Whoever coined the fat deposits around the waistline "love handles" had a wacky sense of humor because there is nothing to love about them. The good news is that doing the right exercises to get rid of love handles and eating a healthy diet can get you the trim midsection you'd rather have. Although you can't target your waistline specifically, if you lose total body fat, you will lose the love handles too.
The best exercises to get rid of love handles include aerobic activities and strength training.
How to Lose Love Handles
First thing's first: You're going to need more than exercise to get rid of love handles. Reducing your calorie intake and eating healthy foods is also key. The combination of exercise and diet will help you create a calorie deficit, which is crucial for fat loss.
Although losing weight depends on many factors, including genetics, your body type, sex, age, medical conditions and what medications you take, it's largely a matter of keeping your calorie intake lower than your calorie output. Both aerobic exercise and strength training will contribute a good amount to your total daily calorie expenditure (TDEE). Reducing your calorie intake will widen the gap.
While there's no way to predict fat loss, you can get a general idea of the concept of a calorie deficit with the 3,500-calorie rule, which is, according to Nutrition.gov., a pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, Therefore, for every 3,500-calorie deficit you create, you lose a pound of fat.
If you create a daily 500-calorie deficit, theoretically, you'll lose a pound of fat a week. If you create a 1,000-calorie daily deficit, you'll shed two pounds a week, some of which will come from your love handles.
Consistency Is Key
Exercises to get rid of love handles are only as good as the regularity with which you do them. Stick to a consistent exercise program, and you'll see results.
So how much exercise do you really need? The answer is: as much as you can fit into your lifestyle. Some people are able to make time for daily two-hour gym sessions, while other people can only sneak in 45 minutes on their lunch break. It's important to make exercise work for you rather than the other way around (although you will need to work).
As a starting point, you can aim for the U.S Department of Health and Human Services' recommended daily minimum, which is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. Once you are able to make that a habit, HHS says you can reap many more benefits by getting 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise weekly.
The HHS also recommends doing strength training exercise for all the major muscle groups twice weekly. If you meet or exceed these recommendations consistently, you won't have to worry as much about your calorie intake.
Get Your Cardio In
Any type of aerobic exercise will help you burn fat around your waistline — again, as long as you do it regularly. So, when choosing activities, the most important thing isn't just how many calories it burns, but whether you enjoy doing it and will do it often.
That said, there is one thing you should strive for: intensity. Doing any activity with more intensity will increase the calorie burn. For example, running burns a lot more calories than walking.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person will burn around 149 calories walking at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour. But if that same person runs for 30 minutes at a pace of 6 miles per hour, she'll burn 372 calories.
That is a huge difference that will affect how quickly you can lose those love handles. Of course, you may not be able to run that fast right now, but the idea is to set it as a goal to work toward.
If you bike, swim, dance or kickbox for your cardio, aim to increase the intensity. Gradually increasing workout intensity will ensure that your body stays challenged and is working hard enough to torch fat.
Love Handle Exercises With Weights
It's a common misconception that doing lots of ab exercises will help you burn fat around your waist. In fact, it will only strengthen your abdominals. That's still an important part of any strength-training program; however, the only way to lose love handles is to burn the fat off with a calorie deficit.
You already know that cardio exercise burns calories, but so does strength training because building lean muscle mass revs your metabolism. Muscle is metabolically active. Your body expends energy to build and maintain it, much more so than fat.
Having a lot of muscle expends a lot of energy — up to 20 percent of your total daily energy expenditure, according to Paige Kinucan and Len Kravitz, PhD, of the University of New Mexico. You're going to get a lot more bang for your buck if you include strength training in your exercise program.
The best exercises for love handles in the gym are compound exercises. These use more than one muscle group at a time, which activates more muscle fibers and leads to greater calorie expenditure while you are doing them. Examples include:
- Dumbbell thrusters
- Renegade rows
In addition, doing compound exercises at a high intensity — whether by lifting heavy loads or by taking minimal rest breaks in between sets — encourages something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. According to the American Council on Exercise, the body expends energy to repair, recover and return to a state of homeostasis after intense exercise. This means you continue to burn calories long after finishing your workout.
The other benefit is that many of these compound exercises, especially if you are doing them with free weights, also challenge your abdominal muscles. Once you've burned the love handles, you'll see the fruits of your labor in your tight, toned midsection.
- Nutrition.gov: "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)"
- U.S Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines, 2nd Edition"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- University of New Mexico: "Controversies in Metabolism"
- ACE: "7 Things to Know About Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)"
- ACE: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"