How to Lose Stubborn Love Handles

Losing stubborn fat around your midsection
Staff Sgt. Robert Prince, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, performs the sit-up portion of a physical fitness test, March 30, 2015, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (Senior Airman Colby L. Hardin/U.S. Air Force photo)

I received an email titled, "LOVE-HANDLES!! Help me lose them."

I have been working on a routine that incorporates exercises that will help you work your love handles (the oblique region of the torso) over time and effort. Personally, I like to work my "obliques" on days I work my legs, so I created the Legs and Love Handles workout seen below.

As with any abdominal fat-loss goal, you need to concentrate on three areas to help firm your midsection:

1. Healthy Diet (to build energy and burn fat);

2. Cardiovascular and resistance training (to burn fat and build muscle);

3. Targeted abdominal exercises (to help firm the muscles under the fatty area)

*Note: You cannot target fat loss. Fat will be used as energy for your workouts and will be reduced after time performing cardio, resistance training and eating healthy.

As with any fitness and health goal, nutrition and exercise are always the main ingredients to success. Neither can be missing, or you will not have the energy to exercise or you will be part of the yo-yo diet crowd, buying a new diet book every year. Here is how I would break it down to get rid of those "love handles":

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1. Healthy diet

The most important factor in acquiring washboard abs is eating a healthy diet. Here is a list of recommended healthy ways to help you lose a few inches:

  • Drink at least three liters of water per day (100 ounces)
  • Eat five servings of vegetables and fruits per day
  • Limit fried foods and cheese
  • Limit processed sugar (for example: sodas, cookies, candy)
  • Eliminate fatty red meat; only lean red meats (1-2 times weekly)

For a food plan that was developed by a nutritionist, see "Lean Down Meal Options" (PDF).

2. Cardiovascular exercises

Losing love handles (stored fat) and increasing the metabolism so you can lose weight more effectively are all tied into a consistent cardiovascular/resistance training program. The stored fat around your midsection (for men) is typically the last to leave your body, even after months or years of an exercise plan. It is difficult to lose those last few pounds. For women, the last few pounds of fat is typically stored in the hips, buttocks and thigh region.

Whether you are a man or woman, you should do 20-45 minutes of activities like walking, running, biking or swimming daily 4-5 times per week. Also mix in basic calisthenics like push-ups, bench dips, squats and lunges 2-3 times a week. It takes a few weeks before you start to see the physical benefits or your diet and exercise program. You will see almost immediate results in your energy level and overall mental alertness when exercising daily. The sample routine below will help you better organize exercise into your week:

Monday & Thursday: Upper-Body Program

  • Warmup 5:00/stretch

Repeat 5-10 times

  • Push-ups 10-20
  • Regular crunches 20
  • Bench dips 10-20
  • Reverse crunches 20
  • Pullups: max reps or pulldowns, 10
  • Hanging kneeup
  • Stretch abs/lower back

Cardio option 20-30 minutes: Run, bike, walk, swim, etc.

Tuesday & Friday: Legs and Love Handles

Repeat 4-5 times 

  • Walk, bike or jog 5:00
  • Stretch legs
  • Squats 20
  • Lunges 10/leg
  • Left crunches 25
  • Right crunches 25
  • Hip rollers 10/side
  • Stretch abs/lower back

Cooldown walk or bike

Wednesday: Long Cardio Day

  • 45-60 minutes of walking, running or combination of the two
  • Or biking, swimming, elliptical gliding machines

The workout above is just a basic guide to getting started with a calisthenics or resistance training plan or adding cardio to your workout. For a free starter's guide to fitness, check out the "45-Day Beginner Program," which also will help you with motivation, basic nutrition and pictures of the exercises listed above.

Below are some abdominal exercises taken from every eBook sold on the Fitness eBook Store. Sample exercises to help build muscles of the core (stomach and lower back) are the following:

Hanging knee-ups

Bring your knees as high as you can as shown.

Advanced crunch (Legs up)

Lie on your back with your feet straight in the air. Keep your legs straight up in the air for the advanced crunches. Cross your hands over your chest and bring your elbows to your knees by flexing your stomach. (Do not do if you have a previous lower-back injury; place feet on the floor.) Check out "Achieve Washboard Abs" for more information.

Reverse crunch

In the same position as the regular crunch, lift your knees and butt toward your elbows. Leave your head and upper body flat on the ground. Only move your legs and butt. (Do not do if you have a previous lower-back injury.)

Right elbow to left knee

Cross your left leg over your right leg. Flex your stomach and twist to bring your right elbow to your left knee.

Left elbow to right knee

Same as above, just switch sides. Cross your right leg over your leg. Flex your stomach and twist to bring your left elbow to your right knee.

Hip rollers

This exercise will help you build your abs, back and hips to help with long ocean swims and balance out the hip flexor exercises. Twist to both sides, keeping your shoulders on the floor and stay in the bent knee position when rotating left and right.

*Note: Any time you work your abs, you also should exercise your lower back to build balance in your torso.

Lower-back exercise: Swimmers

Lie on your stomach and lift your feet and knees off the floor by flutter-kicking repeatedly as if you were swimming freestyle.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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