Love handles are areas of skin and excess fat around the hips and abdominal area. While the issue is mostly cosmetic — as in, you might not love the way they look — love handles can also indicate underlying risk factors for illnesses like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
In addition to a healthy diet, the right exercises can help target the back, abs, and hip regions to help reduce the appearance of love handles. Combining cardiovascular exercises with weight-lifting exercises can target the fat around the abdomen and help you lose weight.
Exercises to Help Love Handles
According to a study on abdominal fat, exercises targeting only the abdomen may not be enough to see results on love handles. In addition to focusing on the abdominal muscles, it’s also important to focus on full-body exercises to see the best results. These exercises combine both targeted ab exercises and other exercises — toning the back, hips, and legs — to maximize weight loss around the abdomen.
A side plank puts pressure on your arms, legs, and all of your ab muscles, and it targets the muscles along your side, making it an efficient workout for love handles.
Step 1: Start by lying on your side and propping yourself up with one arm. Keep your elbow aligned 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 and tighten your abs to support your muscles.
Step 4: After around 30 seconds, switch to the other side and repeat.
The Russian twist targets all the muscles in the core, as well as stabilizing the spine to further strengthen the abdomen.
Step 1: Sit down with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Lean back with your torso, but stop at about a 45-degree angle from the floor.
Step 2: Hold a dumbbell or other weight with both hands above your abdomen. Lift your feet off the ground and balance on your rear.
Step 3: Twist your torso to the left and touch the weight to the left side of your body, keeping your legs and torso off the ground. Repeat on the right side and alternate.
Hanging Leg Raises
The hanging leg raise offers a challenging exercise for abdominal muscles and hip flexors, using the full weight of the body to strengthen these muscles. Compared to other similar exercises, the hanging leg raise was the most challenging to the abdominal wall of muscles.
To complete a hanging leg raise:
Step 1: Hanging from your hands by a bar above your head, extend your arms and slowly raise your legs parallel to the ground. For an easier version of this exercise, slowly bring your knees up to your chest.
Step 2: Lower your legs back down straight.
Step 3: Flex your abs while lifting and lowering your legs—and keep the pace as slow—to maximize the effect.
Mountain Climber’s Twist
Scientific studies have shown that exercises that combine multiple moves engage more muscle groups provide more challenge and are more effective than isolated exercises targeting one area at a time, like a crunch.
This exercise takes a basic plank and elevates it to strengthen the abs. It also helps build strength and range of motion in the hips—another area that can contribute to love handles.
Step 1: Take a plyo box, exercise box, or another flat and stable surface like a chair. Get into a plank position with both palms placed on top of the box.
Step 2: Keep your spine straight as you lift your right leg and bring your knee up to your left elbow, across your body. Return to the starting position.
Step 3: Lift your left leg and bring your knee up to your right elbow. Return to the starting position and alternate.
Weightlifting exercises have shown to be even more effective than cardio in weight loss, building muscle as well as burning fat. Deadlifts can help tone the abdomen while also burning off fat, but it’s important to start with an amount of weight that’s appropriate to you. Begin with something you can lift 12 to 15 times.
Step 1: Stand with your feet slightly narrower than shoulder width apart. Take the bar in an overhand grip and bend your knees until your shins hit the bar.
Step 2: Pull upwards, keeping your shoulder blades positioned over the bar. As you pull, keep the bar close to your body until your hips and knees are locked.
Step 3: Hold for several seconds and then return the weight to the floor.
For abdominal exercises, always use slow and controlled movements. Moving too quickly can risk straining the muscles or damaging tendons, ligaments, and joints.
Alignment is also important when working on love handles. Keep your spine carefully aligned, and change positions or stop the exercise if you feel discomfort in your back. Only perform as many repetitions of the exercise as you can comfortably do with good form. Over time, you may be able to build up to more reps.
Most importantly, core exercises shouldn’t cause you pain. Stop the exercise if you feel any pain, especially in your lower back. Check your alignment and try again, but if the pain persists, you may need to see a doctor before continuing the exercises.