While your 40s and 50s have become the new 20s and 30s, middle age still comes with unexpected changes to your physique. One such change is the notorious “middle-aged spread”—extra belly fat that tends to accumulate when your metabolism slows down and your body doesn’t torch as many calories as you age, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Fortunately, we’re here to deliver some heartening news. While age might make shedding those pounds a tad more challenging, it’s far from impossible. We have some of the best strength exercises for women to melt middle-aged spread belly fat, so gear up for fat loss.
Incorporating strength training exercises into your exercise routine can help you sculpt a toned figure, boost your metabolism, and incinerate belly fat. We chatted with Rachel MacPherson, an ACE-certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews, who shares 10 of the best strength exercises for women to melt middle-aged spread belly fat. Strength training can be just as effective for weight loss as cardio.
Read on for the exercises and detailed instructions. And after, check out these 4 Floor Exercises for Women To Melt Belly Fat After 30.
This anti-rotation move zeros in on your obliques, helping to tighten up the sides of your abdomen. “To perform this exercise, you must fight against a rotational pull using your core muscles,” says MacPherson. “It activates deep core muscles to tighten and stabilize your core. It helps cinch in the waist due to strengthening the deeper core muscles.”
Stand with your left side beside a cable machine or anchored resistance band at about chest height, and hold the handle in your left hand. Stand upright and brace your core, standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the cable or band in both hands, and push the handle at about chest height. Hold the handle out for 10 slow breaths while bracing against the resistance of the weight. Aim for two to three sets of eight to 10 reps.
“Dumbbell pullovers are fantastic for working your pectoralis major, which is the main muscle of your chest, as well as the lats on your back,” explains MacPherson. “They also work the supporting muscles called your serratus on your sides, helping keep your shoulder blades and joints strong and healthy. This exercise is ideal for improving posture.”
Lie with your upper back on a bench (perpendicular) and your feet on the ground. Your feet should be flat and your hips should be raised in line with your back. Hold a dumbbell between your hands with your palms facing up. (You can also hold a lightweight dumbbell in each hand.) Lift the weight above your chest with a slight bend in your elbows. Maintain this position with your arms while you lower them behind your head. Return to the start by pulling the dumbbell back over your chest until almost, but not quite vertical, to maintain the tension. Perform two or three sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Beyond their calorie-torching benefits, kettlebell swings engage your core, helping to melt away that middle-aged spread. “Kettlebell swings help build power, stability, and strength in your hips, back, and glutes. Your body works as a unit when performing a kettlebell swing, which makes it a functional movement that can improve your daily performance with anything from bending, lifting groceries, kids, or any household chores,” says MacPherson.
Hold a kettlebell with both hands in an overhand grip. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Hinge forward at your hips and bend your knees slightly. Maintain a slight arch in your back, and keep your chest up. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs while exhaling. Explosively force the kettle forward and stand, locking out your hips. Do two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
“Goblet squats are an excellent alternative to barbell squats,” states MacPherson. “You can get much deeper with a goblet squat because your center of gravity shifts forward, allowing deeper stretching in your quads and improving your chances of growing muscle. Goblet squats also hit your glutes, calves, and core.”
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grasp a kettlebell overhand or a dumbbell in both hands, and hold the weight in front of your chest with your elbows pointing down and tucked in. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees to squat, keeping the weight in place. Squat as far as you can with a straight back before powerfully pushing through your heels to return to the starting position. Aim for two or three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Don’t be fooled by the name; face pulls are about posture and upper-back strength. “Banded or cable face pulls are a strengthening and corrective exercise that helps strengthen the rear shoulders and upper back to prevent hunching and poor posture. These areas are often weakened and stretched due to a lifestyle of sitting or hunching over phones, computers, counters, and sinks,” says MacPherson.
Anchor a band or cable, and grasp the handles. Step back until there’s tension in the band, then lift the handles to eye or nose level. Flare your elbows out so they’re pointing behind you. Lead with your elbows to pull the band toward you, stopping when your elbows are as far back as you can manage comfortably. Squeeze your shoulder blades for two seconds, then release slowly and with control. Perform two or three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Looking to target those side abs? If so, kettlebell windmills are your answer. “Kettlebell windmills require strength, stability, and mobility to perform and work your entire core, including your obliques,” states MacPherson. “Oblique muscles are on the sides of your torso and help with twisting and turning, while the deeper muscles pull in your abdomen.”
Clean and press a kettlebell overhead with your right arm, keeping it above you with your elbow locked out. Push your right hip out to the right, and bend from the hips to the left while keeping your gaze on the kettlebell above your head. Reach toward the floor with your left hand, keeping your arm close to your body. Once you reach down as far as you can safely with your mobility, pause and return to the starting position with your raised arm locked out safely overhead. Go for two or three sets of eight to 10 reps per side.
Next up on our list of strength exercises for women to melt middle-aged spread belly fat is the dumbbell wood chop. “Dumbbell wood chops are a rotational exercise for building core strength and stability,” explains MacPherson. “Unlike movements like crunches that only work in one plane of motion using flexion of the spine, dumbbell wood chops use a more natural twisting and rotating motion that you use during daily tasks, which develops more functional abdominal muscles, pulling in your abdomen and protecting your spine.”
Hold a dumbbell with both hands, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift the dumbbell toward your right side. Keep your arms straight throughout this entire movement. Twist your torso, and carefully rotate your legs to bring the dumbbell down to your left. Bend at the knees while dropping your hips to bring the dumbbell toward the ground. Repeat by lifting the dumbbell back to the right and overhead. Do two to three sets of eight to 10 reps per side.
Stability is the name of the game here. “Roll-outs are an extremely effective core exercise that will work your rectus abdominus (six-pack muscles) and deep core muscles that act like a girdle to tighten and strengthen your core,” says MacPherson.
Get down in front of an exercise ball within arm’s reach. Rest your forearms on top of the ball with your elbows bent and your body straight. Roll the ball away from you while straightening your torso. Use your core muscles to maintain stability. Roll back slowly, using your core muscles to contract and bring the ball back to the starting position. Repeat for two to three sets of 10 to 20 reps.
Wall sits alone can be intense. Adding weight will take it to the next level to help you burn belly fat. “Wall sits are an isometric exercise that helps to build muscular endurance and strength,” says MacPherson. “Isometric exercises recruit more motor units, which is important for building strength and muscle mass. Performing wall sits will increase your heart rate while strengthening and building muscle, plus increasing muscular endurance so you can be more active, lean, and fit.”
Choose an appropriate weight, such as a kettlebell or medicine ball, and hold it at chest height. Press your back against a wall, and slide down the wall, stepping your feet out and bending your knees until your knees are 90 degrees. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Aim for two or three sets of 45 to 60 seconds holds.
This list of strength exercises for women to melt middle-aged spread belly fat ends with dumbbell step-ups. MacPherson says, “Step-ups build glute and leg strength and burn many calories. They help you strengthen your joints and boost mobility in your knees, ankles, and hips to stay fit and active for years.”
Stand facing a bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand, and brace your core. Step onto the bench with one foot, and stand on the bench, bringing your other foot to touch the bench. Ensure all the power comes from the lead foot. Press through your foot, and activate your glutes and quads to lift you. Carefully lower the following foot back to the floor, then the stepping foot. Repeat using your opposite foot as the lead. Perform two or three sets of 10 to 12 reps per side.