How to Get Tighter Obliques in 20 Minutes

Updated 10/12/17
Urban Outfitters

We don’t know who originally came up with the moniker “love handles,” but we know we don’t agree with the cutesy nickname for this not-so-cute area. What we can get on board with is an expert-approved plan to eliminate the problem area for good. That’s where celeb trainer Patrick Murphy comes in. He not only has the perfect workout to tone your entire core but also sheds some light on this trouble spot.

Keep reading for all the details!

The Plan

First of all, if you’ve got them, you know you’re not alone. “We are all so uniquely different, but unfortunately, many of us do store fat around our midsection,” Murphy says. “‘Love handles’ are common at all ages.” And in case you needed a little push to accept the there’s-no-time-like-the-present mentality, Murphy says, “The longer you carry excess fat, as you age, the harder it will be to lose.”

Before you start doubling up on crunches, bicycle crunches, and oblique twists, Murphy wants to drop a little truth bomb. “The truth is there’s no such thing as spot reduction through specific exercises. Back exercises don’t target ‘back fat.’ Ab exercises don't target ab fat. Triceps exercises don't melt the fat off the buh-bye arm. Look at this another way—if you cut your ankle shaving, would you call it ‘ankle’ blood?’ Of course not—blood is blood, and fat is fat.” For better or for worse, that’s the truth. But don’t worry. Murphy still has a solution.

“Fat is stored energy; therefore, you need to expend energy to get rid of it,” Murphy says. So any workout designed to eliminate love handles should be focused on calorie expenditure through increased heart rate. As you’ll see, the workout includes a lot of leg exercises. That’s because your largest muscles are in your legs. Work those to burn calories in a big way. Ready to get serious? “The best way to gauge calories burned is by using a heart rate monitor, not an activity tracker band,” Murphy says. Try Polar’s H7 Heart Rate Sensor ($80).


Do three circuits of these eight exercises all the way through, resting for one minute after each circuit. Do 20 reps of each exercise. And don’t forget to warm up with some light cardio for five to 10 minutes first.

Reverse Lunge With Knee-Up Hop: Step back into a reverse lunge. When you stand up, instead of bringing your foot back to the starting position, keep your leg bent at a 45-degree angle and drive your knee up level with your hip. Really press off your back foot so you hop off the ground at the top. Go straight back into reverse lunge on the way down from your knee-up hop.

Plank With Hip Flexion and Extension: This is basically a High Plank–to–Downward Facing Dog movement, but with a little extra extension. From High Plank, lower your hips toward the ground (but don’t touch the ground), and then drive your hips up and back toward the ceiling into your best Down Dog.

Ice-Skaters: This exercise mimics the motion of a speed skater. Starting from one leg, hop side to side, dropping one leg back behind you into a deep curtsy lunge. The goal with this exercise is to really take up space, so try to make your movements as big as possible.

Plank With Lateral Flexion: From High Plank, shift your body from side to side, keeping hips and shoulders square to the ground.

Alternating Jump Lunges: Take your basic alternating-leg lunge and add a jump. Instead of stepping from one leg to the next, push off the ground and jump into a lunge on the other side.

Plank With Hip Rotation: Start in High Plank, keep your upper body square to the floor, and rotate your hips down to one side. Get your hips as close to the ground as you can, then come back to starting position and do the other side.

Squat Jumps: Add a little power to your squats by jumping when you reach the top of your squat.

Single-Leg Pelvic Raises: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg straight out, then raise your hips up to form a straight line with your body and lower back down to the ground, keeping your leg extended.

The Diet

Since we know the key to getting a toned core rests largely with diet as well, we consulted Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, and corporate dietitian at Medifast Inc., on the best way to slim down. Her top two rules to live by? Eat more fruits and vegetables, and limit the amount of added sugars in your diet. “Make it a goal to have at least one serving of fruit and vegetables with each meal, or better yet, make half of the meal fruits and vegetables,” Miller says. “By doing so, you’ll be getting the antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals needed to keep your body energized, healthy, and strong.” All the better to keep up with your workouts. “Added sugars add calories with little to no nutritional value, and when it comes to losing weight, that’s exactly what you don’t want,” Miller says. Her advice is to limit added sugars (anything that doesn’t naturally occur in food) to 10% or less of your calories for the day.

She also recommends keeping track of the food you eat (and your workouts) to help hold yourself accountable and give yourself a little extra motivational push toward your goals. You can keep a food and activity diary or use an app like MyWellness Tracker by Medifast.

Up next, learn how to target another tricky area: your inner thighs.

This post was originally published on June 11, 2015.

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