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Do Weighted Side Bends Reduce Back Fat?

By Jody Braverman ; Updated January 30, 2018

For a strong core and chiseled oblique muscles, you can't go wrong including weighted side bends in your exercise routine. However, side bends on their own will not reduce back fat.

To lose fat from any part of your body, you need to control your diet and get regular cardiovascular exercise to burn calories. A total-body strength-training program, including weighted side bends, will also help you develop lean muscle mass and turn your body into a back fat-burning machine.

The Purpose of Weighted Side Bends

Side bends are a strength-training exercise that primarily works the oblique muscles on the sides of your waist, and secondarily targets the abs and the lower back muscles. It's a valuable exercise for developing the muscles of your core, which helps support your spine and prevent back injury.

But doing side bends doesn't burn many calories, which is what you need to do to burn fat -- on your back and in other areas of the body.

Calorie Deficit -- the Key to Fat Loss

To lose fat you need to create a calorie deficit, which means you take in fewer calories through food and drink than your body burns through physiological activity, like digestion and respiration, and physical activity, including everything from walking to playing sports.

Figuring out your calorie needs for weight loss is complicated, because it depends on lots of factors, including your current weight, fitness level and gender. You can get an estimate using an online calorie calculator; your doctor or a nutritionist can give you a more accurate number.

Look at Your Diet First

Physical activity plays a huge role in fat loss, but your diet is even more important. You can exercise all you want and you won't lose back fat if you're eating a fatty, sugary, processed diet too high in calories. Switch to eating a clean, calorie-controlled diet that focuses on fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, whole grains, nuts and seeds and small amounts of low-fat dairy.

You Can't Spot-Reduce

Even though you might have more fat on your back than in other areas of your body, you can't target fat loss from one specific area. No specific exercise -- side bends included -- will meet that goal. You have to burn total body fat, which will result in reduced back fat.

You Need Cardio

Any type of activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat burns calories. Yard work, dancing, jogging, swimming, playing tennis, fencing -- as long as your heart rate rises, you're burning calories. The key to losing back fat is to exercise regularly -- daily is ideal.

That being said, the higher the intensity at which you work out, the better. A brisk walk will burn calories, but a jog will burn more. Jogging burns calories, but sprinting burns more. The more calories you burn, the quicker you'll lose that back fat.

High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise

When it comes to good, better and best -- the latter is scientifically proven to be a method called high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In this type of cardio workout, you work as hard as you can for a brief period and then recover at a slower pace for an equal amount of time. You alternate between these periods of all out exercise and recovery for the duration of your workout. This type of training has been shown to be more effective for fat loss than steady state cardio.

Where Strength Training Comes In

Resistance exercise, of which weighted side bends are an example, is also an important component of fat loss. Resistance training builds muscle mass, which raises your metabolic rate, or the speed at which your body naturally burns calories. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more efficiently your body uses excess calories, and the easier it is to lose back fat, and fat in other areas of your body.

You need a balanced, total-body strength-training routine to meet this goal. If you only do back and core exercises, you will end up with muscular imbalances that will cause musculoskeletal problems.

Two or three days a week, do exercises that work all your major muscle groups -- arms, shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, abs, obliques and legs. When training your core, include those weighted side bends, which will help develop strong and toned lower back muscles, obliques and abs.

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