One of the most common goals in the gym is simple: Most guys want to lose belly fat.
And why not? Everyone wants to look better for a wedding, or a trip to the beach, or even a wedding on the beach. And getting rid of a few excess pounds around the midsection is often a quick way to do that.
Thing is, belly fat can be stubborn and hard to lose, especially as you get older. Our bodies are programmed to store fat, whether we like it or not, since fat is the most abundant yield of energy we can tap into for day-to-day functioning. From cognitive activity, to hormonal responses, to processing what we intake, fat plays a very pivotal role in our lives.
That means it doesn’t typically want to go away, and we have to work both smartly and intensely to limit our fat stores. To be clear, this doesn’t mean you should stop eating and do 6-hour workouts. It’s more about piling on muscle mass while limiting extra fat storage. There are several ways to do this, and I’m going to explain them to you right now.
The Science of Fat Loss
Successful fat loss occurs when we maintain as much muscle mass as possible while cutting away the extra storage of body fat we have. And that starts with controlling and understanding your metabolism.
That means a few things, some of which you’ll notice in the exercises we’ve chosen for you, and some of which have nothing to do with exercise at all:
Diet is Critical
But that doesn’t mean you should starve yourself. You just need to eat the right amount. Key to that is knowing the lowest number of calories your body needs to function properly while simply lying down and breathing. And this can be worked out with a simple math formula for basal metabolic rate. This is your starting point in your journey to drop belly fat, and fat in general.
You shouldn’t be eating this amount of calories; you need more than that. If you eat too few calories, your body will limit the amount of fat it burns to insure that you, you know, don’t die. That means fat loss winds up coming from eating smartly (but not too little) and generating a more high-octane metabolism. And that’s where smart, targeted fat-burning exercises come in.
But Spot Reduction Isn’t a Thing
So if I do only crunches and planks I’ll erase belly fat and have a sick set of abs?! Sadly, no. The body doesn’t burn fat from specific areas because you work on just that area. There’s very limited research in favor of spot reduction, so don’t bank on it. Instead, aim to do general full-body exercises that burn fat all-around. You may not drop fat from your belly first, but your goal should be to burn fat period. Eventually, that approach will have you erasing the belly fat you want to eliminate.
Expect to notice fat loss on your face and neck first, but trust the process nevertheless.
Stress Can Hurt You
For most of us, we have always been told, we have to work harder and push harder if we want something. In most scenarios that is true. Stress in the body is a really important variable that often gets overlooked. Stress causes the body to release specific hormones such as cortisol which don’t help us when in comes to burning that stubborn fat. We all have our variables in our everyday life that will add to the stress we deal with. Work stress, workout stress, family stress, financial stress, stress of failure. The body reads it all the same.
That means that yes, going too hard in the gym nonstop can actually keep you from dropping belly fat.
Your 16 Best Fat-Blasting Moves
Because belly fat can’t just be burned by endless workouts, you want to choose smart, efficient exercises that burn heavy calories, rev up your metabolism, and help build muscle, too. It’s that blend of traits that will eventually help you erase excess belly fat. Here are the 16 moves you want to have in your workouts to blast belly fat.
If you're not ready to take on complex Olympic lifting movements with a barbell—and even if you are—dumbbell thrusters are a great place to start off with multi-joint exercises. You'll move through multiple phases, pumping up your heart rate and kicking off that fat burn.
This is another leg day favorite, and another move that’s going to push your whole body. That means you’ll be building muscle mass and simultaneously be ramping up your metabolism, two of the things you need to do to help burn that stubborn belly fat. Learn the basics of the deadlift right here.
Yes, you've been told that the burpee is a killer calorie torcher, and whoever told you wasn't wrong. But when you take on the notoriously tough exercise, make sure that you don't go overboard. Always move under control, without putting your arms and wrists at risk when you hit the deck.
The cardio row is one of the best go-to full-body moves in the gym, utilizing power, endurance and a pace that truly tests your cardiovascular potential. It’s an exercise that is all at once easier and harder than you think it is. It’s also going to clean up your posture. If you need some rowing workouts, we have some for you right here.
Yes, this leg day staple is a great way to work your entire body, hammering leg strength and building a solid midsection. It’ll also burn more calories than you think, and ramp up your metabolism way more than, say, curls.
Not sure how to squat? Start with the goblet squat, which you can learn in the video below.
You'll turn on your legs here and break free of the monotony of typical stationary lower body movements. Ramp up the challenge—and fat-burning capabilities—by adding a load. You'll increase core engagement that way, especially with a racked or goblet grip.
The Assault Bike
That devilish bike you see in the gym, the one with the arm-pumping handles in addition to the wheels, is one of the best ways to ramp up your heart rate. It’s a staple way to train power, intensity, and multiple energy systems, all of which make it terrifically effective for changing your body composition.
Just be cautious on this device, because effort is a big part of this bike that’s driven by variable resistance. Ramp yourself up to max power capacity; start by going hard in intervals, attacking for 30 seconds, then resting for 90. Five rounds of that is a good starting point; you can push harder after that.
Power in motion! The kettlebell swing is a basic in ballistics. This powerful kettlebell move has been used in every scenario from group fitness classes, to CrossFit workouts, to professional strength rooms, and it’s driving plenty of metabolic power, more than you may realize. You have to be explosive to drive the kettlebell up, but you need your whole body to handle the momentum, staying tense for swing after swing. Learn the swing below.
Build explosive power and burn fat with another multi-joint dumbbell movement. This exercise challenges you to nail triple extension (extension and straightening at the hip, knee, and ankle) in one fluid motion. Start with light weight first to master the three steps of the exercise and always focus on keeping your core engaged.
One of the first power exercises your learned to do in your life. Arguably the best bodyweight move on the planet, sprinting is an activity we are all capable of doing but progressively lose capacity in as we get older. This one rings true with the old saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.
Remember that a sprint isn’t simply a distance run. Core stability is crucial. Head to the track and try doing 10 100-meter dashes, or 10 100-yard dashes across a football field; take plenty of time between each.
This strength room classic is a full body power output drill, triple extension (extension at the ankle, knee, and hip) combined with speed and weight. This pushes your body to the limit, and because it requires ballistic intensity and plenty of energy, it'll leave your metabolism sky-high. It's a challenging, nuanced exercise, though, so learn the form first.
Moving heavy weights is one of the best ways to elicit the response you want from your body, and to kick things into fat-blasting overdrive. Sled pushes have such a large demand on the body: There’s simply no other way to push a sled than to use your entire body, especially if you use enough weight. Sled pushes are also joint-friendly.
How to: Leaning forward at a 45 degree angle you will grip the sled with your hands close to your chest (similar to a push up position). From a staggered stance, drive through the balls of your feet with all toes in contact with the ground. Each step, maximize your stride length pulling the leg forward as far as possible to get the most of each step.
The Turkish Getup is one of the more complicated and challenging moves in the gym, but it’s also supremely beneficial, hitting every part of your body. It’s a great weapon in an arsenal, and a mere one rep will light up your metabolism more than you realize, especially if you work with a heavy weight. These take time to learn, but they’ll push you to your fat loss goals.
For a breakdown of the unique form of the Turkish getup, head here. As you get better, you can try more fat-blasting, ab-focused versions of the move as well, like this Getup challenge from fitness director Ebenezer Samuel.
One of the most underutilized exercises for fat loss is the simple act of carrying a heavy weight to a destination. Loaded carries come in all manner of varieties, and they build critical strength you can use every day, too. They’ll also let you move heavy weights, which will help you build muscle, too. Not sure how to start with loaded carries? Check out this breakdown.
Medicine Ball Slams
Looking to burn fat and blow off some steam? Try the medicine ball slam. This full-body power move is driven by the upper body but has a large demand on the lower body as well. Not sure where to start? These medicine ball exercises are a good place to get going.
The gold standard for back exercises demands plenty from your upper limbs, and pushes your core and lower body more than you realize. You’ll be building muscle, pushing your metabolism into fat-burning territory, and if you’re trying to drop belly fat for aesthetics, you’ll also be building other key bits of a great physique, crafting your lats and shoulders. Pulling your entire weight up to a bar isn’t a beginner’s move though, so start with this tutorial.
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