Body fat is a fickle foe -- easy to gain and tough to get rid of. Areas like the lower back, hips and obliques can be especially problematic, particularly if you have a body type that tends to pack on fat around the middle.
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Along with a healthy, reduced-calorie diet, increased exercise is the best way to blast fat in your problem areas. Regular cardio and full-body strength training will help you burn the excess calories that lead to fat gain and rev your metabolism to increase your body's ability to fight fat.
Fat Loss: What You Need to Know
Fat loss can be complicated. It depends on the individual -- on their genetics, gender, body type, lifestyle and other factors. But the basic premise is that you put fat on by eating more calories than you burn in a day, and to lose fat you need to reverse the equation. Reducing your caloric intake and burning more calories through exercise should cause fat loss from the back, obliques and upper butt.
However, how quickly fat loss happens from specific areas of the body is unpredictable. You can't target one area of the body to lose fat. If you create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss, you will lose fat. But it may come from your face and arms first, and your stubborn problem areas later.
Do More Cardio
Cardio is key for fat loss. It helps you create the necessary calorie deficit because it burns calories while you're doing it. For example, in 30 minutes you can burn 135 to 200 calories, depending on your body weight, walking at a moderate pace. Running for 30 minutes at a pace of 5 miles per hour can help you burn 240 to 355 calories, depending on your weight. If biking is your thing, you can burn 300 to 444 calories in 30 minutes pedaling at a pace of 14 to 16 miles per hour.
Steady-state cardio is great for burning calories, but there's something even better. It's called interval training, and its effectiveness for burning fat -- especially around the midsection -- is backed by research.
Interval training is more intense than steady state cardio. The basic premise is that you alternate periods of intense activity -- such as sprints -- with periods of recovery. Working at such a high intensity for these periods elicits greater calorie consumption and fat oxidation than steady state cardio and in a shorter period of time.
In addition to burning fat while you're doing it, interval training also encourages fat burning for up to 24 hours after your workout due to something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Steady-state cardio doesn't do this, so you get more bang for your buck with interval training.
You can still do steady-state cardio if you like it, but try to incorporate a couple interval training workouts each week.
Read more: The 7 Principles of Fat Loss
Build More Muscle
Time to dispel one of the great fitness myths: You can't spot reduce. No matter how many oblique crunches you do, you won't lose fat around your waist unless you you're burning more calories than you consume.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't do the oblique crunches, though. You should, but only as part of a regular full-body strength training program. Why? Because to lose fat, it's crucial to build more lean muscle mass.
Muscle takes up less space than fat, making you look trimmer and leaner. It also takes more calories for your body to build and maintain, which revs your metabolism. A higher metabolism means you burn more calories all day long, even when you're doing absolutely nothing.
A total-body strength-training routine targets all the major muscle groups -- arms, shoulders, upper, middle and lower back, chest, abs and obliques and legs. When your goal is fat loss, your best bet is a routine that incorporates compound exercises in a circuit format.
Compound exercises involve more than one muscle group. Examples include squats and pushups. These multi-muscle-group exercises are efficient and effective and they burn more calories while you're doing them. Other examples of compound exercises include:
- Jump squats
- Russian twists
- Kettlebell swings
Not only will these moves target your obliques, upper butt and back, they'll also hit every other muscle group in your body. You'll build more muscle and burn more fat as a result.
Circuit training is a form of high-intensity exercise. It involves doing one exercise after another in quick succession with little to no rest in between sets and a small break at the end of each round. It burns a ton of calories while you're doing it and encourages EPOC.
Here's a sample full-body circuit training workout for you to try:
- Push-ups (kneeling if necessary)
- Bent-over rows (dumbbells)
- Jump squats (with or without medicine ball)
- Step-ups with reverse lunge (with or without dumbbells)
- Russian twists (with or without medicine ball)
Do one set of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. Hold plank or rest for 90 seconds in between each round. Do four rounds.
Read more: 20 Fat-Loss Secrets