Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Muffin Top Exercises

One of the common causes of muffin top is a lack of muscle and definition in the lower back, hip and waist area.

Unfortunately, this is one of the toughest places to shift stubborn fat and achieve tone as it is often the place our bodies will store fat first. It is also an area that can often get neglected in our daily lives.

It goes without saying then, that the muffin top can be pretty difficult to tackle!

I wish someone had told me that simply doing targeted exercises would not get rid of my unwanted overhang, but that doing general exercise to burn fat from all over my body was vital for me to see results.

It sure didn’t feel great when I realised that ‘spot weight loss’ (losing weight from just one spot / area) was not possible, after I’d spent hours exercising just my hips and waist.

You needn’t make the same mistake I did though!

In this post I will be taking you by the hand and guiding you through some simple exercises, which will not only target your problem area, but also give you that all important cardiovascular workout that will get your body burning fat from all over!

The Warm-Up

It is important to warm up before putting the body through its paces.

Warming up involves stretching your muscles and raising your heart rate gently so that you are physically prepared for exercise (you are less likely to strain your muscles and damage your heart when they are ready for action).

Make sure you’re wearing comfortable workout clothes, have sensible footwear or bare feet and are standing up straight, feet shoulder width apart, on an exercise mat or comfortable flooring.

You are now ready to begin your warm-up.

There is an example of a full body warm-up here (although you should not be aiming to do each stage as crazily fast as that guy does them!) or simply read the instructions below and follow along.

Each step should be done for around 30 seconds each and slowly.

Try to concentrate on feeling your muscles stretching and your heart rate accelerating slightly, rather than getting through the warm-up quickly.

1. Start by slowly tilting your head back and then bringing it forward so that your chin moves toward the ceiling then back towards your chest.

2. Tilt your head from side to side so that your left ear moves towards your left shoulder, then your right ear moves towards your right.

3. Look round to your left so that your chin moves towards your left shoulder then do the same on the right

4. Rotate your shoulders forwards in a shrugging and rolling motion.

5. Repeat stage 4, but in reverse.

6. Bring your arms out to the sides, slightly away from your body, then swing them round to cross in front of you, then back to slightly behind you.

7. Raise both arms straight up on either side of your head then bend them, bringing your elbows down to the sides of your waist and raise back up again.

8. Widen your stance slightly and gently bring your arms round to your left, so that your torso is slightly twisted and you are looking left, then bring your arms round to your right, allowing the momentum to bring your torso and head round to look right.

9. Bring your feet back to shoulder width apart and slowly reach your left hand down the side of your left leg towards your knee, then do the same on the right hand side.

10. Stand on your right leg and swing your left leg forward as if kicking a ball. Allow the momentum to bring the leg back behind you so that your foot kicks up towards your butt before returning to the start position and swapping legs.

11. Take a wide step out to the left with your left foot and bend your left knee so that your body goes through a smooth sideways lunge, bringing both arms straight out in front of you at the same time, then repeat on the right.

12. Take a long step backwards with your left leg, bending both your knees into a reverse lunge, then use your right leg to bring your left leg forward and up, with your left knee bent and coming towards your chest. Repeat on the right.

13. Kneel down and bring your left leg up at right angles from your body, with your left knee bent and left foot firmly planted on the floor. Raise both arms straight up and clasp your hands together, then gently bring your torso round to the left so that you are looking in that direction, bending your left knee forward for stability. Do the same on your right.

14. Move forward so that you are kneeling on all fours with your arms slightly in front of you. Raise your butt until your legs are straight and your heels are off the ground, then alternately bend your right and left knees towards the floor.

Overall it will take about 5 - 10 minutes to prepare all your muscles for exercise, but the warm-up itself is actually a pretty good low level workout, so try not to avoid it.

Remember to go at your own pace and don’t over stretch.

Always contact your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime.

Targeted Exercises

There are several muscles which make up the area around your muffin top, so it is necessary to tone and strengthen each one to get results.

You can recognise good muffin top exercises as the ones which target:

• The gluteus maximus and gluteus medius
     - Often referred to as the ‘glutes’ by trainers
     - Known to you and me as the large muscles that make up your butt and the slightly smaller muscles above your butt on either side (right where your muffin top is).

• The erector spinae
      - The muscles on either side of your spine which help to stabilise and strengthen your body
      - More commonly referred to as the ‘lower back muscles’.

• The latissimus dorsi
      - Referred to as the ‘lats’ by trainers
      - Covers the area from your lower back up to just below your shoulder blade on either side of your spine.

• The obliques
      - The muscles which run down the sides of your stomach and help with twisting, bending and stabilising

• The abdominals
      - Known as the ‘abs’
      - These are your stomach muscles and it is important to exercise them equally as much as your back muscles to maintain proper posture and avoid imbalance.

The following exercises all target at least one, if not all of the muscles listed above and are used by me in my workout regimen.

Hula Hooping

Hula Hooping is a great way to tone your waist, stomach, hips, butt and thighs, as well as getting that all important cardio workout so your body can start burning your excess fat.

For me this makes it the best exercise for your muffin top – it ticks all the boxes and it barely feels like a work out because it’s so fun!

You will need:

• A large weighted hula hoop, like the ones available from
• Comfortable clothing
• A large clear space.

You can then start hooping!

For those of you who don’t know how, you can watch an instructional video here

I usually aim to do at least 10 minutes of hula hooping, 6 days a week, although I often get carried away and go for longer (it’s so fun!).

Once you get good at it, there are all sorts of moves you can do to keep challenging yourself and progressing.

Standing Pilates Exercises

Doing a variety of pilates exercises every other day (building up to 6 days a week) is a great way to tone your thighs, glutes and hips.

The best way to learn these exercises is to see the technique (as this is important to get right if you really want to hone in on your muffin top).

Click on the links below to watch instructional videos for each one.

The Muffin Top Leg Lift
Toe Lifts
Plie Squat
Spinal Stretch

Hardcore exercises

If you’re really serious about shifting your muffin top and replacing it with lean, toned muscle, I would really recommend you do some of these more intense exercises.

I do one of these, once a week (alongside the other exercises) and although they are killers, I have really noticed a difference and I’m even considering bumping it up to twice a week now!

Hip Extension
Leg Raises
The Plank
Single Leg Fire Hydrant
Sissy Squats
Hip Raises
Oblique Crunches

General Exercises
It is also important to do cardio exercises, such as walking, cycling or rowing for 20 minutes, 6 days of the week so that your body can burn the fat that’s covering your muscles and giving you your muffin top.

I find rowing to be the most effective form of cardio exercise as it is low impact and helps to tone your stomach and hips at the same time (two birds with one stone!).

I am currently building up to doing 10 minutes of rowing 6 days of the week (I also do 10 minutes of hula hooping), which should get me burning fat even faster!

Figuring Out A Regime

Now that you have a ton of exercises to experiment with, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and wondering how to figure out a regime that’s going to get you the best results.

I am not in the amazing shape that those fitness trainers from the videos are in, but I am seeing consistent weight loss and am starting to feel a lot more toned and energised.

For this reason I have decided to share my personal exercise regime.


• Changing your diet is thought to be 80% of the battle with weight loss (see my post What To Eat To Get Rid Of Your Muffin Top) so you must make changes to your eating habits to get the results you want
• Always consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise regime
• This is my personal plan which works well for me. If you are not seeing results, feel free to swap in some different exercises and tailor the regime to you.


5 - 10 minutes warm up
10 minutes hula hooping
12 reps each of the standing pilates exercises (I’ve built this up from about 5 reps each)
10 minutes on the rowing machine
Reps to fatigue (as many reps as I can do before I can ‘feel the burn’ in my muscles) of one of the hardcore exercises


10 minutes of hula hooping (starting and finishing slowly to warm up and down)


5 - 10 minutes warm up
10 minutes hula hooping
12 reps each of the standing pilates exercises
30 minutes swimming with a local swimming group in the evening


10 minutes hula hooping (starting and finishing slowly)


5 – 10 minutes warm up
10 minutes hula hooping
12 reps each of the standing pilates exercises
Walk to pick the kids up from school (about 30 minutes there and back)


5 – 10 minutes warm up
10 minutes hula hooping
12 reps each of the standing pilates exercises
Family excursion (normally nature trails on foot, taking about 3 hours)


Day of rest!

All in all I generally spend about an hour every other day working out.

Having two young kids also means that I’m quite active just keeping them occupied, so now that I’ve changed my diet as well as started a targeted regime, I’m really seeing a difference.

I understand that a lot of you may not be in the same ‘stay-at-home-mom’ situation that I am in, but I think it would be a good start to find just ten minutes for hula hooping each day, then see where you can go from there.

I’m not going to suggest getting up earlier to do these, but how about preparing dinner the night before so you have more time in the evenings to get in shape? I don’t know your routines, but I think it is important to make time for keeping fit.

The Results

As I mentioned before, I am not skinny, but I am on my way to dropping a dress size (from a US 12/UK 14 to a US 10/UK 12) due to the tone I’ve achieved from these exercises, and the fat loss I’ve achieved from my diet plan.

If you’re following this regime and the diet plan I would say that you would see results after about a month.

I am going down a dress size after two months of dieting and exercising and I see that as a fast result!

Next time I will be looking into Muffin Top Surgery to help those of you who are really struggling to decide if it’s a good idea for you.

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