Abdominal Exercises: How to Get Rid of the Love Handles

Amelia Phillips

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Truth be told, no amount of abdominal crunches will get rid of your love handles. Spending 30mins on a treadmill will do more for that spare tyre than 30mins of crunches. If you want to lose the annoying flab around your middle, first determine is it fat or muscle. If you bear down and grab the loose skin around your belly button, that is not muscle, it is fat (and skin). Dig deep with your fingers and you will feel the muscle. Does that feel firm or flabby? In fact most of us have a pretty good six pack, it’s sometimes just hidden under a doona of body fat!

The core abdominal muscles underneath our body fat are extremely important for stabilizing our entire body and protecting our backs from injury. They can certainly affect the shape of our torso even if there is excess body fat around them. So just because you can’t spot

reduce fat, doesn’t mean you skip your abs session, you still should be doing some strengthening of your core. Your internal and external oblique muscles (see diagram) are responsible for any twisting movement your torso makes. They stabilize the trunk and help protect the back. Well defined obliques help to narrow the waist giving men the V shape they want and women their sexy hour glass figure. Follow these five effective oblique exercises and your sides will be aching tomorrow!

Protecting your back and neck:

Try to stay as close to spinal neutral during these exercises. Spinal neutral is where your head, shoulders and lower back are in one line with a small curve in your lower back (see diagram). If your back starts aching, stop, rest, and check your form before commencing. These exercises are designed to fatigue your abs not your back. For people with pre existing back injuries be very careful of twisting exercises such as these. Don’t force your range of movement. Finally never let the arch in your back get greater than 1-2cm (1/2 inch). Abdominal exercises are so great for strengthening the torso area and protecting your back, but do be smart and listen to your body.

Your neck should also remain in neutral which means not wrenching it forwards or leaving it behind the movement. Before a set I suggest swallowing and leaving your tongue on the roof of your mouth

which stabilizes your neck flexors. If the front of your neck (throat) gets fatigued, it’s actually a good thing, so persevere, but if the back of your neck gets sore, stop and rest, or support it with your hands. Neck support is a controversial topic with many suggesting that neck support simply causes the imbalance between neck and back to worsen. I suggest minimal support but do stop if there is pain. Your neck will improve as you get stronger.

Variations to the sets and reps:

Instead of performing 3 sets of each exercise, try treating it like a circuit and do one set, quickly move onto the next exercise and so on. Take a minute to recover then repeat the circuit three times. It flows nicely, it still hurts, and you can really build some incredible strength. Most importantly have fun with it, go hard and ‘feel the burn, love the burn!

1. Standing Side Raises:

Holding a 5kg (12.5lb) hand weight for women, or 10kg (22lb) hand weight for men. If you are at home, use two cans from the pantry. Slide the weight down your leg until your opposite side stretches, go as low as you can, taking about 5 seconds down, then 2 seconds up (ie slow down fast up). The key with this exercise is to get that stretch on the opposite side. You are working the oblique on the opposite side of the dumbbell. No twisting, or rotating, stay facing the mirror. 3 sets 12 reps each side. No rest in between and alternate one set each side.

2. Seated Russian Twists:

Taking the same weight as above (or use a medicine ball), sit on the ground at a 45 degree angle with a straight back. Gently twist around as far as your flexibility allows, not forcing the first few reps while your back warms up. Ideally when you twist the weight/ball should touch the ground on either side. Keep your eyes on the weight/ball so your neck stays in alignment with your spine. Move at the same rate as this animation, or slightly faster for a dynamic workout. 3 sets 12 reps each side. 20sec rest between sets.

3. Oblique Crunches:

Opposite elbow travels to opposite knee. do 12 on one side then switch sides. You are working the external obliques on the elbow side (see anatomical diagram) and internal obliques on the lifted knee side. The key is to make sure both shoulders lift off the ground and you get a really good twist. It’s an easy exercise to cheat on, so just keep reminding yourself to ‘feel the burn, love the burn!’ If it aint burning, it’s not working! 3 sets 12 reps then change sides. No rest between sets.

4. Bicycle Crunches:

Upper body moves similarly to the the oblique crunches above however legs scissor so that opposite knee and elbow come in at the same time. The closer your straight leg lowers to the floor the harder, so start by only lowering the legs 45 degrees then over the next few weeks take them closer to the ground. You do not want your back arching when your legs lower. If you feel your lower back come off the floor, bring your knees closer to your head. 3 sets 12 reps each side. 20 sec rest in between sets.

5. Side Bridge:

This is a nice one because you don’t have to move! The diagram shows the tougher option (although I like to raise my top arm in the air). For an easier version drop your bottom knee onto the floor. Make sure your hips and your shoulders are directly on top of each other and you aren’t twisted in any way. The obliques closest to the floor are the ones you are working. For a variation, try lowering your hips to the floor slowly and pushing up five times during each set. Hold 2 min each side, 1-2 sets.


I would suggest doing this workout no more than 2 times per week. If you want some more ab variations, be sure to check out my Core Stability series, Part 1-A Remedy

for Back Pain, Part 2-The Spinal Neutral Test, Part 3-Challenging Your Core, and Part 4- Functional Exercises: The Plankand it’s Wacky Variations and alternate days between all the exercises. Why don’t you get out of your chair, have a quick stretch and give them a go! Leave a comment and tell me how you went, it will take less than ten minutes, so what have you got to lose, crank up Itunes and get moving!

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48 responses to “Abdominal Exercises: How to Get Rid of the Love Handles”

  1. Aldina says:

    Hi,thank you so much for this posting.I’ve been trying to figure out how to get rid of my love handles for quite some time,and I think this will really help.Can’t wait to try it! I love your site!

  2. Thanks Aldina,

    Give them a go, it’s a really fun circuit and you’ll get the hang of it in no time! Try the core stability series as well. http://www.ameliaphillips.com.au/health-and-fitness-advice.

    Remember ‘Feel the burn, love the burn!’


  3. streetsmart says:

    This is really a very helpful post. Will definitely try this abdominal exercise routine. More power to your site.

  4. Thanks Streetsmart!

    Glad you like the exercises and my site. I hope you visit regularly. Be sure to check out my other core stability exercises in the health and fitness section.

  5. So many people believe crunches are the solution to the darn love handles when just a bit of cardio would fix it all.

  6. Hi Marc,
    So true, concise and to the point! Marathon runners have abs of steel, and do you think that’s from all the crunches they do? Hardly! It’s because there’s no doona of body fat to hide their abs!
    PS I’m sure they do some ab work, maybe 10% of their training..!

  7. Amanda says:

    Hi there

    I’ve lost 12 kilos over the last few months, only because of a recent health scare. I’m actually at the weight that I should be but can’t seem to get rid of my flabby stomach. Since managing my illness (Hyperthyroidsm) with medication, I’ve changed to a healthier food plan and have walked a lot more than before. I’ve kept the weight off. If I continue to walk for 30-40 mins a day and just work my abs 2 days a week (I have a fit ball), will that help me lose some fat around the middle? and if so, how many reps do I follow? my stomach is my only problem at the moment. I’m looking forward to using my fitball.


  8. Hi Amanda,
    I would suggest ramping up the cardio a bit. Why don’t you try some short jogging spurts throughout your walk. Pick some landmarks (streets, trees, letterboxes) and do around 5 x 1-2minute jogs. The fastest way to lose the belly flab is through cardio not fitball work.
    Yes I think that 2 abs sessions per week is great and definitely continue those, but increasing your cardio intensity will make a huge difference. Remember not every day has to be a hard day, you might pick every second day as your “hard” session, and stick to walking on the other days.
    If you exercise in a gym, join in some cardio boxing classes or hire a trainer to give you a boxing/cardio session. That way you work your abs AND burn fat all at the same time!
    Keep it up, your tummy will get flatter, the last 5% makes the biggest difference!

  9. […] Abdominal Exercises: Exercise Your Oblique Muscles to Get Rid of the Love Handles (ameliaburton.com.au) […]

  10. In order to grow, muscles must fully recover from their last workout, every workout. If you are over-training and work the muscles before they have fully recovered, you will break down the muscle tissue before it has rebuilt-making it impossible to build muscle

  11. Good point muscle building. You only grow when you are resting.

  12. millie says:


    With the standing side raises-is it holding a 5kg dumbell on each hand?

  13. Hi Millie,

    I prefer to just hold one dumbbell. I do 12 on one side, lowering that dumbbell as low as I can then rising up to a normal stance, then I swap the dumbbells over to the other side. I repeat the 3 sets on each side without stopping.
    Hope that clarifies things,

  14. […] Abdominal Exercises: Exercise Your Oblique Muscles to Get Rid of the Love Handles […]

  15. Jessie Heath says:

    Thankyou for this site. I have been looking for something to strengthen my stomach muscles. Will see if it works.

  16. Gianni says:

    I really like your website and the cool descriptions of different Ab routines. I have done P90X twice and lost 23 pounds and Ab Ripper X has a few moves that you explain on your site. They are a killer! You will never get any sort of Abs unless you watch what you eat. Stay away from the carbs or these exercises will not do you any good.

  17. Brenda Rankine says:

    I am wanting to reduce my waist and love handles.
    My hips,thighs and legs are no problem.
    My weight always goes to my middle areas.

    The problem is that I have arthritis in the neck, hip and knees, and get shoulder and lower back pain also.
    What exercise are suitable for me to loose the weight in that area.

    I have a treadmill, elliptical trainer,excercise bike and dumbells.
    Hope you can help.

  18. Brenda Rankine says:

    Also to my previous request at 1.46pm. I forget to mention that I have flabby upper arms and a lot of cellulite underneath.
    – bearing in mind the arthritis in my neck (and the shoulder pain I get which I suspect is weak muscles )
    Many thanks again

  19. nicky says:

    I would like to say thanks for the great tips. I will be using them as often as possible.

  20. […] important stretching is for muscles. Filmmaker: Louis Nathan Learn how to do a "love handles" oblique abdominal exercise …itness video on abdominal exercises. Expert: Katie Bowers Bio: Katie Bowers is […]

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  22. Jade says:

    You could add The Plank to your list as well, as this is one of the best exercises for your abs in my opinion, and it’s really easy to do as well.

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