The 8 Best Exercises To Melt Belly Fat
Anyone who's tried eliminating stubborn belly fat knows it can be an uphill battle. You may have tried every diet and workout out there but without success. Fortunately, knowing which exercises specifically promote fat loss can help you banish that pesky padding around your waistline. We spoke with an expert who shares the eight best exercises to melt belly fat, so get ready to blast your belly bulge.
Carrying excess abdominal fat poses significant health risks. According to a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Physiology, it can raise your risk of various metabolic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and type 2 diabetes. That's why building a consistent exercise routine and eating a nutritious, balanced diet is essential for getting rid of unwanted belly fat. Additionally, another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research noted that abdominal exercises (like the ones below) can boost muscular endurance—an essential component for fitness and weight loss.
To get you started on the path to a leaner, fitter you, Jarrod Nobbe, CPT, a performance coach and certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews, shares his top eight exercises to melt belly fat. However, it's important to note that you can't target belly fat loss specifically. "Spot reduction (losing fat in one specific area) is impossible," says Nobbe. "Therefore, you need more than an arsenal of ab exercises to sculpt a six-pack. The following exercises require varying degrees of core stability, endurance, and overall strength, with some cardio moves thrown in to up the calorie burn and fat loss over time."
Read on for the exercises, and when you're done, don't miss these 8 Standing Exercises That Strip Away Belly Flab Fast.
This static exercise targets multiple muscle groups, strengthening your abs, back, and shoulders while supporting your spine for a stronger, more defined midsection. "The plank is an all-around core move you'll often see in ab workouts because it works the entire core. It also demands the glutes, which play into overall core strength," says Nobbe.
Start in a tabletop position on all fours with straight arms and your hands placed beneath your shoulders. Step your feet back, lower onto your forearms, and engage your core, glutes, and legs to keep your body aligned from head to toe. Hold this position without letting your hips drift too high or sag too low. Perform four sets of 30 to 60-second planks.
Mountain climbers are a dynamic move that engages your core, arms, and legs. Doing these at a high intensity is a surefire way to torch calories and boost metabolism for a leaner, more sculpted physique. "When done with good form, mountain climbers torch the abs and serve as cardio, which helps burn fat over time. However, you have to move quickly and with control during this movement," says Nobbe.
Begin in a high plank position with straight arms and your hands placed directly beneath your shoulders. Engage your core, and bring one knee toward your chest, then quickly switch legs as if you're "climbing" a mountain horizontally. As you complete the reps, keep your hips down and your body in a straight line. Alternate legs as quickly as possible with each rep while maintaining proper form. Do four sets of 20 reps per leg.
While burpees may not be most people's favorite exercise, you can't deny their efficacy for fat loss. Burpees elevate your heart rate, torch calories, and build strength in your core, arms, and legs for a flatter stomach. "Burpees are a total-body move that requires a hefty amount of core strength for proper form," states Nobbe.
Drop into a squat position, and place your hands on the floor before you. Jump your feet back into a high plank position, then perform a pushup, bending your elbows and lowering your chest to the floor. Quickly reverse the movement, jumping your feet back up by your hands before jumping up as you reach your arms overhead. Land softly from the jump, then repeat. Aim for as many burpees as possible in 30 seconds for five rounds.
Windshield wipers target your obliques and activate abdominal muscles to help sculpt a tapered waistline. "This movement may be simple, but it's a certified core crusher that works the obliques on your sides and rectus abdominis—also known as the six-pack muscles," explains Nobbe.
Lie on your back with your arms extended out to the sides for stability. Hinge at the hips to lift your legs off the floor, keeping them straight. With your legs perpendicular to the floor, slowly lower them to one side until they are close to the floor without touching it. Bring your legs back to the center, then lower them to the other side. Perform four sets of 15 reps, and alternate sides with each rep.
This classic core exercise is a go-to for a reason—it effectively targets your obliques, improves core stability, and tightens your midsection. "This classic ab move can be done with just your body weight or while holding a dumbbell, kettlebell, or plate. The twisting motion engages the abs and obliques," says Nobbe.
Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight and chest up. Hold your hands together in front of you or grab a weight, then twist your torso to one side, touching or almost touching the floor with your hands. Twist to the opposite side, then continue alternating with each rep. Aim for four sets of 15 to 20 reps per side.
Hanging Leg Raise
Hanging leg raises focus on the lower abs while improving grip strength and helping melt lower belly fat. "This movement is more complex than meets the eye, so keep checking in with your form," advises Nobbe. "As you hang from the bar, avoid swaying back and forth to the best of your ability, and try not to use momentum to kick your legs up."
Hang onto a pull-up bar with your arms extended and your palms facing away from you. Engage your core as you hinge at the hips and raise your legs straight up until they're parallel to the floor. Slowly lower your legs, avoiding swinging or using momentum. If this is too difficult, try setting up on dip bars instead or keeping your knees bent as you raise your legs to make it easier. Perform four sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Bicycle crunches deserve a spot in any belly fat-blasting workout. This exercise targets your upper and lower abs, helping you achieve a toned tummy and better core stability. "The bicycle crunch is a great move to target the six-pack muscles, and it can help improve coordination as you move each side of your body in different directions," says Nobbe.
Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your hips and knees bent to about 90-degree angles. Bring one knee toward your chest while twisting your torso and bringing the opposite elbow toward that knee. Straighten the first leg while bringing the other knee toward your chest and twisting your torso to bring the other elbow toward that knee. Keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement. Do four sets of 15 to 20 reps per side.
Sprinting is one of the most underrated exercises for abdominal fat loss. It's a high-intensity exercise that works your legs, glutes, and core to annihilate calories and melt away belly fat for good. "Repping out short sprints on the treadmill or outdoors is a great workout for burning fat and boosting your metabolism," says Nobbe. "The motion of sprinting, which includes maintaining good posture and pumping your arms as you run, also taxes the core."
Find an open space or a treadmill, and run as fast as possible for a short distance or a set amount of time before resting and repeating. If you're new to sprinting, make sure you rest longer than you work. To start, do 10 rounds of 15 to 20-second sprints with 30 to 45-second rests in between.