Remember the days when a muffin top was that scrumptious top half of a breakfast treat? Oh, how the times have changed.
Now, when you hear “muffin top”, your first thought is, “How do I get rid of this embarrassing fat around my midsection?”
Try an internet search for ‘muffin top'. The first search findings won’t be about blueberries or bakeries.
What you will find instead is talk about those pesky love handles and specific exercises to target the fat that is hanging over your waistline.
Unfortunately, if you are looking to get rid of your muffin top for good, these exercises will not completely solve your problems.
What is a “Muffin Top” Anyway?
A muffin top is the fat that surrounds the abdomen and hips. This fat is visible over the top of your pants, hence the descriptive name.
But just like fat anywhere else on the body, spot reduction is not possible. You can’t lose fat from specific places no matter how much you work the muscles in that area.
So those fitness plans that have you doing hundreds of crunches and side bends to get rid of your muffin top? Well, it’s just not going to work.
While core exercises are a necessary part of any training program, it is only one component.
In order to lose your muffin top for good, you will need to follow a comprehensive fitness routine that incorporates strength training, cardio, and a quality nutrition plan.
Benefits of Losing Your Muffin Top
There are a number of reasons why you want to, and need to, lose that muffin top. Obviously, you want to improve your body image.
But losing that central fat goes far beyond looks. A recent study found that abdominal fat is related to higher mortality in postmenopausal women.
This is even in women who are at a normal weight! This study also showed that central obesity was correlated with a higher risk for cancer mortality as well as all-cause mortality (1).
This certainly goes to show that body composition is much more important than a number on a scale. That is why losing that muffin top can greatly enhance your overall health.
How Do I Lose That Stubborn Belly Fat?
Let’s start at the beginning. Basically, to lose fat you will need to burn more calories than you consume.
You may think that cardio is the only way to burn enough calories to lose weight, but that is far from the truth. Both cardio and strength training are essential here.
There is the misconception that resistance training doesn’t burn as many calories during a workout as cardiovascular exercises.
For one, it depends on the type of exercise you are doing.
Sure, a high-intensity interval training session is going to be more effective than if you are just mindlessly moving 2-pound dumbbells.
This is why you need a specific strength training program.
Strength Training To Shed Weight
A full-body resistance workout can burn a significant amount of calories, and the benefits for fat loss don’t stop there.
By building lean body mass you will be increasing your metabolic rate at rest so that you are burning more calories throughout the entire day. Step one to losing that muffin top!
Strength training should include full-body workouts, along with workouts specifically designed to hit the core muscles. No, you cannot spot reduce fat.
But… good core and abdominal work is essential for overall fitness, and to make those muscles appear once you shed some of the belly fat.
The Fit Mother Project
The Fit Mother Project offers a great free Jumpstart program that will introduce you to some excellent strength exercises to get you on the road to fitness and weight loss.
In addition, FM30X is another comprehensive fitness program that includes exercises, nutritional guidance, and continued support that will have you well on the way to getting rid of that muffin top.
Five Great Strength Training Moves To Lose That Muffin Top
While you can’t spot-reduce your waistline, these are great strength exercises that will build overall lean body mass while strengthening your midsection.
You may be surprised to find this doesn’t include a bunch of crunches.
These are all compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups to burn some serious calories all while engaging your core.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. (They should be heavy enough that you need to engage your core, arms, and upper and middle back muscles to hold them).
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together while contracting your abs.
- Bring your left knee up as high as you can, keeping your foot flexed. Step forward and repeat with the right leg.
- Walk 50-100 feet forward, then turn around and walk back to complete one set.
- Do three sets to start.
Dumbbell Squat and Press:
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart, holding a dumbbell at shoulder level with palms facing inward.
- Slowly bend your knees and squat down, keeping all the weight in your heels. Don't let your knees move beyond your toes.
- Press through your heels and slowly straighten your legs to stand up as you press the dumbbells overhead.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back down.
- Repeat 8-10 times for three sets.
- Start in a plank position, with your shoulders over your wrists and legs out behind you.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight.
- As you lower and exhale, bend your elbows outward to the sides.
- Hold at the bottom for a brief pause and then press back up.
- Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.
Russian Twist with Medicine Ball:
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your abs and sit at about a 45-degree angle.
- Hold the medicine ball with both hands directly in front of you.
- Contract your abs and twist slowly from your torso to your right and touch the medicine ball to the floor beside you.
- Pause, then twist your torso back to the center position, and then over to the left and touch the medicine ball to the floor beside you again.
- Alternate sides 20 times.
Pro-tip: You can raise your feet off the floor to make this exercise more difficult.
Reverse Lunge With Twist:
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Hold a five to ten-pound medicine ball with both hands with your arms outstretched in front of you.
- Contract your abs and take a big step back with your right foot.
- Plant your foot and lower your body into a lunge.
- As you sink into the lunge, twist your torso to the left with the medicine ball still stretched out in your arms.
- Twist back to center as you straighten your legs.
- Bring your feet back together, and then step back on your left leg, twisting to the right.
- Repeat 8-10 times on each side.
Compound Resistance Exercises Burn Big Calories
These exercises are great because they are all compound movements that work multiple muscle groups. Your back, legs, arms, shoulders, chest, and core are all being targeted.
That means you are burning more calories, increasing lean muscle mass, and strengthening your core all at the same time!
That also means bye-bye muffin top!
Now that we’ve covered why strength training is important, let’s move onto cardio. By raising your heart rate through cardiovascular exercises you will be burning calories at a high rate.
Plus, cardio activities will also increase how many calories you burn after your workout, something known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC.
Up The Intensity
The higher the intensity and duration of your workout, the more efficient your body will be at burning calories in the hours following.
Recent research suggests that continuous cardio and interval training produce similar calorie-burning effects, however, interval training can be done in a shorter period of time with the same benefits (2,3).
So if you are short on time, a quick 20-minute HIIT workout will still give you some serious fat-burning ability.
But if you would rather do a lower intensity 50-60 minute cardio session this is still a great way to burn calories during and after the exercise.
Do What You Enjoy!
The idea here is to pick cardio workouts that you enjoy, are safe on your joints, and that you will stick too.
Anything that gets the heart rate up is going to help you burn weight and shed that muffin top.
Workouts like swimming, running, rowing, and HIIT intervals are excellent exercises for this.
These will burn calories and also engage your core and strengthen your abdominal muscles to give you that midsection you have been dreaming of.
Here is an example of a great HIIT workout to help rid yourself of your muffin top if you are short on time.
Sample HIIT Workout
Perform 30 seconds each for all of the following moves:
- Jump Rope
- High Knees
- Butt Kickers
- Squat Jumps
Do this twice through for a total of a four-minute warm-up. Rest one minute then start the main set.
Perform each exercise as quickly as you can for 30 seconds, then take 30 seconds of rest and immediately move on to the next exercise. After the circuit, rest for one minute.
Then repeat two more times. Each of these exercises will burn calories while also forcing you to engage and contract your core.
- Mountain Climbers
- Burpee with Tuck Jump
- Jump Lunges
- Side to Side Push-Ups
- Kettlebell Swings
Do some light jogging in place for 1-2 minutes. Follow that with some upper and lower body stretches to make sure you have cooled down completely.
This is just one example of a cardio workout you can add to your weekly schedule. You can always mix it up and remember to choose things that you will enjoy doing!
Quality Nutrition is Essential
The next part of getting rid of that muffin top is going to be how you eat. No matter how much you work out, you cannot out-train a bad diet.
Making smart food choices throughout your day is essential if you really want to shed that belly fat. That means including lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into your diet.
You want to make sure to limit foods with high amounts of simple carbs and added sugars.
These foods will spike your insulin levels and increase your body’s potential to store weight around the midsection. You also want to be sure to get an adequate amount of protein after a workout.
It's A Lifestyle Change, Not A “Diet”
Now, you may see a lot of articles or books talking about “bad” foods or “off-limits” foods if you want to lose weight around your midsection.
However, I feel this is the wrong approach to any healthy lifestyle. If you start depriving yourself of the things you love, this likely won’t be a plan you follow for the long term.
And fitness and health are not about quick fixes – it's about adopting a new way of living.
In the end, it’s all about smart nutrition decisions.
Simple things like drinking water instead of soft drinks and eating fresh whole foods instead of processed, packaged foods are little things that can make a big difference.
Fit Mother Project Programs
For more in-depth nutritional guidelines, the Fit Mother Project offers great dietary advice in the FM30X program.
In addition, there are several blog articles that can help guide your food choices to help you lose that muffin top.
Even if you have been struggling with your stubborn muffin top for years, all you need is the right plan to shed that belly fat.
By becoming dedicated to following a proper training and nutrition program, you can get that toned waistline that has always eluded you and say bye-bye to that muffin top for good!
Your new health coach and friend,
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on losing your muffin top.
1) Sun Y, Liu B, Snetselaar LG, et al. Association of Normal-Weight Central Obesity With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Postmenopausal Women.
JAMA Netw Open. Published online July 24, 20192(7):e197337. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.7337
2) Hazell, T. J., Olver, T., Hamilton, C. D., & Lemon, P. R. (2012). Two Minutes of Sprint-Interval Exercise Elicits 24-hr Oxygen Consumption Similar to That of 30 min of Continuous Endurance Exercise, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 22(4), 276-283
3) Skelly, L. E., Andrews, P. C., Gillen, J. B., Martin, B. J., Percival, M. E., & Gibala, M. J. (2014). High-intensity interval exercise induces 24-h energy expenditure similar to traditional endurance exercise despite reduced time commitment. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 39(7), 845-848.