How to Get Rid of Love Handles

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on February 28, 2024
7 min read

"Love handles" is a slang term that describes fat deposits along the sides of your waist and hips. You might also hear these deposits called "muffin top" or a "spare tire." 

While you may be most concerned about the way love handles look, research has shown that excess fat around the waist can increase your risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

Short of liposuction or another cosmetic procedure, there's no way to "spot reduce" love handles away. But reaching and maintaining a weight that's healthy for you and increasing your muscle mass with exercise can help get rid of love handles while improving your overall health.

Your fitness routine should include moves to strengthen your core muscles (the muscles in your torso). Not only can that help your midsection look better, but a strong core also: 

  • Helps prevent back injuries and back pain
  • Improves balance 
  • Improves posture
  • Helps protect your hips and knees


Love handles are caused by fatty tissue around your midsection. Whether your body tends to store fat around the middle depends on: 

  • Genetics. Fat storage patterns tend to run in families.
  • Hormones. Men (and those identified as male at birth) are more likely to store fat in the belly area rather than the hips and thighs. 
  • Your age. Levels of belly fat tend to increase at midlife and later. 

It's possible to have a body mass index (BMI) that's considered healthy and still have too much belly fat for optimum health. Your waist measurement can be a general indicator of whether you have unhealthy levels of belly fat:

  • For men and those assigned male at birth, that's a waist over 40 inches.
  • For women and those assigned female at birth, it's over 35 inches. 

If you have a larger body size, exact waist measurements may be less important than whether your waistline is getting larger over time. 

You can't change your body's fat storage patterns. But when you lose fat and build muscle through diet and exercise, your belly will most likely shrink -- and you may lose your love handles. Some research has found that exercise is even more effective for reducing belly fat than for overall weight loss.


While a strong core is important, exercises that target your abs aren't enough to get rid of love handles. You need full-body exercises for best results -- both for your love handles and the rest of your body.

These exercises combine ab-strengthening moves with those that benefit your back, hips, and legs. Try to do one set of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise.If you have physical limitations or are new to exercise, it's best to talk to your doctor before you start a new workout routine.

Side planks

Side planks work your arms, legs, and all your ab muscles, including those along your side where love handles form.

Step 1: Lie on your side and prop yourself up with one arm. Keep the arm bent and your elbow in line with your shoulder. 

Step 2: Place one leg on top of the other until your body forms a straight line from head to feet. Then, lift your hips off the ground. 

Step 3: As you lift, squeeze your glutes (your butt muscles) and tighten your abs. 

Step 4: Hold for around 30 seconds. Then switch to the other side and repeat. As you grow stronger, you can challenge yourself by doing these planks with your supporting arm straight. 

Russian twists 

The Russian twist targets all the muscles in your core and stabilizes your spine. 

Step 1: Sit down with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground. Lean your torso back until it's at about a 45-degree angle from the floor, keeping your back straight. 

Step 2: Using both hands and with arms bent, hold a dumbbell or other weight above your abdomen. If that's too difficult, do the exercise without the weight. To make the move more challenging, lift your feet a few inches off the ground and balance on your rear. 

Step 3: Twist your torso and arms as far as you can toward the left.  Repeat on the right side and alternate. 

Mountain climber’s twist 

The mountain climber engages several muscle groups, in both your upper and lower body. If you do them at a fast pace, they also have cardio benefits. Adding a cross-body twist pulls in your oblique muscles, which run along the sides of your torso, into the equation.

Step 1: Get into a plank position, with both hands flat on the floor and about shoulder-width apart. For an easier version, do this exercise with your hands on a plyo box, exercise step, bench,  or chair. 

Step 2: Keep your core tight and your spine straight as you lift your right knee and bring it up toward your left elbow, crossing your body.  

Step 3: Return to the starting position, then lift your left leg and bring your knee up toward your right elbow. Alternate sides. 


Lifting weights builds muscle and bones while it burns fat. You can use a barbell or dumbbells for this exercise. Start with a weight you can lift 12-15 times with good form.

Step 1: Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Hinge forward at your hips, bending your knees a little, and grasp the barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip.  

Step 2: Keeping your back flat and your head in line with your spine, push your hips forward as you stand up until your hips and knees are straight. Hold the barbell or weights close to your body as you lift.

Step 3:Hold for a few seconds, then hinge at your hips again as you return the weight to the floor. Be careful not to round your shoulders or bend your knees too deeply.


Squats work the large muscles in your lower body. You can do them while holding dumbbells or a barbell, or just use your own body weight as resistance.

Step 1: Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. 

Step 2: Keeping your back in a neutral position, slowly bend at your knees, hips, and ankles until your knees are at a 90-degree angle to the floor. If that's too hard, just go as low as you can while maintaining good form. Keep your knees centered over your feet as you squat.

Step 3. Slowly return to standing.

Bicycle crunches

These core exercises include a rotating movement that helps to improve spine flexibility.

Step 1. Lying on your back, raise both legs off the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. 

Step 2: Put your hands behind your head with your elbows out to the sides. 

Step 3: Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the floor,  then move your left elbow toward your right knee. At the same time, straighten out your left leg (but keep it off the floor). 

Step 4: Keeping your head and shoulders up, rotate to bring your right elbow to your left knee as you straighten your right leg.

Hanging leg raises

The hanging leg raise is an advanced exercise that challenges your abdominal muscles and hip flexors, using your own body weight. You can do them at the gym or at home using a pull-up bar. Don't attempt these if you have back problems. 

Step 1: Hanging from your hands from a bar above your head, bend your knees and slowly bring them up to your chest.  For an even more advanced version, try keeping your legs straight.

Step 2: Slowly lower your legs back down.

Step 3: Squeeze your ab muscles during both the lifting and lowering movements to maximize the effect. 

Always use slow and controlled movements during strength-building exercises. Moving too quickly risks straining your muscles and possibly damaging tendons, ligaments, and joints.

Alignment is especially important when you do core exercises. Pay attention to how your spine is aligned. Change positions or stop the exercise if you feel discomfort in your back. Only do as many repetitions of each exercise as you can comfortably do with good form. Over time, you may be able to build up to more.

You might feel the effort of exertion, but no exercise should hurt. Stop the exercise if you feel any pain, especially in your lower back. Check your alignment and technique and try again. If the pain persists, talk to a doctor before continuing your exercise routine. 

Love handles are fat deposits in your belly area, along the sides of your hips and waist. You can't spot-reduce love handles away. But maintaining a healthy weight and building muscle throughout your body will shrink love handles as it improves your overall health. 

Does running help with love handles?

Cardio exercises like running can help you lose fat all over your body, including your love handles. For maximum benefit, aim for at least 150 minutes a week of running, cycling, dancing, or whatever cardio exercise you like best. 

Can I lose love handles in 2 weeks?

When you're trying to lose weight and get fit, there's no way to target belly fat. Weight loss will slim your midsection along with the rest of you. But the rate of weight loss differs from person to person. The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to make long-term changes in your diet and exercise patterns that you can stick with.  Experts recommend losing no more than about 1-2 pounds per week.

What exercise gets rid of love handles the fastest?

There's no single love handle workout or exercise that's most effective. The best routine for losing belly fat includes full-body strength training as well as cardio exercise.