Running at an incline rather than on a flat surface has been shown to increase total calorie burn by as much as 50%, says Jill Penfold, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer. Whether you’re outside on a hill or at the gym on an inclined treadmill, start out walking for 5-10 minutes, then jog, suggests Penfold. “Your heart rate should elevate pretty quickly as you pick up your pace,” she says. Maintain the jog for 5-10 minutes, then pick your pace up again and start running. “This doesn’t have to be an all-out sprint,” says Penfold, but you should be working hard enough that you couldn’t have a conversation with someone running next to you. (If you’re over 40 and about to start running for the first time, here are 8 things you need to know first.) Spend 5 minutes running, then drop your pace back down to a jog. Continue alternating 5-10 minutes of jogging with 5-10 minutes of running for 30-45 minutes. (Get the secret to banishing belly bulge from WH readers who’ve done it with Take It All Off! Keep It All Off!)
Just because you may not have access to open water—and a crew team—doesn’t mean you can’t work this fat-blasting cardio workout into your go-to gym routine. (If you do have a pool, try this total-body pool workout.) Not only does rowing get your heart rate way up, which helps you blast calories and burn fat, but it also works muscles in your legs, core, arms, shoulders, and back that you may not be used to using, which “surprises” your body and helps you increase muscle, says Penfold. She recommends this belly fat-blasting circuit, which is great for beginners and pros alike: Begin with 20 seconds of rowing followed by 10 seconds of rest, and look at how many meters you traveled in that time. (Don’t get off the rowing machine or even let go of the handle when you rest, says Penfold.) Repeat this eight times, trying to beat your distance each time. When you’re finished with this 4-minute circuit, row a fast 500 meters and note how long it takes you. “That’s the number you’ll want to match or beat during your next rowing session,” says Penfold.
While the old thinking was that long, steady-state cardio sessions were best for burning fat, we now know that intense, fast-paced cardio is much more effective, says Buckley. “For maximum fat-burning and body-sculpting results, you need varied, intense workouts that include short intervals which leave you totally spent,” she says. Researchers hypothesize that this contributes to your body’s “after-burn” effect, where you continue to burn calories long after your workout is finished. Hope Pedraza, an ACSM personal trainer and the creator of inBalance, a San Antonio-based fitness and wellness studio, suggests doing intervals that alternate between exercises that work different muscle groups. After a 10-minute warm-up, spend 30 seconds doing as many reps as possible of squats, push-ups, kettlebell swings, and single-arm rows (plus these 7 most effective bodyweight exercises you can do). In fact, choose any of your favorite exercises—just make sure you alternate between exercises that work different muscle groups, which will help certain muscles recover while you work others, letting you amp up the intensity and minimize the amount of rest you need.
You know that your cardio sessions are crucial when it comes to burning the layer of fat sitting on top of your abdominal muscles. But it’s still important to work those abs even as you’re trying to shed fat, says New York City-based personal trainer Adam Sanford, founder of Adam Sanford Fitness. His favorite move to do that? Holding plank on a BOSU ball. “It’s more challenging than a normal plank where your hands are on the floor, because the BOSU tests your balance,” says Sanford. “When your body tries to find control as your balance is challenged, your abs, obliques, and deep transverse abdominal muscles are activated.” Strengthening these core muscles also helps increase your metabolism, ultimately helping you to burn more calories and fat. (Here are 6 other ways to make a plank work your abs even more.)
If you’ve been lifting moderately-heavy weights but are still looking to drop belly fat, it’s time to pick up the intensity by using heavier weights and cutting down on rest time between reps, says Tyler Spraul, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the head trainer at Exercise.com. “Lifting heavy is where you see more ‘afterburn effect,'” says Spraul, “where your body continues to burn calories even after you leave the gym.” Just be sure that your technique doesn’t suffer as you increase your weight, which can lead to injury. If you’re new to strength training, these are the 6 best moves to get started.
Yes, you read that right. Simply walking can go a long way toward helping you shed belly fat, says Sahmura Gonzalez, a master trainer at Crunch in New York City. “It seems so simple, but 45-60 min of brisk walking every day can do wonders for your metabolism,” says Gonzalez. “Plus, it ensures that you don’t over-train, which can lead to an over-production of cortisol—a stress hormone that’s been shown to contribute to belly fat.” (Find your perfect pair of walking shoes with this guide.) In fact, if your walking workout helps you unwind after a stressful day or work through emotions that might otherwise rile you up and stress you out, there’s a chance it’ll help you lower cortisol levels, which in turn can keep belly fat in check, says Gonzalez. And brisk walking is an effective way to drop pounds—including the belly fat that’s hiding your abdominal muscles. “One hour of rapid walking a day can lead to 1 pound of fat loss a week,” says Gonzalez. “That is significant!” (Here’s what happened when one writer made herself go for an hour-long walk every single day for a month.)