
Try this: Ideally under the supervision of a professional, practice slow and steady reps. Aim for three sets of five reps in each direction, resting as needed.
More workout advice
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.