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7 Most Effective Strength Exercises To Prevent Belly Fat

Sculpt or maintain a flat tummy by adding these quick and effective movements to your workout routine.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

If there's one common enemy that most of us have battled in life, it's stubborn belly fat. You know, that frustrating extra padding around your midsection that seems determined to stick around no matter what. Fortunately, we've consulted a personal trainer and strength training expert to compile a powerful arsenal of strength exercises to help you banish belly fat and reveal a toned and sculpted core. If you're looking to give your workout regimen a major upgrade, keep reading for seven of the most effective strength exercises to prevent belly fat.

But first, we need to get one thing straight: Spot reduction, the idea that you can target fat loss in specific areas of your body, is a myth. However, what we can do is focus on building lean muscle and boosting your metabolism to burn fat overall—and that's where these strength exercises come in.

Rose McNulty, CPT, NASM-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach with Garage Gym Reviews, tells ETNT, "At the end of the day, preventing belly fat has more to do with your overall activity level than the calories you consume. When it comes to strength training, look to incorporate movements that target multiple muscle groups and those that target the abdominal area. Compound movements, such as squats and deadlifts, are great for getting a total-body burn going because they engage large muscle groups."

Regardless of your fitness level, keep reading if you want to say goodbye to the spare tire and hello to a fitter, healthier you. Then, find out which 6 Belly Fat Exercises You Should Start Doing in Your 30s.

Dumbbell Squat-to-Press

illustration of squat to press

The dumbbell squat-to-press is a dynamic full-body exercise. This compound movement combines the strength-building benefits of squats and overhead presses.

To perform the exercise, McNulty says, "Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing forward. Bend your knees, and shift your hips to lower your body into a squat position. As you lower down until your thighs are about parallel or slightly lower than parallel to the floor, keep your chest facing forward and shoulders back. Once you reach the bottom of your squat, push through your heels to stand straight up, then press the dumbbells straight up overhead until your arms are just about entirely straight. Slowly lower the weights, then repeat." Go for three sets of 12 to 15 reps.

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Barbell Deadlifts

illustration of barbell deadlifts

This compound exercise targets your posterior chain (backside), including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, while engaging your core for increased stability.

"Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a barbell on the floor before you, centered over your feet," instructs McNulty. "Bend your knees, and reach straight down to grip the barbell with your palms facing you and your hands slightly wider than your feet. Keep your shoulders back and spine neutral as you stand up while lifting the weight straight upward. Fully extend your hips and knees as you stand, and once you've stood up all the way, pause briefly before slowly lowering the weight back down." Do three sets of eight to 12 reps.


woman doing outdoor lunges, concept of compound exercises to change your body shape

Lunges are a classic yet highly effective exercise for targeting your lower body and engaging those core muscles. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), lunges activate your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, helping you build lean muscle mass while promoting better balance and stability.

"Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, then take a big step forward with your right foot, adjusting as needed to feel stable in your stance," says McNulty. "Bend both your knees simultaneously to lower down into the lunge until your knees form right angles and your left knee hovers just above the floor. Pause, then push off your right heel to return to the starting position. Then, switch legs. Continue alternating with each rep." Perform three sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg.

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woman doing planks exercise

This static hold is a serious belly fat burner since it engages your entire core. Plus, planks can be modified to suit your fitness level regardless of where you're at on your fitness journey.

"Set up in a tabletop position on all fours. Step your feet back so your body forms a straight line, with your hips and knees fully extended. Lower onto your forearms, keeping your hips low and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Engage your core to hold this position as long as your workout dictates. Lower your knees to the floor while maintaining a strong core if your form falters in a full plank," explains McNulty. Aim for three sets of 30 to 60-second static holds.

Bicycle Crunches

women doing bicycle crunches

This dynamic exercise will help you chisel those desirable side abs. The alternating knee-to-elbow movements while performing crunches will increase the challenge and intensity, effectively working the entire abdominal region.

"Lay on an exercise mat, bend your knees, and lift your feet off the ground to assume an upside-down tabletop position," says McNulty. "Place your hands behind your head lightly, but avoid pulling your neck. Engage your abs to lift your upper body off the floor slightly. Rotate your core as you bring your right arm down toward your left knee, simultaneously bringing your left knee up toward your right arm. You should feel the movement in your obliques or the sides of your abs. Return to the starting position, then switch sides. Continue alternating with each rep." Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps per side.

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Lunges with Rotation

woman doing bodyweight lunges on yoga mat

The lunge with rotation (or "lunge twist") is a fantastic exercise that targets several muscles in your lower body and engages your core, according to MasterClass. It also adds a rotational component for enhanced functional strength.

"Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and your hands on your hips, then take a big step forward with your right foot, adjusting as needed to feel stable in your stance," instructs McNulty. "Bend both knees simultaneously to lower down into the lunge until your knees form right angles. Pause, and stay in the lunge position as you rotate your torso to the right until your elbows are as close to your right thigh as possible for your range of motion. Rotate back to the center, then push off your right foot to return to standing. Repeat the movement on the opposite side, stepping forward with your left foot and rotating to the left." Aim for three sets of 10 to 12 reps per side.


V-ups exercise

V-ups take core burn to the next level. To do this movement, McNulty says, "Lie on your back on an exercise mat, legs extended forward, and arms extended overhead. Engage your core to lift your legs and upper body off the floor until your body forms a 'V' shape from your hips. Pause at the top, then slowly lower your arms and legs until they're just above the floor before repeating the movement." Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam
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