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Exercises To Lose Belly Fat And Trim Up

A woman performing exercises to lose belly fat.

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These exercises can help you lose belly fat and sculpt a lean, defined torso. But the benefits don’t stop at aesthetics. Exercises such as skipping, rowing and kettlebell swings have been shown to reduce total body fat as well as the bit clinging to the belly. This is important for a few reasons.

Fat stored around your belly and bum is not as harmful to your health as the fat stored around your organs. The problem with this fat – sometimes called “skinny fat” – is that it’s internal. And, as the saying goes, when something’s out of sight it’s also out of mind.

However, internal or visceral fat is the ‘nasty goop’ that is drowning your intestines, liver, and heart. If allowed to exceed just 1% of total body weight, visceral fat starts turning toxic: it causes fat cells to become bloated. These swollen cells then ‘ooze into the bloodstream a great many proteins (cytokines) that incite inflammation,’ (Exercised ). And inflammation, remember, is a chronic condition that ‘plays a role in many serious diseases.’

Here we’ve just scratched the surface of the harmful effects of internal fat. Studies have shown that an elevated amount of visceral fat is a ‘critical risk factor for atherosclerotic plaque buildup,’ (How Not To Die). Atherosclerosis is associated with high blood cholesterol, hypertension, and increased susceptibility to heart disease and stroke.

But, by including these exercises into your routine, and making other lifestyle changes, you’ll start turning the tide of total body fat. By doing so you’ll not only look healthier, but you’ll also be healthier. Let’s get going!

Best exercises to lose belly fat quick finder


Exercises to lose belly fat #1: Running

Purpose of exercise: Improve aerobic capacity and vascular efficiency while also increasing muscular endurance in the muscle of the legs.

Muscles targeted: Calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core.

Components of fitness engaged: Cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance.

Benefits of running

In his excellent book, Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest & Health, professor Daniel Lieberman outlines a surprising number of running-related health and fitness benefits. For example, regular runners typically have ‘stronger,’ ‘more capacious,’ and ‘more elastic’ hearts than their non-running counterparts.

Also thrown into the bag of benefits is increased ‘capillarization’ and ‘augmented’ blood cell count. In addition, runners boast better cardiac output meaning that their hearts can pump out more blood per beat. There’s more.

Running is one of the best exercises to lose belly fat

As well as lowering blood pressure, running ‘raises so-called good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers so-called bad cholesterol (LDL) and circulating fats,’ (Exercised).

In answer to the question, What’s the best exercise to beat obesity, Liberman discusses a study that compared the fat-loss efficacy of resistance and aerobic training. Two groups of overweight subjects were prescribed an exercise regime, one consisting of just weightlifting and the other consisting of just running.

After 12 weeks the weightlifters lost no body fat. However, the runners ‘lost substantial amounts of fat, especially harmful organ fat,’ (Exercised).

Related: Get started with this Aerobic Workout

Tips to start running
  • The simplest way to get more running into your routine is by undertaking a program – much like the 12-week program used in the fat-loss study above. In his brilliant book The Aerobics Program For Total Well-Being, Kenneth Cooper provides the reader with all the knowledge needed to start running.

  • Sign up for a running event – such as the Cancer Research Race For Life. In addition to providing the motivational impetus to start running more, you’ll also be able to raise money for a good cause.

  • Implement a designated running day. Having a set-in-stone day for your runs is a simple strategy that can improve consistency.

  • Another simple method involves making this Morning Running Routine a permanent fixture of your daily routine.


Exercises to lose belly fat #2: Skipping

Purpose of exercise: Improve aerobic capacity, vascular efficiency and muscle endurance while also increasing whole-body fitness conditioning.

Muscles targeted: Calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, triceps, biceps, and forearms.

Components of fitness engaged: Cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, coordination, balance, and agility.

Benefits of skipping

When boxers need to cut weight before a bout, they typically do one of two things. They either ramp up the running or they do more skipping. Besides being a brilliant exercise for improving fitness conditioning, skipping is a superlative fat burner.

It’s these qualities that won over legendary martial arts master Bruce Lee. When he discovered the fitness-enhancing benefits of skipping, Lee incorporated it into his ‘Total Fitness’ training routine. (In the book The Art of Expressing the Human Body, a curation of Lee’s exercise and martial arts methodologies, there is a picture of Bruce skipping on the balcony of a block of high-rise flats – page 57.)

Related: Beast Gear Skipping Ropes are a fan favourite
Exercises to lose bell fat skipping rope.

Skipping is one of the best exercises to lose total body fat

Lee later claimed, so the story goes, that skipping is three times more effective than running. And not just at enhancing aerobic fitness and muscular endurance.

Because skipping involves more muscle groups than running – the upper body as well as the lower body – it also consumes more calories per training minute.

If correct, this makes skipping a more efficient exercise to lose body fat.

Tips to start skipping
  • Buy a skipping rope for your home gym and set yourself the target of skipping three times per week for between 10- to 20 minutes.

  • Join a boxing club! I get that this is not a realistic solution for most people. However, if you’ve got a boxing gym close by, it wouldn’t hurt to join. Most gyms are more than accommodating and they do accept people that want to use boxing as a method of improving health and fitness. And because a typical boxing workout starts and ends with skipping, you’ll certainly get more of it in your routine.

  • Start using skipping as a pre-workout warm-up and post-workout cool-down exercise.

  • Get going with this Skipping HIIT Workout.


Exercises to lose belly fat #3: Rowing

Purpose of exercise: Improve aerobic capacity, vascular efficiency and muscle endurance while also increasing whole-body fitness conditioning.

Muscles targeted: Calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, lower back, latissimus dorsi, rear deltoids, biceps, and forearms.

Components of fitness engaged: Cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, and power.

Benefits of rowing

Rowing activates the two largest muscle groups of the body – the legs and back. Of all the cardio exercises available, rowing is one of the few that provides a whole-body workout.

Another benefit of rowing is that, unlike skipping, it’s easy to learn. After a brief tutorial, a beginner can start merrily rowing away with complete confidence.

Furthermore, rowing is a non-impact cardio exercise. This can make the experience of cardio more enjoyable for those carrying excess weight.

Related: The Concept2 Rower is the best in the business
Concept2 rowing machine.

Rowing helps burn body fat

A friend of mine uses rowing to, as he puts it, ‘manage my type 2 diabetes.’ Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by excess body fat. The National Institute of Health warns that ‘you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are [...] overweight or have obesity.’

However, while Diabetes UK reminds us that ‘there’s no cure’ for type 2 diabetes, they go on to say that the disease can be put into ‘remission by losing a significant amount of weight’ and exercising.

As rowing is one of the most effective cardio exercises for burning body fat, it makes sense that my friend uses it to manage his diabetes. But rowing can also be used to maintain healthy body weight while also improving fitness conditioning.

Tips to start rowing
  • Splash out on a Concept2 rowing machine for your home gym. Concept2 rowers are super-durable and highly versatile pieces of exercise equipment that last for years. (Mine’s been going strong for over a decade now, which is quite impressive considering I’ve racked up literally millions of metres.)

  • Because rowing engages a broad range of muscle groups, it serves as a great warm-up exercise. Setting yourself the target or rowing 2000-metres before every workout, will better prepare you for exercise and help burn extra calories.

  • When you’ve got a good hundred thousand metres under your belt, have a bash at this Marathon Row Training Program. Remember, to enjoy the training structure of the program doesn’t mean that you have to complete the marathon at the end.


Exercises to lose belly fat #4: Cycling

Purpose of exercise: Improve aerobic capacity, vascular efficiency and muscle endurance while also increasing whole-body fitness conditioning.

Muscles targeted: Calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, triceps, biceps, and forearms.

Components of fitness engaged: Cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, coordination, balance, and agility.

Benefits of cycling

Studies have shown that cycling can increase your cardiovascular capacity. That is, enables you to sustain aerobic output for longer before succumbing to fatigue. An additional benefit of this adaptation is the ability to maximise the time you spend training.

Other reported benefits of cycling include greater muscular density in the legs and heart. As well as improving cycling performance, this also translates to enhanced performance across a wide range of endurance activities – such as running, rowing, and swimming.

Related: Get on your bike with this HIIT Cycling Workout

Cycling burns loads of calories

If asked which exercise – running or cycling – burned the most calories per training hour, hands down I’d stake a sizable sum on running. From experience, I can say that running is physically more demanding than cycling: I feel far more fatigued after an hour’s run than I do a cycle three times the duration. Plus, when out on a run, you can’t coast downhill or get dragged along in your partner’s slipstream.

However, to my surprise, Kenneth Cooper, author of The Aerobics Program For Total Well-Being, identifies cycling as the leading calorie consumer. Of the nine common activities and sports that feature in a comparative list of calorie expenditure, at 850 calories/hour cycling is streaks ahead of the competition.

According to Cooper’s list, cycling burns a full 300 more calories per hour than swimming and 200 more than jogging. So, if you’re looking to lose belly fat fast, get on your bike!

Tips to start cycling
  • One of the simplest ways to start cycling is to buy a budget stationary bike for your home gym. You could then implement the rule that, when watching TV, you have to sustain 13mph (the speed Cooper says you must maintain to burn 850 calories an hour).

  • Perhaps you could start commuting to work by bike. In addition to doubling your daily dose of aerobic exercise, cycling to work can help you save money while also reducing your carbon footprint.

  • Join a cycling club and set yourself the goal of completing one long ride every weekend.


Fat loss frequently asked questions

If this article has achieved its aim, you now have four exercises that burn bags of belly fat. In addition to helping you tone up your tub, the exercises will improve body composition. As well as reducing total fat-mass, they also promote many positive physiological adaptation.

The fat-loss effectiveness of the exercises will be intensified if you complete them alongside making dietary and lifestyle improvements. For example, if you plan to start running, rowing, skipping, and cycling to reduce belly fat, you will likely see faster results if you transition to a plant based diet.

The above outcomes will be yours for the taking if the exercises and lifestyle changes are implemented as part of structured training regime. Get started with the free 21 Day Fat Loss training tracker. Alternatively, if you want a professional plan designed specifically around your health and weight-loss goals, try one of our Hungry4Fitness Exercise Programmes (

Can fat loss be targeted?

Only with liposuction or the surgeon’s knife. Supposing those options aren’t on the table, and they never should be unless medical necessity calls for them, can you target fat? That is, can you do exercises or eat certain foods that specifically burn bum or belly fat?

Sorry to tell you this but unfortunately there are no natural methods of targeting fat. Irrespective of what many bloggers, YouTubers and other ‘influencers’ claim, gobbling peaches won’t make your bum look like one and doing countless sit-ups won’t make your belly washboard flat (but they will probably injure your back).

When you implement a fat loss intervention, such as participating in more aerobic exercise or transitioning to a plant-based diet, your total body fat will decrease. But this is a good thing for the reasons outlined in the introduction.

Related: Burn fat with these Training Tools

How much fat loss per week

Trying to lose too much fat too quickly is unhealthy and unsustainable. Rapid fat loss often requires that you resort to extreme lifestyle interventions – such as adopting calorie-restricted diets, popping fat loss pills, liquidating everything you eat, or flogging yourself four times a day in the gym.

There’s abundant research showing that these fat loss methods yield only short-term results. No surprises there.

While there’s still conflicting advice on how much fat is safe to lose per week, the consensus seems to be settling on 2 lbs. This is an amount that doesn’t require drastic lifestyle changes. Thus, it’s achievable and sustainable.

How fat loss works

The body stores fat for fuel. If you consume more fuel than you need to power your body and daily activities, it gets locked up in fat cells for later use. (An evolutionary survival strategy that helped our ancestors get through famines.) Apparently, we are born with a fixed number of fat cells. And contrary to common misunderstanding, as a person puts on weight their fat cells do not increase in number but in size.

However, we can take an active role in reducing the size of these cells. For example, ‘During exercise, fatty acids are freed from storage sites to be burned as energy,’ (Physiology of Sport and Exercise – p681).

Exercise facilitates fat loss by triggering the release of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH, a known fat-mobilisation substance, is believed to be responsible for freeing fat from cells.

There are other biological mechanisms at work as well.

The authors of Physiology of Sport and Exercise outline research that suggests with exercise ‘the adipose tissue is more sensitive to either the sympathetic nervous system or to the rising levels of circulating catecholamines.’

Though the mechanisms aren’t made clear, the authors assure us that ‘either situation would increase lipid mobilisation.’

Related: 10 Fat-Loss Tips that work


Need training plans?

Get your hands on over 80 with the Hungry4FItness Book of Circuits & Workouts.

exercises to lose belly fat blog concludes with the Hungry4Fitness book of workouts.


About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or

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