Remember when muffin tops were a good thing? It meant you got to nibble the firmest part of a delicious muffin.
Now, though, “muffin top” represents that flab and fat that hangs over your waistband, from the front belly to the side of your pants—even the fat that can creep over the back of your pants. Unless you can tuck all that jelly into a pair of high-waisted jeans, these probably aren’t the curves you want to show off on your figure.
Luckily, by following a clean diet and doing a combo of cardio and strength exercises, you can lose fat all over and minimize that muffin top overhang.
“I’d recommend cardio exercise to help target that core area,” says Liz Josefsberg, CPT, author of Target 100: The World’s Simplest Weight-Loss Program in 6 Easy Steps (BenBella Books, December 19, 2017. “I’d suggest running, always. If you can’t run, try fast walking, because you’re twisting that abdomen area. KickboxingOpens a New Window. would also be good for targeting that area,” says Josefsberg.
Remember: You can’t spot-reduce fat from one area of your body—you have to burn it all over. These exercises will burn calories and sculpt the muscle underneath excess fat; combine them with a clean nutrition plan and smart weight-loss plan to see that belly fat vanish.
Here are our top trainers’ tips for shredding belly fat, trimming your waist, and turning that muffin top into a flat stomach in no time.
“You have to think of abs as 360° around your body,” says Josefsberg. “It’s not just the front panel that makes you have good abs.” One great way to work that muffin top area, she says, is to do twisting exercises that work the obliques. Mountain climbers are also great calorie-burning exercises, and you’ll need to do a lot of calorie-burning to get rid of that extra flab around your midsection.
Start in a plank position, arms fully extended. Bring your right knee in toward your left elbow, then straighten that leg and place foot back on the floor. Repeat on the other side. Aim for three sets of 20 seconds of this exercise, says Josefsberg.
“When you want to get rid of muffin top, you really want to tighten the abdomen and lower back,” says Josefsberg. This back-focused exercise will strengthen essential muscles in your core.
To do a Superman from the floors, lie facedown on a mat, with arms extended out and legs straight back. Tighten your core and glutes and lift up your legs and arms simultaneously, so you look like (you guessed it) Superman in flight. Hold for one count and then rest back on the floor. Aim for three sets of 20 seconds of Superman lifts.
“This exercise works your glutes and hamstrings, but also targets your lower back,” says Michele Sotak, a Chicago-based trainer. When you’re lifting one leg up, that calls for stabilization and activates lower-back muscles. (Remember, you want to get rid of that back fat.)
Lie on the floor facing up with feet flat and knees bent, arms by your sides, with palms facing down. Lift your hips all the way up while squeezing your glutes and keeping your core engaged. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold for three counts at the top, then slowly lower for another count of three and quickly come back up. To make the exercise slightly more difficult, lift one leg up to the ceiling. Do 15 reps on each side, Sotak suggests.
Done with a Body Bar or a barbell, this exercise targets the lower back big time, says Sotak. (It’s also sometimes called a Good Morning). Get situated on the back extension at your gym, but don’t go too heavy with the load or overdo the reps. “In the beginning it might feel like a breeze, but you’ll definitely feel the tension build toward the end of your set,” says Sotak.
Hold a barbell on your upper back with a firm grip to keep bar from sliding forward. The bar should rest on your traps and align with your shoulders. (If you have a 45° incline back extension machine, you can do these on that machine, too.) Hinge at your hips and keep your core braced (don’t bend your back), slowly bend forward toward the floor, making sure not to bend your torso too far at the top of the hyperextension. Then raise yourself back up just parallel to the bench so that your body creates a straight line. Do 12 reps in a set, Sotak suggests.
“This one really activates the back part of your obliques,” says Sotak.
To do this weighted obliques exercise in the gym, attach a handle to the cable machine so the handle is at face-level. Stand facing the frame of the machine. Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Keep your knees soft and your core engaged. Hold the handle with both hands, keeping your arms straight. Twist the handle downward and across the left side of your body near the side of the hip while bending the left knee inward, suggests Sotak. Come back up to center with controlled movement. Then repeat on the right side with left knee bending inward while you twist right. Stay upright throughout the entire range-of-motion, keep your back straight and your shoulders pulled back. Do 10 rotations to each side for a total of 20 reps.
The following MMA-inspired exercises for your muffin top area are from Jericho McMatthews, co-creator of the CORE DE FORCE workout, which targets the core, back, and obliques from every angle.
McMatthews recommends doing the following exercises for 30 seconds followed by a 15-second rest. These exercises will get your heart rate up so you can burn more calories and torch more fat, says McMatthews.
From a fight stance (one leg slightly in front and boxing guard up), throw a long, straight punch from your lead arm (jab) while rotating through your hips and shoulders, pivoting on the ball of your front foot. Follow up with a long, straight punch from the back arm (cross), keeping the opposite arm in a guard and pivoting on ball of back foot. Return both hands to guard, bend your knees, and bring your hands to the ground, shooting both legs back to a high plank (think of doing a burpee). Jump both legs back in and stand up in fight stance. Repeat for 30 seconds alternating fight stance each rep. Rest for 15 seconds, then proceed to the next move.
This oblique-carving Spiderman climbers exercise. is a favorite of McMatthews and Josefsberg. Starting in a full plank position, with your hands under your shoulders and your head, hips, and heels in a straight line, jump your right foot to your right hand. Make sure your hips stay low and your right foot is flat on the ground. As you jump your right foot back to the starting position, simultaneously jumping your left foot out to your left hand. Repeat this motion, alternating sides every rep, for 30 seconds.
You could also pull the right knee in to the right elbow, keeping your right leg in the air, before putting your right foot back down next to your left foot and repeating on the other side.
Rest for 15 seconds, then proceed to the next move.
Step your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width with toes pointed out, suggests McMatthews. Bring your hands in front of your chest with your palms facing out. Keeping your chest lifted, sit your butt down and back into a deep squat, pressing knees out in line with toes. Slowly rise up by driving your weight through your heels, and squeeze your glutes on the way up.
Once you’re back in standing position, lift up your right knee and crunch your obliques down as the right elbow meets the outside of the thigh. Keep your weight centered and your chest lifted. Repeat the squat, and then leg check on left side alternating sides for 30 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds, then proceed to next move. You’ll be carving your obliques with this standing side-crunching move.
Start in a fight stance with your knees slightly bent and boxing guard up. Perform four uppercuts by bending the elbow at 90° and punch vertically to your imaginary opponent’s chin, suggests McMatthews.
“Rotate your torso and roll through the shoulders as you punch and return with your hands up in a guard position in between strikes,” she says.
From there, drop into a lunge position with your arms in a running position. Keeping your chest lifted, lower your back knee toward the ground, keeping your front knee stacked above your ankle and in line with toes. Keep your shoulders stacked above your hips (don’t lean forward) and go until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Jump straight up and scissor your legs, landing with opposite leg in front. Perform four full plyometric lunges before returning back to the uppercuts.
Give yourself time to cool down and stretch after doing these muffin top exercises, McMatthews recommends.