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5 Least Effective Exercises for Losing Belly Fat & What To Do Instead

Say goodbye to those useless moves and get amazing results!
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

When it comes to melting away body fat, there are dozens of fantastic exercises to burn calories, target many muscles, and achieve the results you're looking for. But for every "good" exercise, there are plenty of ones that are feeble at best. Yet, strangely enough, it's often the ineffective exercises that are most popular while the valuable ones are rarest of all. In this article, we'll break down five of the worst exercises to lose belly fat, which just so happen to be some of the most popular exercises. In addition, we'll provide alternative exercises that are a million times better (understatement) at getting you lean and slim for awesome results in far less time.

Keep reading for the five worst exercises to lose belly fat, and when you're done, don't miss Get Rid of Hanging Belly Fat With This Cardio & Strength Workout.

Forearm Curls

forearm curl

Question: Will isolating one small muscle in your arms burn lots of calories?

Answer: No! So if you want to torch as much fat as possible, target many large muscle groups simultaneously to stimulate more change.

Instead, do chin-ups, which target your back, lats, biceps, and forearms. Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing toward you, and start by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pull yourself up, and lead with your chest. If using your body weight is too hard, use an exercise band to assist you.

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Calf Raises

illustration of calf raises

Unless you're trying to be a bodybuilder, there's little reason to isolate your calves. Again, it's a small exercise that doesn't give your body what it needs to lose fat all over (and if you want to lose weight, you probably don't want bigger calves, anyway).

Instead, try a sprinter step-up, which targets your entire leg in an explosive move. Place one foot on a box or bench. Push through that foot, driving through your heel, and as you stand on the box, lift the trailing knee up to your hip height. Don't push with your bottom leg.

Sit-ups or Crunches

woman doing crunches at home on a yoga mat to shrink belly fat

Sit-ups force you into bad posture with your neck forward, shoulders rounded, and spine flexed. Research even shows that sit-ups put a ton of compressive load on your lower back and spine.

Instead, use an ab wheel rollout to maintain good posture throughout. While on both knees, grab an ab wheel, and push forward. Descend as low as you can, then pull yourself back up. Make sure to keep your arms straight and your hips extended the entire time.

The 5-Minute Daily Workout for Women To Melt Hanging Belly Fat

Side Bends

illustration of standing dumbbell side bends

Side bends only isolate a few muscles and excessively bend your torso, which can put more stress on your spine and lower back—especially if you're holding dumbbells.

Replace these with a side plank with cable row, which targets your entire midsection and adds another move for more calorie burn and complexity. Lie on your side, and place your forearm on the ground, perpendicular to your body. Keep your body straight, your glutes squeezed, and your shoulders pulled back. Don't let your hips sag. With the arm on top, grab a cable handle, and row while keeping your body rigid.

Hip Adduction/Abduction Machine

man doing leg abduction machine

By forcing your legs to open and close, you put a lot of stress on your hip capsules and IT bands—meanwhile, there are safer and more effective ways to target your hips, tone your lower body, and burn fat.

For awesome fat-burning results, do goblet lateral squats, which target your glutes, quads, abductors, adductors, and even your core. Grab the end of one dumbbell in both hands, and hold it by your chest with your elbows underneath. Start with a very wide stance and your feet pointed slightly out. Sit back into one hip, and push that knee out. Repeat on the other side.

Anthony J. Yeung
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert featured in Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and the founder of GroomBuilder, the destination for men who want to transform their bodies for their weddings. Join the free 5-day course to burn fat and build muscle for the big day! Read more about Anthony
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