While some of us have trouble making our belly fat disappear, other people can’t rid their bodies of back fat no matter how hard they try. Also referred to as a “bra bulge”, back fat is that that annoying band of chub that clings to the back muscles and creates a fold of skin above the waistline or a bulge that peeks out of a bra band.
While we’d love to answer the age-old question of how to get rid of back fat, it’s actually impossible to spot-reduce flab. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. If you’re serious about firming up your back, you’ll need to decrease your overall body fat, which means you’ll look slimmer everywhere—not just below your bra band. (Woohoo!)
Adding fat-burning foods to your diet, tweaking your daily routine, and adding some targeted strength training exercises to your workouts are the most effective ways to sculpt a lean back.
We’ve put together the best tips for how to get rid of back fat so you can firm up and feel confident in your own skin.
Exercises to get rid of back fat.
Target your backside and core (the muscles in your midsection that wrap around your abs and into your sides and back) with these effective—yet simple—fitness tips and exercises to reduce back fat.
The USDA may recommend an hour of cardio five times a week for optimal heart health, but jogging alone won’t help you lose your back fat. “You need a combination of both weight training and cardio to get fat off your body,” Mike Duffy, CPT, explains, adding, “Cardio alone will only train one type of muscle fiber and you’ll only be building one part of your fat-burning furnace. I see many people doing tons of cardio every day and not lifting weights. They never change the way they look.”
Adding HIIT and weight training sessions to your workout a few times a week will also put “you in oxygen debt, so your body will have to play ‘catch up’ after the workout is done. This increases the rate of metabolism to tap into more fat loss during and after the workout,” Duffy explains.
To work your core muscles and stabilize your back to get rid of fat, try this no-gym workout:
- Place two dumbbells on the floor and assume a push-up position, with your hands on the dumbbells about shoulder-width apart. Your body should be as stiff and straight as a plank, forming a straight line from head to toe. There’s an added degree of difficulty as you work to prevent the dumbbells from rolling out from under you.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds.
- If you want to further target the back area, lift one arm at a time to shoulder height and hold it for a few seconds.
While most people think of a pushup as a chest exercise, its so much more than that. “Push-ups help to increase lumbar stability with a focus on the spinal erectors,” says Jay Cardiello, celebrity personal trainer and star of ABC’s My Diet Is Better Than Yours. That basically means that the exercise helps strengthen the back muscles to support the spine, preventing back pain and giving you a lean physique—which is exactly what you want when your goal is to get rid of back fat.
To do push-ups as an exercise to get rid of back fat:
- Lie on the floor facedown with your hands at your sides, just outside your shoulders, and your feet hip-width apart.
- Raise your hips, thighs, and chest off the floor so your weight is supported by your toes and palms. This is the starting position.
- Exhale as you straighten your arms and push your body up until your arms are straight. Try to keep your head, hips, and ankles aligned as though your body is a straight plank.
- After a brief pause at the top, inhale as you lower yourself down.
- Repeat for ten repetitions.
Sick of the bulge that pokes out around your shoulder blades? Well, stop stressing! Studies show that stress tends to increase levels of cortisol, the hormone that donates those extra pounds to your backside. De-stressing can be as simple as taking up a weekly yoga class and relishing every second of savasana. Plus, holding and breathing through poses such as warrior 3 and half-moon can help strengthen and tone your back and core muscles.
Doing side crunches a few times a week can tuck in your abs and sculpt your obliques so they don’t spill over your slacks. To perform the exercise:
- Place a Swiss ball a couple of feet from a wall.
- Rest one hip against the ball while bracing your splayed feet in the crux of the wall and floor.
- Clasp your fingers behind your head and push the higher elbow toward the wall until your torso is nearly upright.
- Reverse the motion, getting a good stretch in your rib cage before pulling your torso back toward the wall.
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This exercise targets the middle back, lats, and shoulders—giving you a super-sculpted back.
- Plant your feet firmly about hip-width apart.
- With a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing each other), bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist; as you bend, make sure to keep your back straight until it’s at a 60-degree angle. The weights should hang directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor. This is your starting position.
- While keeping the torso stationary, bend your elbows and lift the dumbbells to your side (as you exhale), keeping your arms close to your body.
- On the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a second.
- Slowly lower the weights again to the starting position as you inhale.
- Repeat for 10 repetitions.
RELATED: The 7-day diet that melts your belly fat fast.
Next time you hit the gym, work your “lats”, the muscles around your middle back that attach to your vertebral column, with lat pull-downs.
- Start by sitting on the pull-down machine that has a wide bar attached.
- Then, grab the bar with your palms facing forward, making sure that your hands are placed at a wider distance than your shoulders.
- Stick your chest out, breathe out, and then pull the bar down until it reaches your upper chest.
- Hold briefly and then raise the bar back up slowly.
Just make sure that you feel your back muscles at work rather than your forearms. Typically hit the gym in the a.m.? Don’t miss these ways to get motivated for morning workouts!
The best diet changes and foods to get rid of back fat.
These simple changes to your diet and routine can help you lose weight in general, taking you one step closer to banishing back fat for good!
Eat more sweet potatoes.
Think you can lose back fat if you’re a carbaholic? Think again! Sweet potatoes are digested slowly and keep you feeling fuller and energized longer than many other carbs. They’re also loaded with satiating fiber and carotenoids, antioxidants that stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which prevents calories from being converted into fat.
Hydrate with H2O.
Sometimes when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually just dehydrated. And that’s why we recommend gulping down the daily recommended eight to ten glasses of water. It can fill you up without setting you back a single calorie! Not a fan of plain plain H2O? Slicing up whole citrus fruits contributes d-limonene (an antioxidant found in the peels) to your cup, which can help your body excrete toxins and fat. So prep a pitcher of detox water and enjoy sipping your way slim.
Fill up on fiber.
Fiber is notorious for keeping you full longer, so loading up on this macronutrient will help you kick cravings to the curb—and lose inches off your back—fast! While many know that oatmeal is a great source of fiber, one cup of oat bran packs even more of the nutrient plus 20 grams of muscle-building protein for the same amount of calories.
Certain prebiotic foods that contain oligofructose can help even more. Oligofructose is a type of fiber that can boost levels of ghrelin, a hormone that controls hunger. Other potent sources of the nutrient include:
- Jerusalem artichokes (also referred to as sunchokes)
It may seem weird, but if your body is inflamed, it’s far more difficult to sculpt a leaner figure and part with pesky back fat. Things like refined flours, artificial sweeteners, and processed meats can all lead to the development of chronic inflammation—which not only hikes up the digits on your scale, but also leads to other problems like drowsiness and digestive issues. Beat inflammation by avoiding these inflammatory foods and adding antioxidant-rich snacks like dark chocolate (make sure its cacao content is over 70 percent) and berries to your diet. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all great sources of inflammation-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids that can help to slim your back.
Brew a cup of green tea.
By now, we’ve all probably heard of green tea’s fat-busting effects. But, make way for its far more powerful cousin, matcha. According to Kristen Carlucci, RD, matcha green tea has more EGCG (a powerful antioxidant that increases levels of the hunger-banishing hormone CCK) than standard green tea. “One study found that drinking the stuff after exercise can increase your fat burn by up to 25 percent,” says Carlucci. So follow up those bent-over dumbbell rows with a matcha protein shake to trim the fat off your upper and lower back.
Cut back on sodium.
Although salt may seem innocent, flavoring even the blandest foods without any additional calories, it can actually cause rapid weight gain and bloating that can contribute to your unsightly bra bulge. Consuming more than the daily recommended 2,300 milligrams per day (1,500 mg if you have high blood pressure) can spike cravings and cause you to eat more. “The biggest moment-to-moment benefit of reducing salt intake is that you won’t be carrying that extra fluid on your body,” explains Jessica Crandall, RD, of VitalRD. So if you need a quick fix to de-bloat fast, stay away from the salt shaker.
Lifestyle tips to lose overall body (and back) weight.
Besides working out and changes your diet, there are some general lifestyle changes you can make that will accelerate fat loss.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Skimping on sleep can result in lower levels of leptin—the hormone that inhibits hunger, which is bad news when you’re trying to trim fat. “The dropping levels of this hormone sends a message to the brain that there is a shortage of food and increases your appetite. This surge in appetite makes comfort food more appealing, causing you to over indulge in these types of foods,” Cardiello tells us. Also, getting a consistent number of shut-eye hours every night may be a bit more important than how many hours you actually get. An erratic sleep schedule is scientifically proven to cause irregular changes in our hormones, leading to a bigger appetite and subsequently, a flabbier backside. Not getting enough shut-eye isn’t the only thing that could be slowing your progress. These little things making you fatter and fatter could also be to blame.
In a perfect world without work deadlines or traffic, we’d consume three home-cooked meals a day. But since life doesn’t tend to play out that way, preparing your meals in advance will save you a whole lot of time, fat, and frustration. Spending a few hours cooking healthy meals in bulk once or twice a week will help you stay on track so that you can avoid any temptations (in the form of frozen dinners or soda) when the hunger hits. A cleaner diet = less fat on your back and everywhere else, too.
Vary your calories, otherwise known as “calorie cycling.”
There’s a good chance that varying your caloric intake can keep your cravings and back fat at bay. Believe it or not, your body will get used to a consistent amount of calories, even if that amount is on the lower side. So even if you’ve been religiously eating only 1,300 calories a day, after a while this can result in plateaued weight loss. According to research, a calorie shifting diet can help you lose significant weight and fat loss.
How can you use calorie cycling to lose back fat? Trick your metabolism by eating 1,200 to 1,400 calories one day and then indulge in 1,600 to 1,800 the next day. As long as you’re maintaining your average caloric intake but switching up the amounts in which you ingest the calories, your metabolism will kick-start into fat-burning mode and torch the bulge.