As annoying as love handles are, it's not uncommon for guys to hold on to back fat—for a variety of reasons. "First, poor diet; eating whole foods that don’t inflame your body is a solid starting point," says Simon King, personal trainer and owner of Cre8 Fitness gym in London. "Second, neglecting the back muscles in training can sometimes be the cause since too many guys overtrain their chest and arms—the muscles they can see in the mirror—which can atrophy muscles in the back," he explains. You always want to incorporate compound movements in your training routines, like deadlifts, squats, pullups and pushups. "Third, a lack of high-intensity cardiovascular training can also be the pitfall since you need a multi-approached attack to really shift a stubborn fat storing area, and this form of training is really geared towards burning fat," he adds.
When it comes to your workouts, whether cardio- or strength-based, keep your training intensity high and stay consistent. If this is where you seem to struggle, get a training partner, use a stopwatch to time rest and log your training to ensure progress is taking place, or get a trainer to keep you accountable.
Here are 5 quick workouts that will help burn that stubborn back fat, courtesy of King.
Workout 1: The 200 Club
Directions: Complete 10 deadlifts followed by 10 pushups for 10 total rounds for time. Don't pause for rest. "Once the 200 reps are completed, note your time and aim to beat that next go-around," King says. Make sure you maintain safe and correct form throughout.
- Deadlifts x 10 (Beginners use 50% of bodyweight on bar; intermediate lifters use 75% of bodyweight; advanced lifters use 100% of bodyweight.)
- Pushups x 10
Workout 2: The Punisher
Directions: Perform the paired exercises as supersets keeping full range in your movements and a controlled tempo. "On each exercise, think about lowering down on the eccentric phase for roughly 3 seconds," King says. Complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes, resting only as needed. "Your score is the total reps completed, so if you did 4 full rounds you have a score of 152 (38 reps x 4 rounds)." Try to better your score each workout.
1A. Front squat x 6 (75% of your bodyweight on the bar)
1B. Pullups x 6
2A. Back squat x 10 (75% of your bodyweight on the bar)
2B. Alternating renegade row x 16 (10-15% of your bodyweight per dumbbell)
Workout 3: Solomon Challenge
Directions: Complete the following in order without rest. See if you can beat your time every time you do it. Six minutes is a solid benchmark, King says.
"The Solomon challenge is not for the faint-hearted but a surefire way to burn fat and increase your exercise intensity," King explains. "With the burpees, make sure your chest touches the floor to really turn this workout into a push/pull routine, giving your body good balance," he adds.
- Row x 200m
- Burpees x 21
- Row x 200m
- Burpees x 15
- Row x 200m
- Burpees x 9
Workout 4: Swing Tabata
Directions: "The aim of this workout is to complete 150 kettlebell swings coupled with a tabata circuit," King says. The combo will torch your back, glutes, and hamstrings (your posterior chain) without hammering your body too badly. For the circuit portion, King suggests using a watt or assault bike, but any gym bike will suffice.
- Kettlebell swings x 50 (Beginners use 16kg KB; intermediate lifters use 24kg KB; advanced lifters use 32kg KB)
- Bike sprints 4 x 20 seconds (as fast as you possibly can) with 10 seconds rest in between
- Kettlebell swings x 50
- Bike sprints 4 x 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest
- Kettlebell swings x 50
Note: Master perfect form with your kettlebell swing first so you don't reinforce faulty movement patterns that can lead to injury. Follow these tips for the perfect swing.
Workout 5: Row to Grow
Directions: Perform 3 rounds with 2 minutes rest in between.
"This workout is a not a race against time, so concentrate on recruiting the right muscles, working them to fatigue in order to develop the ones across your back," King says. This workout really pinpoints your back and core.
1. Bentover row x 10 (Choose a weight heavy enough that 10 reps are difficult.)
2. Straight-arm knee raises x 16 (Use dip bars.)
3. Single-arm row x 10 each side (Choose a weight heavy enough that 10 reps are difficult.)
4. TRX row x 10 (Stand with your body in a straight line, walking your feet forward so you’re at a 45-degree angle to the TRX anchor and there’s tension in the straps. Arms straight, palms facing one another, retract your shoulder blades and row your body up, tucking your elbows close to your body. The closer you are to the ground, the more difficult the exercise becomes.)
5. Cable rotations/wood chops x 8 each side (Find a weight heavy enough that you can feel a pull through your obliques as you perform the exercise. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart next to a cable tower. Set the handle attachment at chest height. Interlock your hands around the handle, turn your torso while maintaining a stiff arm as you pull across your body. Slowly return to the start.)