Lower back fat is one of the most common problem zones, and needless to say, nobody wants love handles. Interestingly, lower back fat tends to be more common in women who naturally hold more fat around their hips and thighs, but can sometimes also be a sign of excess visceral fat in both men and women, which is the type of fat that accumulates around the midsection and is a linked with an increased risk of many chronic diseases.
What Causes Love Handles?
It’s helpful to briefly discuss and gain an understanding of the underlying causes of lower back fat for most people. Visceral fat that accumulates in the lower back, abdominal area and hips is different that subcutaneous fat that accumulates under the skin. Common causes are lack of physical activity, a diet high in refined carbs and sugars, poor sleep and deeper underlying causes such as excess cortisol (the body’s primary stress hormone), an under-active thyroid and other hormonal imbalances.
Losing lower back fat can be accomplished through a comprehensive dietary and lifestyle plan, and you can kiss love-handles goodbye for good! Check out the following ten ways to scorch lower back fat, increase your overall health and prevent disease all at the same time.
8 Ways to Lose Lower Back Fat
Increase Resistance Training
Resistance training (AKA strength or weight training) is probably the best exercise strategy to address love handles and lose lower back fat. Many people are discouraged because they aren’t “gym people” or feel that actual dumbbells are needed to reap the benefits. Thankfully, bodyweight strength exercises can be equally as effective and done from the comfort of your living room.
Shoot for at least two, 30-minute resistance training workouts per week. You can find some great online workouts if you’re not sure where to begin. I also encourage people to think outside of the “exercise box” and simply start fitting in strength training wherever they can. For example, try and do 10 bodyweight squats every time you take a phone call at work, or planks during commercial breaks if you’re watching TV at night. Lunges while you brush your teeth, bicycle crunches when you wake up…the options are endless and all add up at the end of the day.
Include High Intensity Interval Training
Long distance, moderate-high intensity cardio day after day can actually cause too much stress in the body and increase cortisol, therefore leading to excess low-back fat in some people. Instead, mix in high intensity interval training (HIIT) to your cardio plan. Proven to burn fat more effectively than long duration cardio, HIIT can be adjusted to your fitness level and simply refers to alternating between periods of higher and lower intensity. Studies actually prove that HIIT is useful for burning visceral fat, including low back fat.
Cut the Carbs and Sugar
Eliminating or greatly reducing refined carbs and sugars such as white breads, pastas, candies, sodas and commercial baked goods is perhaps the number one way to lose lower back fat. Processed sugar has been shown to increase visceral fat, and no amount of exercise can undo this fact.
A major dietary shift like this can be very intimidating and might not happen overnight, which is perfectly fine. Starting with small steps like prepping a big meal to have throughout the week, chopping veggies ahead of time for snacks and investing in a time-saving kitchen appliance like a slow cooker or instant pot are some of my go-to strategies for healthy eating.
Side Planks Are Your Best Friend
While nothing can replace a healthy diet, certain exercises are better than others for targeting that pesky lower back fat. Side planks top the list, and they also have the added benefit of strengthening arms and shoulders, and are excellent for balance and coordination.
If you’re new to side planks, start with just 10 seconds on each side and slowly work your way up to 30+ seconds. You can do these on your elbow or hand, and even add in hip dips once you master this exercise for more challenge.
Focus on Core
Along with side planks, putting extra attention towards core work can be quite helpful to lose lower back fat. Core musculature isn’t just your abs, as this key stabilizing muscle group actually wraps around your back. It’s for just this reason that the standard sit-up really isn’t the most effective approach for back strengthening and losing love handles, but instead doing total body core movements, like side planks and regular planks.
Other great exercises include Russian twists, bicycle crunches, mountain climbers, bridges and straight leg raises.
Learn to Manage Stress
Learning and implementing effective stress management techniques might just be the most difficult way for many people to lose lower back fat, not to mention seem a little odd. The reason that lowering stress is key for fat loss comes back to the body’s stress hormone, cortisol. High cortisol levels make losing weight next to impossible, as cortisol has been linked to weight gain and visceral fat. Find what works for you, whether this is meditation, walks, therapy, yoga, tai chi or whatever else brings you a sense of peace.
To learn more about the fascinating field of stress and human health, check out one of my all time favorite books, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.
Improve Sleep Quality
While we’re on the subject of cortisol, this is the same reason that it’s key to get your beauty rest to lose back fat. Studies show that poor sleep and sleep loss inhibits fat loss, and along with cortisol that also has to do with the body’s hunger hormone, ghrelin. Have you ever had the experience of wanting to eat all day long the day after a bad night’s sleep? If so, this isn’t just in your head, it’s actually a well-studied hormonal reaction.
Sleep problems can be tricky, but practicing good sleep hygiene and investing in a good quality pair of blue light blocking glasses can make a big difference.
Dig Deeper with Lab Work
If diet, exercise and stress seem to be in place but you can’t lose that excess back fat, you might need to consider some lab work to address potential root causes. When visceral fat simply won’t budge, you could be dealing with hidden inflammation, insulin resistance or another hormonal imbalance. Talk with your primary doctor or an integrative doctor for blood work and stool testing to get a snapshot of your gut health. Sometimes it’s better to test than guess.
With these strategies, you can slowly but surely take the necessary steps to lose back fat and take control of your health. Remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint, so stay motivated to make small but sustainable changes.