When you’re looking to get fit, one of the first places guys target is the belly.
That’s smart. Sure, people can get hung up on their appearance when they carry weight in their gut — but the fat you carry in your belly is more insidious than other types, making your focus on the stomach well founded.
Belly fat, aka visceral fat, has been linked to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Once you shed those pounds and flatten your belly, you’ll be able to move better, too. Strengthening those core muscles will only help you with everything else you’re trying to do in the gym, and outside of it, too.
Start honing your stomach with the following 12 exercises to hammer the dozens of muscles between your shoulders and hips and rev your metabolism at the same time.
1. Hollow Body Hold
Hollow body holds are a go-to exercise for gymnasts, who are pound-for-pound among the strongest athletes in the world. The move is a staple of their training, for good reason: It’s a major core blaster.
Think of the hollow body hold as the inversion of a plank. Rather than bracing yourself against the ground and letting gravity do the work, you’re flipped around, fighting against the force to keep yourself in position.
DO IT: Lay down, pressing your lower back into the ground. Hinge at the hips to tuck your knees into your chest while also raising your shoulders off the ground, reaching forward with your arms.
Extend your legs straight out and hold in position, stretching your arms back behind your head and squeezing your core to maintain your posture. For beginners, keep your arms pointed forward to make the move less difficult. Hold for 30 seconds to start, then ramp up to a minute or more once you develop the core strength.
2. Bird Dog
The bird dog helps you to move dynamically within your workout, which is a great way to help you hone that stomach.
You don’t just work your core and hip muscles with the move — you also work on your balance and coordination. You might fall over the first few times you give this move a whirl, which is okay. Once you have it down, you’ll have mastered an exercise that works more than just one thing.
DO IT: Put your weight on your hands and toes, bending your knees to take a tabletop position, squeezing your core to keep your spine straight.
Raise your left arm to reach straight forward, while simultaneously raising your right leg and stretching it straight out. Hold for a count, squeezing your core, before returning to the original position. Repeat the movement with your right arm and left leg to count 1 rep.
If you want to lose your gut, you need to work as many muscles as possible. The burpee does just that.
The explosive exercise — which entails going from a pushup position to a jump and back to a pushup position — hits every muscle from head to toe.
DO IT: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your palms rest on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
Kick your legs backward into a pushup position, perform a pushup, and then quickly reverse the movement and perform a jump when you stand. That’s 1 rep.
4. Mountain climber
Think of the mountain climber as a moving plank. You perform a mini crunch when you explosively draw one knee into your chest.
What makes this move so difficult, however, is that your core has to work overtime to keep your body stable and straight every time you lift a foot off of the floor.
DO IT: Assume a pushup position with your hands below your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. This is the starting position.
Lifting your right foot off of the floor, drive your right knee towards your chest. Tap the floor with your right foot and then return to the starting position. Alternate legs with each repetition.
5. Archer row
Poor posture can lead to a bulging gut, so your desk-jockey slouch may be your flat belly’s enemy number one. To fix your day-to-day form, try the archer row to strengthen your core and your back at the same time.
As your row the dumbbell in the plank position, you have to use your back muscles to keep your body in one strong, straight line. If your shoulders round forward even a little bit, you’ll topple towards the pull of the weight.
Holding this position will help you build strength in your back and ab muscles to keep you upright.
DO IT: Grab one dumbbell. Get into a pushup position with your hands under your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. Separate your feet so they’re slightly wider than hip-width and turn them so they both point to your left.
With your right palm on the floor, hold the dumbbell in your left hand and perform a row. Be careful not to let your torso rotate with the weight of the dumbbell.
6. Half Turkish getup
The half Turkish getup might fall into the category of “core exercise,” but it’s far from an isolation move.
It works everything—your shoulders, hips, back, core, arms, and so many other muscles you never even think of. It’s about as complete a full-body exercise as you’ll find.”
That means it’s a comprehensive muscle-builder that will burn belly fat long after your workout is done.
DO IT: Lie faceup with your right leg bent and your left leg flat on the floor. Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell, raise your right arm straight overhead. Roll onto your left side and prop yourself up onto your elbow or hand, keeping your right arm overhead and your eyes on the weight.
Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Perform all prescribed reps on one side before switching.
7. Dumbbell hot-potato squat
This fat-loss exercise will get your heart pumping and abs burning in almost no time.
The squat attacks your largest muscle groups—like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings—while the dumbbell toss hits your upper body and ramps up your heart rate.
Plus, holding the weight on just one side of your body increases the demand placed on your core. As the weight changes from side to side, your core muscles are worked from every angle.
DO IT: Grab a medium- to light-weight dumbbell and hold it in the racked position with your elbow bent and the end resting near your shoulder.
Squat down so your quads are parallel to the floor, and then quickly pop up to standing, tossing the dumbbell from one hand to the other in front of your face.
8. Mogul jump
You may associate moguls with cold and snow, but this version will burn a ton of belly fat.
It trains your abs, lower back, and hips to work together to rotate your body from side to side.
And the more powerfully you explode off of the floor, the more you’ll elevate your heart rate and work your muscles.
DO IT: Get into a table-top position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
Dig your toes into the floor and elevate your knees so they hover just above the ground.
Keeping your feet together jump them to the left, pause, and then jump them to the right. Repeat for reps or time.
9. Kettlebell swing
The kettlebell swing might be one of the best calorie-torching exercises of all time.
In order to propel the heavy ball of iron, you need to engage big fat-burning muscle groups like your glutes, hips, and quads.
The explosive nature of this movement skyrockets your heart rate right away, but it also hammers your core.
The momentum of the bell at the top of the swing will try to pull you forward, so you have to clench your abs as if you were performing a standing plank.
DO IT: Bend at your hips and hold a kettlebell with both hands at arms length down in front of you. Rock back slightly and “hike” the kettlebell between your legs.
Then squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward forcefully, and swing the weight to shoulder height. Reverse the move between your legs and repeat.
10. Medicine-ball slam
If you haven’t used a medicine ball since high school, you’re missing out.
“Your core is your center of power, so performing explosive movements like the med-ball slam requires all the muscles between your neck and your hips to work together,” says Sean De Wispelaere, an expert coach.
And if you pick up the pace and propel the ball with more power and velocity, you’ll elevate your heart rate and burn some serious belly flab, he says.
You don’t even need to increase the weight. A 6-pound medicine ball will work just fine if you go hard and push yourself.
DO IT: Hold the ball above your head with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slam the ball on the floor as hard as you can. Catch the rebound and repeat.
11. Dumbbell overhead walking lunge
Add a dumbbell overhead during a lunge, and you suddenly have a core chiseler.
As the load shifts with every rep, all of the muscles in your torso need to work together to keep the weight directly above you.
The move engages your back and butt, too, because hunched shoulders and weak glutes also contribute to a bulging belly.
DO IT: Grab a pair of medium- to light-weight dumbbells. Press the dumbbells overhead so your palms face each other. Be careful not to scrunch your shoulders up by your ears.
Step forward into a lunge position, pause, and then bring your back leg forward to step your feet together. Alternate legs as you walk forward.
12. Valslide leg curl
This move hits your front and backside at the same time, making it the perfect recipe for a flat belly.
While the leg curl hammers your glutes, you need to turn on every muscle in your torso to keep your back straight from your shoulders to you knees. (Think of it as performing a plank lying on your back.)
The combination will hit your abs, work your upper back to help fix poor posture, and hammer the large, metabolism-revving muscle groups in your lower body all at the same time.
DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels on a pair of Valslides. Lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
Keeping your core tight, extend your legs as far as you can without allowing your back to curve. Pause, and then using your glutes and hamstring, pull your heels back toward your body until you return to the starting position.