You may affectionately refer to them as love handles or your spare tire, but, in reality, you have anything but fondness for this extra fat. Oblique fat that sits alongside your waist can be exceptionally stubborn to lose as it's subcutaneous — meaning, it lays just under the skin. Unlike the deep visceral fat that weaves in and around your internal organs and raises your risk of inflammation and chronic disease, this fat is not super unhealthy — but it sure does look unsightly when you squeeze into jeans or a swimsuit.
Unfortunately, losing fat from one specific spot just isn't possible. Side bends, side planks and twists all work the oblique muscles, but don't attack the fat covering them. The only way to address oblique fat is to reduce your overall body fat level which will result in leaner body, including around your obliques.
Step One: Get Serious About Your Diet
Reducing your caloric intake below what you burn helps you lose fat. Aim to eat 500 to 1,000 calories fewer than you burn daily to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. If this causes you to eat fewer than 1,200 calories daily as a woman or 1,800 calories as a man, settle for a slightly slower rate of loss. To determine your daily calorie burn and intake, use an online calculator like the one available at Livestrong's My Plate.
It's not enough to simply slash calories. You must also choose foods that support muscle development and discourage the accumulation of fat. Limit sugary foods, make 25 percent to 30 percent of your daily calories consist of lean proteins, reduce carbohydrate intake, consume fibrous foods and eat modest amounts of healthy fats. Chicken breast, fish, lean steak, fresh vegetables, olive oil, nuts, avocados and small amounts of whole grains and fresh fruit make up meals.
Step Two: Lift Heavy Things
Lifting heavy things doesn't mean simply side bending with heavy dumbbells. Compound moves that activate all of your major muscle groups help you develop muscle all over — and the more muscle you have, the leaner you can become. Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat tissue, so it offers a boost to your metabolism. It's also more compact, so you look tight and fit.
To get serious about losing that extra subcutaneous fat around your waist, lift three times per week. Include moves such as squats, deadlifts, chest presses and rows. Use weight that makes eight to 12 repetitions feel hard. Work up to three sets of each exercise you include in your workout.
Step Three: Pump Up Your Cardio
High-intensity cardio is more effective at burning belly fat compared to low- or moderate-intensity cardio, showed a study published in a 2009 issue of Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. Researchers found that exercising at about 75 percent effort was superior in inducing fat loss, especially around the abdomen, than 50 percent effort.
You could, of course, perform that intensity by running, cycling or pedaling an elliptical. A high-intensity calisthenics circuit in which you perform five to 10 exercises for a minute each with no break between them can also qualify as high-intensity cardio. Moves such as jump lunges, burpees, renegade rows, kettlebell swings and mountain climbers could be included in such a workout. All of these exercises require core activation to complete, so you get the bonus of strengthening your obliques as you burn fat from them.
Step Four: Train the Obliques Directly
Just because targeted moves won't help you lose fat from your obliques doesn't mean you should leave them out of your training. You just can't rely on them alone for fat loss. Your obliques are the side muscles that help you twist or bend to the side. Exercises that include this movement are thus beneficial to stronger, more defined obliques that will appear when you drop the fat.
Include at least one, and up to three, of the following oblique exercises three to five times per week. Build up to three sets. Continue to train the entirety of the core at these workouts as well to create balanced strength.
Side Plank: Get into the top of a plank position, either on your hands or forearms. Turn to one side and stack your shoulders, hips and feet. Hold for up to 60 seconds per side.
Woodchoppers: Set a cable machine handle to the highest setting. Face the machine sideways and grasp the handle with both hands. Twist the cable toward your feet as you pivot and bend your knees. Return to the start to complete one rep — go for 10 to 15 per side.
Bicycle Crunches: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Pull your knees up so your shins are parallel to the floor. Rotate your right armpit to the left knee as you extend the right leg and then twist the left armpit to the right knee. Alternate for 10 to 15 total repetitions.