How Do I Get Rid of That Lower Belly Pooch/Spare Tire around My Abs?

Woman doing a crunch
Getty Images/JGI/Tom Grill

What's Up With Your Lower Belly?

First, most women store extra fat in the lower belly.  Why?  Because that's how our genes work and, if you have excess fat, it's typical for it to end up there, as well as the hips and thighs.

Second, there isn't really an upper and lower ab muscle.  It's actually all one muscle, the rectus abdominis (yes, that's your physiology lesson for the day), so you can't physically separate them by doing different exercises.

Last, as I've mentioned in some other articles I've written, ab exercises won't necessarily reduce fat over the abs. We can't spot reduce fat from different areas of the body with specific exercises, although that doesn't mean it's impossible to lose fat from the abdominal area.

That can happen if you reduce your overall body fat, although your genes will determine where the fat comes off.

What You Need to Lose Belly Fat

  • Regular cardio exercise in your Target Heart Rate Zone. Beginners might start with 2-3 days of cardio (such as walking) for as long as you can or up to about 30 minutes, increasing your time gradually each week. For intermediate or advanced exercisers, you should shoot for some type of activity most days of the week for 30-90 minutes at a variety of intensities.  Doing at least one HIIT workout a week can help target belly fat.
  • Strength training for your entire body 1-3 non-consecutive days a week. If you're a beginner, try Strength Training for Beginners. For advanced exercisers, visit my Workout Center for ideas.
  • A healthy low-calorie diet. This is by far the most crucial part of your program. To make it work you need to:
    • Keep a food log in which you write down everything you eat or drink.
    • Use a food calculator to determine about how many calories you eat each day.
    • Begin changing bad habits by replacing them, one by one, with healthier choices (fruits and veggies will fill you up and give you nutrients and fiber).
    • Keep an eye on your portion sizes.
    • Make small changes every day instead of changing everything at once.

    The Bottom Line

    Even if you lose fat, there's no guarantee you'll lose it from your abs. Your body decides when, where and how much fat you'll lose. Some of us will never get rid of all the fat over the abs without taking the body fat to unhealthy levels. It's always best to focus on what you can control--what you eat, how much exercise you get and how healthy your lifestyle is.

    Be consistent with your workouts and your diet and let your body respond to that.  Your body loses fat in a certain order and it's those stubborn areas where it comes off last.  It's not because you're doing anything wrong, it's just how the body works!  Most of us won't get flat abs no matter how hard we try.  It's just the way our bodies are built.

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