Muffin tops, love handles or flanks -- no matter what you choose to call this unsightly bulge along your sides, getting rid of your flanks can be challenging. Caused by extra fat deposits over the obliques, a group of abdominal muscles located on the sides of your waist, it is possible to burn off this fat and tone your obliques with the right strategy. You must eat a healthy diet, engage in regular cardio exercises and work your flanks with oblique-specific exercises.
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Exercise your flanks with bicycle crunches, recommends Kyla Gagnon, personal fitness trainer at Inside Out Fitness in Victoria, B.C. Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your legs extended straight. Bend elbows and place your hands on the sides of your head, just behind your ears. Lift your legs and bend your hips and knees until they both form 90-degree angles. Moving one leg and one arm at a time, twist at your waist and bring your right knee toward your chest and your left elbow toward your right knee. Reverse your movements and repeat with your other leg and arm to complete one rep. As you bend and bring one leg in, straighten the opposite leg.
Saxon Side Bends
Designed to target both sides of your waist at the same time, grab a lightweight dumbbell and hold it with both hands. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lift the weight and hold it directly over your head with a slight bend in your elbows. While keeping your back straight, slowly bend to your right as far as you can. Return to the upright position and then bend to your left to complete one rep. A variation is to hold a dumbbell in each hand.
Target your obliques and twist your way to a slimmer waistline with Russian twists. To perform this exercise, sit on an exercise mat with your legs bent and feet flat on the mat. Lean back until your torso is in a 45-degree angle with the mat. Hold your arms out in front of your chest, contract your abdominal muscles, twist at your waist to the right and touch the mat to the right of your hip. Reverse your movements, twist to the left and touch the mat to complete one rep. For more challenge, perform the exercise with your feet off the mat, hold a lightweight dumbbell or use a weighted medicine ball.
Side Planks with a Dip
To position yourself for this exercise, lie on your side on an exercise mat with your legs straight and stacked. Prop your upper body up onto your elbow and forearm and lift your hips up until your body is straight from your head to feet. Hold this position for a count of five, lower your hips to the mat and repeat. After the desired number of dips, turn on to your other side and repeat.
An oblique-specific cardio workout might include all of these exercises performed at a quicker pace, back-to-back for 10 minutes. Your movements need to be controlled without pausing during or between exercises. Start with one minute of bicycle crunches followed by one minute of Saxon side bends, one minute of Russian twists and then one minute of plank dips to each side. Repeat the sequence for a total of 10 minutes.
Tips to Consider
Always perform a short, five-minute warm-up to get the blood flowing to your muscles, prepare them for the exercise and help prevent injury. When you exercise with weights, use a weight amount appropriate to your strength and skill level. If you're a beginner, start with one set of 10 to 12 reps and gradually work your way up to two or three sets. Consult your health care provider before starting a new exercise regimen.