The term “love handle” is a popular euphemism used to describe the infamous “EXCESS LOCALIZED FAT” that bulges on the abdomen, sides and back. This excess fat can be a nuisance for some people who find that it causes their bodies to resemble the shape of a pear or an apple. While some clothes can nicely disguise the bulges, there are others that don’t. Unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle are the common causes of “love handles” in both skinny and fat people.
The health complications of localized fat are anything but cupid-related. Research led by Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez on 12,785 Americans showed that even people that are within the ideal weight limits, but have excess belly fat, are 50% more likely to die from health complications than obese people. This is a bit frightening to imagine, as the popular erroneous belief is that only obese people are in the danger zone. The findings, however, show otherwise and also the ever important need to shed excess fat regardless of your Body Mass Index (BMI).
So how can you get the skinny on love handles? There are really three answers to this question. The first is that you are what you eat. You will never lose weight and thin your waistline or remove the hanging ripples on your back if you do not change your eating habits to adopt healthier choices. Excess sugars, fried foods, simple carbohydrates and processed foods should be on your “banned list”. More fruits, fiber, vegetable and lean meats such as chicken and fish should be incorporated into your diet.
Secondly and thirdly you need to get involved in cardiovascular and resistance training exercises. You will not be able to single out a particular section on your mid-section to lose weight. Your entire body works in unison when exercising so everywhere will be affected. The cardiovascular exercises are designed to burn fat and increase your heart rate whereas the resistance training is for toning, strength and mass building. Below you will find six helpful types of exercises that will help you tighten your core and build muscle as well.
Note: unless otherwise stated all excises require the use of an exercise mat and comfortable, loose clothes.
6 Exercises to Lose Your Love Handles
1. Basic Bicycle
Go down flat on your back and slightly raise your feet above the ground with your knees bent. Put your hands near your ears (almost touching them) to form an open “V”. Maintain your shoulders straight. Without putting your feet on the ground bring each knee to the opposite elbow by simultaneously imitating riding a bicycle and raising your torso slightly in each direction. That means the right knee will touch the left elbow and the left knee will touch the right elbow. You should ensure that the feet do not touch the floor and that they are outstretched when alternating. Repeat this exercise three times.
What you’ll need: A ball, medicine ball or small box.
Sit down on the mat and then slightly bring your back backwards and your legs upwards. Your feet should be slightly raised above the floor and your body should form a “V”. Close your legs and hold a ball, medicine ball or small box in your hands. If you can’t find anything to hold just put your hands together and place them slightly in the center of both legs. Twist your torso and legs in opposite directions so that you work your oblique. Avoid putting too much pressure on your back and buttocks. You can injure you back if you are not sitting in the correct angle.
3. Twist and Reach
Get down flat on your back and raise your legs to form 90 degrees with your waist. Your arms should be outstretched to form a “T”. Maintain both legs closed and move them to the left by twisting your midsection, and hold them there. Lift your torso and bring your right arm to the direction of the feet as if you are trying to touch them. Always breathe out as you squeeze your obliques and you pulse up to touch the feet and breathe in as you go back. Do this five times for thirty seconds on one side and then change to the other direction repeating the same sequence. You can modify the exercise by bending your knees slightly. This will help to reduce the pressure that is on your arm strings and lower back.
Lie on the floor with your back facing down. Put your feet together and bring your knees apart to form an opening. Put your hands near your ears, touching your head, and ensure that they are straight. Move torso and lower body so that your elbow touches your thigh. Your right elbow should touch your right thigh (or knee) and your left elbow your left thigh (or knee). You will alternate position so that it appears as if you are “wiggling”. Do not lift your lower back. Exhale as you bring your elbow to touch your knee and inhale as you move to the center to change exercise position.
For the normal plank (also known as four-foot plank) raise your body up with your abdomen facing the exercise mat. Your legs should be spread apart with your feet in tip-toed position and your arms sustaining your body weight. Your arms should be at a 900 angle outstretched. You can change the difficulty level by trying to balance yourself on one leg. Your gluts and tummy should be compressed.
Turn on your side using only one arm and your legs to hold your body weight for the side plank. Both legs should be closed and your arms should be straight. To make it more challenging raise the leg that is not directly on the floor. You may simultaneously raise your hand. Change position to do the other side of your body.
6. Hand Leg Raises
What you’ll need: Pull-up bar
Place the pull-up bar in a fixed location ensuring that it is at the right height. It should not be too low as you will hurt your upper arms and feet when you put your lower body down. Place your hands on the pull-up bar so that there is a comfortable distance between them. You can do different variations of this exercise to work on your lower abs and oblique. It is important that you breathe in as you relax the muscle and breathe out when you crunch it.
Some of the variations include:
- Knees up: Raise your knees to almost touch your chest. The legs should be closed with both knees touching each other. You can sway both knees together from one side to the next to work on your oblique.
- Straight leg: Use your upper body to raise your legs to form a 900 angle with the rest of your body. You can work on your oblique by maintaining both legs closed and swaying them from left to right.
Why Exercise Alone will not Shrink Love Handles
Love handles are the result of excess body fat that is stored in your midsection. Therefore to lose the love handles you need to lose the fat that is stored there. How can you lose fat from a specific part of your body? By losing fat from all over your body! Contrary to what many people falsely believe, your body will not burn the fat that is stored in your arms, butt, thighs or belly, simply because you perform exercises that target your arms, butt, thighs, or belly.
The human body cannot “remove” fat selectively from a certain spot. When you perform any type of exercise, your body burns calories and loses fat evenly all over. So don’t expect that by working only your abs you will burn the muffin top faster than working your legs.
That means, if you want to lose fat from your belly, exercising your abs will not be more effective at burning the belly fat than exercising your legs! You will lose belly fat only as a result of burning more calories than what you eat (a state known as caloric deficit), not because you do 1000 crunches a day.
Why the Best Exercise to Lose Love Handles Has Nothing to do with Exercising Your Abdominal Muscles
If you want to get rid of belly fat, you’d better focus on creating a caloric deficit. You can achieve a significant caloric deficit through:
- A planned diet
- By frequently engaging in physical aerobic activity, like jogging, walking etc. Start moving! Use slim speed!
- By increasing the size of your muscles, which in turn would increase your resting metabolic rate. The love handle exercises do exactly that. Like every muscle, your abdominal muscles respond to resistance training by increasing their cross sectional area—a process known as muscular hypertrophy. The bigger your muscles the higher your basic metabolic rate (also known as Resting Energy Expenditure), the more fat you burn even when you rest or sleep.
In other words, abdominal exercises help you burn your belly fat because they boost your metabolism to burn fat all over your body. But, if that’s the case, you might as well do other exercises which involve bigger muscles and have a greater effect on your metabolism. You could do squats for example. Squats involve the biggest muscles of your body and have the highest anabolic effect than any other exercise.
Do you see now why the best exercise to lose love handles is actually squats, bench presses, and pull ups—not crunches, leg raises, or planks! Perform exercises that engage big muscles, and you will get motivated by the results as you see these love handles disappear.