- Core exercises like side planks, hollow holds, and straight leg-toe touches can help tone your abs.
- Reducing belly fat can be challenging because the volume of belly fat is heavily dependent on diet.
- Here’s how to do these exercises, with a full example workout that you can do at home.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
If firming up your midsection is on your to-do list, you’re not alone. Getting rid of stubborn belly fat is one of the most common goals for people looking to
and get fit.
And while targeted fat loss or spot reduction does not work, you can tighten and tone this area — along with the rest of your body — by exercising and following a healthy diet.
Belly fat is hard to eliminate
Reducing belly fat is often more challenging than dropping inches from other parts of the body because doing so relies heavily on diet, says Caley Crawford, NASM CPT, and Director of Education for Row House.
“We often think if we do enough sit-ups, then we’ll get a flatter stomach; however, abs also happen in the kitchen,” says Crawford. “So, if you’re looking to lose belly fat, it’s crucial that you partner a strong and healthy diet with your exercise routine,” she says.
You’ll also need to consider your age and genes. According to the Mayo Clinic, they can play a small role in where you store fat. That’s why adhering to a healthy, balanced diet (with little or no processed carbohydrates) along with your exercise program is critical to get rid of stubborn belly fat.
Full-body strengthening will fire up your core
While it’s true that core-specific exercises are a great way to fire up your abs, performing strength-training moves for your entire body may help you reach your goal of torching fat faster than if you focus only on abdominal exercises.
“Doing core-focused exercises like sit-ups and flutter kicks are always a great way to get some extra definition in your abdominals; however, functional, full-body movements strengthen and tone your core just as much,” Crawford says.
For example, doing a squat works your quads, but it also involves maintaining a stable trunk, which requires your abdominal muscles to contract. Other exercises like lunges, rows, and push-ups also require your abdominal muscles to work in a coordinated fashion with the other muscles you’re stressing. So, in all, you’re still getting a core exercise even though you may feel it more in the glutes, back, or chest.
At-home workout to help strengthen and tone your core
Here’s a core workout you can perform at home or at the gym, including moves that target your upper and lower body. Crawford says to complete each exercise for the recommended number of reps before moving to the next move. For a complete workout, do three rounds. For an extra challenge, consider adding a set of dumbbells.
Warm-up: Three to five minutes of rowing without the foot straps (this fires up the core even more). Start slow, and be sure to keep your toes connected to the footplate. If you don’t have access to a rowing machine, warm up with a stationary bike, treadmill, or walking in place.
Exercise 1: 15 to 20 reps of squats + arms reach up overhead
Exercise 2: 10 to 15 reps of tempo push-ups (three counts down, one count up)
Exercise 3: 10 to 15 reps each leg of side plank + knee drives (In a side plank, bring the top knee to meet the elbow and lengthen)
Exercise 4: 10 to 15 alternating straight-leg toe touches
Exercise 5: 30 seconds of a hollow hold
If you do this workout three times a week, Crawford says, you should start to feel results in about six to eight weeks. “You’ll feel stronger first, then you’ll start to see progress in your performance, and then you’ll start to see results,” Crawford says.
If you’re unfamiliar with these exercises, here’s how to do them:
Side plank + knee drive
- Lie on your left side.
- Press into the floor and push your body into a side plank position. Left forearm will be on the floor, elbow underneath your shoulder, hips, and feet stacked.
- Keep your abs contracted and drive the top knee (right knee) to meet the elbow, then lengthen.
- Complete 10 to 15 reps before switching sides.
Alternating straight-leg toe touches
- Lie on your back and lift one leg up to 90 degrees. The other leg will hover a few inches off the ground.
- Reach up and touch your toe three times with both hands. Make sure your shoulder blades are off the ground and keep your neck long.
- Complete 10 to 15 reps before switching sides.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight, knees together, and your arms extended overhead. Press your low-back into the floor.
- Contract your abs. This will allow you to lift your shoulders and arms a few inches off the floor. Keep your knees together and lift your legs a few inches off the floor.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
The exercises listed in this article can help strengthen your core and tone your abs, giving them more definition.
However, it’s important to remember that you can’t target fat-burn. If you want to lose belly fat, chances are you’re going to lose fat in other parts of your body, as well.
To burn fat — including belly fat — fast, focus on strength-training all areas of your body — upper, lower, back, and core. It’s also important to pair your workouts with a healthy diet.