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The question

I do side crunches on the floor to tone my waist, but I can't get rid of my love handles. Can you suggest a few exercises I should be doing?

The answer

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Try working your obliques (that is, your "love handles") from a variety of different angles, mixing up your tempo and varying your sets, reps and exercise combinations. Playing around with these different variables will alter how the muscle fibres are being recruited and continually challenge your body so you don't plateau.

Swiss-ball side-oblique crunches

With the ball about two feet from a wall, turn sideways and place your left hip on the ball, fingers at your temples, left leg forward, right leg straight in line with your right hip and feet against the wall. Think about using the muscles that run from your hip bone to your ribs to lift your upper body laterally off of the ball. Slowly control down and drape yourself back over the ball. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then switch sides. For variation, play around with tempo. Lift up for two counts, hold at the top for two counts, and then lower down for two counts.

Front plank with oblique toe taps

Start in a plank position with your feet on a Swiss ball and your hands on the floor. Keep your shoulders over your hands. Don't arch or round your lower back. Holding this position, bring your right leg out to the side so your toe touches the floor. Alternate sides for eight to 10 reps. You can make this exercise easier by having your shins on the ball, not your feet.

Side plank

Lie on your side with your right forearm on the ground and legs stacked on top of one another. Lift your hips up and hold a side plank position for 10 seconds to one minute. To make it easier, balance on your knees.

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Trainer's tip

Remember, although targeted exercises can help tone muscle, they do not spot-reduce the fat over that muscle. If you want to get rid of excess "love handle" fat, pay close attention to your nutrition and do interval-style cardio workouts.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your fitness questions at trainer@globeandmail.com.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment

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