'Which exercise burns the most belly fat?' is a question many people ask themselves after overindulging in mulled wine and mince pies this Christmas. Is your midriff more ‘jelly belly’ than ‘whittled waist’ right now? It's fine, especially if you’re happy to cover up in baggy sweatshirts and undo the top button of your jeans after a big meal. But it’s hardly a recipe for body confidence, is it?
Not to mention that carrying extra weight around your midsection isn’t exactly healthy, either. Excess belly fat is associated with a whole host of health risks, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, so it’s a good idea to try and keep any potential waistband overspill under control (Read more about this topic in our guide: how to lose belly fat).
Visceral fat, in particular – the type of fat that wraps around your abdominal organs, as opposed to subcutaneous fat that lies just underneath your skin – can cause health problems even if you have a normal weight and Body Mass Index (BMI).
The problem, unfortunately, is that tummies can be one of the hardest areas to keep in shape, especially after the rigours of pregnancy or the pull of gravity take hold. And this issue isn’t helped by the fact that our metabolisms slow down after the age of 30 (we can gain half a pound a year on average), and we’re more predisposed to gaining weight around our stomach after menopause. Little wonder, then, that women regularly vote stomachs as their most hated body part!
That said, it’s never too late to take action if losing weight and swapping out cereals for high-protein breakfasts is part of your plan to change that bulging belly for a six-pack! Here, we reveal the best bodyweight exercises and cardio workouts you need to blast your belly fat fast!
What exercise burns the most belly fat: why cardio is king
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose belly fat is to hit the floor and start crunching. Why? Because you can do all the sit-ups, crunches and planks in the world, but your abs will stay hidden if you don’t do anything to lose the layer of fat that’s covering them up.
Most fitness experts agree that the idea you can ‘spot reduce’ from one body part – or lose weight just from your tummy – is a myth. Put simply, this means that if you want to lose fat from your belly, you’ll need to lose weight from all over your body, and doctors recommend upping your physical activity to achieve this weight loss.
However, you can’t out-train a bad diet, and you’ll never lose weight if your ‘calories in’ is higher than your ‘calories out’. But upping your cardio workouts and Daily Moderate Activity (DMA) really can help you to burn fat and calories and keep you in a calorie deficit, as well as boosting your cardiovascular and mental health at the same time.
Studies suggest you should aim to complete at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day to aid belly and liver fat loss, and there are a multitude of ways you can achieve this whatever your age, fitness level or ability. Here are a few we rate:
- Running: a full-body workout that provides one of the most effective and fastest ways to get fit. Beginners can try the NHS Couch to 5K app, or read our tips on how to train for your first marathon
- Cycling: whether you use peddle power to commute to work or hit the gym for a spinning session, cycling burns some serious calories. If you’re not a fan of cycling on the road, check out our best exercise bikes guide
- Walking: as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, this low impact activity is great for your mental health, too. Learn how to turn your daily stroll into a calorie-frying workout here
- Rowing: another full-body workout that’s low in impact and works practically every muscle in the body, including the core. Not near the water? Check out our guide to the best rowing machines
- HIIT: research shows that HIIT workouts can help control your weight, burn belly fat and boost your overall cardiovascular health while helping to prevent Type 2 diabetes. Try this 7-minute HIIT workout now!
- Taking the stairs: just walking up a flight of stairs gets your heart rate up, so running up and down them will take your fitness to a whole new level. Find out how to try a stair workout here
What exercise burns the most belly fat: choose your moves
While sit-ups, crunches and planks are amazing for helping you to get a six-pack, they usually only focus on the upper abs, lower abs, and obliques. But training just a couple of muscles at a time won’t challenge the rest of your body or help you to burn fat, and it isn’t exactly time effective.
So, what’s the best way to burn belly fat? ‘I’m a big fan of exercises that are core-focused but work multiple muscle groups simultaneously with a HIIT component for added calorie burn’ says global celebrity trainer and nutrition expert Jillian Michaels (opens in new tab). This means you should perform exercises that involve moving the entire body where possible to ignite every inch of your core - and then some!
Not sure what we’re talking about? Scroll on for the best exercises to burn belly fat and try putting some of them into a HIIT workout, doing as many reps as possible for 30 seconds, then resting for 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. Repeat the sequence for maximum benefits!
What exercise burns the most belly fat: the best moves to tone your torso
Why? Burpees challenge your chest, shoulder, lats, triceps, quads and core, and they get your heart rate souring too because they involve an explosive plyometric jumping movements.
How? Standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart, push your hips back, bend your knees and lower into a squat. Place your hands on the floor directly in front of you, shifting your weight onto your hands, then jump your feet back into a plank position. Next, jump your feet back so they land just outside of your hands, then reach your arms over head and explosively jump into the air. Land, and immediately lower back into a squat for the next rep.
2. Mountain climbers
Why? Mountain Climbers involve an explosive full-body movement that engages multiple muscle groups, including the upper body, lower body and core, while helping to improve your balance, agility, coordination and cardio fitness.
How? Drop into a top press-up position with your arms straight and your legs extended. Keeping your core braced and your shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line throughout, bring one knee towards your chest, then return it to the starting position. Repeat the movement with your other leg, then continue alternating legs throughout. The faster you go, the more calories you’ll burn, but make sure to focus on good form over speed.
3. Knee highs
Why? And oldie but a goodie, if done properly. Knee highs get your heart rate souring and really hit the lower abs as you pull your knees up as high as possible. They also tackle your core as you try to maintain your balance.
How? Standing with your feet hip-width apart, raise your left knee to your chest. Lower your left foot to the ground, then switch to raise your right knee to your chest. Continue the movement, alternating legs and moving at a jogging or sprinting pace.
4. Skater hops
Why? Traditionally thought of as an amazing exercise to tone the legs and glutes (and it is), this jumping move also really engages the abs and core as you bend and twist through the movement and fight to stay balanced. Oh, and it’s a fantastic fat-burner.
How? Making sure you have enough room to jump side-to-side, stand with your weight on your right foot and your right knee bent. Next, lift your left leg off the floor behind you, then bound to your left by pushing off with your right leg. Land on your left foot, lifting your right leg off the floor behind you. Continue hopping back and forth. If needed, touch your back foot on the floor behind you for balance.
5. Bicycle crunches
Why? The bicycle crunch once won the ‘best ab exercise’ accolade from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and it’s not hard to see why. It hits the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles at the same time and works the core to boot. Increase the pace and you’ll soon be gasping for breath after a few sets.
How? Lie on the ground with your lower back pressed flat into the floor. Place your hands to the sides of your head and raise your head and shoulders slightly off the floor. Lift your left leg just off the ground and extend it out, then lift the right leg and bend your knee towards your chest. As you do this, twist through your core so your opposite arms comes towards the raised knee. Lower your leg and arm at the same time while bringing up the opposite two limbs to mirror the movement. Keep on alternating sides.
6. Turkish get-ups
Why? This move really does target every major muscle group, including the core, as you rotate through the body to transition from lying to kneeling to standing and back down again to the floor. The dumbbell adds extra resistance for a greater challenge to your balance.
How? We’ll be honest, this flowing movement has many components and is best understood by watching the demo. The key is to keep it slow and controlled and start out with a light kettlebell or dumbbell (or nothing at all) before progressing onto heavier weights.
After mastering Turkish get-ups, give the best full-body dumbbell workout a try. It'll build muscle and help you shed fat fast!
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