Those little love handles on your lower back likely aren't a major health risk, but they can affect how you look -- and how you feel about your body. Unfortunately, you can't selectively burn the fat on your lower back via exercise, but you'll melt away those love handles by lowering your body fat percentage. Combine cardio -- the exercise that will help you burn the most fat -- with back-toning strength training to get a tight, trim physique.
Cardio Exercises to Torch Fat
Cardio should be a regular part of your weekly routine when you're trying to lose any body fat -- including the fat on your lower back. That's because cardio burns calories, so it widens the gap between what you burn vs. what you eat, creating a larger calorie deficit that lets you lose more weight. For example, taking a vigorous 1-hour spin class will help a 150-pound person burn around 780 calories, while sweating it out on the elliptical for 30 minutes would burn 335 calories. Every 3,500 calories burned translates to 1 pound lost, so just five vigorous spin classes would allow you to burn slightly more than a pound -- not including weight loss from other exercise or diet modifications.
While any cardio burns fat, include aerobic activity that tones your lower back. Activities that require twisting -- like swimming, dancing and boxing -- work your oblique muscles, which run around your waistline, including your lower back. These exercises are not just calorie-burners; swimming laps, for example, burns around 370 calories in a half-hour but also tone the muscles in your lower back so it looks slimmer.
Large Compound Movements to Get Toned
You'll get the best results and the fittest-looking physique if you include weightlifting in your training schedule. Pumping iron has two major benefits: It strengthens and tones your muscles so you look fit, and it adds metabolism-increasing muscle tissue to your frame, so you burn more calories, 24/7.
Plan your weightlifting workouts around compound movements. Moves like deadlifts and squats tone your legs and butt, but they also strengthen the muscles in your back, since your back muscles support your posture as you go through the movement. Lifting heavy weights also strengthens muscles, called erector spinae, which run up and down the sides of your spine. As you develop these muscles, you'll get that attractive line of muscle definition down the center of your back.
Fine-Tone Your Lower Back
Round out your weightlifting routine with moves that specifically target the muscles in your back. While these smaller movements typically aren't huge calorie-burners, they can tone your lower back, so you'll look fit and firm once you burn away excess body fat. Try supermans and bird-dogs to tone your lower back, along with planks to strengthen both your back and abdominals. Incorporate other back exercises -- like lat pulldowns and rows -- into your routine. While these moves don't specifically tone your lower back, they'll develop mid- and upper-back muscles, which can make your lower back and waist appear smaller.
Pair Your Exercise Regimen With a Lower-Calorie Diet
While clocking in time at the gym goes a long way to getting the trim lower back you'd like, you need to complement your exercise with diet. Eating healthy food provides your muscles with essential fuel, which will allow you to work to your full potential in each workout. Restricting calories also means that you'll start metabolizing stored fat for energy, instead of getting all the calories you need from your diet. You don't need to restrict your calories significantly; use an online calculator to estimate how many calories you currently burn, then subtract 500 calories. This level of calorie restriction allows you to lose weight safely, at a rate of around 1 pound per week, through eating less. Any calories burned through exercise will help you lose weight a bit faster.