Reducing belly fat is one of the most common fitness goals out there — who wouldn’t want washboard abs and to get rid of that annoying bulge above their waistband?
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 day isn’t enough. Instead, it’s about a mix of eating well, limiting the number of calories you eat and increasing the number of calories you burn.
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In other words, losing weight and lowering your body fat percentage is the only way to really reduce belly fat, and despite what you might have heard, specific exercises that target your abdominals alone aren't the answer.
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.
How to do a burpee:
Starting with your feet shoulder-width apart, get down into a squat position. From a deep squat, put your hands down on the floor inside your feet and jump your feet back behind you, so you’re in a plank position, then do a push-up, touching your chest to the floor. Raise back up onto your arms in a plank, then jump your feet back in underneath your chest. Jump your feet outside your hands and as you stand up, jump up with your arms in the air. Aim for 10 reps.
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.
How to do Russian twists:
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. That’s one rep. Aim for 20 reps, 10 on each side. To make the exercise harder, hold a dumbbell.
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.
How to do a kettlebell swing:
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. For beginners, try and do 45 seconds of kettlebell swings, then rest for 15 seconds and repeat three times. If you’re more advanced, progress to 90 seconds on, 15 seconds off.
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.
How to do a medicine ball slam:
This one is kind of what it says on the tin. 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). If you can, catch the ball on the way up and repeat. If not, pick it up and return to the starting position. Aim for three sets of five to 10 repetitions.
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.
How to do tuck jumps:
Starting 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, tucking 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. Try doing as many as you can. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
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.
How to do jumping jacks:
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. Aim for 10 to 20 reps and repeat 2-3 times.
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.
How to walk on an incline:
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 legs. As you get stronger, work up to jumping lunges, even if you only manage one or two on each side.
How to do jumping lunges:
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 towards the ground. To help keep your balance, propel your arms into the air as you jump. Aim for 5 to 10 reps on each leg.
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.
How to do a squat jump:
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. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
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.
How to do mountain climbers:
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. Repeat. Aim for three repetitions of 10 reps on each side.