There are a lot of so-called exercises to get rid of your muffin top out there but the majority of them don’t work at all.
Those of us who suffer from having a stubborn muffin top know all too well just how hard it can be to get rid of. Just losing more weight would seem like the answer but it can end up making it look worse.
The muffin top is the fat that builds up on the side of your hips right above your pants. It seems like for most of us our fat just seems to go straight to our muffin top before any place else.
The worst part for women is wearing tighter jeans or pants and it making your muffin top look horrible. A muffin top can make any woman feel self-conscious to the point they try hiding it with baggy shirts and high waisted pants. Now I’m not saying it’s bad to have a little something to hold on to, but let’s be honest nobody likes having muffin tops.
In this article, I’ll break down for you what really works to lose your muffin top and the best exercises to target this stubborn fat area.
What Causes The Muffin Top
The muffin top these days isn’t a very attractive part of the body on women yet it’s quite common to store excess body fat there.
For a lot of people, love handles are the hardest to lose, and it can be incredibly frustrating when you can lose weight everywhere but there. It always seems like it’s the last place people will lose weight.
The causes of this side belly fat are very simple. Your body just builds up excess fat from eating too much then stores it on the side of your stomach for “safekeeping” (1).
Based on your genetic wiring you were predestined to store your excess fat on the sides of your stomach (2). Some people are more likely to store their fat in their belly fat, hips, and thighs but genetically you are more likely to store it on the sides of your abdominals.
When most people hear this they fear they’ll never get rid of muffin top at all. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure it’s going to be more difficult for you than those who don’t have the genetics to store fat there. But this doesn’t mean you’re doomed for good.
How You Can Lose Your Muffin Top Fast
Sometimes you’ll see people in the gym doing the Side Bends exercise and I always want to tell them they’re wasting their time. It’ll never drop the fat on the sides of their abdominals.
The truth is spot reduction is a very ineffective way of losing your love handles. Spot reduction is when you try to lose fat in a specific area of your body by isolating the area with an exercise. This study puts the nail in the coffin proving spot reduction is very ineffective for losing love handles or any other part of your body (3).
While doing isolation exercises focusing on the love handles can build muscle mass on there it doesn’t mean you’ll actually burn the fat from that specific location.
The trick is to burn fat throughout your entire body with the right kind of exercise and dieting plan. Then add in the exercise below to tone up and tighten the area. This is what will actually be effective to lose the muffin top fast.
Otherwise simply doing exercises for your sides isn’t going to get the job done. Crazy enough just building muscle mass on the sides can make it look even bigger. Weight loss will help but you’ll still need to build some muscle in the area otherwise you’ll never burn off the fat.
At the end of the day weight loss itself will only do so much but it won’t help to lose those last stubborn pounds of fat above your pants. The real key is total body fat loss and then using these exercises to target tone the area.
What Exercises Get Rid of the Muffin Top?
I have a trick up my sleeve even though I just said you can’t spot reduce your love handles. There are exercises to lose your love handles but they aren’t what you would typically think of.
These use HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) strategies to burn fat all over your body while adding some specific muscle toning to your love handles. High intensity exercise has been proven with multiple studies to be highly effective for rapid fat loss (4).
I would also recommend trying this HIIT workout routine I designed to help get your training program kickstarted for faster fat loss. Using a HIIT workout routine will be the fastest total body strength training workout strategy you can use to burn off your stubborn fat the fastest.
There are some other methods such as Metabolic Resistance Training that will also help to increase your metabolism and the building of lean muscle. It’ll create an Afterburn effect that’ll force your body to continue to burn calories for many hours after you finish your workout.
Then the trick is to “pepper in” the below exercises with your HIIT workout routine to enhance the fat burning in your sides. With your heart rate elevated with a HIIT workout, your body can preferentially burn fat on your sides once you start adding in the below exercises (5).
With these exercises, you’ll lose those love handles and tone up them up at the same time.
17 Best Exercises To Lose Love Handles
In these exercises, you’ll see I’m using a couple of simple pieces of exercise equipment like the kettlebell and superbands. You can pick these up pretty inexpensively at your local Target or Wal-Mart. Or you can also pick them up at Amazon.
Just be sure to know I’m using a rather heavy kettlebell for the video, but you probably won’t need to start out that heavy. For you, I’d probably find a 10-25 pound kettlebell for getting started or you can also use a dumbbell.
Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift
- Place a kettlebell to the side of your foot then squat down to the floor to pick it up. While holding the kettlebell stand up tall.
- Focus on keeping your hips straight throughout the exercise. Keep your chest up and when you squat to the floor make sure you push your hips back like you’re taking a seat on a chair.
Kettlebell 1-Arm Clean & Press
- This movement is a little more advanced but it’s a very effective total body exercise. Feel free to do some practicing on this one before trying it with the kettlebell.
- Hold the kettlebell in one arm and then shoot your hips forward in a thrusting motion. While you’re doing this also explode upwards with your elbow lifting the kettlebell up.
- Next, bring your elbow down quickly and catch the kettlebell in your hand. Use your body as a spring to absorb the motion of the kettlebell.
- Then bring the kettlebell back down with you before going on to the next repetition.
Kettlebell Side Swings
- This is a variation on a typical kettlebell swing I like to use to focus more on the side fat.
- Start like you would a regular kettlebell swing but after the first repetition brings the kettlebell back on the side of your hips.
- Then swing it back up like you would a normal swing before bringing it back down on the other side of your body.
- Keep swinging the kettlebell side-to-side on the outside of your hips.
Superband Tight Rotations
- Using a superband (or another sturdy band you can find) wrap it around a solid object such as a pole.
- Hold the other end of the superband in your hands and step away from the anchor location.
- Then with some tightness on the band repeatedly swing your hips side-to-side while keeping your abs tight.
- Try to increase the speed as you get the exercise down. You can also make the exercise harder by simply stepping farther away from the anchor point.
- Get in the standard pushup position then after performing a full push-up rotate your body sideways at the top. Let your feet rotate with your body as you turn yourself so you’re now facing the wall.
- After a quick pause at the top, you’ll next want to bring yourself back to the pushup position. Do another pushup before repeating the sideways movement only to the other side this time.
- Traditional Side Planks are great for focusing on strengthening your oblique muscles, but there is an even better way to do them.
- Get down on your side then lift yourself up like you’re doing a Side Plank only keep lifting your hips up and down from the ground.
- Be sure to keep your body straight throughout the exercise while keeping your abs tight as well.
Mermaid Side Crunches
- Another fun exercise I like to use to help tone up your obliques are Mermaid Crunches.
- You’re going to lay on your side and wrap your bottom foot behind your top foot. Then place your utmost hand behind your head and your bottom hand on the ground for support.
- Together lift up your legs and crunch up your elbow towards them. Keep your abs tight as you go up and down off the ground. If you have a big belly this exercise can be harder to do.
Kettlebell Reverse Lunges
- Holding a kettlebell stand up tall in the lunge position with your abs tight. Then while keeping your chest up and looking straight ahead begin to take a big step back with one leg.
- Lower that back leg towards the ground so it’s about an inch from hitting it. Next, bring the leg back up before repeating on the other side.
Kettlebell 1-Legged RDL
- Stand up tall and hold a kettlebell in your right hand. Slowly begin to lean forward as you lift your right leg up off the ground as you go down.
- Keep your opposite leg straight with a slight bend in it and your back straight. Try to lower yourself so your back is right above parallel to the floor.
- Slowly bring yourself back up to the standing position. Repeat on this same side until your done then switch to the other side.
Cross-Body Mountain Climbers
- The starting position is the same as the beginning of a pushup. Keep your lower back straight with your arms straight.
- Bring the knee on your right leg rapidly towards your left elbow. Then once it nearly touches your elbow quickly bring it back to the starting position. Then quickly bring your left knee rapidly towards your right elbow.
- Keep your midsection tight and continue doing this movement until finished.
Side Plank Reach Behind
- Get in the side plank position with the elbow on your right side underneath your shoulder. Keep your back straight throughout the movement.
- Lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line. Then slowly bring your left hand underneath your body in a reaching movement.
- Once your hand gets back behind your lower back bring it back to the starting position. Continue going back and forth with this movement.
- Start off in the forearm plank position with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your toes on the ground.
- Then rotate yourself to one side by lifting the opposite elbow and twisting your feet until you get into the side plank position.
- Pause for 1-3 seconds then slowly bring yourself back to the starting position. Then after a 1-3 second pause rotate to the opposite side.
- Grab a big exercise ball and take a seat on it while holding a dumbbell. Roll down the exercise ball until your lower back is now resting on the ball with your feet on the ground and your knees bent.
- Then extend your arms out over your body while holding the dumbbell in your hands.
- Next, rotate your body to the side while keeping your abs tight. Bring it back to the starting position and rotate to the opposite side this time.
- Take a seat on the ground, place your hands to your side and then lift your hips up off the ground keeping your knees bent.
- Then bring one arm across your body in a reaching motion to the opposite side behind you.
- Hold for a second then bring yourself back to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
- Set up a resistance band so that it’s anchored at the same height as your chest.
- Hold the band and step away from the anchoring point until there’s a strong tension in the band.
- Keep your abs tight, hold the band at your chest and then slowly press out away from you.
- Resist the force to turn your body in towards the anchoring point. Then bring it back towards your chest. Keep breathing while keeping your abs tight too.
- Begin in the push up position with your hands underneath your shoulders.
- Rotate your body to one side and as you do lift up the foot on the opposite side. Bring this foot out to the side of your body while you lift your hand up to touch it.
- Return your foot and hand back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Workout Plan to Lose the Muffin Top
Now the next thing to do is to put these exercises to get rid of muffin tops into a fat burning workout plan. Use HIIT exercises in your total body workouts to get your heart rate elevated so you burn off more fat throughout your body.
Add in full body movements like squats, push ups, burpees, pull ups, jump squats, lunges, step ups, etc. These are the best strength training exercises you’ll need to burn fat and gain lean muscle.
So an example would be to do 60 seconds of jumping rope, followed by 10 burpees and then doing 30 seconds of the Side-Ups exercise above. Do that for 4-5 rounds and then move onto other different workouts set.
Another example would be to sprint for 45 seconds on the treadmill, then do 10 T-stab pushups and finish with 20 Mermaid Crunches per side. Variety and intensity will be key to getting results with your workouts so keep mixing things up and challenging your body.
Finally to finish it off try adding in 20-3o minutes of cardio training. Adding in some cardio training at the end will further burn calories and fat off your body.
Muffin Top Diet Tips
The #1 thing you can do to most effectively lose your side fat is to focus on your diet. There is no amount of exercise you’re going to be able to do if you’re putting too much bad food into your body.
Dieting is key to get rid of your muffin tops and even if you don’t have much weight to lose you’re going to have to step it up a notch. This study found sugar will pack on the stomach fat no matter what kind of exercise you’re doing (6).
Alcohol is another “bad guy” in the battle against your side belly fat. Drinking this little devil will shut off your fat-burning hormones as it slows your metabolism to a standstill (7). I would limit your alcohol intake to only 2 drinks per week on your cheat day unless you want to keep that belly for the summer.
Keeping sugar and alcohol out of your body will have a big impact on losing the side belly fat. Also keeping processed foods and your carbs low will help to slim down your waist (8). The high amounts of refined sodium in processed foods are enough to cause your body to retain water making your stomach look bigger than it actually is (9).
That’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nutrition for losing your handles. If you ready for the complete guide with meal plans to lose your love handles for good then check out my Flat Belly Formula system.
The Last Word
At the end of the day getting rid of your muffin tops is going to be done through proper dieting. But there are some exercises you can use to help get rid of those stubborn muffin tops.
Spot reduction really is a bad way to go about losing your side belly fat, but these above HIIT full-body exercises will for sure help to tone up and lose fat overall. Then add in the above exercises to tone up and enhance the fat burning on your spare tire.
This is what’s really going to help you get rid of muffin top for good. You might want to combine this side belly fat workout plan with my getting rid of hip dips workout plan too if you have trouble in this area. You can find more of my tips on how to lose belly fat naturally here.
Most people have the hardest time trying to get rid of them but it really doesn’t have to be so difficult. As long as you’re willing to put in the work for what really works then you’ll be there in no time.
Muffin tops are very unsightly and a big point of insecurity for many of us. But just because you were born with the genetics to store fat there doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them forever. Just follow the strategies and exercises above so you can get the results you want fast.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.