You might want to lose the spare tire for how you look and the way your clothes fit—but there should be more pushing you to drop weight than your reflection or your shirt size. Your overall health should be the first concern, and in that case, belly fat should be the first thing to go. The fat you carry in your stomach, called visceral fat, is different than the fat found elsewhere in the body (think arms and love handles), which is called subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat can be damaging to your health and has been linked to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
While you’ll need to take a balanced approach built around a healthy diet and other factors to lose weight to achieve a “flat belly” look, you can use exercise to help you along the way. There’s no such thing as spot reduction, or specifically targeting one area of your body with specialized exercises to burn fat, but you can work to build up the muscles around your stomach to make them bigger and stronger. At the end of the day, you’ll need to achieve a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you take in) to lose weight. These exercises can help you to do just that, torching calories on your way to a flatter stomach and healthier body.
Think about the snatch as multiple exercises in one—because that’s essentially what’s happening here as you transfer momentum to the top. You start lifting the weight from the ground, clean it up, and bring it overhead.
DO IT: Start with a weight between your legs. Pull it off the ground like a deadlift, standing up as powerfully as you can and exploding through your hips. Continue raising the dumbbell up and begin pulling back, keeping it as close to your body as possible. Turn your elbow and punch the weight overhead as you slide your torso underneath. Avoid pressing with your shoulder.
Think of the hollow body hold as the inversion of a plank. Rather than bracing yourself against the ground and letting gravity do the work, you’re flipped around, fighting against the force to keep yourself in position.
DO IT: Lay down, pressing your lower back into the ground. Hinge at the hips to tuck your knees into your chest while also raising your shoulders off the ground, reaching forward with your arms.
Extend your legs straight out and hold in position, stretching your arms back behind your head and squeezing your core to maintain your posture. For beginners, keep your arms pointed forward to make the move less difficult. Hold for 30 seconds to start, then ramp up to a minute or more once you develop the core strength.
DO IT: Put your weight on your hands and toes, bending your knees to take a tabletop position, squeezing your core to keep your spine straight.
Raise your left arm to reach straight forward, while simultaneously raising your right leg and stretching it straight out. Hold for a count, squeezing your core, before returning to the original position. Repeat the movement with your right arm and left leg to count 1 rep.
In fact, a recent study from the American College of Sports Medicine found that 10 fast-paced reps are just as effective at revving your metabolism as a 30-second all-out sprint, so you can burn your belly fat faster than ever before.
DO IT: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your palms rest on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
Kick your legs backward into a pushup position, perform a pushup, and then quickly reverse the movement and perform a jump when you stand. That’s 1 rep.
What makes this move so difficult, however, is that your core has to work overtime to keep your body stable and straight every time you lift a foot off of the floor.
DO IT: Assume a pushup position with your hands below your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. This is the starting position.
Lifting your right foot off of the floor, drive your right knee towards your chest. Tap the floor with your right foot and then return to the starting position. Alternate legs with each repetition.
The explosive nature of this movement skyrockets your heart rate right away, but it also hammers your core. Think of the move as an active standing plank.
DO IT: Bend at your hips and hold a kettlebell with both hands at arms length down in front of you. Rock back slightly and “hike” the kettlebell between your legs.
Then squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward forcefully, and swing the weight to shoulder height. Reverse the move between your legs and repeat.
“As your row the dumbbell in the plank position, you have to use your back muscles to keep your body in one strong, straight line,” says former Men’s Health Fitness Director BJ Gaddour. “If your shoulders round forward even a little bit, you’ll topple towards the pull of the weight.”Holding this position will help you build strength in your back and ab muscles to keep you upright.
DO IT: Grab one dumbbell. Get into a pushup position with your hands under your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. Separate your feet so they’re slightly wider than hip-width and turn them so they both point to your left.
With your right palm on the floor, hold the dumbbell in your left hand and perform a row. Be careful not to let your torso rotate with the weight of the dumbbell.
“Your core is your center of power, so performing explosive movements like the med-ball slam requires all the muscles between your neck and your hips to work together,” says Sean De Wispelaere, an expert coach.
And if you pick up the pace and propel the ball with more power and velocity, you’ll elevate your heart rate and burn some serious belly flab, he says.
You don’t even need to increase the weight. A 6-pound medicine ball will work just fine if you go hard and push yourself.
DO IT: Hold the ball above your head with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slam the ball on the floor as hard as you can. Catch the rebound and repeat.
There’s a reason why “country strong” is a saying—simple tasks with heavy weights equals real world strength.
DO IT: Pick up the weight safely, using your legs without rounding your back (similar to a deadlift). Grip the weight tightly, holding them at your sides.
Squeeze your glutes, your core, and roll your shoulders back to turn on your lower lats and rhomboids. Keep your neck in a neutral position looking straight ahead, then walk, maintaining the position with an upright stance.
That means it’s a comprehensive muscle-builder that will burn belly fat long after your workout is done.
DO IT: Lie faceup with your right leg bent and your left leg flat on the floor. Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell, raise your right arm straight overhead. Roll onto your left side and prop yourself up onto your elbow or hand, keeping your right arm overhead and your eyes on the weight. If you feel comfortable, take the half getup an extra step by pressing your hips up as high as you can, still keeping your eye on the weight.
Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Perform all prescribed reps on one side before switching.
“As the load shifts with every rep, all of the muscles in your torso need to work together to keep the weight directly above you,” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., strength coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts.The move engages your back and butt, too, because hunched shoulders and weak glutes also contribute to a bulging belly.
DO IT: Grab a pair of medium- to light-weight dumbbells. Press the dumbbells overhead so your palms face each other. Be careful not to scrunch your shoulders up by your ears.
Step forward into a lunge position, pause, and then bring your back leg forward to step your feet together. Alternate legs as you walk forward.
By holding kettlebells in the racked position, you challenge your core to compensate for the weight pulling you forward. But if you just rest the weights on your shoulders, you won’t get the same work—so make sure you’re holding the right way.
Once you get the grip down, use the position for movements like squats, split squats, lunges, or walks.
DO IT: Hold your kettlebell (or bells) by the horns and clean the weight up to your shoulders. Tense your core and glutes, like a standing plank.
Create tension in your forearms and flex your wrists. Then, turn your wrists and elbows in so they’re perpendicular to the ground. Finally, pull your elbows in toward your torso.
“It trains your abs, lower back, and hips to work together to rotate your body from side to side,” says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., owner of FitnessQuest 10 in San Diego, California.
And the more powerfully you explode off of the floor, the more you’ll elevate your heart rate and work your muscles.
DO IT: Get into a table-top position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
Dig your toes into the floor and elevate your knees so they hover just above the ground.
Keeping your feet together jump them to the left, pause, and then jump them to the right. Repeat for reps or time.
The squat attacks your largest muscle groups—like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings—while the dumbbell toss hits your upper body and ramps up your heart rate.
DO IT: Grab a medium- to light-weight dumbbell and hold it in the racked position with your elbow bent and the end resting near your shoulder.
Squat down so your quads are parallel to the floor, and then quickly pop up to standing, tossing the dumbbell from one hand to the other in front of your face.
“While the leg curl hammers your glutes, you need to turn on every muscle in your torso to keep your back straight from your shoulders to you knees,” says Nick Murtha, an expert coach. (Think of it as performing a plank lying on your back.)
The combination will hit your abs, work your upper back to help fix poor posture, and hammer the large, metabolism-revving muscle groups in your lower body all at the same time.
DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels on a pair of Valslides. Lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
Keeping your core tight, extend your legs as far as you can without allowing your back to curve. Pause, and then using your glutes and hamstring, pull your heels back toward your body until you return to the starting position.
Brett Williams, NASM
Brett Williams, an associate fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running.
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