With summer winding down, many of us may be giving up on the annual goal of finally achieving that much sought after 6-pack. For shame! Never give up the dream! That glorious 6 pack can and will be yours, we just need to trim down the ol’ waistline a little (or a lot) so everyone can see those abs. What is the best exercise to lose belly fat? Let’s find out!
Before we discuss what exercises we can use to get rid of that stubborn ol’ belly fat, lets talk for a sec about why that fat is there to begin with.
Where Does Belly Fat Come From?
Most of us have personal experience with unwanted belly fat. Those annoying pounds that just seem to stick around regardless of what diet or exercise plan you are doing. But why is that fat there? Where did it come from?
Fat around our midsection, or any other body part, is just stored calories. Our bodies need to store some calories in the form of fat for normal health. Even thin, lean individuals have SOME fat stored. The problem arises when we are taking in more calories than our bodies need and these extra calories start accumulating in our body as stored fat. Everybody is a little different with how they store fat.
Most of us store this fat in our midsection (belly), hips, butt, legs. Depending on how much fat you have, you will eventually end up storing it in multiple locations. A lot of guys tend to store more fat in their midsection, this body type is commonly referred to as being “apple” shaped. A lot of females tend to store more fat in the hips and buttocks, commonly referred to as being “pear” shaped. Having more abdominal fat, or being apple shaped, is usually considered more dangerous to your health because it corresponds to having higher levels of visceral fat.
Visceral fat is fat tissue that is stored inside your abdominal wall, around some of your internal organs. Again, we all have some visceral fat, it is necessary for the body to function correctly. But when we have too much of it, it starts to increase our chances of getting a bunch of unwanted health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. There’s a lot of research on visceral fat and how bad it can be for us, but long story short- the more belly fat you have, the more visceral fat you probably have! The more visceral fat you have, the higher your risk is of getting serious health problems!
For some more good information on visceral fat, check out wikipedia’s article here.
So How Do I Lose That Belly Fat??
Unfortunately, we can’t specifically target a certain body part to lose weight. That is, I can’t use one exercise to lose “arm fat” and another exercise to lose “butt fat”. Some products on the market might want you to think otherwise, but they are lying.
The only way to lose weight, is to put your body in a calorie deficit. That means that you have to be using more calories than you are consuming. When you think about it, there are 2 ways we can manage this. We can either burn more calories, or consume less calories. Oops, I forgot the 3rd option…burn more calories AND consume less calories! This is by far the most potent weapon for defeating belly fat and any other body fat you want to get rid of.
I like math, so let’s turn this into an equation…
If calories consumed > calories burned –> you gain weight (fat)
If calories consumed < calories burned –> you lose weight (fat)
Thanks for bearing with me here, I think we all got it now. Eat less, exercise more and you lose weight. Got it. But if anybody tries to sell you something that is “guaranteed to shrink that gut” and it doesn’t include dieting or exercise, don’t buy.
This is an article on the exercise part of the equation, so from now on we are talking about burning calories. If we want to burn belly fat, which means we need to burn more calories, then basically the question I asked at the beginning of the article means: “What is the best exercise to burn calories?”
Exercises that burn the most calories tend to be cardiovascular exercises. Exercises that get the heart rate up and keep it up for an extended amount of time. Lifting weights most definitely burns calories. It also increases metabolism which continues to burn calories after the exercise is completed. But most weight lifting routines focus on one body part at a time and involve way too much rest for me.
If my goal is to really torch calories and burn up that unwanted belly fat, then I want a full body workout. An exercise that is going to involve pretty much every part of my body working at the same time to burn the most calories possible. Getting that heart rate up and keep it up throughout the exercise is key to burning calories and losing fat.
Remember the old treadmills and ellipticals that had a “fat burning” workout option? I say old, but I guess they still do. I haven’t been on a treadmill or elliptical in awhile, but I remember the fat burning option always involved moderate resistance for longer periods. The old thinking was that to burn fat, you had to do slow to moderately paced cardio for a longer period of time. Nowadays, we are more in the HIIT mindset…High Intensity Interval Training. Doing higher intensity exercise for shorter bouts of time is thought to burn more calories, burn more fat, and keep the body burning more fat for a longer period of time.
So, to burn that belly fat I need to find a full body exercise, that can be done at a high intensity. Sounds interesting. If you are thinking swimming or cross-country skiing, I like your mindset but remember this is a website dedicated to working out at home. Not sure about you, but I don’t have a pool and I definitely don’t live anywhere where skiing is available year round.
So the exercises I chose are ones that can be done easily in your home gym. Ok, you’ve waited long enough, lets get to the exercises!
I made a list of my 5 favorite belly fat burning exercises. Starting at 5 and working my way down to my number 1 fat burning exercise. Take a look and see what you think.
Best Exercises To Lose Belly Fat
#5 Jumping Rope
I’m not sure how many of my readers incorporate this great exercise into their normal routines, but don’t be fooled, jumping rope torches calories! It’s a great cardiovascular workout and it will strengthen your legs at the same time. It’s a good option for the home gym because it takes up very little space and can be done inside or outside.
Everyone knows how to jump rope, so no description necessary. But I do want to throw a few numbers at ya. These are based on jumping rope with both feet at the same time:
- Average person will burn anywhere between 10-14 calories per min jumping rope
- Heavier folks will burn more
- Faster you jump, more calories you will burn
- Example: 10 min of jump roping = ~120 calories burned (average of 12 cal/min)
That’s roughly the equivalent of running a mile. For me, 10 min is a long time to jump rope consecutively. I would break it up into 1-2 min intervals, going all out for each set. I would also spice it up a little with doing a min or so with single legs, alternating legs, could even throw in some double jumps. Have fun with it! The more interesting it is, the more likely you are of doing it consistently.
Check out this earlier post for a few jumprope routines that will really get you sweating.
Ok, I know I was limiting myself on my exercise selection based on things that could be done in a home gym. But anybody can run outside! If you are lucky enough to have a treadmill in your home gym, then there ya go. If you don’t have a treadmill and are considering one, you should really check out my favorite folding treadmills, some really awesome and affordable machines on the market right now:
But back to running. Running is an awesome calorie/fat burning exercise.
- Most people burn 120-140 calories per mile running
- Faster you run, more calories you burn
- Example: 6 mph pace for 20 min = 2 miles = ~270 calories
Some people have bad knees or hips or back making it difficult to run. For those folks with joint issues, this probably isn’t the exercise for you. I get bored easily with running, I can’t run at a constant pace for 30 min, I have to play with the speed to make it interesting. Try intervals: run as fast as you can for 60 sec, than back off for 1-2 min, and repeat until your workout is completed. I also like to start out at jogging pace and every min increase the speed by 0.2 mph until I get to my max, and then I decrease my speed by 0.2 mph each min until I get back to my jogging pace. You should try it.
#3 Kettlebell Swing
Ah, a classic full body exercise, finally! Hey, we are getting into the top 3 now and kettlebell swings (or dumbbell swings if you don’t have a kettlebell) have earned their position. This exercise works pretty much every muscle in the body at the same time, can be done anywhere you have a couple of square feet, and burns the heck out of fat!
- According to the American Council on Exercise, kettlebell swings can burn up to 20 calories per min…no that isn’t a typo, check out the article here if interested
- Strengthens core, legs, and shoulders at same time
- Great for HIIT workouts
- Great also for warm-ups and finishers to your workout
The article mentioned above had people do kettlebell swings for 15 sec on, then rest for 15 sec…for 20 min. Great workout, but kinda boring for me. I like to pair them with push ups and do a descending ladder starting at 15 for each, then 14, then 13, etc all the way down to 1. Incorporate any way you like, but 20 min of swings could burn ya 400 calories! Crazy.
Click here for a demonstration of a kettlebell swing.
I had a hard time ranking kettlebell swings and thrusters…similar exercises, both very taxing. I decided to put the thruster at the number 2 spot because personally I think it is a more challenging exercise. Both exercises include a squat, but with the thruster you are pushing the dumbbells completely over-head. Hits the shoulders a little harder. Don’t quote me or anything, but I think it might hit your core a little harder too, especially if you hold the dumbbells over head for a sec or two.
- Difficult to determine an accurate calorie burn for this exercise because there are so many variables: dumbbell weight, speed, user body weight…but based on what I could find online using different calorie calculators, you should be looking conservatively at at least 12-15 calories per min. Personally, I think it is probably higher than that if you consider the kettlebell swings have been shown to burn upwards of 20 cal/min.
- You can change your weights/reps depending on your goals. Here, we want to burn fat, so we would being doing more reps, or for time maybe. If strengthening was your primary goal, lower the wait and do less reps.
I like to use thrusters as part of a circuit or as part of the reverse pyramid thing I mentioned above with the kettlebell swings. If you want to really burn some serious calories, why not do a reverse pyramid with kettlebell swing and thrusters paired together?!?
Click here for a demonstration of a thruster.
and here it is, the best exercise to lose belly fat…
Anybody surprised? You shouldn’t be. The burpee is probably the most hated exercise out there. And for good reason, it’s really freakin’ hard. Guess what though, the hard exercises burn the most calories and they burn the most fat! Technically speaking though, the burpee isn’t really one exercise, it’s a combination of squatting, push ups, planking, and jumping.
- Really tough to find an accurate calorie burn calculation for this exercise as well, again all depends on intensity, speed, and body weight
- Online estimates range from 10 calories per min to 1.5 calories per burpee…big difference there depending on how fast you are going. If you can do 10 burpees in a min, thats 15 cal/min right there!
- 10 cal/min sounds low to me when you compare this exercise to the exercises above, I find this to be easily one of the most difficult exercises around
Great thing about the burpee is that it can be done anywhere, all you need is enough room to do a push up. These are so hard it doesn’t take much originality to come up with a tough workout. 5×10 would be tough…15, 12, 10, 8 also tough. Include them into a circuit, or do a reverse pyramid (which I’m a big fan of) consisting of burpees and kettlebell swings: start at 15 if you are brave, 10 would also be tough. Have fun with the torture!
Sorry, if anyone reading is not familiar with the burpee, click here for a demonstration of the exercise.
Time To Start Losing That Belly Fat!
So there ya go, if you ask me the burpee is the best exercise to lose belly fat. You can easily create your own workout consisting only of burpees, it is a total body exercise by the way. Or, you could add it to your current workout to really boost your fat burning potential. If you don’t like burpees, and trust me, I don’t blame ya, pick one or several of the other exercises mentioned and incorporate them into your routine to burn some extra belly fat in no time!
Remember, if you really want to lose that fat, make sure you are watching what you are eating and cutting some calories out of your diet as well. Eating less AND exercising more is a 1-2 punch that will help speed up your fat loss and help you reach your goals sooner.
Also take into account that all of the numbers reported in this post are estimates only. Everyone will burn different numbers of calories based on their weight, metabolism, and intensity of exercise. Personally, I still think 20 cal/min doing kettlebell swings sounds too good to be true, but point is they burn a lot of calories. All of these exercises when performed correctly can torch calories and help you lose that unwanted belly fat.
If there are any questions, as always please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to ya as soon as possible. I’d also love to hear from anyone who has tried these exercises or if anyone has any other go to exercises for losing belly fat that weren’t mentioned here.