Are you looking to lose upper body fat? Since upper body fat can cause several health problems, it's a good idea to work toward lowering your upper body fat percentage and becoming more toned — but only if you do it the right way. There are three steps you can take to promote upper body fat burning.
Recognize the Potential Health Complications
Upper body fat — excess fat around your arms, chest and back — is a common concern for many people. If you've ever lamented that you have "bat wings," or excess fat that droops from the area between your shoulder and elbow, you probably understand this dilemma. Upper body fat can lower your self-confidence and give you a negative body image.
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No matter where you carry your excess body fat, it can also present more than a cosmetic problem. According to Obesity Action, even a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can result in an increase in the good kind of cholesterol and a decreased level of triglycerides, fat-like particles that can put you at risk for heart attacks and strokes.
And Harvard Health Publishing points out that visceral fat (which lies between your abdominal organs) can contribute to multiple health problems, including cardiovascular disease — so losing that fat can make you healthier.
Upper body fat in general can serve as a warning sign. After all, if you have excess upper body fat, you most likely have excess body fat elsewhere, too. The Obesity Action article explains that losing excess body fat has other benefits, too; it can improve inflammation and may improve sleep apnea.
You may be more motivated to lose upper body fat once you realize that excess fat can play a role in causing serious health issues. And if you look in the mirror while wearing a tank top and don't like what you see, that's another sign that it's time to work toward reducing your upper body fat.
Exercise Regularly to Lose Fat
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise; strength training, which can help kick-start upper body fat burning, should be the focus on at least two days per week. The following abbreviated list of exercises can help strengthen the back, chest, arms and shoulders:
- Push-ups and push-up variations
- Dumbbell flys
- Military press
- Bicep curls
- Tricep dips
- Overhead press
There are many other upper body exercises you can perform as well to continue burning upper body fat. Harvard Health Publishing also explains that "spot exercising" (trying to improve one specific area of your body with a targeted exercise, such as sit-ups) is not effective.
To truly reduce your upper body fat and improve your health, you'll need to take a broader approach, thinking about your overall fitness and health instead of specifically targeting one area. As your entire body becomes more fit, your upper body fat will begin to reduce as well, lowering your upper body fat percentage.
In addition to strength training with weights, you can do high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. HIIT workouts are generally set up as a circuit, ACE Fitness says; for instance, you might do 10 reps each of six different exercises.
When you've finished all of the exercises, start over and do the circuit again. HIIT can help you lose upper body fat because it incorporates strength training, toning up your muscles and working your entire body.
Read more: How to Do a HIIT Workout at Home
Eat High-Quality Calories
To promote upper body fat burning and to do it fast, it's important to also focus on nutrition, not just exercise. The Cleveland Clinic explains the importance of recognizing different types of calories: Sugar calories cause fat storage, whereas calories from fat and protein promote fat burning. Whole foods are lower in calories than processed foods and higher in nutrient content.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends eating a variety of proteins, such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes and nuts and seeds. You should also strive to eat whole fruits, different types of vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and healthy oils. Try to consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
Read more: What Is a Good Body Fat Percentage?
By adhering to a diet that's heavy in whole foods like these and regularly working out (focusing on strength training and HIIT), you can promote fat burning and reduce your upper body fat percentage, reducing both visceral fat and the fat you can see. Confidence while wearing a tank top and improved health? That's a win-win.
- Cleveland Clinic: "4 Big Fat Food Lies: Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them"
- American Council on Exercise: "HIIT Upper Body Workout: Try this Fat-Blasting Workout"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Chapter 1. Components of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Obesity Action: "Benefits of 5-10 Percent Weight Loss"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"