A chiseled midsection is the centerpiece of a well-balanced physique—even more than a pair of big biceps. But a trim waist can be hard to sculpt.
Despite what magazines may tell you, you can’t simply trim your waistline with a few simple exercises. The concept of spot reduction (i.e., using exercise to lose fat in a specific area or body part) is a myth, but with a smart plan and hard work, you can unveil sleek abs and obliques.
We won’t sugarcoat it (pun intended): A smaller waist starts in the kitchen. A smart nutritional approach that reduces overall calories to induce weight loss is necessary to strip away the fat that hides your abs and obliques. However, a handful of exercises can jump-start the fat-loss process.
Don’t waste your time with endless sit-ups or side bends. Here are 5 exercises that, in combination with smart nutrition, will trim your waist:
1. High-Intensity Interval Training
To reveal a slimmer midsection, you have to lose body fat all over. Luckily, the verdict is clear on how to lose fat fast: high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
This short-and-not-so-sweet alternative to traditional cardio alternates short, intense bursts of exercise with longer, lighter bouts to get more work done in less time. HIIT has been shown to burn more fat—specifically, belly fat—than an equal amount of steady-state cardio.
By cranking up the intensity, HIIT creates a fat-burning furnace called excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that leaves you burning extra calories for hours even after you’ve stopped working out.
So instead of chugging away on the treadmill, try running sprints or spinning on a bike. Remember, losing fat is the first step toward revealing a slimmer waistline.
Start with 10 seconds of all-out effort followed by 50 seconds of easy running or pedaling. Do this for 8–10 minutes, and you’ll set yourself up for hours of extra calorie burning.
2. Side Planks
Few exercises target your entire midsection like side planks. More specifically, you’ll hammer your obliques, which, in combination with low body fat, will give your waistline a slimmer look.
Unlike crunches and sit-ups, which can leave your lower back sore and cranky, side planks can actually improve lower-back health by creating a more neutral pelvic and rib cage position. It’s a win-win.
Start with 2 sets of 15 seconds per side. Once you can easily hold a plank for 30 seconds, elevate your feet on a box or bench to make it more challenging.
3. Dead Bugs
The next exercise has nothing to do with fat loss or building muscle. In fact, dead bugs strengthen the right muscles to reduce anterior pelvic tilt (APT), improving posture and creating a smaller-looking midsection.
APT is an exaggerated forward rotation of the pelvis that can make your lower belly appear bloated, even if you’re very lean. Dead bugs create a posterior pelvic tilt by strengthening the rectus abdominis and external obliques, effectively “shrinking” your belly.
Add dead bugs into your warm-up, or use them as a direct core exercise. Do 3 sets of 5 reps per side, making sure to exhale fully at the bottom of each rep.
Another sneaky way to make your waist look smaller is to make the muscles of your back and shoulders bigger. Nothing builds a strong back like pull-ups.
By targeting your lats and rhomboids, you’ll create a sleek V-shape that will give the effect of a smaller waist. Plus, crushing a set of strict pull-ups is one of the most impressive things you can do in the gym.
Can’t do a body-weight pull-up yet? No worries. Use an elastic band to give you a leg up until you get strong enough to do one on your own.
Start with 2 sets of 6–8 reps, using as much band assistance as needed to complete the sets. If you can already do body-weight pull-ups easily, do 3 sets of 8–12 reps.
5. Hip Thrusts
Naturally, if a bigger back makes your waist look small, a set of shapely thighs and glutes will make it look even smaller. Hip thrusts target all the muscles of the lower body and can be performed just about anywhere.
You’ll get a crazy burn from high-rep hip thrusts, especially the 1-leg version, but you’ll also help correct the previously mentioned APT by strengthening your glutes and hamstrings. Make sure to keep your core tight and squeeze your butt during the whole movement for the full effect.
Start with 3 sets of 10 reps per side. You can go as high as 20 reps or hold a dumbbell or weight plate across your lap to increase the resistance.
No Time to Waist
Quite simply, the steps to a slimmer waist are:
- Lose fat through diet and HIIT.
- Decrease your APT by strengthening your abs and improving your posture.
- Work the muscles above and below your midsection to create the look of a smaller waist.
Now that we’ve squashed the myth of spot reduction, leave the sit-ups behind and try out the exercises listed above. We’re confident you’ll achieve the slimmer waist you’ve always wanted.