Losing Belly Fat: The Best Exercises to Target Stubborn Midsection Flab

Belly fat can be one of the most frustrating and difficult places to lose weight, even for South Africans. Even with diet and exercise, that lower belly pooch and muffin top can hang on stubbornly. Thankfully, there are specific exercises that target belly fat more effectively and help accelerate fat loss from the midsection. Here are the 12 best exercises to lose belly fat in South Africa.

  1. Planks

Planks are an isometric core exercise that work multiple muscles at once, including the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack” muscles) and transversus abdominis. Holding the body in a straight, rigid position trains these muscles to stabilize the spine and resist extension and flexion. This strengthens the entire core while working deep abdominal muscles. Performing planks regularly can help train the abdominals to stay tight and toned as belly fat is shed.

Aim for 3 sets of 30-60 second holds, building up your stamina over time. For an added challenge, perform planks outdoors on the grass or dirt to engage stabilizer muscles.

  1. Crunches

Crunches are one of the most basic abdominal moves, but they are effective for strengthening the rectus abdominis. The concentric contraction of crunches pulls the upper body towards the hips, forcing the abs to fire and contract. Make sure crunches are done properly, keeping the chin off the chest and initiating the movement from the abs (not from momentum or the hips).

Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 slow, controlled crunches with full range of motion. To increase difficulty, elevate the legs on a medicine ball or prop.

  1. Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle crunches build upon basic crunches by adding a twisting, side-to-side movement. This targets the obliques as well as the rectus abdominis. The obliques are on the sides of the waist and help trim inches from the love handles. Bicycle crunches involve controlled twisting so be careful not to strain the lower back.

Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 crunches on each side, bringing the opposite elbow toward the opposite knee in a smooth cycling motion. Focus on good form rather than speed.

  1. Burpees

Burpees are intense full body moves that are one of the best exercises to lose belly fat and get the heart rate up. Burpees involve explosive jumping and squat movements that activate fat-burning hormones like HGH and testosterone. The cardio nature of burpees helps scorch belly fat while working the entire core and lower body. Doing burpees on the beach makes for an excellent calorie-burning workout.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps, maintaining proper technique. Take breaks as needed between sets. Modifications like step-backs instead of jumps can reduce impact.

  1. Dead Bugs

Dead bugs target the deep core muscles including the transversus abdominis and pelvic floor. Lying on your back, slowly extend one leg and the opposite arm overhead. The core has to work hard to keep the hips and spine stable. This exercise improves core stabilization, crucial for balance, posture and preventing injury. A strong core also helps visibly tighten the abdominal area.

Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps on each side, moving slowly and maintaining tension in the core throughout. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

  1. Russian Twists

Russian twists work the obliques while training rotational movement and core stabilization. Sitting upright, rotate the torso side-to-side while keeping the hips stable. Use either bodyweight or a medicine ball for added resistance. Russian twists can help strengthen and tone the obliques.

Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps on each side with good control. Reduce range of motion if needed to maintain good form.

  1. Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging leg raises target the lower abdominals including the rectus abdominis and hip flexors. Elevating straightened legs puts tension directly on the lower belly. Perform hanging leg raises on a pull-up bar, jungle gym, or tree branch. Keep legs straight and toes pointed to maximize contraction.

Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 leg raises, engaging the core to lift the legs up and lower with control. Strict form is key. Build up slowly if this move is too challenging at first.

  1. Kettlebell Windmills

Kettlebell windmills improve rotational strength and mobility through the hips and shoulders. Windmills target obliques, hip abductors and the posterior chain. Holding a kettlebell overhead while “windmilling” down challenges core stability and balance. Move slowly, focusing on smooth execution.

Aim for 3 sets of 5-10 reps on each side with a light kettlebell to start. Hinge at the hip while keeping the shoulders, hips and knees aligned.

  1. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a high-intensity exercise that skyrockets heart rate. As a cardiovascular exercise, mountain climbers help torch overall body fat when done regularly. The motion of mountain climbers mimics climbing or running in place, driving the knees in toward the chest. This engages the rectus abdominis and obliques.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 30-60 seconds, picking up the pace while maintaining control. Reduce impact by slowing down speed.

  1. Flutter Kicks

Flutter kicks primarily target the lower abdominals and hip flexors. Lying on your back, lift the legs off the floor and alternate rapidly kicking the legs up and down. The legs remain straight, so flutter kicking challenges the lower core to stabilize the body. This exercise helps strengthen and tone the lower belly.

Aim for 3 sets of 20-30 seconds, keeping the core braced and legs elevated. Strict form is important, so go slower if needed. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

  1. Twisting Side Plank

The side plank works the lateral core including the obliques. Adding a twist underneath the body trains rotational strength and targets the obliques even further. Supporting bodyweight in a rigid sideways position forces the obliques to strengthen and contract. Use an exercise mat or soft grass for cushioning.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 20-30 seconds on each side, twisting the top arm underneath the torso. Modify by dropping the bottom knee. Build gradually.

  1. Cross Body Mountain Climbers

These target the obliques by combining mountain climbers with a lateral, cross-body motion. From a push-up position, drive one knee across the body diagonally while keeping the core braced. Alternate legs in a controlled tempo. The hips remain stable while rotating, putting tension on the obliques.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 20-30 seconds on each side, moving deliberately and maintaining proper form. Rest 1 minute between sets. Reduce speed as needed.

The Bottom Line

Spot reduction of belly fat cannot be achieved through exercise alone. However, the most effective way to lose abdominal fat is compound, full body movements that burn calories while strengthening the core. Combine strength training with HIIT and abs exercises 2-4 times per week for best results. Be sure to also follow a reduced calorie, nutrient-dense diet and manage stress to help promote healthy fat loss. With consistency, these tips can help you finally lose that stubborn belly fat.

Annette Louw
Annette Louw

Annette Louw is a qualified nutritionist who helps women lose belly fat through science-backed weight loss strategies. With over 5 years of experience, she provides personalized strategies to help clients burn abdominal fat using strategic diet, exercise, and supplements. Annette stays up-to-date on the latest research and educates women on topics like weight loss for women, reducing cortisol, and activating belly fat burning hormones to support sustainable weight loss.

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