Best Exercises to Reduce Love Handles

Tamsen Butler
Woman Pinching Her Belly

"Love handles" are simply excess fat along the waistline. While there is no one exercise that will abolish this fat forever, there are activities you can do to reduce these fat deposits and achieve a leaner look overall.

What to Know Before Your Workout

While the exercises listed within the workout below will help you tone up your waistline, it's important to know two things before you get started.

Spot Reduction Isn't Effective

The ability to reduce fat in one specific part of your body simply isn't possible. You can reduce overall body fat, which will lead to most fat deposits reducing to a degree, but genetics plays a part too. That means if your entire family has love handles - even if they aren't significantly overweight - you may just have a genetic propensity toward fat deposits on your waistline. If this is the case, losing body fat may not make big changes to your so-called love handles.

Diet Is Vital

Your diet plays a vital role in how much fat your body must store. When you eat more calories than you burn, it shows up as fat on your body. On the other hand, when you eat fewer calories than you burn, your body burns fat. For this reason, it's important to factor diet into any attempt to change the shape of your body.

The Lose the Love Handles Workout

This workout is an interval workout designed to burn calories while building muscle - specifically, the muscles near the waistline - giving you an overall trimmer look. Modify this workout as necessary to avoid irritating an injury or to match your fitness level. The workout should be challenging but should not lead you to a point of exertion where you cannot speak or feel dizzy. Note that if you're just starting out, you can do the weighted intervals without weight and instead squeeze your muscles until you can work up to a point of adding weight.

1. Warm Up

A simple warm up prepares your body and helps avoid injury. Jumping right into challenging exercise without taking the time to warm up is a bad idea; take 3 to 5 minutes to warm up with simple, easy moves or a walk.

2. Five Minutes Cardio

The cardio portion of your workout can be anything that gets your heart pumping faster. Choose something you enjoy (riding a stationary bike, jogging, jumping jacks, running up and down stairs, etc.) and can do for five minutes without stopping. This should be steady state activity for the entirety of five minutes. Cardio helps shed fat overall throughout the body, including the waist area.

3. Five Minutes Weighted Side Bends

Spend two and a half minutes on the left side and two and a half on the other.

  1. With a weight in hand, stand tall and lean (don't bend) at the waist on the weighted side.
  2. Squeeze the core muscles as you lean, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  3. Reach as far down with the weight as you can while still controlling the motion.

Keep it slow and controlled. These exercises target the oblique muscles, which are along the side of the torso.

Side Bend With Dumbbells

4. Five Minutes Cardio

You return to cardio to get your heart rate back up after the active recovery of the weighted side bends. Mix up the cardio if you want to, or do the same cardio you did in the first cardio interval.

5. Five Minutes Weighted Chops

Weighted chops are highly effective as a core strength builder but are not appropriate for people with lower-back pain. Spend two and a half minutes on the left side and two and a half on the other.

  1. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Don't lock the knees, but instead keep a slight bend to them.
  2. Lift the weight in both hands high, at an angle on one side above the shoulder, and with a quick chopping motion (similarly to chopping a tree with an axe) bring the weight to the lower quadrant of the other side.
  3. Exhale with each chop and squeeze your glutes to protect your back.

6. Five Minutes Cardio

It's back to cardio here, although you may find your heart rate stayed fairly high throughout the five minutes of wood choppers. If that's the case, slow your cardio down a little to prepare to head to the final batch of exercises.

7. One Minute Deadlift

A proper weighted deadlift is a full-body exercise, which engages the muscles near the waist and strengthens the core.

  1. Stand with feet slightly apart, weight (or weights) in hand (or hands) with an overhand grip. Keep knees soft and slightly bent and direct all your body weight into your heels.
  2. With arms hanging down in front of the body, hinge at the waist, keeping your back straight.
  3. As you descend, keep the arms straight and strive to meet the mid-shin level with your weight or weights.
  4. At the bottom of the movement, squeeze your glutes and maintain your straight back as you return to an upright position.

A deadlift should be a slow, controlled motion. Take care to not strain your shoulders or neck throughout the movement and don't hold your breath.

Couple doing deadlifts

8. One Minute Plank

Planks cannot be beat for core strengthening. Do the plank on your hands or elbow, and on your toes or knees. If you have trouble holding a plank at first and your knees won't tolerate the position, hold an all-fours position (on hands and knees) and squeeze everything for the minute. Alternatively, you can hold your plank against a wall - a good option for those who do not like to take to the ground for exercise.

Sporty woman doing plank exercise at park

9. One Minute Weighted Russian Twists

Weighted Russian twists help strengthen the muscles surrounding the waist but are not appropriate for people with lower back problems. Take these slow and steady.

  1. Sitting on the ground or mat, grasp the weight with both hands.
  2. Feet are on the ground with knees bent, or for a more advanced option, lift the feet off the mat.
  3. With a straight back, lean your upper body back slightly (far back enough to where you feel your core muscles engage, but not so far as to where you can't control your movement).
  4. Reach to one side to tap the weight to the mat (or as close as you can get), allowing your upper body to twist.
  5. Reach to the other side, repeating the motion.

Don't allow momentum to take over the twist. Like the other strength exercises, this should be slow and controlled.

Woman Doing Russian Twists

10. One Minute Ankle Grabbers

This Pilates-inspired move is not appropriate for people with neck problems, and it's important for everyone to avoid straining their neck while doing ankle grabbers. This move forces your entire core to work hard, building strength in that part of the body.

  1. Lie on your back with your feet on the ground and your knees bent.
  2. Slightly elevate your neck and shoulders off the ground.
  3. Reach your arms straight toward your ankles. It's likely you won't be able to actually grab them.
  4. For a more advanced move, alternate between reaching for your left and right ankle, keeping your core stable as you sway back and forth.
    Woman exercising on yoga mat

11. Cool Down and Stretch

Like the warm-up, the cool down and stretch helps avoid injuries. If you get to this part and your heart is racing, take the time to slowly bring your heart rate down with a leisurely walk or march in place. Stretch your body with an emphasis on your core muscles; a good stretch to do directly after the ankle grabbers (if your heart rate is back down) is to lie on the ground, legs stretched and arms stretched overhead, reaching as though you're trying to touch your toes to one wall and your fingers to another. Five minutes is a good amount of time for cooling down.

Duration and Exertion

This workout should take around 35 to 40 minutes to do from start to finish. If this is your only workout, do this three times a week with recovery days in between. If you have other workouts you do, mix this workout into two days a week if possible. Another option is to do the strength moves along with your other exercises from this workout on cardio days instead of the full workout.

Listen to Your Body

Nothing should be painful during this workout, though you may feel fatigued and your muscles may shake. If something doesn't feel right, stop doing it and try again with a lighter weight. Take breaks as you need them during this workout and sip water when you rest. Consider following this workout up with a small, protein-rich snack to help fuel your tired muscles.

Best Exercises to Reduce Love Handles