Whether it's your arms, lower stomach or inner thighs, everyone has parts of the body that tend to hold a little more body fat than others — it's totally normal. Unfortunately, you can't pick and choose which parts of your body will shed fat most quickly.
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But a healthy diet and well-rounded workout routine can help you lose body fat all over and strengthen the areas that you may struggle to keep toned.
Clean Up Your Diet to Lose Fat
Although you can't spot reduce body fat, cleaning up your diet can help you lose fat over all. The first step in creating a healthier diet starts with creating a sustainable calorie deficit (when you burn more calories than you consume), according to the Mayo Clinic. Figure out your maintenance calories (the calories required to keep your weight where it is) by tracking your daily intake with a food diary or calorie-tracking app.
Once you've found your maintenance level, cut about 500 calories a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your level of calorie deficit will determine your rate of fat loss, considering you need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose a pound.
Keeping a healthy diet day-to-day can help make your calorie deficit more sustainable. Try and avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient, processed foods, like soda or sweetened coffee drinks, recommends the Mayo Clinic.
Instead, opt for more nutrient-dense choices, filling your plate with plenty of fiber-filled fruits and vegetables like avocados, grapes, oranges, broccoli and carrots. Fiber slows digestion and keeps you feeling full for longer, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Your meals should also contain healthy whole grains and lean protein, recommends the Mayo Clinic.
Exercise to Promote Fat Burn
Committing to a weekly cardio and strength-training routine will help promote loss of body fat by increasing your calorie expenditure. Aim for two to three cardio sessions each week, and maximize your efforts by incorporating HIIT into those workouts. That means alternating between stints of all-out effort and rest and recovery periods.
And remember, while you can't pick and choose where you lose body fat from, you can incorporate exercises that target your lower abdominals or inner thighs to strengthen and improve the appearance of the muscle. Rashaad Slowley, certified personal trainer, has four lower belly/inner thigh exercises for you to incorporate in your next workout. Or, perform these moves in succession for a lower abdominal/upper thigh-focused workout.
Move 1: Mountain Climber
- Begin in a high plank, stacking your shoulders above your wrists, body completely straight. Squeeze your glutes and engage your core.
- Drive your knees one at a time toward your chest as if running, alternating legs. Keep your butt low, as often your hips begin to rise higher with fatigue.
- Perform mountain climbers for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat for three to four rounds.
Mountain climbers are one of Slowley's favorite ab exercises. Especially when it comes to burning fat, they're great for elevating the heart rate, he says. As you get better at the exercise, increase the time of each interval.
Move 2: Bicycle Crunch
- Lie on your back, hands behind your head and feet straight out.
- Drive one knee toward your chest and twist your torso to touch knee to opposite elbow.
- Switch to opposite leg and elbow, alternating between sides as quickly as you can.
- As you alternate, keep your hands locked to force the movement to come from your abdominals. Rotate from your torso, not your neck and arms.
- Perform the exercise for 30 seconds, three to four rounds total, resting as needed.
As with the mountain climbers, Slowley recommends increasing your time as you become more confident with the exercise. Or, combine bicycle crunches with other exercises as a superset (exercises performed back to back), like lying leg lifts (see below).
Move 3: Lying Leg Lift
- Lie flat on your back, hands at your sides, legs straight out. Contract at your core to ensure your lower back is flat on the ground.
- On an exhale, raise your legs up toward 90 degrees, then lower back down, keeping your lower back against the ground.
- Repeat this exercise for 11 to 12 repetitions, three to four rounds.
The range of motion on your leg lifts depends on your core strength, Slowley says. If your back begins arching, shorten the range of your leg lifts, prioritizing a flat back. Once you've found the best range of motion for your body, slowly increase from there over time.
Move 4: Modified Goblet Squat
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Place a mini stability ball, yoga block or pillow between the middle of your inner thighs, squeezing the object to hold it in place.
- Keeping the back flat, shoulders back, hinge at your hips and bend at the knees, lowering your butt as if sitting into a chair.
- Press through your heels to reverse the motion and return to standing.
- Perform the exercise for 10 repetitions, four sets total.
Squeeze the object between your thighs the entire time. As you grow more comfortable with the exercise, hold dumbbells either at your sides or at your chest, keeping the elbows tight, Slowley says.
Read more: How to Get Lean, Sexy Legs With 12 Moves
Move 5: Modified Glute Bridge
- Begin lying flat on your back, knees bent, feet nearly touching your butt, arms at your sides.
- Place a yoga block or mini stability ball (or whatever object you previously used) between your thighs.
- Pressing through your heels, drive your hips up to the sky and squeeze your glutes.
- Lower back to the ground.
- Perform the exercise for 12 to 15 repetitions, four sets total.
Squeeze the object between your legs throughout the entire exercise and emphasize the squeeze on the thighs and glutes at the top of the bridge.