In a perfect world, you’d be able to pick and choose where you lose and gain weight. Unfortunately, when your body needs energy, it takes it from all over your body—not just from your hips because you’re sick of your love handles and those dreaded areas of fat. But if you’re specifically wondering how to lose hip fat, there are tweaks that can be made to your diet and exercise plan (and your attitude toward helpful living in general) that make shrinking your hips a more feasible endeavor.
“The way to reduce love handle fat is the same process to reduce arm fat, leg fat, etc! You have to reduce your overall body fat percentage [by] eating less and moving more,” says Sarah Bowmar, certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition certified, from Bowmar Nutrition.
So what exactly can you do to lose hip fat? We turned to some of the country’s leading health and fitness experts to find out the most effective strategies for how to lose hip fat, all of which eschew quick fixes—and instead, encourage long-term weight loss results.
How to lose weight in your hips at the gym.
First, these are the exercises you can add to your gym routine to tighten and tone your hip and lower ab area.
“You will be able to somewhat target those love handles—just keep in mind that results will be seen all over your body when you have a body fat decrease goal,” says fitness expert Adriana Gentile, whose fitness and nutrition program helps her clients achieve balance through facilitating healthy digestion, increasing natural energy, balancing hormones, deep cellular cleansing, decreasing body fat, and increasing muscle mass.
Her biggest suggestion for that “little in the middle” look that will also perk up your booty is targeting your glutes.
“Heavy resistance training in all three glute muscles—yes, there are three,” Gentile says. “Your gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle that makes up your booty. This is important to hit when the main concern is losing weight in your hips because we need to shape your derriere so that the muscle becomes tight and sticks out a bit further which gives the illusion of less fat on the hips. Exercises that target your glute are big lifts like glute bridges, donkey kicks, and deadlifts.”
“Think of any glute movement that hinges at the hips,” Gentile continues. “The spots often missed are the actual muscles that you want to target to create tight, lean looking hips and that’s the glute minimus and medius. These two are on the sides of your bum, more so on the upper region. Great exercises to target these areas are clamshells, standing and seated hip abductions, side to side shuffles, etc. Basically, anything that moves your leg in a lateral position away from your body/midsection.”
“Most personal trainers no longer endorse spot training, since scientific evidence supports that it doesn’t successfully eliminate fat in the targeted area,” says personal yoga and group fitness instructor Amanda Murdock. She goes on to explain that body fat, unfortunately, works like the ol’ “first in, last out” method.
“The first place you gain weight will be the last place you lose weight, and that’s usually the belly and hips.” Exercises focused on your abdomen, however, do help you to tone that area; but the fastest way to lose excess fat in your stomach and hips is to perform exercises that cause you to lose excess fat overall (like from those intense exercises mentioned above).
“Slow, steady cardio—think long jogs—will have you going nowhere…slowly,” says Noah Neiman, co-founder of Rumble-Boxing in New York City. “It’s one of the most over-used and least efficient ways to lose weight.”
Neiman suggests trading in your long jogs for some harder, more aggressively paced intervals—also known as high-intensity interval training (HITT), a type of training that gets and keeps your heart rate up to burn more fat in less time. The way it works is you push your body to its maximum for 20 to 30 seconds of an exercise (like sprinting), then rest or do a less intense version of that exercise for one to two times that amount, and then keep repeating this pattern for 20 minutes. See ya, squishy sides!
“It’s best to do moves that incorporate multiple muscle groups since you can’t really spot train one specific problem area,” says Physique 57 co-founder Tanya Becker. “Barre exercises are highly effective since your body becomes the machinery and your muscles have to work together to support your balance at the barre.” Becker also notes that it’s important to combine sprints that incorporate cardio, as well as strength training. “This combination yields quick results when you’re trying to trim and tone all of your muscles.”
We already covered the unfortunate truth that we can’t pick and choose where we lose and gain weight meaning that spot training is vastly over-rated. “Doing core strengthening exercises, however, are important because having a strong core will give you more strength in your workouts,” says personal yoga and group fitness instructor Amanda Murdock. “And we already know more muscle means less muffin top.”
“If you want to slim your hips, think of your entire lower body,” says Rachel Piskin creator of Chaise Fitness. “Focus on exercises that build long, lean muscles. This will lengthen your hamstrings and quads, which as a result will create a more lean and toned lower body.” Exercises you should consider include opposite leg and arm lifts and yoga-inspired moves like twisted chair and downward dog.
Balance exercises are a great way to slim the hips and melt love handles. Piskin suggests, for example, going into a lunge then pushing up to a one-legged balance. This will work the core, glutes, inner and outer thighs to help trim the body.
“One of the best exercises is placing a ball between the inner thighs and going into a bridge position with the hips,” says Peskin. “Squeeze from the inner thighs the ball 30 times and then lift your heels and repeat. Take away the ball and get into bridge position again, squeezing your knees together and pulsing your hips up 30 times. This series can be repeated three to five times.
Metcon (aka Metabolic conditioning) is, according to Neiman, the ultimate way to train both hard and smart. “Metcon is a way of training that both builds a lean body and keeps that metabolism roaring throughout the day; even when you stop working out.”
What does that mean for you? It means that, even when you’re watching TV and noshing on your protein-filled sandwich post-workout, you’ll be burning calories. An example of a Metcon training circuit would be to do burpees, jump squats, jumping lunges, and rows for 30 seconds each—at a high intensity—followed by a 30-second break; you repeat the circuit five times.
We asked Justin Norris and Taylor Gainor, co-founders of the LIT Method, to put together a special hip workout circuit that can be done anywhere, anytime. Ready? Let’s do it!
Start with a side plank for 30 seconds on each side (drop your hips toward the mat and lift them back up towards the ceiling, keeping your core muscles engaged).
Then do 30 seconds of kick unders (start in high plank position, take one leg and aim it towards your elbow, alternating sides).
Next, do squats to oblique twists for 30 seconds (start with your feet shoulder-width apart, cradle your hands behind your head; after you squat and begin to rise, take your opposite knee to opposite elbow, alternating sides).
Next, do 30 seconds of bicycles (lie flat on your back, hands cradled behind your neck, squeeze your core while alternate elbows to opposite knees, with a slow and controlled tempo).
Finish off with knee-to-opposite-elbow mountain climbers (in plank position explosively drive your knee to opposite elbow preparing your other leg to move as your leg comes back to starting position) and then plank marchers (in forearm plank position, slowly drive your knee to the outer part of your elbow, alternating sides).
How to lose weight in your hips with lifestyle changes.
Besides breaking up a sweat, there are other lifestyle changes you can make that will help you drop those pounds and hopefully reduce your hip size, too.
Hear us out here—you’re going to want to crunch a few numbers to make sure you’re on the right track.
“Determine your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure)—this is the total calories you burn per day through exercise and calories needed to simply keep you alive (sleep, digestion, walking, etc),” explains Bowmar. “[Then] determine your BMR (basal metabolic rate)—this is the total calories needed to keep you alive. Let’s say your BMR is 1,500 and your TDEE is 2,500. You should reduce your calories or increase activity to create a deficit of 250-500 calories a day!”
“Different foods generate different thermogenic responses. Whenever you eat anything, it takes energy (calories) to transform that food into something you can metabolize. There are certain foods that take a lot more energy to metabolize, making your body work harder for the energy it takes in, and helping cut back on your overall calorie gain,” Gentile says. “Some popular thermogenic ingredients are turmeric, garlic, coconut oil, green tea, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, chili peppers (cayenne pepper), and salmon. Combining resistance training with eating more thermogenic foods we are more likely to be putting ourselves in a position to change our body composition from less fat to more muscle!”
And just so you know, here’s how you can learn how to harness the power of tea to lose weight.
Watch out for powdered foods—including protein powder, peanut butter powder, and Crystal Light—which Murdock often finds are the culprit for gas and bloating with her clients. “In many cases, these can not only make you feel bloated but can also cause visible bulging in your hips.”
While you might have to think twice about your protein powders, protein is good. “Studies have shown diets rich in lean proteins have the best body composition,” says Neiman. “They keep you full longer and release hormones that help keep your body at a favorable weight. So, eat those whole organic eggs proudly.” Chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, and nuts are also good options for protein especially if you’re trying to lose weight in hips.
Stay away from items labeled low-fat or sugar-free. Becker cautions that most of these diet-based foods are highly processed or use substitutes that have very little nutritional value. Instead, she recommends snacking on nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods like raw almonds, carrots, and hummus, or apple slices dipped in raw honey, all of which help provide energy and keep you satiated between meals. She also recommends steaming or boiling your vegetables whenever you can to get the most nutrients from them.
Pay attention to how much fiber you’re consuming; it’s amazing for satiety and important for gut health and optimal digestion. Murdock does issue a note of caution: “If you’re eating a high fiber diet without drinking a lot of water, you’ll become gassy and you’ll notice bloating, which looks a lot like fat but isn’t. I speak from fiber experience. It doesn’t stop me from eating it, but it does stop me from freaking out when I bloat.”
Studies show diets higher in healthy fats are better for your waistline. “So, don’t feel as bad for crushing that whole jar of almond butter at midnight last night….well maybe not the whole jar,” says Neiman. Nuts, dark chocolate, fatty fish, chia seeds, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil are also good sources of healthy fats.
Murdock tells her clients to load their plates with fish. Wild-caught Alaskan Salmon to be precise. “The fatty acid composition is great for your hair, nails, and waistline.”
While there are pros and cons to caffeine, it has been shown time and time again that coffee can improve athletic performance. Drink your brew a few minutes before your workout and it will give you an energy boost to help tackle those fat-burning, calorie-torching workout moves and burn hip fat.
“Unless it’s for [specific] reasons, eat up,” says Murdock. “Organic and grass-fed lean cuts of meat are an amino acid powerhouse. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, protein is the building blocks of muscle, and muscle keeps you lean.”
“Think you’re hungry? Chances are you’re dehydrated and it’s messing with your metabolism,” says Neiman. Watching your water intake is especially important if you consume a lot of sodium, which is dehydrating (this tends to be the case if your diet is high in processed foods). Remember that food can be a great source for water—think watermelon and cucumbers. Several of the foods on our list of the most filling healthy snacks have high water density!
“Manual lymphatic drainage is a gentle form of massage that accelerates the circulation of the lymph—fluids that support your immune system—throughout the body,” Gentile says. “Cellulite is the accumulation of toxins inside your fat cells. Your lymphatic system eliminates toxins and moves fat; therefore lymphatic drainage will help reduce cellulite. You have the option to go seek professional assistance or you could do it at home with a lymphatic drainage body tool/paddle. These are easy to find online!”
Yes, making sure you’re getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep can majorly impact your weight-loss goals.
“The relationship between sleep and weight loss has long been documented by science. Studies show that shorter sleepers tend to have higher body mass indexes, higher body fat percentages, and higher amounts of visceral body fat,” says Aaron Brown, a certified personal trainer and research associate for the global business at Ultimate Performance.
“Lack of sleep puts you at higher risk of weight gain—and of that gained weight, more of it is likely to come from body fat. Sleep deprivation also reduces our ability to control hunger and satiety and increases the likelihood that we will reach for higher-calorie foods that make managing our weight more challenging.”
Brown suggests you aim to get around 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night, and he also shared some easy ways you can improve your sleep quality to support more effective weight loss:
- Limiting daytime napping, which can lead to problems with sleep onset when it comes to bedtime.
- Getting a good amount of sunlight exposure early in the day which research shows is directly linked to improved ability to sleep at night time.
- Setting a regular bedtime routine and sticking to it—our bodies need rhythm and routine.
- Controlling your sleep environment as best you can—darken the room in the hours before bed, invest in blackout blinds, and switch off any light sources within the room (even light from mobile phone chargers can affect sleep).
- Avoiding blue light exposure in the few hours before bed is important too, especially if you use screens, tablets, or mobile phones.
One thing you do want to keep in mind when you’re laser-focused slimming down: you want to be consistent when it comes to pursuing your goals, even if that means trying to lose hip fat.
“Just like everything else in life, consistency is key. If you don’t exercise your glutes, you’ll lose them. If you don’t eat healthy foods, it’ll catch up to you. If you don’t keep up your lymphatic massage, the cellulite has a higher chance of coming back,” Gentile says.
Bad weight takes time to put on—and it takes time to drop off, too. So you’re going to want to be patient and push yourself. But it’s much easier than you may think to make healthy changes that will get you the results you want.
“I highly recommend finding an exercise program you enjoy doing. This will actually keep you excited to keep going back,” Bowmar says, “Finally, I recommend finding meals that you genuinely enjoy eating and eat those for a week, [as] reducing the number of meals you have to come up with makes sticking to a diet that much easier.”