5 Moves for a Trimmer Waist Without a Single Sit-Up

Tony Bonvechio
by Tony Bonvechio
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5 Moves for a Trimmer Waist Without a Single Sit-Up

A chiseled midsection is the centerpiece of a well-balanced physique—even more than a pair of big biceps. But a trim waist can be hard to sculpt.

Despite what magazines may tell you, you can’t simply trim your waistline with a few simple exercises. The concept of spot reduction (i.e., using exercise to lose fat in a specific area or body part) is a myth, but with a smart plan and hard work, you can unveil sleek abs and obliques.

We won’t sugarcoat it (pun intended): A smaller waist starts in the kitchen. A smart nutritional approach that reduces overall calories to induce weight loss is necessary to strip away the fat that hides your abs and obliques. However, a handful of exercises can jump-start the fat-loss process.

Don’t waste your time with endless sit-ups or side bends. Here are 5 exercises that, in combination with smart nutrition, will trim your waist:


To reveal a slimmer midsection, you have to lose body fat all over. Luckily, the verdict is clear on how to lose fat fast: high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

This short-and-not-so-sweet alternative to traditional cardio alternates short, intense bursts of exercise with longer, lighter bouts to get more work done in less time. HIIT has been shown to burn more fat—specifically, belly fat—than an equal amount of steady-state cardio.

By cranking up the intensity, HIIT creates a fat-burning furnace called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that leaves you burning extra calories for hours even after you’ve stopped working out.

So instead of chugging away on the treadmill, try running sprints or spinning on a bike. Remember, losing fat is the first step toward revealing a slimmer waistline.

Start with 10 seconds of all-out effort followed by 50 seconds of easy running or pedaling. Do this for 8–10 minutes, and you’ll set yourself up for hours of extra calorie burning.


Few exercises target your entire midsection like side planks. More specifically, you’ll hammer your obliques, which, in combination with low body fat, will give your waistline a slimmer look.

Unlike crunches and sit-ups, which can leave your lower back sore and cranky, side planks can actually improve lower-back health by creating a more neutral pelvic and rib cage position. It’s a win-win.

Start with 2 sets of 15 seconds per side. Once you can easily hold a plank for 30 seconds, elevate your feet on a box or bench to make it more challenging.


The next exercise has nothing to do with fat loss or building muscle. In fact, dead bugs strengthen the right muscles to reduce anterior pelvic tilt (APT), improving posture and creating a smaller-looking midsection.

APT is an exaggerated forward rotation of the pelvis that can make your lower belly appear bloated, even if you’re very lean. Dead bugs create a posterior pelvic tilt by strengthening the rectus abdominis and external obliques, effectively “shrinking” your belly.

Add dead bugs into your warm-up, or use them as a direct core exercise. Do 3 sets of 5 reps per side, making sure to exhale fully at the bottom of each rep.


Another sneaky way to make your waist look smaller is to make the muscles of your back and shoulders bigger. Nothing builds a strong back like pull-ups.

By targeting your lats and rhomboids, you’ll create a sleek V-shape that will give the effect of a smaller waist. Plus, crushing a set of strict pull-ups is one of the most impressive things you can do in the gym.

Can’t do a body-weight pull-up yet? No worries. Use an elastic band to give you a leg up until you get strong enough to do one on your own.

Start with 2 sets of 6–8 reps, using as much band assistance as needed to complete the sets. If you can already do body-weight pull-ups easily, do 3 sets of 8–12 reps.


Naturally, if a bigger back makes your waist look small, a set of shapely thighs and glutes will make it look even smaller. Hip thrusts target all the muscles of the lower body and can be performed just about anywhere.

You’ll get a crazy burn from high-rep hip thrusts, especially the 1-leg version, but you’ll also help correct the previously mentioned APT by strengthening your glutes and hamstrings. Make sure to keep your core tight and squeeze your butt during the whole movement for the full effect.

Start with 3 sets of 10 reps per side. You can go as high as 20 reps or hold a dumbbell or weight plate across your lap to increase the resistance.


Quite simply, the steps to a slimmer waist are:

  1. Lose fat through diet and HIIT.
  2. Decrease your APT by strengthening your abs and improving your posture.
  3. Work the muscles above and below your midsection to create the look of a smaller waist.

Now that we’ve squashed the myth of spot reduction, leave the sit-ups behind and try out the exercises listed above. We’re confident you’ll achieve the slimmer waist you’ve always wanted.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio
Tony Bonvechio

Tony Bonvechio (@bonvecstrength) is the co-owner of The Strength House in Worcester, MA, where he trains primarily powerlifters and team sport athletes. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at bonvecstrength.com.


20 responses to “5 Moves for a Trimmer Waist Without a Single Sit-Up”

  1. LOVE side planks. They, in combination with other PT exercises, have tightened up my sides and nearly eliminated my chronic back pain.

  2. Avatar ron6788 says:

    I like the looks of the one-legged hip thrust, def worth a try.

  3. Avatar Peter Payne says:

    Good post. I know it’s a major problem for anyone in the fitness industry to have to think of 5-6 “new” approaches to losing belly fat for their readers each week.

  4. Avatar Zeandra Mathura says:

    The high intensity has been working for me… you really get max in less time. And feel great, more accomplished than tired. The dead bugs give a nice stretch too!!!

  5. Avatar Rose Moore says:

    I can’t wait to try this tomorrow at the gym. I think the HIT will work for me. I get 30 min in the morning at 4AM to work out. that’s it. I have to make it count!

    • Avatar Carly says:

      I admire your motivation! Many people would say that they have no time. Keep up the good work! (4am- yikes!!)

      • Avatar Rose Moore says:

        Sorry for the very late reply lol but i have a vintage millinery shop and it’s crazy busy most of the times, yep i still do it i have lost 85 lbs.Hope all’s well.

  6. Avatar Chris Leong says:

    Wow, really one of the best explained, well-targeted articles I’ve read. The videos are very helpful. Having a bad back and sometimes cranky knees, I think that these look like excercises that I’ll be able to do. Looking forward to trying several of these.

  7. Avatar blackbarbei says:

    Found these very helpful and will try to incorporate these into my workout! Thanks for the article & tips!

  8. Avatar Brandi Lynne Sorenson Meyer says:

    Ive been doing the HIIT and use my fitness pal to track calories, I’m just wondering what I should enter for my exercise? Just want an accurate calorie count. Thanks!

    • Avatar Sarahannelily says:

      The amount of calories burned will completely depend on your current weight, fat/muscle ratio/ HIIT intensity level and times. Everyone’s is different so it’s difficult to track effectively. The best way I’ve seen is to use a fitness tracker with HR monitor, it won’t give you the exact amount you’re burning, however it will give a pretty good figure to go with in terms of logging on MFP.

  9. Avatar Daisy Gloria says:

    Good lesson to work out.

  10. Avatar Stina says:

    I do a variation of dead bugs that is on my hands and knees (so i lift instead of lower). Does that have the same effect as what is shown here?

  11. Avatar Greg S. says:

    In the military, sit-ups are necessary for our physical fitness test (all branches of the Service). Will these exercises help with sit-ups (not crunches) or are there different exercises to target getting better specifically at sit-ups? (Which usually burn out the hip flexors just before we do our 2-3 mi run!)

  12. Avatar Sarah H Johnson says:

    This was one of the best tip e-mails I’ve received. The guys showing you how it’s done was awesome, thanks so much!

  13. Avatar Ppeters says:

    How do you do these with severe arthritic knees?

  14. Avatar Samuel Rier says:

    This stuff works; if you want to make the Side Planks a little more intense I suggest incorporating an arm fan, which means raising and lowering the arm that is facing upwards during the side plank while you do it. This puts more effort on your obliques to stay still while your arm is in constant movement. Oblique training is huge for having a more toned stomach and getting abs that stick out.

  15. Avatar Sarge says:

    thanks for the tips…

  16. Avatar melaniasmith says:

    This is really useful to have a great blogs in one place. I really like fitness tips, great design and interesting Articles!

  17. Avatar Mary Huiatt says:

    2 out of 5 of these video links don’t work. Not good!

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