What is one of fat’s favorite vacation spots on the body? The sides of the waist – those soft flabby areas affectionately known as “love handles.”
The muscles underlying the love handles are known as the obliques. When this area appears out of shape, it’s logical to assume the oblique and abdominal muscles need exercise in order to become firm. But be careful. The obliques are generally easy to build up. This may be the one muscle group which can indeed get too big – if they become too muscular, the waist will look wider.
More often than not, the waist appears soft because it’s simply a favored storage area for fat. It’s even possible to lose weight and still store fat around the waist. It’s the last “holdout.”
The key to a trimmer waistline is twofold. Making the correct changes in your diet is crucial, but a proper exercise program is equally relevant. The following workout can be performed once a week as part of a total-body fat-reducing and muscle-building program (read: this workout alone will not rid you of your love handles). It’s imperative to move quickly from exercise to exercise in order to optimize the fat-burning process.
Exercise 1: Twists with a Bar
Standing with your legs a little further than hip-width apart, place a light barbell across your shoulders. Twist to one side, then twist to the other side, continuing back and forth with a brisk motion. Do not lean forward or backward. This movement is disregarded by many as ineffective but that’s because most people do it improperly. It’s important that the twist isn’t executed in a leisurely fashion. Move quickly from side to side and keep your abs and obliques tight! Total time: 5 minutes.
Exercise 2: The Vacuum
Inhale deeply. As you exhale, suck the stomach in as far as it will go and hold it for a count of ten. Not only does this simple exercise strengthen the abdominal wall, it improves posture and lung capacity.
Exercise 3: Side Bends
It isn’t a good idea to do sidebends with a dumbbell. Instead, place your hands behind your head and bend from side to side, contracting the muscles at the waist. If that’s too difficult, keep your hands on your hips. Do 50 bends to each side.
Stand with your right hand on your hip and your left hand outstretched above. Bend to the right and extend the outstretched hand over your head and as far to the right side as possible. Keep this position and “pulse” with tiny bends. Stay on this side for one minute. Return to an upright position, switch arm positions, and repeat on the opposite side. These little movements keep the obliques under constant tension.
Exercise 5: Lateral Leg Raises
This is similar to a simple leg lift. Lie on your side and lift your leg toward your head, contracting the oblique muscles. Do 20 reps on one side then turn directly to the other side and do an additional 20 reps. Once that’s completed, immediately repeat the set.
This routine doesn’t take long and it’s sure to keep your midsection tight. But remember: your waist will always look soft if there’s a layer of fat around it. The “love handles” are tough. They’re unforgiving. They’re also the first to let you know when you’re slacking off. Try this routine and you’re on your way to a trimmer waistline. And that’s something you can really love!