Reducing belly fat is one of the most common fitness goals out there, but in addition to being an aesthetic goal, losing belly fat is a good way to improve your overall health: research has linked larger waist sizes to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, as well as some cancers.
That said, doing hundreds of crunches every single day won't get you the abs of your dreams, and there aren't specific exercises that can spot-reduce belly fat. Instead, losing fat from your mid-section comes down to factors like diet, sleep, regular exercise, hormones, and managing your stress levels. Here's everything you need to know about body fat percentage, and how to calculate yours.
So, rather than spending hours doing sit-ups and crunches in the gym, it’s better to focus on exercises that include cardio and strength work, as well as targeting your core. Not sure where to start? We’ve found 10 of the best exercises for banishing belly fat here.
We’ll get these out the way first, as it’ll only get better from here. Sure, you probably hate them, but burpees are a brilliant plyometric movement, which targets your core, chest, shoulders, lats, triceps, and quadriceps. They’ll also raise your heart rate and burn calories. (Not a fan of burpees? Here's a full-body exercise you can do instead. Learn how to do a burpee properly here.
- Start standing with your feet hip-width or shoulder-width apart
- Place your hands on the ground, then jump both feet back into a high plank position
- Lower your chest to the floor into a bodyweight push-up
- Explosively push the ground away and straighten your arms, lifting your hips and chest as one unit. Try to avoid arching your lower back
- Jump your feet forward just behind your arms, then explode back to standing, raising your arms above your head and jumping into the air.
2. Russian Twists
Another one that looks easy on paper, but delivers a serious burn, Russian twists target your obliques as well as your abdominal muscles. As they require you to do rotational movements, they are super beneficial for many athletes, including tennis and baseball players. To make the exercise harder, hold a dumbbell.
- Start sitting on the floor and press your sit bones into the floor
- Raise your feet so they are hovering off the floor and lean back into a boat pose
- Think about creating a V shape with your torso and your legs and keep your back straight
- Reach your arms out in front of you, interlacing your fingers
- Using your abdominal muscles, twist your torso to the right, then back to the center, then repeat on the left side.
3. Kettlebell swing
Another full-body exercise that mixes cardio with strength training, the kettlebell swing targets most of the major muscle groups in the body. If you don’t have a kettlebell, a milk carton filled with water (and the cap screwed securely on!) or a dumbbell will work fine. Here's how to do a kettlebell swing and variations to try
Looking for more kettlebell inspiration? Here are 5 of the best kettlebell exercises for beginners, plus a 25-minute kettlebell workout that'll torch your entire body.
- Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, with the kettlebell on the floor in front of you
- Bending at the knees and hinging at the hips, bend forward to pick up the kettlebell and pull it back between your legs to create momentum
- As you swing the kettlebell forwards, drive your hips forward and think about squeezing your glutes to keep your back straight
- Don’t let the kettlebell raise above your head. That’s one rep.
4. Medicine ball slam
This won’t make you popular with your downstairs neighbors, and is probably one you’ll want to save for working out in the gym, but a medicine ball slam is another exercise that combines cardio with strength. To do this exercise, you’ll need a medicine ball and a protective mat to avoid damaging the floor. Medicine ball slams work your shoulders, triceps, calves, back, and core.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bent at the knees and lift the medicine ball above your head
- Bend at the waist and engaging your core muscles, throw the ball into the floor (aim for about a foot in front of you to avoid injury)
- Try to catch the ball on the way up and repeat.
5. Tuck jumps
Another exercise that really burns calories fast — tuck jumps. You might not have done them since your PE classes at school, but tuck jumps are an explosive, plyometric movement that helps increase the power of your muscles, as well as getting your heart rate up.
- Start with your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart
- Bend your knees as if you’re dropping into a squat, then jump up into the air
- Drive your knees up to your chest as close as possible
- Keep your back straight, and think about landing as softly as you can on the way down.
6. Jumping jacks
Another one you might not have practiced since school, but jumping jacks are actually a great cardio exercise you can do just about anywhere. As a plyometric workout, jumping jacks will raise your heart rate, torch calories, and increase your stamina.
- Start standing with your legs together and your arms by your sides
- Bend your knees and jump into the air
- As you jump, spread your legs shoulder-width apart and raise your arms above your head in a V shape
- Jump back to the starting position.
7. Walking on an incline
Walking at an incline burns more fat that walking on the flat, as you’re working harder. One study found that walking on an incline of 16-18% and a speed of 3mph burns 70% more fat than running on a flat surface. Need inspiration? Find out what happened when we tried the viral TikTok 12-3-30 treadmill workout.
To avoid getting injured when walking on a treadmill on an incline, think about engaging your core as you walk, and avoid leaning forwards. Try and keep your stride fast and short, rather than overstretching into longer strides.
8. Jumping lunges
This is another fast move that’ll torch through calories. Jumping lunges predominantly work the lower leg muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and calves. If you’re not comfortable with the impact of jumping lunges, just do normal bodyweight lunges, but move as quickly as possible as you alternate between your legs. As you get stronger, work up to jumping lunges, even if you only manage one or two on each side.
- Starting with your feet shoulder-width apart, step the left leg forward, keeping your core engaged and your arms by your side
- Shift your weight forward as you lower your right knee to the floor
- Jump up, quickly, switching the position of your legs in the air so your right leg is forward and your left knee is lunging toward the ground
- To help keep your balance, propel your arms into the air as you jump.
9. Squat jumps
Similar to a bodyweight squat, a jumping squat will target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hips, but it’ll also raise your heart rate through the roof and help you burn more calories. If you’re worried about the impact on your knees, you can, of course, opt for regular squats but move through the repetitions as quickly as possible to raise your heart rate.
- With your feet shoulder-width apart, lower your hips back and down, so you’re in a squatting position
- Use your arms to propel yourself upwards as you jump out of the squat
- As your feet hit the ground, immediately squat back down again. Your thighs should start to burn pretty fast
10. Mountain climbers
Another brilliant core exercise that’ll raise your heart rate and work your shoulders, hamstrings, and quads are mountain climbers. Think about moving through these as fast as possible to really burn calories and work your abdominal muscles.
Here's more on how to do a mountain climber, and the variations to try.
- Start in a plank position and think about keeping your core as tight as possible, with your belly button sucked in towards your spine
- Bend your left knee in towards your chest, as if you’re trying to make it touch your left elbow
- Return your leg back to its starting position and bring your right knee into your chest
More from Tom's Guide
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- Read what happened when our fitness editor did Chris Hemsworth's 250-rep dumbbell workout
- I trained like Mark Wahlberg every day for a week, here's my results.