Nothing ruins a fabulous outfit like excess fat hanging over your bra line. While a better-fitting bra might help smooth things out temporarily, losing excess body fat is a better -- and healthier -- long-term solution. Since you can't target a specific area of the body for fat loss, your goal should be to reduce overall body fat with cardio conditioning and total-body strength-training exercises.
Before you hit the gym, you should know that a crucial part of losing back fat -- and total body fat -- is your diet. You must control the number of calories you take in and create a deficit -- the number of calories you consume has to remain lower than the calories you expend through daily living and exercise for fat loss to occur.
The other part of the fat loss equation is exercise. Exercise helps you burn calories and increase your metabolic rate -- the speed at which your body burns calories -- to increase your daily calorie deficit and the amount of fat you lose.
Burn Calories with Cardio Conditioning
Running, swimming, biking, kickboxing, aerobics and any other activity that makes you sweat and your heart beat faster burns the calories that end up as back fat. You have to get your body moving if you want to go from flab to fab.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that at a minimum adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise, such as running, each week. But the more you do, the more you lose. Try to fit in some type of cardio exercise most days of the week for the greatest results.
Some types of exercise are better than others. The ones with the biggest calorie bang for the buck are usually those that are higher intensity. For example, running burns more calories in the same amount of time than walking. Here are a few top burners and the amount of calories a 155-pound person can burn doing them for 30 minutes:
- High-impact aerobics - 260
- Stationary bike, moderate pace - 260
- Stationary bike, vigorous pace - 391
- Elliptical trainer - 335
- Running, 5 mph - 298
- Jumping rope - 392
- Swimming, breaststroke - 372
One type of cardio conditioning has been proven superior when it comes to fat loss. Rather than doing longer sessions of steady-state cardio, shorter sessions of high-intensity exercise mixed with periods of recovery -- called high-intensity intermittent training, or HIIT -- may be better at burning subcutaneous fat, according to a review published in "Journal of Obesity" in 2011. Subcutaneous fat is the type just underneath the skin -- the kind you can pinch -- and it's what bra overhang is made of.
HIIT is pretty simple. You can do it on any cardio machine at the gym, or outdoors bicycling, running or swimming.
How to: Warm up for a few minutes at a low intensity. Around minute 5, push up the pace and work as hard as you can for 30 seconds to 4 minutes -- as you get fitter, you'll be able to hold this pace for longer. Then, lower the intensity and recover, allowing your heart rate to come down. Keep the periods of intense activity and recovery about equal, and continue to alternate for 15 to 20 minutes.
Fire Up Your Metabolism with Strength Training
Even when you're lying on the couch, your body is burning calories. This is called your resting metabolism. It's the rate at which your body burns calories when you're loafing about on a Sunday morning.
A lot of factors determine your resting metabolic rate, and one of them is muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you have, the faster your body burns calories and sheds fat. Some of the best exercises you can do to shed back fat are those that build overall muscle mass.
Performing exercises that work all your major muscle groups two or three times per week will put you on the fast track to a toned back. Some examples include:
- Step ups
- Bent over rows
- Kettlebell swings
All of the exercises above have one thing in common: they are compound exercises. Compound exercises work more than one muscle group at a time -- often several at the same time -- unlike isolation exercises, which only use one muscle group.
The benefits of compound exercises are many:
- They allow you to get more work done in a shorter amount of time.
- They burn a lot more calories while you are doing them because they're harder to perform and activate more muscle fibers.
- They increase calorie-burning for 24 to 48 hours after a workout, due to something called the EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) effect.
Circuit Training - Back Fat Blaster
Doing one set of a compound exercise, resting, then doing another set is one way to go about your workout. But if you want to torch calories, there's a better way. Do compound exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. It's like a resistance workout and a cardio workout all in one.
Try it: Warm up with 5 minutes of cardio. Then, do four rounds of 10 reps of each of the following:
Squat and press: Hold weights in either hand. Squat down then press the weights overhead as you stand up.
Kettlebell swings: Hold a kettlebell in both hands with your knees slightly bent. Swing the bell through your legs and up to shoulder height.
Push-ups: On your knees or not, keep your body in one solid plank throughout the exercise with your shoulders over your wrists. Come down until your chest almost touches, then press back up.
Lunge and twist: Step your right foot out, bending the front knee to 90 degrees. As you step, rotate your torso to the right. Hold for one count, then come back to center. Repeat on the other side, twisting to the left.
Bent over rows: Hold free weights in either hand. Bend your knees slightly and bring your torso to a 45-degree angle. Starting with arms straight, bend your elbows and pull the weights up to your sides just below your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then return to start.
- CDC: How much physical activity do adults need?
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- Hoffman Fit: Compound vs. Isolation Exercises – How to build a powerful workout routine