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Best Exercises for Love Handles

Love handles seem impossible to conquer. These fatty deposits on the sides of the hips and obliques build up when, to put it simply, you consume more calories than you burn. While simple math dictates calories in must be less than calories out, that’s a whole lot easier said than done. Today, we’re going to learn how to apply the right kind of exercise to satisfy the caloric burn needed to eliminate love handles once and for all and how the best home use treadmills on the market can help you get the lean, flat belly you’ve always wanted. 

Understanding the Cause of Love Handles

When you retain fat, it’s stored for future use. The trouble is, it can build up anywhere in the body, and there are a variety of factors that make it more likely for this to occur around the waist and hips. Some examples include:

  • Increased cortisol levels due to stress eating
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Eating too much sugar
  • Lack of sleep
  • Metabolic disorders like hyperthyroidism

Whatever the underlying cause of your love handles, exercise is a crucial aspect of getting to the root of the issue. 

Are Love Handles Cause for Concern?

Most people simply don’t like the look of love handles, which are especially troublesome since tight clothing makes them even more pronounced (think of the infamous muffin top). In and of themselves, love handles do not pose health risks. However, they can be indicative of bigger problems that are cause for concern. Serious issues like high blood pressure, heart and liver disease, sleep apnea, stroke, and even cancer are all risk factors associated with excessive fat deposits around the midsection. So, whether you’re in it for your health, your aesthetics, or a little bit of both, there are plenty of reasons to put serious effort into annihilating your love handles once and for all. 

Properly Combining Strength and Cardio

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the best exercises for love handles, understand that doing a million sit ups a day is pointless if you’re not achieving the caloric deficit required to burn the fat away. If you need help with the nutrition side of this critical equation, check out my full review of the Noom app. For now, let’s dive into the nitty gritty of how to use exercise to target love handles. To maximize your efforts and improve your chances of getting your love handles under control, mastering the right combination of strength and cardio is key. 

Strength

Building strength in the obliques makes for more toned muscles beneath the fat deposits that are your love handles. Furthermore, muscle burns more calories than fat, so increasing your muscle mass with the best exercises for abs helps you achieve a higher caloric deficit simply through your activities of daily life. 

Cardio

Since a layer of fat is what is separating you and your oblique muscles, cardio is a critical component of your love handle assassination. While many cringe at the idea of cardio, keep in mind you don’t have to engage in intense sessions involving high impact on the joints. Think of the tortoise and the hare. If slow and steady wins the race, spend more time going at a lower intensity. The key is to find cardio you enjoy, and exploring these 10-minute treadmill sessions for burning fat can be a great start. 

Best Exercises for Love Handles

With an understanding of the importance of combining strength and cardio, let’s take a look at a regimen for success when it comes to using exercise to melt those love handles away. 

1. Mountain Climbers

How it’s done: In a plank position, bring your knee into your chest, and return to plank position. Alternate legs at a tempo that suits your preferences. 

Why Mountain Climbers Work for Love Handles: Remember, we all have a six pack. The key is burning the fat surrounding those muscles so they can be seen. To do this, exercises that tone the core while getting the heart rate up are perfect. That’s what makes mountain climbers one of my favorite exercises to get your core looking great.

The mountain climber checks many boxes since it engages everything from the glutes and hamstrings to the back, hips, abs, and even upper body, making this one of the most efficient exercises for your regimen. The recruitment of such a diverse range of muscle groups makes it an exercise that improves range of motion and decreases your risk of injury during activities of daily living.

The biggest reason I recommend my clients use mountain climbers to target love handles is that they keep working long after your workout is over. As a form of functional fitness training, the mountain climber movement is one that improves the way you move throughout the day. With an increased ability to stay active, you’re more likely to burn the calories necessary to reduce fatty deposits around the belly.

Modification: A great way to mix things up is to consider using exercise sliders that reduce the friction between your feet and the floor. This allows you to perform the mountain climber without lifting your feet off the ground, thus reducing impact and allowing increased speed.

2. Side Plank

How it’s done: Lying on your side, prop yourself up either with your arm bent at a 90 degree angle and resting on your elbow or fully extended with your weight bearing down on your hand. Raise your hips off the floor, and hold this position. 

Why Side Planks Work for Love Handles: Love handles are predominately located on the sides extending outward from the hips. The beauty of the side plank is, unlike many core exercises that target the front of the belly, they instead focus on the obliques. These are the muscles that lie along the sides of the torso and directly underneath the love handle zone. Since the hips and shoulders are also engaged, you strengthen all three areas in one isometric powerhouse move.

Any time I can sneak in some balance practice for my clients, I do it. When you don’t use it, you lose it, and side planks require you to focus on stabilization. A great way to increase the balance component of the side plank is to stack the feet one atop the other during. This is also a great core exercise for anyone who experiences stress on the lower back when performing traditional ab work like sit ups and crunches.

Modification: Want to add to the challenge and tone your legs while burning those love handles in side plank? Just wrap a resistance loop exercise band around your lower legs and add a side leg lift while you hold your plank. You can also dip your hips up and down to incorporate a cardio component to this challenging move. 

3. Reverse Crunch

How it’s done: To tackle that tricky lower abdominal area, lie on your back with your legs up in the air. Lift your buttocks up and down off the floor, making an effort to hold this move at the top. To increase intensity, lower the feet down and back up between each butt lift off the floor. 

Why Reverse Crunches Work for Love Handles: Since the reverse crunch focuses on the lower abdominals, you may be wondering how they can be effective in reducing the prominence of the love handles. Remember, the core is an interconnected system that works as a unit for functional movements. Strong obliques with weak lower abdominals can lead to overcompensations and imbalances that make it hard to reach overall fitness goals, and that includes keeping love handles at bay.

The reverse crunch frequently makes the list of top exercises I use with my personal training clients since it can play a big part in improving posture. Aside from targeting the rectus abdominis, this move also engages much deeper core muscles like the transversus abdominis. Working the core at such an in-depth level can produce significant improvements in common issues like back pain since you’re more likely to sit up straight. If you spend long periods of your day in a seated position, the reverse crunch, when performed consistently, can produce incredible benefits in overall quality of life.

Modification: Extra resistance requires your lower abdominal muscles to work even harder to complete each repetition. An excellent way to up the ante is to hold a medicine ball between your knees as you go through your reverse crunch routine.

4. Wood Chops

How it’s done: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, clasps both hands together overhead and to the right. Bring hands down to the left foot in a motion as though you were chopping wood. Do several repetitions before switching this motion to the other side. To increase the challenge, use a hand weight. 

Why Wood Chops Work for Love Handles: Like the side plank, wood chops target the obliques, and this is where love handles live. A standing move, this can be an excellent exercise for folks who have trouble getting up and down from the floor. Every repetition also works to tone the glutes, thighs, and calves as they work to keep you stabilized. When performed with the other exercises on this list, you get the most bang for your buck as you incorporate upper and lower body action as part of your abdominal focus.

The wood chops exercise is highly functional, meaning doing it regularly will result in noticeable changes in your daily life. From picking up your child out of his or her car seat and raking the lawn to taking out the trash and more, you’ll find less of a challenge. One of my favorite fitness phrases is that these things don’t get easier… you get stronger.

Modification: Not enough of a challenge? The great thing about wood chops is you can always make them harder by adding weight! Consider the investment in NordicTrack’s Select-A-Weight Dumbbell set. Rather than spending a fortune on a variety of hand weight sizes, you can make steady progressions as you become stronger with 15 different weight settings.

5. Treadmill HIIT Training

How it’s done: HIIT is a great way to pack a serious punch without spending too much time. A popular style is Tabata, which involves 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by a 10 second break for a total of eight rounds. In just four minutes, you can increase your metabolic rate and fat loss for the rest of the day. 

Why Treadmill HIIT Training Works for Love Handles: High intensity interval training has proven in multiple studies to improve overall metabolic rate throughout the day, and this is especially true if you can do it in the morning. Using the treadmill makes it easy to get your burn on without spending too much time in preparation.

Aside from the fat burn HIIT produces, it also improves other areas of fitness that makes overall health and wellness more attainable. For starters, HIIT improves your muscles’ ability to use oxygen efficiently, and good oxygen consumption equates to more effective sweat sessions. It’s also a great form of exercise for anyone suffering with problems like high blood pressure and blood sugar issues. Both on an aerobic and anaerobic level, HIIT will produce positive improvements in-line with the changes needed to tackle love handles and a whole lot more in the process.

Best Treadmill for HIIT Training: You could use a treadmill at the gym, but the investment in one for home use allows for convenience and can improve your chances of sticking to your workout program. I had a great experience with the Horizon 7.8 AT treadmill specifically with HIIT training in mind. Its QuickDial controllers allow for the rapid speed and incline needed for effective Tabata transitions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are love handles hereditary? To a degree, the development of love handles is genetic in terms of where your body is most likely to store fat. However, lifestyle choices in diet and exercise are primarily to blame.
  • How do you target love handles? You cannot target fat burn in any particular area of the body. However, you can target muscular strength and endurance. When you combine the right mix of cardio and strength with proper diet, love handles can be a thing of the past.
  • Why are love handles so hard to lose? The love handle area is a common storage site for the body. When you eat too many calories, your body stores this excess where it’s genetically predisposed to do so. These primary storage areas can be the trickiest to tackle, but, when you follow the proper diet and exercise regimen, you can get rid of them.
  • How long does it take to get rid of love handles? Patience is key. You didn’t get love handles overnight, nor can you rid yourself of them in a matter of days or weeks. A better focus is to establish new habits, and that takes about four weeks. With consistency in proper diet and exercise, love handle elimination will come with time.

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