Ah, pesky love handles! Luckily, those stubborn pockets of fat around your waist can be erased with a proper diet, targeted exercises, and a few lifestyle changes. Strength exercises are often associated with lifting heavy weights and building muscle mass in the gym. However, their benefits extend far beyond just that. These exercises are incredibly versatile and can play a crucial role in achieving various fitness goals, including weight loss. In particular, certain strength exercises are efficient for targeting specific areas like the love handles, helping to trim and sculpt the waistline. I carefully curated 10 of my go-to strength exercises for beginners to melt love handles, so read on to learn more.

Each of the below movements demands significant core engagement for movement and stability, although they may not all be traditional “ab exercises.” These demands strengthen your core muscles and enhance your body’s ability to burn calories, making them essential for maximizing your weight loss potential.

Bye, bye, bye love handles! Keep reading to learn all about my 10 best exercises for beginners to melt love handles. And when you’re finished, don’t miss I Tried 3 Pairs of Brooks Running Shoes & One Beats the Rest by a Mile.

Tempo Goblet Squats

illustration of dumbbell goblet squats
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By slowing down the descent during the goblet squat, you intensify the engagement of your core, which is already working hard to stabilize the dumbbell or kettlebell. This boosts the intensity of the exercise and enhances core strength, stability, and mobility. Emphasizing a tight squeeze in your abs activates your midsection muscles and promotes growth and strength in your quads and glutes.

Grab a dumbbell, hold it close to your chest with both hands, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, squeeze your abs to engage the core, and lower into a squat by bending at your knees while maintaining an upright chest and straight back. Drive through your entire foot to return to the starting stance. Complete three to four sets of six to 12 reps with 60 to 90 seconds of rest between sets.

Dumbbell Stiff-leg Deadlifts

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Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts target the posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, to promote muscle development and strength in the lower body. Maintaining stability and proper alignment throughout the movement requires significant core engagement to support the spine and prevent excessive rounding or arching. As a result, the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and deep stabilizers, are activated to maintain balance and control.

To execute dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Engage your core to keep your back straight, and hinge at your hips, lowering the dumbbells toward the ground while maintaining a flat back and lifted chest. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings, then contract your hamstrings and glutes to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Bent-over Rows

dumbbell bent-over rows
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The dumbbell bent-over row is a dynamic exercise that targets the upper back, lats, and biceps while engaging your core. As you pull the weight toward your body, your core muscles stabilize your spine and resist rotation—especially when the weight shifts position. This stability aspect significantly increases your core recruitment, making it an excellent exercise for strengthening your upper body and core stability while helping to melt away those love handles.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to perform dumbbell bent-over rows, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge at the hips, keeping your back straight and your chest up, with your torso at a 45-degree angle (close to parallel with the floor). Engage your core to stabilize and prevent rotation. Pull the dumbbells toward your hip, keeping your elbow close to your body, then lower it with control. Complete three to four sets of eight to 15 reps with 60 to 90 seconds of rest between sets.

Suitcase Deadlifts

Much like the traditional deadlift, the suitcase deadlift is a compound exercise primarily targeting the lower body, including the hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps, to build strength and size. However, its unique setup with a single weight held at the side also engages the core muscles, including the obliques, rectus abdominis, and deep stabilizers. By lifting the weight from the side, the core muscles must work hard to resist lateral flexion and rotation, promoting stability and strength throughout the midsection.

Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell next to your right foot. Next, tighten your core, and hinge at the hips to grip the kettlebell handle with your right hand, keeping your back flat. Push your legs through the floor to lift the kettlebell. Stand tall, pause briefly, then lower the kettlebell with control. Perform three to four sets of five to 12 reps per side with 60 to 90 seconds of rest between sets.

Cross-body Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are renowned for their dynamic nature, making them an excellent choice for sculpting abs and ramping up your workout intensity. It is essential to keep your abdominal muscles engaged continuously throughout each repetition and maintain tightness without allowing them to relax. Focusing on sustained tension during every knee drive enhances the exercise’s effectiveness, resulting in a stronger and more defined core. Incorporating mountain climbers into your routine is a fantastic way to achieve your core-strengthening goals.

Perform mountain climbers by starting in a plank position and squeezing your core. Quickly alternate between driving each knee toward the opposite elbow. Maintain a fast pace, ensuring continuous core engagement. Perform three rounds of 30 to 45 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between each set.

Dumbbell Alternating Floor Press

The dumbbell alternating floor press is a compound exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, effectively building upper-body strength and size. Pressing the dumbbells alternately while lying on the floor engages stabilizing muscles throughout the core to maintain balance and control. This constant activation of the core muscles adds an element of instability, requiring them to work harder to stabilize the body and the weights. As a result, this exercise strengthens and hypertrophies the upper-body muscles and trains the core muscles, promoting overall functional strength and stability.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest level. Press one dumbbell upward while keeping the other close to your chest, then alternate sides in a controlled motion. Maintain core engagement throughout to stabilize your body. Aim for full extension of both arms at the top of each press as you alternate from side to side. Perform three to four sets of eight to 15 reps per side with 60 to 90 seconds of rest between sets.

Front Rack Reverse Lunges

Front rack reverse lunges are a potent compound exercise that recruits multiple muscle groups, including the core, glutes, and quadriceps. The front rack position challenges the core by creating an unstable environment that requires constant engagement to maintain balance and control throughout the exercise. Placing the weight in front of the body shifts the center of gravity forward, prompting the core muscles to work harder to stabilize the spine and prevent excessive leaning or tipping. This increased demand on the core enhances its strength and stability, making it an effective way to target and tone the muscles around the waistline, including the love handles.

Hold a pair of dumbbells or a barbell in the front rack position with your elbows up and forward. Step back with one foot, lowering your body until both knees are bent to about 90 degrees, then push through your front whole foot to return to the starting position. Alternate sides, maintaining proper posture (chest up!), and engaging your core throughout the movement. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase as you gain confidence. Complete three to four sets of eight to 12 reps per side with 60 to 90 seconds of rest between sets.

Half-kneeling Wood Chops

Few core exercises rival the intensity of the wood chop when it comes to targeting your love handles. This dynamic movement engages your trunk in a rotational pattern, activating a range of abdominal and back muscles for stability. Its versatility allows execution with different resistance tools such as dumbbells, kettlebells, cable machines, and med balls. The half-kneeling position takes the legs out of the equation, although still used for stability, and solely focuses on sculpting your midsection and blasting away those love handles.

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and staggered, holding a dumbbell at one hip. If the dumbbell starts on your right hip, step your left foot forward, and vice versa. Lower into a half-kneeling position. Next, execute a diagonal chopping motion, lifting the dumbbell from hip to opposite shoulder while rotating your torso and squeezing the abs. Maintain a slight bend in your arms as you repeat the chopping motion for the prescribed reps. Repeat the chop on the other side. Focus on engaging the core, exhale during the lift, and inhale during the return. Keep a slight squat position and maintain proper form to avoid injury. Perform three sets of 15 to 20 reps per side with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Side Plank with Hip Dips

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Get ready to elevate your core workout with a more challenging variation: the side plank plus hip dips. This exercise specifically targets the lateral side of your core, effectively sculpting and strengthening your obliques—the key to banishing those pesky love handles. While many exercises primarily focus on the front of your abs, this move breaks the mold by honing in on the sides. Take it up a notch by adding tempos and pauses to challenge yourself and maximize your results.

To execute the side plank with hip dips, begin in a side plank position, with your elbow under your shoulder, and stack your feet. Lower your hip in a controlled dip, then push it back up, squeezing your obliques. Focus on maintaining a straight line throughout each rep. Complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps per side.

Straight Leg Sit-ups

Dumbbell straight-leg sit-ups are exceptional for targeting your abs while minimizing leg involvement. Emphasizing a solid core squeeze during the descent of each repetition is critical. This exercise engages the core, including the obliques, crucial for incinerating love handles and achieving a shredded midsection. Focus on executing this aspect effectively to maximize results with each set.

Performing dumbbell straight leg sit-ups involves lying on your back with your legs straight and holding a dumbbell above your forehead, arms straight. Engage your core as you lift your upper body toward your toes and reach the dumbbell toward the ceiling. Keep your legs straight, and lower your upper body with control while inhaling. Perform three sets of 10 to 20 reps or 30 to 45 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

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